Writing, thinking or conceptualising?

It’s not about myself or my blogging. I have always been trying to understand the meaning of the writing. Writing is not the process of writing with your pen or pencil or typing on your device. Even from childhood, when we teach the children to use the paper or drawing material kids scribble, they write what they want. But it is their way of thinking or conceptualising. We feel that the kids are doing something meaningless, but it is how they visualise things, and they are trying to reproduce them. Once as a child, Priya, my daughter painted an apple blue. When she was told that apples are never blue, she said, “I feel that the apples are blue!”  

But the fact remains that if someone had told me that I would be writing a blog every alternate day, I would have laughed. I used to consider myself very smart when I was a student and felt that there was no need to write down anything. After all, I thought that I was the most intelligent guy around, so my brain was capable of storing every detail! 

But now I realise that my thinking from student life was the folly of the youthWriting is the result of many processes. I feel that everyone has a writer in him or her! In olden dayswriting something involved stack of papers or a notebook, plus writing material and not to forget erasers and sharpeners. Now a cell phone or laptop is good enough- I prefer a laptopPublishing what you write is getting easier and easier day by day! Here I am only talked of tools of the trade but not about how the writing results into an essay, novel, poem or an article this I had never thought into details. 

The practice definitely makes one a reasonably good writer over a period. It is not that you wake up one day and start writing poems after poems. Another vital thing is self-doubtSelf-doubt can be an ally. It is because it serves as an indicator of aspiration. It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I a writer? Am I an artist?” chances are you are.  

If you have a doubt and discuss with someone or ask someone, do I think I can write a good travelogue omy European tour? Such thoughts indicate that you have an inkling to write but have doubts or don’t feel confident to do it. In such cases, you start putting down things that come to mind on whatever medium you are comfortable with. A friend of mine still prefers to write on paper. He shares the images of what he writes on digital media.  

Anyone who struggles with writing (or any creative pursuit) knows that when it doesn’t feel right, it’s not something that you can force. And if you do, you end up with a blank slate covered in inadequate words. 

But what most people don’t realise is that the resistance to writing is not unlike the resistance to other skills. And what is the antidote for this? Practice. Exposure. Iteration. Practice makes any seemingly impossible task familiar. You can learn to write. 

The most important aspect of writing is to realise that there are no metrics that can define somebody as a writer. When somebody boasts that he or she is a great writer, he is not telling the truth. It is quite straight forward, every time you write a page on your own, you are a writer, if you play the guitar on your own, you are a musician. Each time you encourage your colleagues to do something, you are a leader. A writer need not be writing an article a day, or a novel every year. It is the act of doing it yourself can define you as a writer.  

Don’t forget that writing is just sharing your thoughts with others; you do it with others while chatting or on the phone anyway. As writer, you share your thoughts in writingWriting itself is not difficult, but it is the thought behind it that is difficult. Writing is thinking, and that is why it is so difficult. It not only thinking that is important but thinking correctly is important.  

Writing is essentially a robust tool that enables us to clarify and communicate our thoughts. While writing, you are forcing yourself to think critically and exercise parts of your brain that are typically on auto-pilot.  Einstein had once said, If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” In attempting to formulate a written piece, you are going through the exercise of transforming vague ideas into clarified concepts externally, but also internally. 

Correct thinking is critical in life. In my software business, I have observed many problems were reported as tricky and difficult to resolve. But what I used to do is to ask the person resolving the problem to create a problem statement. I found that in more than 95% of the cases, people could not write the problem statement correctly. When you are not able to explain the problem correctly, how can resolution be easy? 

Writing and thinking are two peas in great pod. Critical thinking leads to good writing, which leads to clearer thinking, and so on. By improving your writing, you are also improving your ability to think and vice versa. So then the question becomes, how does one activate this process? 

In some rare instances, one may be able to write about a subject or an event. But it may be something like a tribute or writing about a specific event or an achievement by individuals or organisations. But it will be more like a newspaper piece 

But one thing is definite, it is not an easy thing to write consistently, but keeping your grey matter active all the time will help. One can write consistently about a subject by writing series of articles or take a difficult path of writing on different subjects. Reading and researching consistently is important to activate grey matter.

Friends, I have observed one of our WhatsApp group. People have suddenly started expressing themselves in short bursts. Let me assure you that there is a writer in everyone, hidden from everybody, including yourself. Let it come out. It is not a writer hidden, but a painter or poet may also be hiddenPhotographer? Maybe. When I have spoken to a few friends they are worried that people may not appreciate them, people may not like what they create, but don’t forget that creation itself is a beautiful idea, give it chance and start doing it.  







Your Future Self!


Yesterday Jaya and I were coming back from the airport after dropping our Son. We had travelled using  an Uber taxi. On the way back, we met an interesting driver. I felt that he was quite enterprising. It was evening time and most roads indicated heavy traffic on Google maps. Not only was he using maps efficiently but at a couple of places when the congestion was too heavy, he took U-turn and changed the route. I praised him for proactive actions to reach the destination as quickly as possible. Then he asked me, “If I ask you a few questions, will it be ok?”  I said, “Go, ahead!”

He said that he owned the car he was driving and he wanted to run a fleet of taxis similar to Ola/Uber model. He wanted to give better service than Ola/Uber. He said he had funds, though of course not unlimited! But he had that aim to be better than the giants. Jaya and I probed him with many questions like what his USP was going to be? He had thought about some things and he had not thought about many things. I suggested that he put things on paper and study, create his plan. I said, “You drive your taxi every day, how will you get time to do these things?” He said that since this plan is his passion and he will somehow find the time, and “trouble” some customer like me. He would take advice from various people but will achieve his goal. So, I said, “The time you will be spending on future is going to be unproductive time for your today’s work and will stretch your daily time schedule to the limit!” He replied, “Yes, I know that I will be required to do a lot of “unproductive” work for my future. If I don’t invest in my future who will?” This I thought was an extremely smart way of thinking. Invest in so-called unproductive things to reach the moon in future! This coming from an Uber driver gave me a terrific feeling.

He was not an MBA from IIM’s nor was he highly educated. I did not ask him about his education level but he must have taken a college degree in some subject. What could be the source of his passion? We talk about business families, business communities. This person was definitely not from these groups. He must be reading something, he must be discussing with some people, he must be watching stories on TV which has led to his thinking. When my ride was over, I wished him all the best and told him not to lose courage and focus because path could be tough. He said, “With suggestions from people like you, my resolve is getting stronger day by day!”

You’re busy all day, working non-stop, multitasking in a misguided attempt to knock a few extra things off your to-do list, and as the day comes to a close, you still haven’t gotten your most important work done. Being busy is not the same as being productive. It’s the difference between running on a treadmill and running to a destination. They’re both running, but being busy is running in place.

If you want to be productive, the first question you need to ask yourself is what do you want to be? Another question is where do you want to go? Chances are that the answers to these questions represent growth in some direction. And while you can’t spend all your time pursuing those objectives, you definitely won’t get there if you don’t spend any of your time pursuing them.

Key to all this is that you need to spend time on the future even when there are more important things to do in the present and even when there is no immediately apparent return to your efforts. In other words — and this is the hard part — if you want to be productive, you initially need to spend time doing things that feel ridiculously unproductive.

My daughter Priya is a dentist. She and her family are in the process of migrating to Canada. They were initially expecting that they will move to Toronto. But Priya felt that as a doctor she should also know French, as Canada is a bilingual country. Even in Toronto, you could get French-speaking patients. So, she decided that learning French would make sense. Hence, she joined Alliance Francaise and took a four-month course. She had a tough time managing the course, her Medical Practice, family obligations and her child. But she did it! As the luck would have it, her husband got a job in Montreal and her so-called unproductive efforts will become productive when she joins him in Montreal!

You want to become a writer or a painter or marathon runner, along with whatever you are doing currently. Your busy mind tries to keep you away from the new stuff, you’re not yet good at and which isn’t yet productive. Sometimes you need to be irresponsible with your current challenges in order to make real progress on your future self. You have to let the present just sit there, untended. It’s not going away and will never end. That’s the nature of the present.

You may not end up with an empty email inbox. You may not have the perfect compensation conversations with your boss. You may not please everyone. I am confident that those who want to invest in their future, will be good enough to do their current stuff at 7 or 8 on ten level, instead of their usual on 9/9.5 on ten level. Some of you might get jitters because of a lower level of productivity, but it is simply not possible to multitask things beyond a certain level.

Once you have clarity in mind of what you are doing and why you are doing, tasks become easier. Once you start seeing at least hazy image of your future self somewhere on the horizon, your jitters level will get lowered. This brings me to my latest theory of everybody requiring to reskill themselves. Reskilling in future is going to be mandatory. This is irrespective of whether you want to do it or not! So why wait? It is going to be reverse of “Back to the Future” movie where the person travels back 30 years in a time machine. Now you will have to visualize yourself ten years hence.

In case of training for Marathon, you may first start with 5 km then 10 and so on! Similarly, the writer in you may be able to write a few things initially. You may paint a few things after 3 months! This step by step progress is what you are looking for! Do it as a passion, but don’t forget that you may have to do it in future, anyway!

Your original training as an engineer, architect or whatever will keep you going. But in both these professions, you also want to add subject knowledge of Costing. This knowledge may put you on a fast track in your future career! The future costing engineer will have to take efforts, today, then you will get the fruits in the future! Don’t lose track of “Your Future Self!”


Wish I were better…

Our son Sachin is older than our daughter Priya by 11 years. We used to have very interesting discussions on our dining table. Priya was in first grade and Sachin was in college. He would tell stories or share anecdotes of happenings in the college. The moment Sachin finished, Priya would start with “This is what happened in my school today!” She would then narrate something, of course imaginary, what happened with Dilip or Meena or whoever were her friends. Initially we would try to tell her not to spin stories. She would not stop but continue! Then we realized that it was her urge to take part in conversation and not feel left out. In retrospection, I felt that she developed the skills to narrate anecdotes as well as an ability of story telling, which is essential in life.

As I look back in life, I realized that people who were brought up in homes and families which were so called socially challenged, must have faced trauma, as life must have been difficult. In childhood, the child has no inhibitions. The child is bold and open minded, if allowed. But when there are challenges in life, healthy discussion is not a priority because the parents themselves never got such an opportunity and would suppress the urge in children. I was brought up in a family where openness was the norm. I luckily could convert this advantage in becoming, hopefully, a good individual! Jury is still out!

The effects of suppressed upbringing last a lifetime, with a few honourable exceptions. What would be the effects of suppression? One important effect would be even a successful individual with tough background, may always feel the need to check if they have done better than their peers! A good painter may keep on comparing with others. Am I good enough? A good writer may keep comparing with peers. Am I better than so and so? He may add a few spins to his writing, like Priya did in her childhood, to make it noteworthy. Classic example is recent gaffe by Arnab Goswami, when he claimed that he was physically present during an event during Godhra riots, in Gujrat. The event did occur but his colleague  Rajdeep Sardesai was physically present and not Arnab.

I read recently that actor Nawazuddin Siddiquie’s wife slammed him for writing false things about himself in discussion about their broken marriage. Since I don’t know him, I can’t comment on what type of person he is. But is it some trauma in his growing up stage that caused him to make false claims? I can’t say.

How does an individual overcome such issues? How does he stop making false claims? How does he overcome the habit of deceitful expressions? Only way to do it is to take help of friends or anyone who will help. Second way  is to try and forget the traumas of the childhood but it is easier said than done. When I wrote about writer above, if writing is his profession then he may attempt deceit but one need not do it if he is a professional in different field and writing is his hobby! In a hobby there is nothing to prove!

Finally, I will narrate a story about a very young daughter of our maid servant, who used to come to play with Priya, when she was young. Their family unfortunately came from a financially challenged background. While playing with Priya, she would tell stories of how they had many gadgets at home, how she had different toys to play at home and so on. One day I was sitting in the same room as they were. I heard her speak and my eyes moistened with sadness because I knew her background. I pray to God nobody is required to become a spin doctor to overcome  trauma of their childhood! Or teach us all to accept things as they are!