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When is a Writer a Writer?

By 01/11/2019April 11th, 2022writing
You Beneath Your skin

A writer is one who writes. I have believed this forever, but the last few weeks have made me think again.

I’ve been writing, yes, but ALL of my writing is follow-ups or thanks for reviews, guest posts and emails.

I’ve realised that a writer is also a hustler. In my case, I’m hustling for Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks, the non-profits where my proceeds will go, but that’s still hustling, and the fact that I’m able to donate my proceeds is a privilege.


Finding the writer within


In all of this, I seem to have lost that curious, lumbering creature who could write stories at the drop of a hat. Whenever that part of me wants to come out, I sush it, and sush it well. Because there’s more book promotion to be done.

A writer hustles: Instagram giveawayIt is nice to receive validation, have people tell me what they thought of the book, have it sell, make bestseller lists.

But that book is not me, and though I haven’t yet once said ‘buy my book’ to anyone, I feel like that’s all this is all about.

Where’s the writing, dammit?

I wrote this post a few days ago, and it received a gazillion comments.

I have been shortlisted for a food writing award, of all things.

I have a bunch of reviews on Goodreads, and on Amazon, here, hereΒ and here.

None of it though gives me what an hour of shutting out the world with a pen on paper might. I’ve tried to get back to my discipline of writing every day, but misery-me, have I failed.

So in lieu of writing–more hustling. If you’re on Instagram, here’s a worldwide giveaway of my book, with a simple (not) question: Who are you beneath your skin?

Here’s the first chapter of my book.

And yes, of course, my book trailer, below.

But where am I, the writer? Who am I, anymore? Beneath my skin I thought I was a writer, but now I’m a little lost.

I’m sure this is part of the process, what a writer is supposed to be, and maybe I’ll get used to it. I don’t want to though. I’m a writer, not a hustler.

If you’re a writer, how do you cope with this part of the writing life? What makes you say, this far and no further? How do you make time and space for your writing self?

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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  • Interesting perspective that you highlighted in your article. I think that a lot of new authors ( I am one of them) would gladly swap places with you! Please be assured that I am saying this with no hint of cynicism but with the utmost respect. It is tough out there for writers and whoever you are and wherever you are in your journey, there are challenges every day to face. I recently wrote an article on my website titled β€˜Why Do Writers Write’ – Feel free to check it out!

  • AuAu says:

    At least around educated people things go smoothly, in open environments you also have to deal with trolls that obsess about you just for doing something, and people get scared of interacting with you because they are worried about being trolled, so the whole experience is not only dull and boring, also stagnates for a while until the situation clears.

  • Yes, the hidden price of being a successful writer! I am thinking about that kind of thing since the writing conference (Hope*Writers). You and several others have impressed me in so many ways. You were on my mind when I wrote my last post. Can you tell me why you read my blog?

  • I sometimes wonder if this isn’t why I might unconsciously sabotage my own efforts at success. I’m not a hustler. I’m a writer. I hate marketing. I love telling stories. But it definitely seems you can’t have the latter without the former if the latter your priority. :/

  • Natasha says:

    Dearest D,

    All I have to say is don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to focus on what’s important at this time. Your writing is going to be wit you aways. So fret not and enjoy the process that has been bestowed upon you. Of promoting your book and “hustling” funds for Project Why.

    I wish you love and luck always. And I know you muse shall always be kind. <3 <3

  • I completely agree — a writer must be a hustler. Or, better yet, a financially successful writer — however minimal the financial success – must be a hustler. Marketing, I found during my book promotion a couple years back, is an art in and of itself. Very different from creative writing. I threw myself into marketing, and am still recovering. Lol. Yet, many writers do it just fine. Or so it seems. What I’ve learned is that one must pace herself.
    Congratulations on the book release. I’m intrigued, for sure.

  • Congrats on the new book! Balancing marketing and writing is an ongoing struggle.

  • Erika Beebe says:

    I think we’re all that way. Writers, not hustlers. It’s a learning process too, getting comfortable in our own skins and outside of them too. Great post today πŸ™‚ Happy IWSG Day πŸ™‚

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Erika. I’m hustling the causes I’m supporting with this book. If Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks gain more visibility and support due to all this hustle, I’ll be grateful.

  • I am a terrible hustler, and that’s why I’m so happy to cheer you on as you do it – I appreciate how much effort it is taking! I hope the hustle buys you good writing time, and you get the recharge you deserve xx

  • anindya0909 says:

    Hey Damyanti, I am neither an author nor I have a book released but I dare say that I understand what you mean. I will generalize it by saying its a passing phase and you will get over this soon. I wanna see more and more blogposts and a book from you soon. Cheers

  • Shalzmojo says:

    I cant believe how well you have promoted the book and its thanks to that how well its been received. Go slow D – you have just written a book and I think you can sit back a bit and bask in its glory. Writing will come when you are up to it. Congrats on the success of the book

  • I didn’t promote as much as I should and yet I so relate to this! It sucks the writing right out of you. I have just resigned myself to writing when I have time ( which ends up being when I’m stuck on planes etc. or, more pleasantly,
    on vacation)- and tell myself not to think about publishing.

  • Liz A. says:

    You’ll get back to it. I think there are phases in life, especially fallow writing times. (At least, I hope that’s all I’m doing at the moment.) Right now you’re making space for the marketing of it all, which is necessary if you want to continue to sell what you write. Good luck.

  • Wonderful post. I couldn’t help but click through to your marketing–looking for ideas. What a wonderful trailer. I’m done with the aggressive marketing for my newest book and am lost in the next one. It is a wonderful feeling, walking in my character’s shoes, seeing the world through the eye of nature.

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!… I have been asked why I do not publish my poetry, etc.. sometimes when one gets caught up in the excitement of publishing, one loses sight of why one wrote… words from a song “trading passion for glory”… πŸ™‚ … I am sure that in time, you will have a better perspective of the future and you can better decide on how to proceed.. πŸ™‚

    β€œWhen one suddenly finds oneself in a swamp up to one’s armpits in alligators, it is difficult to remember the objective was to drain the swamp”.. πŸ™‚

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – I’m sure the rush and hustle will be there simmering for a while – but soon you’ll get those extra hours back for writing, while still promoting your book-baby out into the world where it seems destined to reside in huge demand for many a while to come … relax and do your book-baby justice, then enjoy time off … writing away – in the meantime I’m sure ideas will pop into your head – note them for writing expansions later on … take care – it’s fantastic what’s happening … but can quite understand you feeling overwhelmed with your book-baby’s fast acceptance into the world of readers … congratulations and lots of happiness and peace – cheers Hilary

  • Hmm, you made me think. I see you’re listed as an author and have been for some time so what do you think is the difference between a writer and an author? I suppose I’m a writer for no other reason than I have this compulsion to write stories that flow through my head on a regular basis. Some are based on real life I’ve watched or experienced. I love to play with words, to edit and reedit until I’m moderately satisfied. It’s a hobby for me and one I love. I’ve followed authors who publish and then have the nerve wracking job of promoting their work afterward. So stressful! In your case you’ve done this for a purpose and that’s a good cause so obviously are willing to endure that stress in order to have the feeling you’ve done something positive that benefits humanity. You have my deep admiration for this selfless act.

  • Jemima Pett says:

    I think a lot of my early writing buddies have been going through this in the last few years – so much promotion is needed! I joke that I’m a full-time publisher. In my spare time I write the books. But it’s how it feels, especially with quite a long list now. What I tend to do is less to promote them these days. I hope they promote themselves, to those who found the early ones. Maybe I’m just lazy. Maybe I’m not a ‘proper writer’. But I’m looking forward to the time when I can get back to just writing.

  • JT Twissel says:

    I know the feeling but I don’t have an answer. I’m surprised your publisher is not encouraging you to get started on your second book. The marketing person I worked with said the best way to sell more books is to keep writing them. But it didn’t exactly work in my case so … who knows. Good luck.

  • Michelle Wallace says:

    I think you have done an amazing job with the book so don’t be too hard on yourself.
    I’ve made a promise to myself that writing must be fun, and should never feel like a chore. I think that’s the reason why I gravitate towards flash fiction. The short form is fun and exhilirating.
    With regards to writing every day… I’ve signed up again for the 100words100days challenge with my local online group. I’ve discovered that I’m very productive when writing in short bursts so I’m trying to build a writing lifestyle accordingly… added to this is an unavoidable return to full time teaching which has made my situation more difficult. There are many days when I do not feel like I’m doing justice to this writing life. I also worry that I don’t read enough, like I used to.
    But I’ll survive.

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    For some weeks I didn’t feel like a writer, for I was on a break and doing more of art than writing. But these past weeks have changed the way I looked at writing and all that you told me came back to me..about writing and blogging and how you do it…and how I realised I need to do it, too!
    (DId I make any sense here? πŸ˜› )

    You are a writer, D. Whatever you are doing right now is part of it all, so just enjoy it (even though it’s tough ) and wait a while before you get back to it and feel like a writer, all over again! <3

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      You make a lot of sense, as usual! Yes, all of this is a part of the writing life, and I really wish I could enjoy it more.

  • G.B. Miller says:

    There are times when I really don’t feel like a writer. Like one of the other commenters had stated, other issues like work and family have taken precedence this year, thus pushing my writing pretty much off to the backburner. I’m slowly trying to get back into it, but it’s still a grind nonetheless.

    As for promoting yourself, there’s no shame in calling it hustling. Hustling is what we all do to survive and move on with what we love to do.

  • Pam Lazos says:

    This is something I’ve struggled with since I started writing over 20 years ago, Damyanti. Always the tension between the J.O.B., and the other ADLs, then children came and that took up all the space. I’ve managed to get by writing in small increments, 20 minutes here, an hour there, when I would have loved to have time every day or even a couple days a week to sit down and work on my novel. In fact, I’ve been trying to “finish” my current novel for the last year for this very reason — not enough time in the day. And I realized that foregoing sleep is no longer a viable option for me. I think the best thing to do is breathe and know that there is always enough time for the things you feel are important. You’ll get back to it because it’s important. It just may not be on the schedule you want. Hang in there. You’re doing great! xo

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Thanks, Pam. Such wise words. It is true–we make time for things we deem important.

  • Shilpa Garg says:

    If you want your creative work to reach a larger audience, promotion is a must. And you are doing great with that, just dont feel guilty about it. πŸ™‚

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I don’t know about great, but am doing it because I feel I owe it to PWHY and SAA, Shilpa. Dunno how long I can continue though.

  • Vinitha says:

    To be recognized as a writer, we need readers, and hence promotion is inevitable. It’s what follows writing a book – promotion. I’m bad at that. So my book has little, way too little, sales and no reviews because I’m bad at promoting. You are doing good, Damyanti. This part is needed and it has everything to do with who you are – a versatile and well received author. Soon you will be able to get back to your solitude and regular writing habit. ❀️

  • The writer will come back after the promoter steps aside. That’s why one should always enjoy the time before that first book because it does change after that. Different, but it can be even better!

  • jenanita01 says:

    That is an amazing trailer!

  • To me “hustling” seems to be a rather negative description. I think most creative people who want to sell their work have to be promoters as well. Congratulate yourself on your success! πŸ™‚

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I’m hustling the causes I support :). Thanks for the kind words–I will count it as success if I can make a concrete contributions to both Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

  • Cut yourself some slack, Damyanti. You’ve done it – published a book AND it is a success. Let life flow for a little while. Do as much hustling as you can stomach, but don’t force yourself. The quieter time, the new idea, the force to write will come and tap you gently on the shoulder in an unexpected moment. Enjoy your achievement, see friends, tidy your bookshelves, whatever… until it that moment.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      That’s such wise advice, Hilary. Thank you. Thisis why I blog–to hear wisdom like this in my comments section. I long for a quieter time.

  • jupitergrant says:

    I totally agree. I am self-published and I have spent more time in the previous month concentrating on promotion on Twitter and my blogsite than I have on writing. I am also trying to build my freelancing portfolio at the same time in order to pay the bills (cause my book sales ain’t gonna do it, lol!), so I do feel the pull of the Hustle taking me away from writing.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, hustle-hustle is not a game I signed up to play. If not for feeling responsible about the proceeds going to the non-profits, I would have hung up my hustling shoes right after the launch. That would make me a privileged ass, which is why I’m not.

      (If we don’t have enough funds, Project Why might need to make severe cuts, and that’s my personal idea of a nightmare.)

  • Marian Allen says:

    Fortunately, I’m published with a small press, so I don’t have to do any promotion. Rather, I would have to do a LOT of promotion, if I wanted to sell a lot of books, but we’re all writers at PBP, so we mostly just write. You’re in a different position, since you’ve shouldered the responsibility to raising money for two important causes. BUT, my dear, you also have a responsibility to your readers to continue to write, and to “that curious, lumbering creature who could write stories at the drop of a hat.” Don’t forget us. We’ll still be here, when the promotion blitz tapers off.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      It is the causes that spur me on, Marian. I find that talking about them has made them visible to a lot more people than before, and they have been receiving random donations form people who remembered them from my posts.

      Yes, I have to write, for amazing, stupendous readers like you, but also for myself. I feel a little ill at not having the time to read and write, and that’s not good. πŸ™‚

  • Coping up with writing, reading and editing is madness. But I try to revisit my schedule to see if I actually have a quality writing time. This helps me to write something that aligns with my goal.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Jasveena, yes. I’m trying timed writing again, in order to fit some writing into my mad schedule.

  • Your book is tied in with helping others, so to draw a line must feel impossible. Whenever we create and set it free to fly out in the world, then it takes on a life of it’s own. You are doing great, Damyanti. Life has changed for you, my lovely and you’ve got this. You just need a little time. Hugs Xx

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Hugs right back, Jane. I really hope my life hasn’t changed. I’m still fully hopeful of being able to crawl back into my hidey-hole.

  • I have realized that selling a book you have written and listed on best seller lists is beyond your control. I feel I am a writer when people come and compliment on my father of the bride, father of the groom speeches and the eulogy I just delivered at the passing of my beloved aunt. In each of these cases I realized being a writer made a difference. In fact after my eulogy one person in audience said to me “As soon as you started to speak, I knew you are a writer.” What more do I want?

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Oh I have absolutely no illusions of control. It is just that the book promotions is so much grinding work.

      In truth, if the proceeds were not tied to non-profits, at least one of which is struggling to stay open, I wouldn’t be this driven.

  • Scott says:

    I think the crux of your situation is you, ma’am. It sounds like you have a desire to center yourself, to reach that core that “started it all” for you. It sounds like you’re doing great, too, and I applaud you for it. The effort to get where you are must have been awesome.
    But the crux… you’ve let the work/business take over. The only reason you don’t have time to just sit down and write is that YOU have not chosen to do so. I understand that there are obligations and deadlines and such. But if you continue to sacrifice all of yourself for the work, you will lose yourself, kind of like you mentioned – feeling lost.
    There is no harm in drawing a line now and then to take care of yourself. You might find that you can accomplish even more if you give yourself a little of the time you need to “just write”. Don’t burn out.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      SO much wisdom in what you say, Scott. I need to get my focus back where it belongs–writing. I need to tape “Don’t burn out’ to my forehead.

  • nnediosviews says:

    Every effort to write must be applauded. It takes energy, time and commitment to a course common to our shared humanity to write. Well done.πŸ‘πŸΌπŸ˜‚

  • In these days of self-publication, we have to be marketers of our wares or else we are drowned out in the cyber-noise of an ever increasing roar of others’ BUY ME! Every experience you have in your other outlets sow seeds into your unconscious that will result in a harvest of more developed prose. My Stetson is off to you for your great heart and efforts for others. If you only write one paragraph on your next novel, it is one step closer to being completed. The Sistine Chapel (which was first opened to the public today in 1512 was not done in a day, but it has lasted for centuries. Write that one paragraph today, πŸ™‚

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      “Every experience you have in your other outlets sow seeds into your unconscious that will result in a harvest of more developed prose.”

      That’s such a kind and reassuring thing to say, Ronald.

      I already have one completed manuscript, and another first draft done, but I’m more about wanting to get back into writing, irrespective of whether it is a flash piece, essay or novel.