Some of the questions I consistently get are about my various interests and career trajectories. I’ve been an electronics engineer (theoretically), a programmer, a marketer for startups (B2B/B2C), niche brands and big ones alike, as well as a writer across forms (journalism, essays, screenwriting, ads, copy, hopefully more). In this post, I’m tackling the most common questions I get, which are hopefully also the most useful to answer. This AMA is a running list of questions and answers, updated every Friday. Please DM your questions on LinkedIn or Twitter, and I’ll get to them on the next possible Friday. Signup here to receive the answers and other writing in your inbox. This high turn-around time, and the intimate nature of the Q&A, makes this a Thoughtful AMA.
14th April, 2022
❓: I'd love to start writing on some topics I'm interested in. I am not being able to muster up the courage or the will to begin. I don't want to do social media posting but write on my blog maybe. How to begin and how to keep at it? [Credits: Karthik Ananthakrishnan]
🥴 : A good place to start is by asking yourself ‘Why do I want to write?’ Once you articulate this,
you’ll give up in some way—and the answer could be anything, or multiple things, a complex interweb of motives and values—you might realize how much you want to do it.
For me, writing is about making a home for my thoughts, feelings, and interpretations of the world, which are otherwise amorphous, always changing and often conflicting. But writing gives this messy consciousness some shape and coherence, and also beauty and meaning. It is a way for me to reconcile with my limitations as a human being: I cannot be in multiple places at once, or know what it’s like to be another person, or study all the disciplines that casually interest me, or live the many lives I’d have liked to in different worlds. I can only expand through stories. They have often saved me. And so producing stories is, for me, a pursuit of the highest ideal.
Writing is, fortunately, the bedrock of most storytelling and creative output. You only need yourself and a few tools; it does not require coordinating in large teams and vast resources to publish anymore; it works wonders when done well (and it is possible to ‘hack’ doing it well). There is a reasonably organized and accessible industry around it in India too now—from content for brands to blogs and Substacks to various magazines and publications. This eminently practical quality of writing and publishing today is attractive, because I can only blame myself if I’m not prolific (arguably versus other more ‘coordinated’ forms of creative output, like starting a band or company, or making films).
So what does writing mean to you?
And do you care to do it ‘despite’ a presumed deficiency in factors you think will help—like Courage, Will, Motivation, Confidence, or <insert other life trait that even the best struggle with>—which, by the way, the mind keeps inventing the need for, as a distraction from the difficult task of having to produce. How would you ever write if each point had to be tackled reasonably, rationally, with attention and importance? Somehow an opposing force, a commitment, faith or burning desire simply needs to take over. Everything else is a waste of time. (One of my favourite writers, David Sedaris, once outlined his writing process. A key step was to Abandon Hope. He also says that you should feel lucky for wanting to write, for this desire to make something of your experiences. So just enjoy yourself, if you can, but write anyway.)
🙄 TLDR: Knowing why you want to write might help, but you also don’t need to. You don’t need courage or ‘will’ either. You can just sit down and write the words. One after the other. Take days to do it at first, if needed, but just write words. Just start! And start again, because you’ll need to.
🦾 protip: Turn yourself off and on again.
📚 Recommended Reading: Much of what I write above surprises me, given how lost I feel about what I create sometimes. But I’m understanding that this kind of ‘Resistance’ does underlie every creative process, from my own experiences and what the giants have to say, and it probably intensifies or takes new forms with time and experimentation. It’s important, therefore, to think of tackling it as an ongoing, evolving, and enlightening part of the creative journey, to enjoy it as much as possible and keep inspiration at hand. My friend Ronak Gupta has a beautifully written newsletter on why he writes, on writing as being, as living. Follow people you like and admire, dead or alive. Collect quotes like I do on my FUN STUFF page. Wonderful books on art and creativity will help. I recommend Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.