Month of Writing, Part 0

Starting out

Posted: 2019-06-11 , Modified: 2019-06-11

Tags: writing

I’m spending one month focusing on writing! If you want to stay updated on my work, you can request to join the Holden’s Readers googlegroup.

Where I am now

After five years of work, I finally received my Ph.D. in mathematics! During grad school, I’ve put aside my writing for extended periods of time. But no more; I’ve come to realize over the past few years how essential writing is for me. Some of the most blissful times I’ve had are when I’m writing; moreover, my writing ambitions are no less important to me than my academic ones.

I’m thankful to the communities of writers I have been part of over the past two years, who have helped me to realize this. I’m indebted to my friend who started Arch and Arrow, a writing group at Princeton because she was “tired of writing alone in her room.” I’ve been inspired by the writing meetups I participated in during my summer in New York, which I wrote about here. It’s really made me see the value of having a community of like-minded people. If you are an aspiring writer I encourage you to check out a meetup in your area, or otherwise find some friends you can share writing with.

This spring I applied to three fiction workshops (Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey). I was disappointed that I didn’t get in any of them, but the process of applying forced me to revise some of my stories, to reflect on my progress as a writer, and think about what my next steps are. So I’ve decided to take a month off from work to focus on my writing. I’ll mainly be working on stories, and also a few blog posts.


My concrete goal is to write three short stories, and get them to a point where I feel good about sharing them with other people. I hope to do some revision, but it’s also OK to revise in the following weeks. I’ll focus on short stories because I can iterate much faster - I can learn from the previous one as I start the next one, and I can write stories that are different from each other to stretch my abilities. While I enjoy working on a novel more than a short story, I think the practice from writing more short stories will be more helpful at this time.

I want this month to not just be focused of finishing stories, but instead on being a writer more broadly:

I want to expand the things I write about, and write what I actually want to write. There are some persistent themes in my writing (rational/optimization-minded people becoming disillusioned, or having the tables turned on them in terms of what’s important or valuable in life) that I would rather escape from. I was drawn to those themes as a response to the pressure from work, and they are not the bigger, more beautiful things I would write about if I were in a freer state of mind.

The bigger picture

More than just putting in a lot of hours, I want to develop good reading and writing habits that will persist afterwards. For example, I want to “garden” my thoughts, develop thoughtful reactions to things I read, and be able to talk about them.

Even more broadly, I look forward to a month of self-reflection, discovery, and improvement. The practice of writing for me is more entangled with personal growth than math or computer science research is. My hope is that in freeing up the large amount of time that I would normally be working, that I can devote my full intellectual energy - rather than the dregs of the energy at the end of the day - to things that have fallen by the wayside.

Stay tuned for updates!