Avni Doshi Recalls Her Struggle With The Pen
Elle India|September 2019
Avni Doshi Recalls Her Struggle With The Pen
On the eve of her debut novel, art historian and new mother Avni Doshi recalls her struggle with the pen and the years she spent fighting self-doubt.
Avni Doshi

Seven years ago, I began writing a novel without any idea of how to go about it. By training, I am an art historian and curator. Fiction was my little secret, something I explored when no one was watching. The idea of writing a novel would have seemed daunting, except that I had no experience or training in creative writing—no study of craft, no watching my work gutted in front of a room of my peers on a weekly basis—and with that naiveté I began excavating a single image, a house with a mother and daughter sitting before a window. This vignette emerged from staring at a picture of myself, half in shadow and half in light, where, for a second, there seem to be two different women in my own face. Other moments and characters rushed out of me. A first draft appeared within a month, and I was unscathed, almost arrogant. What was so hard about writing?

Humility entered as soon as I started editing a few months later, and faced the mediocrity of what I had written. Anxiety, obsession and self-loathing followed. I stopped sleeping, endlessly stared into space, and didn’t leave my house for weeks. I felt certain I would never be able to send my novel into the world, and yet it was all I could think about. I decided to try again. A second draft is all I would need, I told myself. But that too was substandard. With the third, I decided to change the tense, and then the point of view. I covered my pinboard with cards, plotting, and planning, only to throw it all away and begin once more. Drafts four through seven were demolished too.


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September 2019