The Craft: Nadya Agrawal, writer and founder of Kajal Mag
Hello on this summer Thursday! Welcome to The Craft, Novella’s monthly series where we talk to women like you and do our favorite thing: geek out about writing. This month, we spoke to the talented Nadya Agrawal, writer and owner of Kajal, a magazine that features the art and opinions from the South Asian diaspora. Scroll down to read about her work and how she gets it done.
Interviewed by Lourdes Avila Uribe
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THURSDAY, JULY 19
The Craft: Nadya Agrawal
What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Nadya Agrawal and I write for a bunch of places – my main gig right now is working as a writer for the anti-Trump Super PAC Priorities USA. I also freelance for places like Hazlitt and Teen Vogue and I run my own magazine, Kajal, which features art and opinion from the South Asian diaspora. When I get the chance, I work on my own personal creative writing projects.
Do you have an object you keep by your side to inspire you while writing?
Just like hella plants. I pick up plants like strays and keep them in my workspace so when I’m looking around the room, mulling over some phrase or whatever, I can watch them. The angles of their leaves in the sunshine, their color and richness, the way the stems twist, it’s all fertile ground for practicing imagery and usually gets me ready to write again.
On my desk, I have a small jade plant. My mom always grew jade and rubber trees (I have one of those near me too), so it’s a nice little anchor that connects back to really early, vivid memories for me, gardening in the yard with my parents on the weekends.
Where do you write?
I migrate all over my apartment, chasing the sunshine and making sure I have a nice untouchable bubble of space around me as I work. I can get something done wherever I have a flat surface for my laptop.
My fantasy workspace though is somewhere really green, tons of plants and sunshine, with fresh coffee for the mornings and white wine for the evenings. If there’s a rainforest writing residency somewhere, please let me know!
Tell us one or two ways you practice self-care amid the workflow, whether your outlet is creative, therapeutic, or methodical.
Going to the gym and playing with my puppy are really good ways of getting myself out of my head. They are tiny vacations where I can focus on something else that’s still useful. Basically I just need to go run around for a bit then I’ll be fresh and ready to start working again.
Do you have a ritualized writing process?
I wish. I’ve been trying and failing at creating a viable schedule for myself for years now. At this point, I’m happy to get creative writing in every day between the cracks in my schedule. If that happens, it’s a good day.
What do you think you need to happen to facilitate your dream writing process?
I'm not sure what would help me create a good writing process except maybe willpower. I have weeks and months where writing is the first thing I do when I wake up and I have time when it's the last thing I want to do. I try to be nice to myself through all this – sometimes I need a break and not having a schedule allows that kind of flexibility. But I'm also still working on building my writing space and decking it out with everything I need to feel comfortable and inspired, so maybe when that happens it'll all fit into place.
Do you have any favorite writing supplies you can’t live without?
I don’t write enough by hand, unfortunately, but I use this app Ulysses which creates a distraction-free writing space on my computer. There’s also a whole slew of ambient noise apps, like Rainy Mood and Coffitivity, that provide a really nice array of white noise to work to.
It’s travel season: do you write while on vacation or do you prefer to unplug?
Write! I enjoy experiences so much more when I document them. Taking pictures and writing captions, journaling, scratching new ideas down into whatever project I’m working on inspired by what I’ve seen. There’s no wrong way to enjoy my vacation while writing.
You’re taking off for the vacation/staycation of your dreams: what does your Out of Office message say?
Hi! I’m currently hiking through the lush jungles of Borneo (see below) and hanging out with a bunch of orangutans. I won’t have access to my computer for a long long time so please direct all emails to the folks still in the office. Thx.