from the bookshelf · Writing Desk


At the risk of jinxing a streak, I’ll own up to being productive with my writing lately. I commit myself to a thousand words per session. My goal is to have a first draft of the second novel by summer’s end. I have procrastinated about this for so long, thinking I need more research before tackling the story. Last month, a lecturer in a writer’s summit advised to get the entire draft down before undertaking research. Otherwise, she had said, the writing will never get done. Well, there goes the noble excuse.

I remind myself that the output doesn’t have to be brilliant at this point—I’m constantly battling the urge to correct clichés and other instances of clumsy wording. This line, for instance: I likened Raina’s message  to a scratch on a new Mercedes, it wasn’t a big deal but it grated on my nerves. I cringe at the shallowness and the fact that I have never owned a car, let alone a Mercedes, so wouldn’t really know whether the comparison works. But it’ll do for now to keep up with the word count. I doubt it’ll make the final draft.

The goal is to put the beginning, middle, and end in 80,000 words, minimum.

Why, oh why wasn’t I like this a year ago, when the pandemic has just started?

My reading has also picked up steam. I’m more than halfway through Songs for the End of the World (Saleema Nawaz), awed at how someone out there was writing about quarantine and distancing measures necessitated by a flu-like virus in the few years leading to 2020. It does make it look like our tendencies as a society are fairly predictable, if studied through a researcher-novelist’s lens and that could bring comfort or exasperation.

It’s not my thing to read two books at once, but Hiromi Goto’s Shadow Life drew me in one lazy afternoon when I had only meant to leaf through its pages, get a feel for later reading. Although the story delves into ageing and mortality, I was left heartened and even jolly by its story of an elderly woman battling Death. I finished it over a weekend. That is my marvellous initiation to graphic novels.

Post-pandemic life is looming and I’ve learned that you still have to make time for important things even if there is an abundance of free hours. It’s very easy to waste time. No, I don’t advocate round-the-clock productivity. Just remembering that I burned through sleep hours worrying, lazy afternoons lost to mindless phone scrolling. The mind always wants something to chew on, without screening for substance and nourishment. I might have to return to commuting to work soon (no announcements from my workplace yet, but if the provincial plan is to be followed it might be in July. My days will become more scheduled, free times tight. Have to figure out how to hold on to what’s important.

Featured photo © 2023 Leah Ranada


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