22 June 2015
Spotlight On: Neha Kale
Neha Kale is a Sydney-based freelance writer. Her features, profiles and essays regularly appear in a range of print and online publications including Daily Life,Vault, Broadsheet, The Collective, Open Skies and more.
What state or territory do you live in?
New South Wales
What kind of writing do you do?
I write features, profiles, essays and creative non-fiction mostly focusing on art, culture, people and places. I also balance this with better-paying commercial work to ensure that I can make rent while keeping my writing skills sharp!
What are you currently reading?
Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. Lahiri’s short story collection The Interpreter of Maladies won a Pulitzer a few years back and her writing is exquisite but completely without ornament.
How did you begin writing?
My way into writing was through reading. When I was growing up, I’d read everything I could get my hands on, from Enid Blyton and Sweet Valley High to Dickens – I didn’t differentiate. Whatever I was reading often felt more real to me than the actual world and that was so powerful. I also spent my teenage years writing terrible diary entries, stories and essays. I was one of those weird kids that knew what they wanted to do by 8 years old.
How do you remain motivated?
Deadlines are hugely motivating but I try not to think a lot about it because being unmotivated has never really felt like an option! And especially not if you’re freelance. But I’m also trying to get better at conserving my energy and understanding the value of time off.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Art, music, books, movies, conversations with my boyfriend and friends. People who risk everything to do incredible things. I’m also a serious magazine junkie and often spend hours the newsagent, the dingier the better. Also, the work of other writers – years ago, I wrote my honours thesis on Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and I’m not sure that I’ve read anyone who writes as fearlessly or inventively. Her essay Speaking in Tongues and her New York Times profile on Jay-Z are close to perfection.
Do you think where you live in Australia has influenced your writing?
I grew up in Perth and lived in Melbourne for a long time but saw a huge shift in my writing practice when I moved to Sydney three years ago. It’s true that it can be harder to find a sense of community here but I’ve also found that the light, space and proximity to the ocean feeds me creatively. It’s also liberating to live in a city that doesn’t glorify the artist’s lifestyle.
What is the best and worst piece of advice you’ve been given as a writer?
The worst advice is probably “follow your dreams and the rest will follow.” Dreams are crucial but only if you’re prepared to take risks, work hard and pull out all the stops to get there.
“Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside.” This is from Ignore Everybody by Hugh Macleod, a book that a friend lent me a few years ago that changed my perspective about how to build a creative career.
What piece of published writing are you most proud of? Why?
That’s a tough one but probably the first essay I wrote for Daily Life back in 2012 on Azealia Banks and the female hustle. I think finding your voice as a writer can take a lifetime and most pieces that I write dissatisfy me in some way. But every now and then you write something that reflects who you are and what you want to say and I think it’s important to use those moments as benchmark when you’ve spent hour after miserable hour staring at a blank page.
What is your goal for National Young Writer’s Month?
We’re often told that writing for a living is next to impossible but there’s never any constructive advice about how to make it happen if that’s what you feel called to do. Although I’m still always figuring stuff out, I’m hoping to show younger writers about the business of writing and that it’s possible to carve out a life where you have the freedom to write what matters to you without driving yourself into poverty in the process.