If there is one word to sum up the decade that has gone by, it must be ‘learning’. I have learnt many lessons these last ten years; some lessons were learnt willingly, with pleasure, while many unpalatable ones were force-fed over my kicks and protests.
Becoming a Published Author
This was the decade when I first became a published author. I learnt about working with editors, publishing and distribution, cover design, author websites, power of social media, book launches, literary festivals and much more. For the first time, I connected with complete strangers who felt a kinship with me because of my book. They opened their doors and hearts to me. They organized book launches and readings without any expectation in return. I was humbled and honoured to be blessed with the power to create words and worlds that touched others.
Not all the lessons learnt from publishing were good. I came to know that I could no longer hang out with some aspiring authors who were my closest friends till then. They hated that my tag had changed to ‘published’ and despised me for it. For a long time, I thought it was something to do with me. Then, I realized their behaviour was not worthy of further reflection. It was time to move on.
Making New Friends
When you close one door, another opens. I made some wonderful new friends; they were people who read deeply and widely, wove stories that punched you in the gut, crafted sentences that were a delight to read and analyse.
They were people whom I could call up any moment of the day. They understood and accepted me even when I went into my writing cave and remained AWOL for months. They were writers, the real ones, the ones like whom I aspired to be.
I started writing professionally in the year 2005. Writing was a lonely business for me till I published my first book. I had no recognition or appreciation for whatever I wrote. Though that didn’t stop me from writing, I yearned to share my stories with others. So, I started writing a flash fiction story every Saturday with the hashtag #SaturdayShots. I shared the stories on only Facebook initially. Then, they were published on my publisher Readomania’s blog. Later, the best of the stories was published in the Sunday Literature Column of the Free Press Journal. I wrote those stories, one a week, for two whole years. For the first time, I had strangers read and appreciate my writing and it was intoxicating.
Recently, I have started writing those stories again; once again, they are published every Saturday. They are available on my Patreon page as a gift for my patrons. I am not sure how long I can keep up the momentum but I am hoping that I can continue writing them for many more years.
By the way, the previously published ones are now being compiled into a book and will be available free of cost on Wattpad. I’ll be updating the book with a story every week. Already, I am getting a lot of encouragement there.
This was the decade when I got the opportunity to write the screenplay and dialogues for a ten-episode web series. Right from brainstorming and ideating to plotting, writing and narrating the screenplay, every single moment that I worked on the project was an absolute delight.
I spent the majority of the last year working and reworking on this huge project. It went through many rewrites and it taught me valuable lessons on how to be creative on demand and how to work cohesively with a team on creative projects.
The most disappointing blow of this decade was when I was informed a couple of weeks back that the project will have to be parked for some time. While this seems to be common in the film world, this was my first experience of working on something that might never fruition.
I found solace in Krishna’s words:
“You have the right to work, but for the work’s sake only. You have no right to the fruits of work. Desire for the fruits of work must never be your motive in working.” ― Bhagavad Gita
How true! When I worked on the show, I was oblivious to whether the show would be made or not and I enjoyed every effort I put into creating it. I realised that is how I must approach writing—without a care about whether it would ever see the light of the day or not. This was probably the most important lesson I learnt this decade.
Now, I’m told ‘Birds of Prey’ is going to be adapted to the screen and I am delighted to know that but I haven’t even officially announced it since I’ve learnt there is a lot that can happen before the cup reaches the lip. If it happens, I will be on the seventh heaven. If not, I’ll continue writing the next one.
I’m not sure if I have ever revealed the name of the thriller I am working on: Sleeping Dogs. The story is much older than Birds of Prey. I wrote the first draft nearly a year back. For reasons that are equally a mystery to me, I did not work on the book after that. There was always something going on that kept pushing the book away from me.
See what I did just there—I blamed ‘something’ for my laziness. That’s another lesson learnt this year. There is just no easy way to get published; you need to sit down and write the book. There’s no way around that. I have vowed to let go of excuses and just do the work.
The highlight of this decade was winning the Valley of Words award for ‘Tales from the History of Mathematics’ as the Best Book for 2019 in the Children/Young Adult category.
When the first email reached me that my book was nominated for the award, I ignored it. Do you know the number of such spam messages that authors receive? I thought it was one of those messages that will ask me to pay some few thousands to win a ‘fake’ award at a spurious ceremony that will do nothing, not even massage my ego.
Thankfully, the good people at Valley of Words messaged my publisher too. It was only after I received a call from him that I opened the email and understood that this was a prestigious award and I had the likes of Jerry Pinto, Keki Daruwala, Anjum Hasan, Hindol Sengupta and Namita Gokhale for company.
The few days that I spent at Dehradun participating in the Literature Festival and receiving the award will be etched in my heart forever. These are the moments for which we live as writers.
Read Write Inspire
Another huge achievement of this decade was starting Read Write Inspire. RWI changed me from a tech-challenged person who cannot even handle online fund transfer to one who can shoot videos, edit them, do voice-overs, create graphics and embrace different social media forms including Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn.
RWI gave me a new tag— ‘entrepreneur’. Apart from creating content, I learnt how to optimise it for the search engines, market it, promote it and monetise it. And, I’m loving it.
I started this decade giving birth to my second son. Midway through the decade, I gave birth to my first book and then I had another two more. While juggling family and writing can be a nightmare for many women writers, I have been blessed with a husband and two sons who know that momma’s writing comes first. They don’t always like it but they’ve grown to accept it.
Another lesson that I have learnt this year is to appreciate the people in my life. They have a big role to play in whatever little success that I have had. Right from encouraging (sometimes badgering!) me to write to reading and encouraging whatever rubbish I spout; I couldn’t have done this without them.
This was the decade when I discovered the book that changed me—Stephen King on Writing. Following his advice, I’ve started putting writing in its place. It’s important to my life but it is not my life. However, the people who care for me, the readers who encourage me, the society that inspires me… is my life. As King says, my writing should support my life, not take over it.
There is so much more that I have learnt this decade. I’m sure the lessons will remain etched in my mind and guide me in the decisions that I need to take tomorrow.
Already, I know the new decade is going to bring about some more huge changes in my life. I’m excited and scared about the same. I’ll share about it in another post.
Happy New Decade, friends!
Let me share a poem by George Linnaeus Banks to inspire you as we step into this new decade:
“I live for those who love me,
for those who know me true;
for the heaven that smiles above me
and awaits my spirit too.
For the cause that lacks assistance,
for the wrong that needs resistance,
for the future in the distance,
and the good that I can do.”