150121 – Morning Pages

I talk about how yesterday was a bad day and how I need to write about films and may be, make a quick trip to Mumbai.

7:34 AM. I had a disappointing day yesterday. More than external factors that I can easily pin blame on, I think it was me. A couple of really important meetings got canceled (no, this is not my fault). I missed sending an email to a prospective client (I should’ve been more careful). Another client call got fucked cos my internet sucked (I could’ve been at a co-working space rather than at a cafe). The two projects that I am thinking hard about – Shumbur and TRS in Goa, both are proving to be tough to crack. Both of these depend on other people saying yes and it’s a task to first find those, pitch to those, and then close. Of course, it is fun to do these but still. Life should be easier. I stress-ate crap like Doritos and chocolates and Chips and all. Despite eating well for a large part of the day. And promising to myself that I will not eat. All it took was a few taps on Swiggy. Even though it’s not installed on my phone.

I hope today is better. Even though am groggy and sore in the back and neck and joints (is this a result of eating crap?). I do have quite a few things lined up for the day. I plan to check out this new co-working cafe that has come up in Anjuna (Felix). Clay is anyway fun, just that the phone does not work there at all and I can’t do video calls. If I can get another alternative in Felix, why not! PS: While looking for directions to Felix, I figured, there’s another one – Nomad. Should’ve tried that as well! I did not know there would be so many coworking places in Goa. I have to get going with that Ultimate Guide to Remote Working from Goa.

So that’s the rant on how the day yesterday was.

Coming to what am thinking on. The favorite part of these morning pages for me. While talking to Shikha yesterday about TRS and where it could go, I realized that I want to write about films and Bollywood, and more. Though I am not as well-informed or well-read or well-researched about it, I think films have the power like no other medium. For most people, it is the most immersive, easiest to comprehend and understand the medium. And that gives filmmakers power like nothing else. While I am far from making films, I can definitely talk about this power. And how filmmakers are leveraging (and even wasting) the opportunity they have. I can’t talk about the craft per se. I can’t talk about deep, thinking filmmakers that have shown alternative realities to us. I am not even aware of world cinema. I am a mere aam aadmi that finds my escape in a film that is made well and I want to write about that. Of course, I do want to point out the problematic things they paddle in their films (body-shaming, hate-mongering, casual sexism, stereotyping et al). Films, after all, have to reflect the times we live in, talk about how can we move forward, and communicate things that simpletons like me do not understand. The good part is that in The Red Sparrow, I have access to a film platform that reaches far and wide. However, this access is not really a free pass. I still need to pass through the editorial filters of the team that manages it. I can’t bypass that. Even if I could, I don’t want to. The platform is bigger than an individual.

The other thing am thinking is that I need a trip to the chaos of Mumbai soon. I’ve been here 45 days. I know how it is to live here and I know the issues and I know the good things. I need to now decide on where I want to be. I want to make a trip to Mumbai before I do that.

On that trip, I can see if I like the comforts of Mumbai better. Or if I like the open expanses of Goa. If I decide on Goa, I can even wrap up the house and belongings in Mumbai. And if I do that, I will have to find a hostel or something that I can use when I travel there for these “break” trips from the peace of Goa. Let’s see when that happens. Plus, if I want to be in Goa, I will have to find a house for myself in Goa. I can of course use Rajesh sir’s house. He’s cool like that. But I don’t want to take advantage of his kindness. And if I choose to be here, I am reasonably sure that I want to be in Anjuna, Assagaon, or thereabouts. It has to be North. Beyond Baga and the touristy stretches and yet close to places where people hang out. I could go even further to Mandrem / Ashwen etc. but that would make me very far from almost everything.

Lol. I think I am getting ahead of myself. The entire para above is essentially me getting ahead of myself with things. Take a deep breath, Mr. Garg. I think it’s all the carbs that I ate last night that are talking. I don’t even know where would my work take me. What if work picks up in Mumbai? Or Delhi? Even Chennai for that matter? What if projects that am thinking about do not materialize in Goa? That’s something that I don’t have an answer to. I need to think. Let’s see.

So that.

Onto #freewriting for #book2. It is 8:31. I will write till 9. Let’s see how many words do I get in.

Blue.

The color of the sea.

Every time I see the sea, I am fascinated by the vastness of it. It is so infinite, so never-ending that it would have only taken the ingenuity of a human to navigate. I don’t think any of God’s creation has what it takes to circumnavigate all the waters that we are surrounded by. True, some fishes are known to travel more than 12000 KMs in search of food and warmth, and better seasons. They still do not come close to us. We may not have the fins or coated eyes of gills or large lungs or whatever. But we do have a thumb that moves perpendicular to the other 4 fingers. And we have the wheel. And we have tamed the fire. And we have sharp tools to make whatever we want to. And we have made them boats that tear around the sea and take us places.

I’ve never been close to one. I grew up in Punjab and while we did dip around in the lakes and canals and the rivers that dotted the state, I never knew of the infinite that an ocean is. Funny that I think about it from the closed confines of the cell that I am locked in. Often when the sea is in a mood and the winds are strong, they carry the smells from the faraway lands. On the nights when the ocean is angry and dueling with the rock, we are on the top of, the moans and the cacophony of the crashes drown even the voices in the head. That’s what all of us want in life. No? Drown them voices in the head? To get out of the shackles and the traps that our own minds have bound us in?

There were no easy answers for Raunak.

On one side, he was in jail for the rest of his life, without a possibility of a bail. Who would bail him anyway? There was no next of kin. No one even knew if he was alive.

And on the other, he held the secret to the greatest treasure known to mankind.

***

Ok, that’s about it for the day. More tomorrow.

Hello, Morning Pages (Day 1)

Say hello to a new project, this one hopefully will last a lifetime.

Read on.

I just started reading The Artists Way by Julia Cameron (buy at Amazon) and one of the things she says an artist must do is write three pages every day in the morning.

These three pages don’t need to be publishing quality prose and can be as simple as an unfiltered stream of thoughts that is not meant to be seen by anyone. And these are not related to any project that you are on. This is just penning whatever comes to your head. You know, brain vomits. Heck, she even says that you don’t have to publish this. She says that this exercise is like a meditative trance that you put yourself into, just that the object that you focus on is the words that come out of your head (and not breadth in most other meditative practices).

I think there is merit in doing this. My best work has happened when I have been regular. When I have been showing up without any expectation or an agenda. Even TNKS happened when I was writing every day on my blog and one of the posts couldn’t seem to end!

However, the thing with such projects is that I tend to lose interest after a bit. I don’t want to lose interest with this one. Writing is THAT important to me! May be I can appoint a few monitors? Say Vivek. Or Arti. Or Krishna. The day I don’t post this in the first half (that’s the point of the morning pages), I would consider it default and I would get penalized for it. Say 1000 bucks for each day I miss? And yeah, I ought to do this even if I am traveling. If I am alive, I need to write a morning page. How about that?

Of course, there would be days when I know I won’t be able to write. If I inform these people at least a day prior, I can take a break.

The more I think about it, the more I think that the idea at some level is similar to what Naval says about 60 minutes of meditation every day. He advocates sitting idle and letting your thoughts run amok. Julia asks us to write. In both, I think the key tenets are a daily routine, flushing your head off whatever is clouding it, and spending time with self.

Oh, by the way, Julia says asks us that these morning pages don’t have to be shared per se. But you know me. How can I do something and not drum about it to the world?

Now, as a reader that may want to read these, here are some “rules” that I want to put forth.

  1. These would be my unedited, unfiltered thoughts. And thus could be happy, sad, cribby, ranty, boring, interesting, etc.
  2. I will NOT correct typos on this one. May become an eye-sore for you as a reader but that’s that.
  3. I will endeavor to write 1000 words every day, give or take. Or write for 30 minutes. I know it’s a lot but let’s see how many I get in.
  4. Some days when I don’t have a computer with me, I will write with pen and paper and I will take a picture and upload it to this blog as and when I get time. May be I’ll write on the phone. If not even that, I will do a voice note. Something will happen for sure.
  5. I will not focus on paraphernalia around writing on WordPress. So, no tags, no SEO optimization etc.

So yeah. Morning Pages.

Today was day 1. Lets see how many days I do this.


PS: You know how things that you seek find you? That!

I spotted someone reading this book at a Starbucks and at a whim I ordered it. I am about 50 pages in and so far I like it. I can see myself recommending the book to others.

PPS: When I read the first few pages, I see that Julia talks about writing and creativity being spiritual practices and she connects it to God. As a non-believer, I was tempted to dismiss the idea and discard the book. But the struggling writer in me wanted to continue. So I did. I see value in what she says and I am reading the book assuming that God is the teacher and spirituality is the routine that we need to create.

PPPS: Writing on WordPress in these blocks is a pain. But I will find a workaround.

PPPPS: I realized I am happy when I am writing. Even if what I write is not read by anyone around. This post is giving me kicks that a beach is not. Guess I am the happiest when I create. I don’t know why. But I am. So, may be, in life, I need to be a creationist even though I don’t want to create any babies per se. M&m is more than enough!

33rd day of 30 days of writing challenge

Commentary on the 30 days of writing everyday challenge that I took in Nov 2020. I reflect on the experience and I talk about what next for me.

Time flies. And how.

I did not realize when these 30 days that I was supposed to write for every day got over. I started on the 30th of Oct and published 23 posts (including this over) over the last 33 days.

Like most projects, the first few days were exciting. The next few, drab. And the last few, a pain. As I end this project today, it’s time to reflect, catalog some thoughts, gather some ideas and move on.

Here we go.

The Project

I’ve always known the importance of writing well. And one of the key components of writing well is to write often. It is exactly like building muscle, running, or meditation. You cant reap benefits if you do 24-hour sprints. You have to do it every day. Slowly, deliberately and with intention. As Will Smith calls it, brick by brick.

The idea of this project was to develop a deliberate, regular writing habit. Stack them bricks. On that count, I think I did ok. That was the primary benefit I was seeking. So, Check!

The secondary benefit I wanted was to get active on this domain (saurabhgarg.com). I have my content scattered all over the internet and if I were to point people at one direction, I don’t think I’d be able to. Plus, increasingly, our personal brands are getting more and more important and thus it was imperative to create a homepage for self. I am not sure if I’ve met that objective. So, half-check.

Finally, I wanted people to read what I write, send me feedback, and help me get better. Even though I wrote a lot, I haven’t been able to get that. So, fail.

While I can end the post here, I do want to take the opportunity to talk more about the project and a few things that I am taking away.

A. On Writing

I have been writing and publishing my thoughts online since 2004 (on my personal blog) and it has helped me in numerous ways. I have made friends. I have learned new things. It lead me to a book! It has allowed me to expand my world. It has opened new work opportunities.

However, it has remained a mere hobby that I have been damn serious about. Also, I think writing keeps me sane. Writing allows me to feel that I have someone to talk to (#foreverAlone). It gives me that voice that I think is getting heard by someone, even strangers, in this world full of cacophony. Even if no one is responding to what I write. I write for the sake of writing. And then everything else (connections, lessons, opportunities, etc) is like a cherry on the cake. You know what would be the icing on top of the cherry on top of the cake? Ability to make a sustainable and lavish living with what I write! In fact, I’ve thought often about pivoting to becoming a full-time writer but it has remained a thought at best.

Three reasons.

  1. I am harsh af on myself. And I know it. To a point that I am critical. If I were my own mentor, I would have broken down. That bad. And that means even if I write a line that I think is as good as the worst that Bukowski wrote, I would consider mine as pathetic. So I am not sure if I can deliver. And thus, I am not active about seeking writing opportunities.
  2. I am not consistent. I have these bursts of creativity where I am freakishly productive and I can push out a tome in minutes. Words flow like tears flow in saas-bahu serials. Ideas are aplenty. Fingers fly on the keyboard to a point of producing literal sparks. And then there are days, even weeks when I just want to disappear under a rajai and not come out. Everything looks dreary. Dark clouds don’t seem to dispel. I think most artists suffer from such bouts and fluctuations (taking the liberty of comparing myself to an artist). And I don’t know a solution. The only advice I give myself at such moments is that old adage from Fitzgerald I think – live a rich life when not writing and retreat into a boring world when you write about that rich life.
  3. I never had the luxury to take long breaks to write. I’ve had to run my house. Luckily I do not have a lot of responsibilities but I do not have a freewheeling life either. Writing, thus, has always been the second or even third thing I’d do. Even these 30 days that I wrote, I would steal time after the day’s chores were done. PS: The lockdown did give me an opportunity to write. And I tried to be honest. But I could not sustain. I have nothing to blame but my laziness. So that.

While I know of these three issues and trust me when I say this, I have tried to fix these, I haven’t been able to. If you know of a way out, please do let me know.

Oh, I must mention that I believe writing can help me reach one of my #sgLifeGoals of impacting a billion lives. And this also fuels the on and off seriousness about writing. Every time I slack, I pick it up thinking writing is my shot at changing the world.

B. Traffic / Quality of writing

Like I said I have not been able to grow my audience, lemme talk more about it.

The dismal traffic on the website, despite my attempts at marketing it, tells me that either people are not keen on reading what I write or I am lousy at marketing. Lemme give numbers.

As of writing this, I have had 158 unique visitors and 600 odd page views to the website (as per Google Search console). One of these 158 is me. The second is Arti (I’ll talk about her towards the end of this post). And then there are 156 other people. And if I were to do simple maths, on simple average, it translates into 5 new users per post and 4 page views per reader. That means even the ones that read a post or two do not come back. So, dismal.

Lemme decode this.

Of course, I don’t want to be harsh on myself and I believe I am good at marketing. So, it has to be the quality of content.

This means that if I want to make a living off what I write, I need to get better. This also means that if writing has to be the tool that I use to make an impact in the world, I am failing at it. And bad. And I need to get better. And I do the word required. I read advice on writing. I practice it often enough (guess need to be more “often” with it). I follow other writers that are as widely read as the ones that wrote Geeta, Bible et al. I feel I am fairly deep with my ideas and I can explain those well to even a six-year-old. I write from the heart and I am probably as authentic as Corona beer is. I even publish often and I try to market what I write!

But, it’s not happening. I am not reaching more people. I am not expanding my world. Maybe I am in the second year of the 10-12 years it takes to be an overnight success? Maybe I am in the ninth. Who knows.

Or maybe, just maybe, Google is wrong?

C. Write AND publish thrice a week (and not daily)

Howsoever hard I may try, with all the things I do, I realized it’s impossible for me to write every day. But did manage 23 posts in 33 days. This tells me that I can definitely pull off writing every alternate day.

So when I start the next series of posts, I would aim for a 3-times-a-week cadence. I would try to better it but the thrice a week would be the bare minimum I’d want.

Oh, when I say write thrice a week, I mean I would publish thrice a week. I AM, I WAS and I WILL write every day. It could be a tiny scribble that gets lost in between the pages of notepads or it could be 2000-word posts. But I write every day. It’s the publishing that I am talking about here.

D. Acknowledgments

Oh, I can not end this post without thanking Arti. One, for painstakingly checking each post for typos. I don’t think in all the posts that I wrote, there was even one where she did not find a typo. She’s got that keen an eye. Second, the days that I did not send her the draft, she would pester me to write. Often there have been days when I wrote just because I did not want to disappoint her. I need more Artis in my life. Three, she did all this without expecting any remuneration or credits. I am not sure such selfless, such good people exist.

So yeah, thanks, Arti!

You’re awesome. The world needs more people like you. Dare you to find a typo in this one!

Other people that I have to mention here are Prakruti, Pradeep, and Suresh. For being the bouncing boards and constant encouragement nagging!

Honorary mention to the entire LFW Gang for reading and feedback.


And with that, its over and out from this one. I will be back with the next project soon. Till then, do let me know how I can improve my work. And do follow me on Twitter 😀

Over and out!

Day 2 – Humans vs Robots

A tiny home-improvement decision that I think I will take as I move to a new house in the next week. Part of my 30 days of writing every day for 30 minutes project.

This is the second day of this new project where I try and write every day for 30 minutes. As I start writing this, it is 9:09 PM (ended at 9:56 PM) and I do have this one thing that I want to talk about. Let’s see how long I take to write it.

So, in less than a week, I move to a new house. Like all the other houses that I have lived at, this one is also not mine and that means I am reluctant to acquire things that make the house a home. I mean I don’t put no pictures, no photos, no posters, nothing that resembles a place that is lived well. Even the furniture, I don’t acquire it. I don’t like the idea of material possessions (while I do have a bagful of memories – photos, postcards, tickets, hand-written trinkets and all that), I try and not attach myself to things.

There are multiple reasons for that. Lemme make a list.

A. In the past, when I did have things that I could attach myself to, every time I’d move the house, those would break and I’d get sad about em. So, to avoid disappointment, I decided against acquiring things.

B. Thing is, I like finer things (you know, expensive, made with love, limited edition, by artisans) and I have this big child ego (I either want the whole world, or nothing) and I have never had a lot of disposable money to be able to buy all the nice things. So, I trained myself to overlook these material things and not pine for those. I would of course continue to spend money to get some of these for friends. These gifts are voluntary – I can choose to get those or I could not get any at all. However, if I get addicted to better things, I would start pining for those and I know I can’t afford em. So, detach.

C. Continuing with the thread of detachment, I am trying to have minimal attachments to material things. This means I am embracing minimalism, Buddhism, Stoicism, Mary-Knodoism, Hagge-ism, and every other such -ism that tells us to be simple with our lives.

Of course, do get emotional when I have to change the house. I do not like to be around when I move. I rely on my friends and handymen to do so. Like they say, truth, is weirder than fiction 🙂

D. I saved the best for the last. I love space. And the kind of houses that we have in Mumbai, we have anything but space. Even with minimal furniture and furnishing, you sort of keep bumping into the walls all the time. So, I try and avoid stuffing the house with things!

***

So yeah, I have lived my life in a certain manner (like a robot) and I think it serves me well.

So, why this post?

Well, as I said, I am going to move to a new house in the next week. And as I get ready to make the move, I am thinking that I will change it! Thinking. Not doing it. And I will list those reasons as well here.

Let’s go.

1. I want to look at life on the other side. The side where you get emotional about things. I am after all an experience junky. To a point that I want to pack a thousand lives into this tiny one that we have. And I’d love to see things from. the perspective of the vain ones.

2. I want to assert my personality. When I had a business that was well and alive (prior to the COVID shock), I could project myself via my work. Now, I cant. So, I need to find something that allows me to. Even if it’s a simple wall in one of the rooms where I post things that are important to me.

3. I have always been a public-place person. I cant spend time at home. I feed off the energy of others and that means I love places like cafes and offices and worksites where I can see others working. Thanks to this WFH thingy, I know that I may not be able to get back to an office anytime soon (even though I have been going to a Starbucks every day for a week now). So, I need to convert the new place to resemble a bright, cheery place. That means I will have to get home those yellow lights, ambient speakers, the aroma of the coffee, and more! music systems and all that. And that means I will have to set up a few things that make my house, well, home, and start living like a human!

Robot. Human. Get the drift?

That’s it for the day.

With this, its over and out. See you guys tomorrow!

If you like this, spread the word. Help me get an audience. I know these essays are cool 😀 Older posts – 3010.

The 30-minutes a day writing habit

Come find out why am I picking a new hobby of writing everyday for at least 30 minutes.

So, I am part of this group of writers that meets once every week (on Zoom). All of us want to write long-form content (3000+ words in length) and in general, be better writers. Thus, a lot of our chats are around how to write better, how to get better ideas for writing, how to have an interesting perspective on things to be able to write about those, and so on and so forth.

We throw ideas at each other, we ask each other tough questions and more importantly, we try and help each other out when we are stuck.

On this week’s call, Shravya talked about Andy Matuschak and his routine of writing every day for 30 minutes. What he writes could be a thing as simple as a summary of the book that he’s read recently. Or it could be a part of an essay that he’s working on. Or something from his writing inbox. The output is not important. What is important is that he gets 30 minutes of writing done.

Think of it as your daily practice of workout, meditation, or even those 10000 steps! It’s such a simple idea and I think like all other things that you do as routine for a fairly long period, it would compound and give you fabulous returns.

I have myself engaged in a similar exercise at different times where I would ensure that I would write every day. I have done various avatars – from writing an SoG a day to writing 1000 words a day to even taking a picture each day and writing about it. Of course, I always slack after a few days.

But I have never been this serious about writing as I have been in the past few months. Not even when I was writing #tnks! Thing is, I have seen some crazy connections happen just because what I wrote resonated with so many people!

I realise that writing could actually lead me to things that I want in life – access to interesting people, money and more importantly, impact. Even if I am not the most flowery writer. Even if I am not the deepest, most insightful writer. And even if I what I write does not move a mole!

So, buoyed by that, here’s a promise to self.

To double down on effort I make with my writing. I will add 30 minutes of writing to my daily routine (other things there are 10 minutes of meditation, 16000 steps and 20 pullups). And I will publish each day’s work here, on this blog.

I will do this for at least 30 days, start today. Today is Day 1 and this post is today’s output 🙂

Do read what I write and do feed me back with how I could improve.

Over and out!