Today, Kane, a fiction writer friend of mine asked, “Have you found a routine in rainbowland?”
India, more specifically Mumbai, has consumed my thoughts and snuck into every paragraph of work I’ve churned out in the past two weeks since moving here. This is beautiful and good; but you see, I’m working on my masters creative thesis which is a collection of personal essays centered on my life and family in California–not my first two weeks in a new country. Besides, I am not egocentric enough to think that I can write with authority on a city which I have only spent two weeks. It is overwhelming how much I have to learn.
Here is what I have found to do today: Write about the things I’ve brought with me to this new space and (spoiler alert!) the process of beginning a writing routine in Mumbai–a city with more brilliant colors in daily attire then I thought possible, and I haven’t even made it to the textile districts.
At the bottom of this post you will find the first few paragraphs of the piece I’m working on–the working title is: On My Desk In Mumbai.
If you would like to join me and write your own, here is the exercise paraphrased and directly quoted from Bret Lott’s flash nonfiction exercise included in Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, between his essay Writing in Place on craft and his personal essay On My Desk.
- Sit down where you usually write and examine the objects there or lack there of.
- “Pick three specific elements from what you see, and describe them in detail but without lingering.”
- “Then examine how it is they correspond one to another; try to understand why it is they are the elements you have chosen, what associations they bring to you, and how they serve to illuminate why this place is important to you, and why being here–here–is a matter of life and death.”
On My Desk In Mumbai
(A work in progress, please be kind)
For two-week I’ve sat every morning at this new-to-me desk to write—to write is the goal. The first few days had me getting up every few moments to busy my hands: cooking, cleaning, unpacking, arranging furniture-the-refrigerator, I even attempted meditation clutching wooden beads with my atheist hands five minuets at a time. It is morning and I can hear the first call to prayer that sounds like a fire siren before long hymns projected over a loud-speaker. I must go out side to investigate the new sound and see what there is to see.
After the arranging days, came the days of interneting. Netflix and Pandora—go to’s for my procrastinating brain–are not offered in this part of the world. A blessing. Back to work, back to the desk.
On my desk, I set the totems brought to make this new space home. I pick up and move three objects to sit in the center. I ask the three to act the part of muse while pushing back the all-consuming stimulus just outside my window. There are rickshaws being washed in the street in front of my building and you expect me to write?
First, I examine the piece of polished flat metal, not more than an inch-by-inch square. The metal has an abstract flower etched into one side and the words wish it. dream it. do it. on the other.
When I first received the metal square, more than ten years ago, I thought the words etched on it cliché, empty. The polished surface felt good to the touch, I liked holding it and feeling it cold then hot against my thumb, so I kept it to remind myself of the dear friend who gave it to me. The words still sound cliché when I read them aloud, but anything but empty. I understand their meaning and perhaps also that friend who gave it to me better now. At that point in my life I had yet to take any major risk.
(to be continued…)