Thursday, April 7, 2022

The ebbs and flows of creativity - By Thushanthi Ponweera

The other day I tweeted about the ebbs and flows of writing based on the experiences of my first year trying to get published. I spoke about how the common advice of “Write every day” can be detrimental, and the importance of figuring out your own rhythm; your own stride. And that was before my country, Sri Lanka, fell into a severe economic crisis, right on the heels of the pandemic. My advice to others became the best advice I could give myself during these trying times, and so I wish to share it with you too. 

If you’re a brand-new author like I was last year, you probably look to others in the writing community for direction. For me, it was the #writingcommunity on Twitter (more specifically #kidlit), my CPs and writing groups, Facebook groups, and the SCBWI blueboards and free digital webinars. More often than not, the general consensus is that if you want to call yourself a “writer” then you must write. Everyday. At least a little. 

Now I am married to a husband who travels a lot, am a mother to two young kids, and a sensitive person who soaks in the emotions of those around me and thinks (read: worry!) too much. This makes writing the ideal career for me as I can do it in my own time, and I have an outlet to channel all those thoughts and emotions into. On the flip side, it also makes it extremely hard to write every day. Some days I’m too exhausted, too wired, too busy, or I choose to prioritize my family instead. And when I started going on submission, I could do little else except refresh my inbox, looking for that validation that my stories were good enough (I do not condone this last one!).

Throughout all those days of not creating daily, let alone weekly, or monthly, I would feel immense guilt over “neglecting” my writing. There were times I wondered if I even belonged in this community. All this while working on a mentorship, finessing multiple picture books, AND revising a middle-grade novel! I was doing so much, but I was taking big breaks in between…how ever was I to succeed in getting published? I wasn’t in the correct mindset to create, no matter how much I fretted over it. So I waited. Had a few meltdowns in the process, but I waited.

And you know what? After those months of waiting, suddenly things fell into place. Life got a bit easier to manage and with it came my writing mojo. Things are still very difficult for my country at the moment, but I am still able to write a bit…a blog post here, a picture book there, a big revision. Everything has a season, ups and downs, ebbs and flows. The sooner you accept that you will be able to prepare for it. Create as much as you can when you can, and when you can’t, let go (but remember to keep jotting down your ideas!). Your writing will be all the better for it.

Thushanthi Ponweera is an author and poet from Sri Lanka. Her debut middle-grade verse novel I am Kavi is forthcoming from Holiday House in 2023. She is a former We Need Diverse Books mentee and a blogger for the same organization. Her writing reflects the frustration she feels at the inequality and injustice she sees around her, and also the deep love she feels for her island home. You can find her on Twitter @thushponweera and on Instagram as @bythush.

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