I slipped in to an astro-turfed rooftop of a fancy new restaurant in south Delhi, pretending I was fashionably late. I offered the onlookers who threw me the death stare a complimentary pageant girl wave. The show may begin. Two women sat on plush couches with floor lamps you’d buy at the fake vintage shop down the street beside them. A hefty book lay open on the coffee table between them. “When you’re in the midst of writing, what type of personality do you take on?” One asked. The other thought for a moment, then answered, “Oh, I become absolutely consumed by my characters. They come and have breakfast with me in the morning and stay with me throughout the day. We never leave each others’ sides. This goes on for months and I’m an absolute angel throughout. Just ask my husband.” “What about when you’re not writing?” She ventured. “(Giggles) You don’t want to be around me when I’m not writing, it’s as if I’ve just been divorced!” “What about when you’re editing?” Awkward silence. “(Cantankerous evil laugh) (Glances towards a chair that can only hold her shifting editor in it) (More enigmatic laughter) You can ask my editor.”
We like to believe at the beginnings of things that it will all work out as planned. That things will find their way and fall in their place. Things often go awry though. They never truly go as we had planned. The question then is how we handle the unplanned plan. How we re-plan and re-invent and re-evaluate. Who we blame for things gone awry. How we perceive our roles in the past- our character’s flaws in the storyline. How we incorporate the new characters in. How we handle the unexpected circumstance. Maybe it’s as simple as the rewrite. Maybe it’s as painful as the rewrite. As watching someone skim through your favorite belabored piece with a bright red felt-tipped marker.
It’s horrifying. Producing something that no one else loves. Not getting the traction we had expected. Getting rejected from the only school we wanted to get in to. Or job. Or relationship. We never expect it and we can never plan for it. The plan seems to matter less and less, then. What seems to matter more is what you do when the plan breaks down. How you treat the editor. How you treat yourself.
As I ambled about after the cursory reading on the candle-lit rooftop, I fingered her book in half-interest as I spied on her in three-quarters-interest. She was laughing again, that crazy bitch. And then she gave the woman to her left a suffocating longer-than-necessary hug. As they walked out I whispered to the Sherlock on my right, “Who’s that?” “Her editor,” she said.