The Part-time Life

I’m not used to the term part-timer simply because I give 100% to everything I do.  But when you do a lot of things, it is 100% to one thing at one time. I worked in Information Technology (computers as others call it) for many years in India and then moved to do the same in Singapore and then in the UK. I worked in a bank during the financial crisis and worked 16-18 hour shifts and was proud of holding the fort.

I never gave up on writing. I wrote in the mornings and nights, on trains and bus-stops and all weekends. I used to get up at 4 am in the morning when I was in a demanding and stressful relationship to ensure I get my writing done irrespective of how the day turned out to be.

Then early this year, I spent some time evaluating life. The mortgage was paid off, there is no husband or kids to look after, just me, the laundry, the dishes and what I wanted.

What did I want to do with life?

I was working regular hours, but to write I was giving up my evenings and weekends, and precious time with my nephew growing up.

I was giving up on experiencing life so that I could work and write. My life experiences with spreadsheets and conference calls weren’t going to feed my muse to write stories for children. Writing comes from inside me and inside me was underfed with richness and tired with office politics.

Could I have both? I didn’t want to be at home full-time. I’m a natural loner might end up finding my haven inside instead of exploring the world. I would need to keep my mind sharp and my day job was very good at doing that. So maybe I could step off the pedal and not worry about whether I had a powerful and high-paying job but find my work-writing-life balance.


After a lot of chats with my sister and my parents, I decided to float the idea to my bosses. My family was supportive of my plans – albeit my Dad a bit worried about leaving a permanent job.

Oddly enough and pleasantly surprising my bosses were supportive of my decision as well. My divisional manager was keen to keep me onboard and allow me the time to write. So I went in with a resignation so I could find contract jobs that would give me freedom, I came back with a part-time offer with job security and time away to write, to go into schools and pursue storytelling.

imagesIt’s been six weeks now and it has been fantastic. I was thinking if I could have done it sooner and realized not really. I had taken advantage of the first opportunity to scale back one part of my life and create a bigger pie for other things.



I have been into many libraries telling stories. I’ve done storytelling in summer fetes and community gatherings. I’ve been part of CWISL’s first ShoutWest event and I’ve been writing more.



I now work three days at the bank and have the rest of the week to write and have fun. I see more of my nephew, I have found myself a writing mentor with the Golden Egg Academy and I’ve met some interesting people going on walks discovering the heritage of London.

I’m asked if going into work for the three days is difficult. It is actually fun. I feel less guilty about going into corporate work at the cost of life or writing. I’ve wanted to do something for myself, I didn’t go out and buy a Ferrari, (in my case it would be the Fiat 500)


– but I thought about what I wanted and bargained life for what it’s worth and I have more time to spend the money I make.

In a way, I am the husband and wife at ti_m_getting_married_____to_myself__by_veeutiful-d5vyhf1he same time in my own life- the bank employee me makes the money and the writer me, spends the money on notebooks, books, stationery, going to events and such!


I’m more productive as a writer – I’ve time for experiments, I can now write and put it away because time is not that scarce. It is still precious, but I have no plan to waste it.

Who said lounging in the park watching cloud shapes is wasting time? That’s research, that’s observation, that’s fodder for the writing. Who said walking my story by the riverside is a waste of time? It is a gift that only I could give myself.

Some people tell me I’m brave to step off the ladder, or off the treadmill or the accelerator whatever you call it. People in my position at my work are now furiously looking for the next big promotion.

But I am free from all that stress and it has liberated me at work. Not that I was one of those people led by a chief whip – I had opinions of my own and never kept it to myself. But I’ve now given myself permission just to enjoy the work. I think I now understand more the maxim that is in the Bhagavad Gita that I gita-war-to-beginalways believed in – “Do your duty and do not expect a benefit from it.”

My HR contact will check in with me after 3 months, and I hope I’ll be able to say “Can I stay forever part-time please?”


It’s snowing here in Britain

It’s snowing and if you don’t have any reason to go out, do you feel like huddling under a blanket and watch the light dusting of snow on roof-tops? Or are you hauling the snow from every bollard, tree, car and wall to make a snow-balls?

The snow always brings the quiet stories in me. As if the snow pads the footsteps of my muse. As if stories leave their paw-prints on the snow, quietly, and fly away. A world of snow outside my window, keeps me fascinated, watching the white expanse covering the untidy appearance of everyday life – covering dog-poo, spit and half-eaten chicken nuggets. It allows me to stay indoors and watch the pristine world, as I want to leave it  as long as I can, in this state of immaculate frostiness.

As I watch the snow outside, falling, settling on ivory-clad streets, I tend to write quiet stories. Moments of tenderness and stories of gentle feelings seem to be apt.

If you too want to write some gentle, soothing, naughty but tender stories – here are some wonderful pictures of snow that will whisper to the muse in you.

I am not sleepy!
This time I’ll get him
Uh ho!

Did any of these pictures spark a story? Tell me all about it.


Hidden Treasures At Your Reach

Sitting before a blank screen, wondering what to write? Between projects? Just want some writing practice?

Don’t worry anymore! Here are some no-cost ideas that you could use the way you want.


Most software has stock pictures called clipart graphics. Try to browse the array of pictures. Do you see a scene that could become a story? For example, I found this picture in my clipart gallery.


And here is the opening paragraph of my story, that kick-started from this picture.


Oliver goes to school


Oliver hated Owl School. First of all, the school was in the day. Whoever thought owls could go to school, and even if they did, in the morning. Owls were supposed to sleep during the day, didn’t they?

Clipart can trigger a non-fiction story too. Take this one for example –


Some titles that came to my mind are:

  • What do vets do?
  • How do you care for your pets?


Book titles and covers

Usually, the advice would be to read as many books as you can before you begin to write. This advice is a little different. Pick up a few books from the library or a bookstore and write down the titles. Now think up stories for these. Words are too restrictive? Try the cover picture of the books you pick up. Don’t turn the pages! Just imagine a story to suit the illustration.

Let’s take a classic storybook. “The Emperor’s New Clothes” What comes to your mind? Can you think of a historical story? Maybe even a contemporary one?

Here is what I got when I thought of this title.

Emperor Ashida didn’t know what to do. His son, Prince Hideyuki was not a happy child. He watched TV, played lots of video games. But he seldom smiled.

 Today, Emperor Ashida presented Hideyuki with new outfits for the upcoming Asian sports festival. The prince took the clothes and thanked him. That’s all. No jumping with joy, no smiles or hugs.

Can you think of non-fiction articles from the same title? Here are some interesting ideas from a title that is almost a cliché.

a)      On what occasions did emperors make new clothes?

b)      What were emperor’s clothes made of?

c)      What happened to the royal tailors and dressmakers after monarchy began to disappear?

Nursery Rhymes

Pick up any rhyme you like and add a “What happened next?”. Create your own story to go with characters that jump off the nursery rhymes.

Here is a (badly written) prequel for Old Mother Hubbard

Old Mother Hubbard

Bought a new cupboard

To store food for hungry mutts.

She stocked it full

With juicy, meaty bones

But she left the door locks undone.

Old Mother Hubbard

Went to the cupboard,

To give the poor dog a bone:

When she came there,

The cupboard was bare,

And so the poor pecker had none.

Can you think of non-fiction articles when you read rhymes? Let us take this one for example.  London Bridge is falling down!

You got it. London Bridge can be the subject of many non-fiction articles. Here are some ideas.

  • When was the London Bridge built?
  • Who built it?
  • Any interesting anecdote that happened on the London Bridge.

Writers, who create for children, are seldom stuck in the abyss for want of ideas. The problem is the abundance. There is so much to write about and what does one write?

All you need is a thought-broom, to wipe away the cobwebs and to focus your creativity on one single thing. That’s what these hidden treasures are all about. When you are stuck with a blank screen, open a clipart picture or glance at the title of a book or recollect a nursery rhyme. There is no stopping your words, then.

Idea Books – Do they work for you?

Ideas are everywhere – even in old fuddy duddy museums to the Historic dockyards in Chatham. A trip on the bus, a walk by the river, hike over a hill – all yield ideas.

I  used to scribble ideas in notebooks, behind bus-tickets and on post-it stickers. Then came the phone. When I was on the move, I usually opened a new item in my digital post-it and wrote my ideas there.

I discovered that I had a bag full of ideas, starting lines, summaries, synopsis for books from when I started writing seriously. I have moved them from their musty paper files into a large white plastic bag. I am not sure how to sort this now.

Then I have notebooks and note-cards filled with ideas of picture books, non-fiction articles, poems and even novels.

The there is the phone and the tablet and even the PC.

Once in a while I try to bring some order to this chaotic creative process. Do I copy them out into notebooks? But if I have to use a new notebook – all ideas are surely not eligible? Some are cliched. Some are old. Some are just whimsical. Some are just ideas – the topic doesn’t even interest me.

So should I just pin them to a board on the wall? Perhaps keep a box-file full of ideas? How do I figure out if some ideas might work together in one book? Maybe there are recurrent themes?

I start to create a file, a folder, some kind of filing system.
I struggle.
I give up.

Surely I can’t create books out of all of these. Maybe I should compile them and give them away? Maybe sell writing prompts. Maybe make an e-book out of it.

I don’t know. I am not sure I even know which ones to give away or keep – because I have not tabulated them,  indexed them.

Perhaps they are like wild oats. They are not meant to be sowed in a row. Maybe they need to be scattered. Just plucked out of their slumber when I chance upon them.

Do you organise your ideas? Do you record them in only one book? Do you have lots of idea-stores?

Tell me about them.

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