What is this?

“Drawing the Chicken” is a public creative process journal of sorts by Aditi Rao, an Indian writer, teacher, potter, pet parent, adoptive-single-mother-in-waiting, and much else. It will contain reflections, photographs, process videos, journal entries, guest posts, and occasional creative advice that you should feel free to ignore.

How did this begin?

In the summer of 2022, I spent a month at Hedgebrook, easily the most gorgeous writing residency I have ever been to. There are so many memorable things that made up my little log cabin in the forest, but one of my favourites was the bookshelf filled with journals that previous Hedgebrook fellows had kept during their stints in my cottage. I knew some of these writers from their work— the glossy book covers and shiny awards — but in the cottage journals, they were women like me, struggling with their words, enjoying walks on the beach, and trying over and over to give themselves permission to rest. There’s an entry by Gloria Steinem about all the abandoned pages she was burning in her wood stove, and it was a relief to discover that 30 years worth of women writing in these cottages had experienced many of the same unglamorous inner worlds that we inhabited. The behind-the-scenes glimpses were comforting, like a friend’s arm around your shoulder on a difficult day. I read almost all the journals in my month there, finding my way to them whenever I was stuck in my writing (or my life!) and always finding warmth and support, if not answers.

photograph of my cottage at Hedgebrook, a little log cabin with a blue door, set amidst a pine forest.

This newsletter is my attempt to do the same for you— to offer you notes and glimpses from the inner life that leads to books and mugs and poems, and hopefully to offer you a companionate presence just like those women writing, year after year, to keep me company on cold, blocked afternoons.

Why “Drawing the Chicken”?

One of my professors back in college had a “How to Draw a Chicken” sketch pinned up on his office door. At first, I thought it was something to do with his then five-year-old daughter, but a second look at the drawing showed you the catch: There is absolutely no way to get from Step 2 directly to Step 3— one is a childish scribble, the other a complex drawing of a rooster.

Ask James what the drawing meant, and he would tell you that too many students think they will get from Step 2 to Step 3 overnight, and that he was more interested in the many hours of persistent effort in between. He even created a peer-voted “award” in his classes, called the “Prestigious Chicken Award,” given to one student every semester for intellectual effort and persistence.

All these years and several awards later, it’s still the award I’m proudest to have won— a framed “certificate,” Easter eggs, and coffee! I’m proudest of it because I believe the most in this award: I too have always valued the creative process over the product, and I too have always been keen on the many hundred steps that it takes to get from the ostrich scribbles to the rooster.

In the decade and a half since I sat in his classroom, I’ve built a creative life for myself— one that spans writing, teaching, and pottery in particular, but also baking, bookbinding, interior design, and so many other kinds of creating. And while everyone loves a good finished product, I’ve never lost my fascination with the unglamorous behind-the-scenes hours, the process over the product.

This newsletter is about those moments: glimpses from a creative life. I hope you’ll find some comfort or joy in them, and that they will invite you into your own creativity too.

Who is Aditi?

Aditi Rao is an Indian writer, potter, teacher, and development professional. She is the author of two full length books of poetry, The Fingers Remember (Yoda Press, 2014) and A Kind of Freedom Song (Yoda Press, 2019) and currently working on her third book The Daughters Project: Oral Histories of eight women across India raised by single women. Her essays and poems have been published widely, including in Eclectica, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Four Quarters Magazine, The Feminist Wire, the Indian Quarterly, Qarrtsiluni, The Black Rabbit Review, InfochangeIndia, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, the Earth Charter Initiative, The Hindu Business Line, The Ken, and The Morning Context. Aditi’s work has also received national and international recognition through awards and fellowships, including the Akademie Schloss Solitude Fellowship, the Hedgebrook Residency, the Sangam House International Writers’ Residency, the Srinivas Rayaprol Prize for Poetry, the TFA Creative Writing in English award, the Muse India – Satish Verma Young Writer Award, and others.

Additionally, after over a decade of pursuing pottery as a hobby, Aditi set up her own ceramic studio in 2017, where she makes functional and whimsical pots that she sells under the brand “HappyMess Ceramics”. 

Who is this publication for?

Well, for you, dear reader. But also for anyone else who enjoys making things — writers, artists, bakers, homemakers, and anyone who wants another creative voice in their heads as they move through their everyday.

What is the difference between the free and paid versions?

As of now, only that posts older than 4 weeks get archived into a paywalled section. I would like to keep the majority of this free for as long as possible, but it does take me a lot of time and energy to put it out every week, so if you’re able to support it with a paid subscription, you will help me keep this going!

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Notes from a Creative Life

People

Aditi Rao

Wrtier. Teacher. Potter. And then some.