Behind the Sentences with… Alexia Tolas
Alexia Tolas is shortlisted for her story, Granma’s Porch
Where do you work? Describe your space, what it looks and feels like, and what you like about it (maybe what you don't like), and why it’s a conducive place to write...
Space is limited in my apartment, so I write from my dinner table. Yet while it is small, the table is right next to the screen door leading to my back patio. With the backdoor open, I can let in the breeze and the chirping of the birds. It’s best when it rains. The soil is saturated and thick in the air and the rain patters on the metal awning. It’s all very relaxing and stirs the creative juices!
What is your writing routine? Are you a morning or evening person, do you have any rituals associated with your writing? What happens if your routine isn't adhered to?
Most of my writing begins at night. In a sense, writing is my reward for a good day’s work, so when the day job is done and I’ve filled my tummy and washed the grime away, I can settle into my laptop with a hot cup of tea and build the foundations of something new. I work on a piece throughout the day once it’s started, but the bricks are always laid at night.
Do you have any writer “habits” – bad or otherwise? Any common words that you notice you used in every paragraph, or typos you make, specific pens or notebooks, or do you have to have a snack at the same time every day, for example?
A bad writing habit I’m trying to break is anchoring on the word “just”. Young writers are encouraged to use adjectival and adverbial flourishes that more developed writers have learned with which to do away. I realised sometime after my weaning from those clunky training wheels of adolescent writing that I’d substituted my dependency on them with “just”. It may be a colloquial crutch, but I’m working on it! Another bad habit of mine is getting stuck on a single story.
If you could develop one amazing habit (a kind of writer super-power) what would it be?
One writer super-power I hope to develop is the ability to work on multiple stories at once, but it has been hard because I enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from journeying through a single piece.
What happens when you stop writing? Away from the page, what do you do to relax? What happens if you have writers’ block? Do you have any tricks to escape it? And how do you reward yourself or celebrate after the completion of a story or manuscript, or on publication day?
Writing is my reward, but finishing a piece after days, weeks, or – in some cases – months warrants some downtime. After a piece, I binge-watch a show, invest a couple dozen hours into a video game, or buy a new book. This ritual gives me time to leave my headspace, but at the same time replenishes my stock of ideas. It’s the interaction with words and other realities that rejuvenate the mind. Releasing the wheel for a few days helps you think about your own world and its intricacies. On publishing days, the celebration is much less self-centered. There’s dinner with the family and a confectionery treat from any one of my favorite bakeries.