What Life Teaches Me Everyday

When life happens every third day – 2018 in review

Another year gone. And 2018 literally flew for me.

If you were around my blog this time of the year, you would know that I intended to publish or rather self-publish one fiction and one non-fiction book in the year 2018. Needless to say, I failed miserably. I have a semi-finished draft of the non-fiction book and some 25 flash fiction stories on my drive as of today.

Of course, a work in progress is much better than nothing, I take it as a failure to meet my goals. We freelancers can hardly be blamed for not meeting our goals because to us life happens every third day, throwing our schedule and short-term goals in complete chaos.

Being a freelance writer, I am no different. And I am proud of the fact. I chose a freelance life because I wanted to live life as it comes, not missing out on anything just because something else needs to be done more urgently.

Everything said, 2018 was a very hectic and fruitful year both professionally and personally. And this post is just a review of that.

Personal achievements

While talking of goals, I cannot ignore the fact that building an extension to our house was on our to-do list since 2016. We could finally achieve it in 2018. Building an extension and renovating the existing parts of a house are no mean tasks. So, I wish that charitable ones among you would pardon me for not meeting my other goals like publishing a book!!

Hey! not everything was a failure professionally

I connected with Shradha Anand the founder of Aura-books through LinkedIn and did what I love doing the most – writing Computer Science textbooks. I wrote some 7-8 books between the period of April and October. Even if I am not sure about their publication, given the chaotic state of text book publishing industry in India, I feel satisfied. And that is the one thing that counts.

And in the process, I have also gained a good friend in Shradha – a bit crazy, a bit worked up, but all the way loving and caring!!

For the past few years I had been rigorously taking stock of the year gone by in terms of both financial and creative satisfaction. This year I did no such exercise. I might do it sometime during January but I am not very sure or keen about it. Because, in my mind I am crystal clear about what I want to do this year. Read more and write more.

2019 has started on a good note

I have started my reading with Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. A great start, I daresay.

And, I started my writing with this blog.

I have been collecting newspaper pages doing 2018 book roundups from Hindustan Times and Times of India to read through the year.  

I have also signed up for Goodreads to help me read more. Though, I must confess I was too lazy to go beyond step 2, where I had to select my favourite genres.

Now, I usually read whatever I can get my hands on, plus I did not want to lose out on some good books simply because I did not put a tick in a box. Eventually, I got confused and clicked the cross button of the browser.

And I need your support

Pray for me that I may be able to read more and write more as I want. I plan to keep updating about the books I read here.

I wish you luck in meeting your expectation of yourself this new year 2019 too. Do let me know what are your expectations in the comments below. I refuse to call them resolutions, because the word itself makes me want not to follow it!!

Post Script: I will post about my analysis of year gone by soon, in case you are interested in knowing. Please say yes even if just not to break my heart.

How I Became a Writer by Joining an Online Group, The Finishers

The Finishers

In my first post of 2018, I had mentioned that to grow financially I had signed up for The Finishers group created by Mridu Khullar Relph, a famed international journalist who happens to be an Indian. After reading that post many people asked me if she gave courses related to finance. And I felt I had to clarify that, because nothing could be further from truth.

Or is it? She tells you how to finish your passion projects so that you can earn out of it. Cool, isn’t it? That was what attracted me to the group in the first place.

How I Joined Finishers

I have been a subscriber of Mridu’s newsletters for more than four years because when I first stumbled upon her website, I loved the way she wrote. The way she was open about her personal issues that affected her writing. I felt as if she was writing about me!! If a writer could connect with her audience so well, I wanted to be a part of her journey.

Just before she launched the Finishers, I had completed a series of three video tutorials for Tutorials Point. And I had struggled to finish them because there were so many family obligations to be fulfilled in exactly the same time period. I could finish only because they were topics I loved.

But I realized that I could not hope to be successful if I dragged on projects like this. Intelligent that I am, I knew what my problem was:

  • Frustration of working all alone, without any colleagues
  • Inability to balance housework and professional work
  • Mental fatigue due to personal issues
  • Caught up in the vicious circle of no work – depressed – inability to work – no work
  • Hatred of marketing probably due to lack of marketing skills
  • Pure unadulterated procrastination

I know that identifying a problem is the first step towards solution. But I always stopped at that. Especially when it came to writing for me, be it a blog post or a book.

So I joined finishers. And it has made me into a writer from a content developer.

How Finishers Has Helped Me

Finishers started with being my accountability partner, something I needed very badly. Earlier I would make lists of tasks to be completed, put them in my Outlook calendar, and stick to it only till a project I loved lasted. Or, in other words, till I needed to start marketing again, because, as I mentioned earlier, I hate marketing even though I understand its importance. And there is so much difference between knowing and doing,

After joining Finishers, here is what I have achieved:

  • Accepted to myself that I want to be a published writer
  • Gained confidence that I can write a book and get it published
  • Started a non-fiction book whose idea had been lurking in my mind for so many years, and already added more than 9000 words to it

And I have no one except Mridu to thank for it, and her awesome group, The Finishers. I have the courage to write this post even though I have a 20-page Computer book sample to be finished by tomorrow. Earlier it would not have been possible – writing for my blog when I had a big paying project deadline.

But I have realised that if I begin my day (even if it has to be 5 in the morning!!) by writing for me, my whole day is much more productive and satisfying.

I am now confident of finishing so many more writing projects and sharing my successes with you all.

How does a writer grieve? For someone who led her to the world of books

how should a writer grieve

How does a writer grieve? By writing, what else. But it was not clear to me initially.

My babuji, my father’s eldest brother, passed away last night. I came to know early morning today and I have cried so much since then. But the lump in my chest fails to diminish even an iota. And then I realised that tears were not the way to grieve for a man who introduced me to the dreamland called books. And not just me but my whole generation, and then the next one too.

Babuji was a Hindi language teacher in the village school. He was a great scholar who knew the Ramcharitmanas and Bhagvad Gita by heart. He had read the Puranas and the Upnishads, which he quoted at the drop of the hat. He was equally fascinated by the scriptures, fiction novels in both English and Hindi, Bollywood movie stories, and God only knows what else. And he was as prolific a writer as he was a voracious reader. He wrote analysis of many scriptures, translations of English books and parody of Bollywood with equal élan. Everyone wanted him to publish but he always scoffed at the idea. May be because he relished being the truly eccentric creative, who created at his own will. No one could dictate (!!) him what to write and when.

Everyone in the family, including our own parents, always said that he was a talent gone waste. He could have achieved so much. I used to agree with them, but today when I think about it I am not so sure. He has left behind his legacy in his children, who owe their love for books and literature to him, his rich library and his freedom to explore. How many of us can claim this?

His library, rather his room itself, was a sanctum sanctorum that not everyone could access. However, I was among the lucky few who could borrow whatever book I liked.

Besides days spent without any adult supervision, the main attraction of our annual summer trip to our native village was those books. I read my first Kalyan there, gorging on all the mythological stories. I read Chandrakanta Santati and lost myself in the world of ayyari. I also read Vardi Wala Gunda, the cheap action thriller that was a rage with the Hindi belt at that point of time.

I remember these so explicitly because I never read them anywhere else. His room urged you to gorge on whatever you could lay your hands on. And he had a vast collection of renowned Hindi writers like Premchand, Dinkar, Gupt, Nirala and Pant too.

Even though I borrowed the books mostly in his absence, he always knew the ones I had read. Whenever I read a book I was not supposed to, because I was too young, he would give me a thump on the back and say, “growing up, eh?” And I wouldn’t know how to respond.

Every time I create something, I feel that he would have been proud of it. But scold me as well that I have chosen English as my medium of expression. He often complained to my father that he should have motivated me to pursue Hindi or

I do not know whether he knew that I have turned a writer. I am sure he would have been proud of me.

A couple of years into my marriage, he gifted me a huge book of Gita saar. It is a tome, which is litearally too heavy to carry. I asked him in disbelief, “you expect me to read this?” To which he replied, “you just keep it in your home, that’s enough.”

That was Babuji, expressing even his love and concern through books.

My Goals For 2018

2018 goals

In my last post of 2017 I talked about how I spiralled deep into depression after a book project I had been working on was shelved by the publisher. It was a first for me – talking about my mental health problem. And I must acknowledge that talking about it helped me in overcoming it.
But the effect remained in my subconscious. I could not bring myself to pick up a pen and paper and set out my annual goals.
I was aware of what was happening. My mind was was avoiding setting goals for fear of another failure. Fear of not meeting my target. Again. Like 2017.

Read More

2017: A Year in Review

This time next week I shall be on my way to family vacation to Shimla to enjoy the snowfall. My elder daughter had been pestering us for a couple of years to vacation in Shimla during the winters so she could see snow. Since we had honeymooned there, and she has been fascinated by the photographs, she wants to make up for the lost opportunity!! And go one step better by hoping for a snowfall, not just snow. We decided not to let 2017 go by without fulfilling this wish of hers.

I keep telling her that we cannot predict snowfall, so she should not have high hopes and then feel disappointed. But she remains optimistic. Which reminds me of another thing we lose as we grow up – looking at the brighter side of life.

2017 is coming to an end, but I have been putting off my yearly review because I know it’s going to look very bad. I refuse to acknowledge that I had willingly taken up work that would not pay immediately, I refuse to accept that I lost more than a month to acute chicken pox and I definitely refuse to come to terms with the fact that even if my dream project came to a naught life has not come to a stop.

Magical May – How I Bagged a Lifetime Opportunity through LinkedIn

2017 started on a very high note for me. May be that’s the reason I feel so depressed that it has ended on such a low note.

Around May, I winded up a series of three video tutorials successfully and bagged a long term contract for text tutorials from the same client. I began looking around for more clients. I decided to give LinkedIn a shot, because even though I have had a LI profile for long, I was not much active till then.

A week into being active on LinkedIn, I saw a post from a prominent publisher looking for Computer Science freelance writers. I sent a connection request to the person sharing the requirement, who happened to be the CEO as well. The request was accepted quickly and before I could think of messaging, I received a message – Would you write a book for us.

My heart gave a whoop of joy.

After much discussions and negotiations, he contracted me to write a series of Computer books for classes 1 to 8, to be launched in the coming session of 2018-19. As time was less, I threw myself completely into it. Thankfully the tutorials project that I was working on was a lighter one that could be easily done simultaneously.

Agitating August – An Attack of Chicken Pox

I was quite on schedule doing the books when I contracted chicken pox in first week of August. It was pretty severe – kids were packed off to my parents’ place and my husband was almost quarantined as a caregiver for a week. My temperature in that one week was never below 105.

I got so weak that it took me more than a month to be able to sit on a chair for 30 minutes at a stretch. I started working but I had to take a break of at least 45 minutes after every 30 min. So much so for Pomodoro technique!!

My other projects got delayed; thankfully the editors were understanding and gave me time. And I concentrated on my book project.

Nerve-wracking November

As November began, I started getting negative vibes about my book project; there had been innumerable delays in review process and the publisher seemed unwilling to take my manuscripts. Finally, my gut feeling proved right when around 15th November he told me that they were shelving the project for the time being due to lack of time and preparation.

Around the same time my other regular project was put on hold as well; the company had shifted its gears. As I was not in regular touch with them, only delivering the articles on due dates, I did not see this coming.

Now I stared at a stark reality – no regular clients and my dream project gone for a toss. It plunged me into a bout of acute depression. I hardly wrote anything, though I had time. I started the day enthusiastically, looking for clients, but would soon find myself sitting in front of the idiot box, surfing channels aimlessly and munching any junk food I could lay my hands on.

Looking Ahead

Slowly, by talking to myself continuously, I have been able to pull myself out of my mental state. I have even got a few short-term jobs that will at least keep the ball rolling. I have joined my regular client on their new project. The pay is substantially less, but the content goes under my name, which I consider a big plus. Also, they pay regularly like clockwork, which will help pay the bills.

So things are looking up. I even did a financial review for 2017 and realized that I earned 80% of my total income this year in the first 6 months!! I was meeting the monthly targets too till I started working on the Computer books.

As I write, I realize there were so many learnings for me from the book project. I must write a post on that some other time.

For now, I am on a path to both mental and financial recovery. And after my vacation I hope to be rejuvenated enough to be able to go ahead full throttle.

This is the first time I have talked about my depression on my blog, though I have been struggling with it for more than a decade. It already feels liberating to be able to share my innermost thoughts with you all.

Happy Holidays!!

What has been your struggle with mental health? How have you coped when a dream project failed not because of your own fault?

Share your views in comments below.

And Happy Holidays!!

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