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What My Angelfish Taught Me About NOT Giving Up

By 24/03/2022April 21st, 2022Featured
Angelfish writing

Ten years ago, I was all about short stories, and had no ambitions towards writing a novel. I found this post today, written at the time, and thought it very apropos. It perfectly describes my journey.

As some readers of this blog know, I have a pair of Black Angelfish.

Every two weeks or so, like clockwork, they lay about a 100 eggs, guard them till the babies hatch, hover around the hatchlings still attached to the leaves, try to carry them in their mouths and keep them safe once the babies are free-swimming. Only about 50 babies are left at this stage.

Then for the next three days, they do their best to sustain the babies, which dwindle from 50 to 25 to 10 to 5 to zero. This is because I don’t know what to feed the babies— am both scared of, and don’t know how to, breed mosquito larvae, which is their food.

A day after the last baby has disappeared, the angels are at each other, kissing, fluttering, chasing, back at the mating game. A day later there are eggs again.

I wonder if they remember their babies. I know they are capable of some kind of association/ memory,  because they know when I’m around and come begging for food, and dance around like mad puppies when I have the food box in my hand.

I no longer know how to feel about the regular births and deaths.

But I’ve learned the passion of creation by their example: write like mad, polish them like mad, submit like mad, and even if the babies come to nothing, set about making my writing babies again.

And just like with the angelfish babies, rejoice that they lived and swam free, at least for a while.

Who knows, maybe someday, one of the angelfish babies would survive. It would become more than a tiny tadpole, actually grow fins and swim at large.

In the meanwhile, what I and my angelfish can do is create, with passion and commitment. Results be damned.

I have been writing with almost the same uncomprehending zeal as the angel fish, and of all the babbly stuff I unleashed upon the world, YOU BENEATH YOUR SKIN and THE BLUE BAR survived–grew fins.

THE BLUE BAR will hit open waters soon. Whether it sinks or swims is an open question. (You can help it swim via pre-orders, or by smashing the Want to Read button on Goodreads.)

All I hope is I’m able to come back to this post in 2033 and find this blog still alive, and of course, more books.

Have you ever kept angelfish? Were you a visitor on this blog in 2011? What lessons have your pets taught you?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • denizb33 says:

    I’ve never kept angelfish! We tried a betta once, but it’s really hard to get the balance of good water, food, sunlight, etc right for a fish. Just like nurturing our writing, I suppose :p Glad you’ve kept sending your babies into the world!

  • Love this story including your take on this potentially depressing behaviour pattern. I’m like you: incorrigible. It does pay off. Our offspring’s population does stabilize: we publish only one book at a time!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      It was VERY depressing, and is not very cheery for us either, unless luck and timing work in our favor–but it is what it is, and since we’ve adopted the writing life, we pay the price. Thanks for stopping by Rachel, and welcome to Daily (w)rite!

  • Jemima Pett says:

    Angelfish. That sounds like a lot more productive than my boys. What I’ve learned from them is always to look forward hopefully to the next piece of food, and to sleep otherwise. 🙂

  • Christy B says:

    Your takeaway from the angelfish is a good one! Thinking of you writing like mad now and cheering you on xx

  • I put mosquito larva into one of my ponds, and once the fish population stabilized, I never had to do that again. The fish feed off the new eggs, but never take all of them. I have a fish community of 4 now, and when one dies, another’s there in its place.

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!!.. let your fingers do the walking and your heart do the talking!!.. 🙂

    Until we meet again..
    May your day be touched
    by a bit of Irish luck,
    Brightened by a song
    in your heart,
    And warmed by the smiles
    of people you love.
    (Irish Saying)

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    That was such an inspiring story, Damyanti…..Write like mad, results be damned. Words I need to make my mantra!
    And thanks for the lovely idea: What did you learn from your pets? Just a while.ago, as I watched Cookie snatch a date seed from Chikki, I marvelled at her feistiness. She is so tiny but just see her himmat!!
    I know what I need to write about for my next post.
    Thanks a ton!

    • DamyantiB says:

      Glad this sparked off a post! Always keen to hear more about Cookie and Chikki— I miss the videos you used to send. Look forward to the post!

  • Maybe put some babies in a bowl that can go outside where it would attract mosquitoes? No idea.

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – what a wonderful analogy … I’ll remember this …but I do have to point out that if ‘they (one or more)’ come to fruition – then you’ll be marketing them too … ?! Oh I don’t fancy breeding mosquitoes in my flat either! Good luck with all things as The Blue Bar proceeds … cheers Hilary

  • Sonia Dogra says:

    Lovely Damyanti. I could think like this right now.

  • What an interesting lesson. I was skeptical at first, now a believer. Lovely, Damyanti.

    Can’t wait to order The Blue Bar. I’ll wait for publication so I get the KU price!

    • DamyantiB says:

      Thanks so much, Jacqui. Very grateful for your support. I’ve got your entire series on my Kindle! Will write to you soon.

      And I learn endless lessons from my pet fish. Those fish now swim in another aquarium but their lessons remain.