It is the end of February 2022, and I still haven’t completed my New Year’s resolutions and goals. Each year is another stepping-stone towards the future. Should this year’s resolution be to focus on my writing as a way to advance my inner growth?
I am an engineer and technology entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. Becoming a writer was far from my thoughts.
With all my problems with the English language, I never believed I could master writing in that language. If the idea ever crept in, it disappeared in no time like when the first snowflake falls on a warm cheek.
My native tongue was Hindi. Until I was 18 it was my only language. Until I was 28, even I dreamt in Hindi. I was an excellent writer in my mother tongue. In school, I earned the highest grades in Hindi by using fancy words — abstractions from Sanskrit. I had a great Hindi vocabulary. I greatly admired my father’s sister who was a Hindi scholar.
I started learning English in first grade. But like history, it was a subject to be wrestled with, and I did not see any value in it. English grammar was complex and spellings made no sense because the letters did not always match the sound. Despite my poor grades in English, I managed to be at the top of my class. When I was in seventh grade, my parents got me an English tutor.
Yet over the past five years, I have spent more than 5000 hours trying to perfect my writing.
When I write, I still struggle with transitions, progressions, and regressions. It takes me several attempts to get the first version of even a simple sentence right. The arrangement of words brings the narrative to life. Arranging and rearranging sentences once again requires a few more iterations and rewording of sentences until the expression seems accurate and precise. And finally thanks to Grammarly and spelling checker I get my 850-word article in decent shape before I send it to my editor of the past five years. She gives my concocted writing style a scholarly flavor.
I’d love to be scholarly like her! She is a professor.
I am good at connecting the dots of my experiences. Since experience is unique to each human, I hope it makes my columns interesting to readers. I also use familiar words that readers do not have to look up in the dictionary — unlike the vocabulary in my earlier Hindi essays. Although my English vocabulary is smaller, the expressions are like necklaces, which do not need expensive pearls.
The practice of writing changes my expressions, and my thinking. Maybe writing also changes my brain and lastly it changes my spirits deep within… this flow changes like the direction of waves in the ocean. Thoughts that had never surfaced, pop up for further examination, without fear of rejection. They ebb and flow, and some settle in silence, ready to take hold of me.
Unlike monks who take a vow of silence, conversations enrich my writing. They bring new ideas like new waves bring dancing stones and shells ashore. A necklace of shells and pearls is more unique and pleasing. Masters are skillful at this art of making their readers’ emotions rise and swell in unexpected ways.
This is where I want to be.
The cliche “to write, one must read” is not good enough. JK Rowling said, “You can’t be a good writer without being a devoted reader.” Reading opens a vast new arena for the influx of ideas. Reading, however, is not a carefully curated journey, but a random walk. Randomness is where the most value resides. Ah, so maybe there is an opportunity for a new social media company that focuses on how the human mind grows and develops, not by connecting like-minded people, but by bringing together people who hold other ideas, that are different from ours. They give you thoughts that you will be unable to generate on your own and help you make arguments crisper.
I wondered how much I am motivated by readers’ public or private comments. As a new writer, I needed encouragement and readers gave my ego a boost. But again, JK Rowling assures me that “no story lives unless someone is prepared to listen. As a writer, your highest aspiration is to touch people, to connect, to amuse or console.”
I experience beauty in writing. It has been immersive, meditative, and therapeutic. When one struggles endlessly to write, the essence just pours.
My pragmatism goes beyond philosophy. What keeps me writing is the growth in my quality of thinking which in turn impacts the quality of decisions I make — in which I have made noticeable progress. Writing is not just an intellectual pursuit. It has invariably helped me to achieve not just my past New Year’s resolutions, but also to become a true writer. When I dream, I dream big.
Lastly, the push and urge is the “inner content’,” as Tolstoy said. The inner shrine needs to be built, reinforced, and improved.