I’m close to finishing my first book. That means I need to start thinking about all the ways I can promote it before and after its launch. I recently spoke at an e-summit as well as on a friendly webinar on topics related to graduate school and my book. One of the questions that people always is, what is the story behind the book? why this topic? and why now? I try to give a reasonably succinct answer, but I wanted to share the full story with you here. Something I have never shared with anyone before.
5:03 AM IST on December 30th, 2018
I was staring at a blank laptop screen in front of me. With the help of jet lag, I was able to wake up early in the morning to begin my journey of writing a book. I had just gone back to Chennai, India after completing my master’s at Columbia University. A lot of tears were shed and goodbyes exchanged just a day ago. That long flight ride back home, long since I tend to book cheap tickets with many layovers, gave me time to reflect on the 16 months I spent in the Big Apple. I was sad, but in a good way. I was sad that I won’t get to meet my friends anymore and sit inside classes. But, I was really excited for the next chapter.
So I began typing away. I remember sitting on the floor in the 8x8 ft storage room in my home, next to huge cardboard boxes full of old tamil magazines. My mom, who wakes up at 4:30 AM every day, came by to ask me if I wanted to eat anything. I don’t remember what I asked her to give (I know it wasn’t coffee or tea though, since I don’t drink them). I knew I wanted to write a book. I had a very loose idea of the topic. In fact, why don’t I show you the exact words I wrote?
It is rife with grammatical errors as you can clearly see, but I wanted to share the unedited version with you. I still remember what inspired me to write on this topic. It was an article written by Michael Simmons on Medium, where he breaks down the six factors that define happiness. I wanted to write a fiction novel with six chapters talking about the story of six different people who tried to find happiness in their lives.
I never finished it.
7:17 PM on February 19th, 2019
I was in a small but cozy Airbnb three-story apartment next to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. My dream tour to Europe had taken a horrible turn, and I wanted to just get away from home and go to a new location. I was in Rhode Island to do a mini-intern at my friend Rishabh’s edTech startup, Gradly. I know it sounds strange to travel across the world and work when I had initially planned to take a vacation, but back then, I needed that.
Except for the times Rishabh and I spent together working, I was pretty much by myself the entire day. I didn’t know anyone there. Providence was very cold at that time of the year, so I preferred staying in over going out. I spent most of my time outside the startup reading. I think I was close to finishing Sapiens when I began thinking of another idea for the book. Like before, why don’t I show you what I wrote?
I was so moved by Sapiens that I began thinking about how the power of one’s mind can break through physical and economic shackles. I also liked the title Prisoner of Birth, which is what I think I was planning to name it. This time, I actually wrote a chapter of the book recounting human history, specifically related to cognition. And I even reached out to a few doctorate students who specialized in world history. But, the word count never crossed 1779.
7:56 PM PST on November 20th, 2019
I was sitting in a comfortable couch/chair, staring out the huge glass window of the Bellevue Public Library at the bright lights emitted from the passing cars. I began working at Salesforce on March 11th, 2019. I spent the next seven months settling into the new job, meeting a lot of new people, finding a daily routine, reading voraciously, breaking into freelance journalism, beginning to indulge in music, and traveling a lot.
In all this chaos, working on a book slipped through the cracks. But, for some unknown reason, I got back to it towards the end of November. This time, I had the idea more flushed out, and forced myself to write a two page draft just explaining the idea behind the book. 2019 was the year I built some of the best habits I have today. It was the year I read the most books and learnt the most new concepts. Yet, I felt like it was unsustainable. Maybe this excerpt from the draft will show why.
I actually still would like to work on a book that wraps around the idea of improving one’s attention and retention. But, suffice to say, I did not work on this further. I reached out to a few people who I thought might be interested in working on this idea with me, but it just did not pan out.
Back to the present
The book that I am writing right now is on a topic I never thought I would write about. I had already done my due diligence in providing guidance for students on studying abroad, internships, and scholarships. I didn’t want to write on something I already wrote on. That was boring, I used to think. Honestly, the only reason I thought about the topic of education was because I realized I had spent almost a year wanting to write a book, but not having made any progress. Maybe the reason was that, writing a book felt too intimidating. I wanted to start small so my brain doesn’t go into panic mode every time I try to write.
So, I turned to all the topics where I already had decent knowledge. Product Management. Productivity. Internships. Scholarships. Studying abroad. Oh, wait. Studying abroad seems interesting. That’s it. With that in mind, I reached out to a junior of mine, Saikishore Raju, who I thought might be interested on December 27th, 2019.
As you can notice, even here I proposed a few topics to him. We ended up picking one randomly on a call, and, that’s the story behind how I’m close to finishing my first book now.
10 page PDF became 25 pages.
25 became 50.
50 became 80.
80 became 150.
150 became 200.
….and who knows how many pages it might end up having finally. My bet is 220.
Now, I’m probably 2-3 months away from launching it, and I can see the finish line. It’s not intimidating anymore. It seems very achievable.
I keep telling people that I had been working on this since January, 2020. But, the truth is, it really took 16 months to get here.
What’s my point? 🤔
I know you’re thinking… so, what’s your point?
It’s okay to have ideas that don’t work out.
But, what is not okay is to give up the curiosity altogether because of a few failed experiences.
P.S. I hope this story gives you a peek into my thought process. I’ll resume the regular structure of the newsletter from next time.
Hi there! If you’re feeling generous, can you like this post on Substack? It would greatly improve the visibility so more people can enjoy. You can follow me on Instagram for fun life stories and LinkedIn for not-so-fun life stories. Email email@example.com for questions.
Aaand.. you’re awesome. Don’t forget that. :)