London Writers Awards 2019-2020 writer Taranjit Mander shares the top five things she’s learned on the programme so far by exploring good writing habits, how to shoo away imposter syndrome, and why writers should itch that itch…
1) Good habits
What do you get when writers cross the road with deadlines? Good habits. Not funny, but very true. With our busy lives, day jobs, caring responsibilities and balancing everything else, writing can sometimes take the back seat. There is a certain level of discipline that is required with the London Writers Awards. Having to meet regular deadlines has really helped me. I know that other writers are expecting to read my work in order to give feedback and because we are all meeting the same deadlines, it has become a habit to meet the deadline. This habit involves writing regularly, and when not putting pen to paper, at the very least, reading/thinking about the work.
2) The business
Before being part of the programme, I had a very vague idea of how a book got published. In fact, it felt a lot like singing your favourite song; you know the beginning, then it’s something-something-something, then yay you’re onto the chorus, or in this blog, your book is on a shelf in Waterstones. The information that I’ve found super helpful and will help my career in the future are all about the bread and butter of approaching agents and publishers; bio, blurb, synopsis. Armed with this, I feel confident and knowledgeable in approaching agents with my manuscript.
3) Itch the itch already!
Only crazy people don’t itch their itch, unless it’s doctor’s orders or you are somewhere public, and the itch is, well, somewhere private, right? Well, in the world of writing, if you have an interest or an idea, or most importantly a character that you keep returning to… You should follow it. A lot of times we are told to stay focused on the task at hand, which is great, but the most important thing I’ve learnt is that if you have an itch in writing, then I should pursue it because it’s exciting, and that makes for great writing. I’ve come to realise that this helps you develop your voice as a writer as well, and also helps you accept who are which brings me onto the following one…
4) Be gone, imposter syndrome.
I think a lot of folks have had some sort of experience of imposter syndrome. With the London Writers Awards, I have learnt a couple of very neat tricks to stop imposter syndrome taking over and turning everything into a horror film. My favourite go-to technique is something that was shared with us in the first WritersLab; to focus on breathing. It’s something very easy to forget, but when I am able to focus on the one thing that keeps me alive (breathing), I can touch the ground again, and from that point, I can take slow steady steps again with my work. Another trick is to go over the feedback from the critical feedback groups. By reading helpful and constructive feedback on my writing, I can see where my strengths are and also which areas require improvement. This hits the sweet spot; I’m not half bad, but I can improve. On top of this, through London Writers Awards friendships have been formed and we encourage each other continuously. It’s supportive and safe. It means when imposter syndrome does creep in, you have your friends to reach out to and kick its’ butt together.
5) Bringing the joy back to writing
I have always found writing as a way to escape real life. Even at every single day job, I have actually carved out time I’m supposed to be working, to daydream. Writing for me is day dreaming about stories, other worlds, characters and voices. The goal for many writers is to be published, and that can bring on all sorts of anxiety, fear and confusion. Since being part of the London Writers Awards, however, and with the support from the team at Spread The Word, I haven’t had to worry about the writing. My mentor, Aliya, has helped me incredibly when I may have had a dozen ideas and just couldn’t decide. I feel that I am in safe hands with a strong support network, which means I have more time to daydream.
Taranjit Mander is a London Writers Awards writer 2019-2020, in the Literary Fiction category. She is a writer of thriller stories that are often both dark and funny. She has been part of The Young Writers Programme at The Royal Court Theatre and studied English literature with creative writing at University of Hertfordshire. In 2018, Taranjit’s short story, ‘The Kid Snuffed’ was published in the City of Stories Anthology (Spread the Word) and she was also selected for the David Higham Associates Under-represented writers open day, for her short story ‘Nesting’. Taranjit was the winner of the Jericho/Marjacq Festival of Writing Bursary 2019 and went onto win Friday Night Live. Taranjit is also a screenwriter, and is currently working on her first book.
Published 16 January 2020