Writing profession needs to be coupled with other jobs to earn a living in the initial days – Devapriya Roy

Devapriya Roy (Writing Profession)

Insights

  1. To be a great writer, one must make reading books both your passion and hobby.
  2. One needs an abundance of creativity and imagination to write well.
  3. Writing profession doesn’t pay you well in the initial days, therefore one has work other jobs to earn a living.
  4. One should be able to communicate ideas easily and be aware of the writer’s block (author loses the ability to produce new work, or experiences a creative slowdown).

Profile Details

Name – Devapriya Roy

Profession – Writer, Teaches Writing at Ashoka University

Age – 33

Gender – Female

City – Delhi

Industry – Writing, Teaching

Twitter – https://twitter.com/devapriyaroy

Where have you been born and raised?

I was born and raised in Calcutta. Since I was the only child, so books became my best friends from early on. I went to an all-girls missionary school. I would say, I was like Hermione Granger in school. A total geek who was always buried in her school textbooks. But I became a rebel in class 11. I took up the science stream. I started the quiz and theatre society and that is when I realized I want to do literature.

What is your family background? Who all had the most influence on you and how?

Both my parents are engineers. My father is a mechanical engineer and my mom is an electronics engineer. She was also amongst the first girl students in her college and went on to teach in a local college. She was very strict with me. My father would take me out to plays and concerts. My grandparents lived with us. I think I owe my career as an author to my grandmother. She instilled in me the love for reading. I remember how we used to sit on this four-poster bed and both of us would just read for hours on end. Watching her made me also pick up a book and read.

Please give us a summary of your career

I did my BA in Literature from Presidency College from Calcutta with the 1st class division. I completed my master’s in literature from JNU, followed by MPhil and PhD in performance studies from JNU itself.

My first job was as an assistant editor at the Sahitya Akademi in 2007 after completing MA. While my first novel was picked up for publication in 2009 and finally published in 2011. I even worked as an editor at Routledge. In the year 2015–16 I taught at JNU as a part-time faculty while I worked with MHRD. I joined Ashoka in 2017. My first novel was The Vague Woman’s Handbook published by HarperCollins in 2011. My second novel was The Weight Loss Club: The Curious Experiments of Nancy Housing Cooperative published by Rupa & Co. in July 2013. My other books include The Heat and Dust Project and Indira. I have also featured in Keo Karpin TV advertisement.

Which institutes are best for the education/training of writing profession?

In India, colleges don’t offer courses in creative writing. In Ashoka University, however, one can do a minor in creative writing. One can also look at some of the best English and Literature departments of various colleges in the country. This does not only include top colleges of University of Delhi but any college that has a rich library because one needs to read well.

What are the costs associated with the education/training of this profession?

If one decided to do English major in a place like Delhi University, then the tuition fee would come to be around 15–20 thousand rupees a year with an additional fee of about Rs. 2–3 Lack for the accommodation. But if one wants to go to liberal arts colleges, the fees can range from anything between Rs. 6 Lakh to 9 lack a year.

What are the typical entry-level jobs in writing profession?

There are no entry barriers for being an author. One can become an author at any point in life. For instance, I was working on my first book when I was in the process of completing my MPhil and was also working simultaneously.

What is the range of remuneration one can expect when starting out in your line of career & industry?

There is absolutely no average income that I can provide for a writer as writer earns through royalty from the books they wrote. Royalty can range from few thousand to few crores per annum.

Because, there is no certainty of income as a writer, I am recommending that writer should do another job for a steady income.

Please describe your work.

A huge part of my job requires me to commute to Ashoka University to and fro on a regular basis, which is a lot of travel time. I spend my travel time reading books. At Ashoka, I work as a creative and academic writer, mentor and professor. As Professor, I take classes but try to make it as fun as possible. I occasionally bring cake for the kids. As a mentor, I help students write their academic papers in a better manner.

What are some of the positives, which would encourage someone to consider writing profession?

I work on my own terms, except when the publishing deadline is close. Also, I tangibly state myself in a larger context and can communicate important stuff and opinions. I can live many parallel lives through my characters and stories. I build my own identity and get to explore various themes of life.

Writing is like archiving for the future.

What are some of the challenges that you would want someone to be aware of when considering writing profession?

Writers and authors don’t make any money unless they work elsewhere also or if they write for companies that are ready to pay them. So, it is kind of frustrating because you keep writing with no expectation of any money coming in.

Then there is also the phenomenon of the writer’s block. It is just not easy to get ideas. What you may think of in your mind will not be the same way as it comes out on the paper or your word document. There exists a discrepancy between your real and reel worlds.

What are the relevant trends/skills/technologies that are currently commanding a premium in your job profile?

The necessary skills required are imagination and creativity. These two tools are writer’s left and right hands. Without these, one cannot become a writer even if it is non-fiction writing. One must be extremely disciplined because it is very easy to procrastinate. One must have the ability to read a lot and type really fast.

What kind of person would be happy in writing profession?

A person who is observant and eager to listen patiently more than speak would be happy as a writer. A person needs to have an open mind of accepting new ideas. That person should not be afraid to experiment with words and styles.

Given another choice, what would you do differently as far as your professional selections are concerned?

No. I don’t think. Though I think I would like to have more savings.

What would be your advice to students or professionals who are just starting their journey on a path similar to yours be?

My only advice to young people will be to not forget and neglect the habit of reading. It will take you places. Even if you don’t want to become an author, reading help you to grow as a person in life.

Liked this piece? You may also want to check out ‘Authenticity is the key to success in writing – Sameer Khan‘.