Will I Ever Write Again?

It was the morning of Thursday, September 20. I was on the train, headed back home to New York City from Maryland, after doing the in-author conversation at a friend’s book launch the night before.

My heart was full. Exactly 40 days ago, on August 7, I had won the Voices of the Year Award (previous recipients have been Chelsea Clinton and founders of Women’s March) for my debut U.S. novel Louisiana Catch and work with female survivors of violence. A few months prior to that, I was invited to Twitter in NYC to be a part of a discussion about the role of social media in social change.

None of this fell into my lap. I worked very hard. A lot of meticulous planning and partnership with my publisher had gone into the book launch.

The ticket inspector broke my reverie. After I handed them my ticket, I dove into a bag of dates my friend had packed for me. Suddenly, I started to feel unwell. I texted my husband. We went over what I had eaten—it was only home-cooked meals. On the day of the book launch, I finished dinner by 5:30 p.m. Instead of wine, I drank a turmeric latte at my friend’s book launch because I was exhausted. And after chai in the morning, dates were the only thing I had eaten.

I somehow made it home. But everything went south from there. First, it was fever. Then, terrible stomach pain. Then, I couldn’t walk or breathe or eat. My husband took me to the ER. The next thing we knew, I was in the ER all night. The only thing I understood was the shock in the doctors’ voices at how unwell I was. None of it made sense given that I ate healthy, worked out six days a week, practiced/taught six to eight hours of yoga every week, and was fit. Or at least, I looked really fit.

When I was in the hospital room alone, I started to make notes on my phone. Writing is how I make sense of the world. Writing is a form of meditation. Writing helps me heal. I thought writing about the suddenness and severity of my illness would lessen my trauma.

Once I was discharged from the hospital, I continued planning my book tour for Louisiana Catch. I was supposed to travel to different cities in the U.S., as well as overseas. I was supposed to teach webinars to writers and bring creativity and wellness together at a writing retreat.

The doctors thought I would be OK after two weeks of antibiotics. But life is the biggest leveler. Slowly, my health started to deteriorate. As the doctors ran tests and MRIs and scans, my body turned frailer by the day. I turned to my notebook, books, and laptop—but I was too weak and in too much pain to write or read. Between the pain and the medication, my eyesight became weak.

After months of probing, prodding, and everything excruciating, we found out that I needed surgery. My surgery ended up being complicated, which meant the recovery took longer than expected.

One evening over dinner, my husband asked why I wasn’t writing again now that I believed I had the mental strength to get back to it. I said to him, “I don’t know if I can ever write.”

In my entire life, I have never been out of ideas—I have written and traditionally published 12 books in 9 years. He looked at me. “Why don’t you practice what you teach your students and clients? Sit with your laptop and wait for the words. Repeat every day until words happen. This isn’t about a ‘dry spell’ as much as it is about inertia.”

Next morning, by 8:30 a.m., I sat with my laptop, determined to write. No new ideas for a novel or poetry book trickled down. Of course, I checked social media. A friend or two called, and I let the conversation go on for long. There were other distractions, including a nap. But somehow, I kept returning to this essay. Instead of my usual two hours, it took me an entire day to write it. But it’s now complete. I managed to break my shackles of fear around whether or not I would write again.

I know that I am not alone in that so many of us have been tested and endured times when writing has felt furthest from us. The fears and insecurities can make us question our very own identity as a writer. But here is what I’ve learned: No one can help you but yourself. Don’t expect a masterpiece on day one. But keep at it. When you show up with dedication and devotion, your words do, too. The Taj Mahal wasn’t built in a day.

About the Author | Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is a best-selling author of 12 books, as well as a social issues advocate and certified yoga and Ayurveda counselor who helps people lead creative and healthier lives. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press, 2018) is her debut U.S. novel. She lives in New York City with her husband.

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