A few years ago, I thought of myself as a writer of humorous fiction. But now, three books down, it’s clear that the central theme of my writing is, and will continue to be, relationships in contemporary urban India.

I’ve looked at the first bumpy years of marriage, mid-life crises and divorce, and the struggles of a young woman with all her relationships  – family, friends, love and her own self. And all of this has involved getting in deep and sometimes dirty into real-life relationships around me. Here are the methods that helped me in my writing. Each of these has also, to my delight, added back to my life.

Paying attention to living
Each of us has a wonderful story to tell. The emotions and experiences that we go through are both similar and vastly different from each other’s. My first book was largely autobiographical, but even with subsequent fiction-writing, I found, and continue to find, inspiration in the events in my own life as well as of those around me. And this is what I believe makes for the all-important factors of relevance and relatability.

As a writer, this is incredibly liberating, almost therapeutic, because I’m able to make sense even of failed personal relationships through the power and structure of storytelling. Even when I’m going through a rough patch, it helps to treat it as potential material.

Putting myself in others’ shoes
Sub-plots and stories within the overaching theme are inspired by observations and thinking about things from other people’s points of view – whether it’s the household help or a little child. The amazing side-effect of this: more empathy as a human being than I ever thought myself capable of.

The realisation is clearer now to me: every single one of us is the hero of her or his own story. Seeing things from another’s perspective is enlightening. It means being much less judgmental and more open to every character in every chapter – in a book and in life.

Finding stories from the past
I find that I often ask couples, at the risk of sounding nosy, to narrate to me the story of how they met. For instance, whether it was an arranged marriage or just a chance meeting.

People are usually happy to pause and think back to the moment or series of events that brought them together. More often than not, this conversation proves to be a great ice-breaker as well as being a great source of potential material, sparking off different ideas in my head. Most importantly, I learned from this all about how my grandparents ran away to get married decades ago, in total film-style. Or book-style, for that matter.

Reading non-fiction
I’ve taken to reading a lot more non-fiction than fiction over the past few years. I read on the topics of meditation, relationships, how the mind works, psychology, spirituality and basically anything that leads to a better understanding of the self. This is in large part to do with life-stage as well: after all, at the age of 35, I’m no spring chicken.

But I do feel that even if a relationship story is light-hearted in tone, there’s something more complex that runs beneath the surface and this is where the themes of self-reflection and self-discovery play a big role. Yes, even in stories primarily about the equation between two people. Else we’d all be writing about holding hands and walking off into the sunset together. And while there’s a place for that sort of thing, life is rarely that simple, and there’s so much more to explore. Naturally, the benefit of so much digging into the way the mind works has had a profound effect on my own self-awareness.

Learning to read the beauty and deeper meaning in small gestures
For the longest time, I complained to my husband about how unromantic he was. Soon after marriage, he claimed he didn’t need to do all that silly “romance stuff” anymore, now that he had already “patao-ed” me. It took me several years to begin to appreciate that relationships are more than flowers and chocolates and romantic getaways – those things only matter at the beginning, if at all.

Recently, on our weekend break in the hills with our three small children, we were all crossing a stream. My husband went ahead first and helped the kids across, and they were all perched safely on a large rock. I followed them but given the fact that the stepping stones were now all wet with their shoes, and given my natural clumsiness, I slipped and fell right into the stream.

Immediately my husband came sliding down the rocks from the other side, shouting “Y, Y,’’ and in his hurry to rescue me, slipped and fell in next to me. We stared at each other, bewildered, until the sound of our kids laughing and squealing registered. (My daughter would later claim that was her favourite part of the entire holiday). Even then, in that uncomfortable position, in that socks-and-bum-soaked moment, I was staring at my husband and thinking to myself, “How romantic this is.”

And it is precisely this change in perspective that makes me think I am incredibly lucky to be a writer focussing on relationships in today’s world.

Yashodhara Lal is the author of Just Married, Please Excuse and Sorting Out Sid. Her new book There's Something About You releases will be published  in July 2015. She blogs here