Geetanjali Mukherjee

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Ten Minutes a Day (and a Challenge)

This morning, after days of feeling guilty about not doing any exercise and basically feeling like cr*p, I decided to spend one minute doing some yoga. Now I am not a yoga expert, I have attended, over the course of a couple of years, maybe 15-20 classes. Depending on my current fitness level, I can do most beginner poses with ease, but pack too many of them into a one-hour session, and I will be looking desperately at the clock, willing it to move faster. 

I’m giving you this background to establish my credentials as not fit and not great at yoga, and in fact this morning, all I could remember was about 4 1/2 poses, that I executed clumsily. Even that minute or 90 seconds of yoga instantly eliminated my aches and pains and feeling of stiffness, and I felt loads better. And instead of feeling guilty about not doing anything, I started to look forward to the next time I would do yoga. 

Now I know that ten minutes a day isn’t going to make me the most fit person around, but it is a great start. And it is much easier to convince yourself to do ten minutes of something, even when you’re busy or tired or uninspired. 

I read recently in Tools of Titans (Tim Ferriss) about a meditation teacher who recommends that you take just one mindful breath a day. It’s the same concept. Anyone can take one breath. Its not that hard. 

So why am I writing about yoga and mindfulness instead of creativity? Because I think the same principle can be applied to being more creative. I know many people who say they would like to write a book, or do something creative that requires a large commitment of time. On hearing that I have written books, people invariably say, I would love to write a book, if only I had the time. It is true that I have been fortunate enough to have had large chunks of time that I could devote to writing. But that wasn’t the case for my initial books and it wasn’t the case for my most recent one. 

In fact, I finished my most recent book several months behind schedule and it got derailed several times. I raced to finish it while I was juggling a new job in a completely new industry, settling into a new (old) city and dealing with health issues. The way I finally finished it - a few minutes of writing a day. 

I often had only 10-15 minutes of time after my long commute home, and many days I would tell myself - “I’m too tired”, or “I will get to it tomorrow”. I thought I wasn’t inspired, or that I needed to not be falling asleep with exhaustion in order to write. And the days went by, the end of the year got closer, and I was no nearer to finishing. 

I was starting to panic, because I had imposed a deadline of publishing the book within 2017. It had already been delayed enough, and I didn’t want to delay it any further.

So I started working on it for 10 minutes at a time. Some days I spent 10-15 minutes editing an essay on my morning commute. I carried my work and personal laptop, and found I could edit a few paragraphs each way. On other days I came home and spent 15 minutes editing before dinner.

Progress was slow - most of the time I despaired that I was any closer to finishing, because I was only working on a few paragraphs at a time. But one at a time I finished editing 8, then 9, then 11 essays. I had 3 essays left and about 10 days before I would have to submit the book to be in time for publishing in December. I figured I could handle it, and get the work in in time.

And then I realized I had two important work projects due on Monday, and I would have to work over the weekend to get it done in time. And I had planned to complete the essays that weekend as well. 

I panicked, then determined that I would work on all of the projects. I got my work assignments and the essays edited. In 15 minute increments. In between my work projects, I edited the essays, putting in 15 minutes on them before going back to my work assignments. Over the course of that weekend, I made substantial headway on my projects, which ultimately got handed in on time. And I completed my book. 

I realize that everyone’s life circumstances are different, and sometimes it just isn’t possible to squeeze anything else in. This experience however made me realize that I don’t know how much more I am capable of accomplishing until I am pushed, until I have no choice but to challenge my assumptions of what I can and can’t do.

And that’s why I have set a big challenge for myself for 2018 - to write much more than I have so far, and to really stretch my capacity. If I can achieve it, it would be amazing and an example of how much we really can stretch. If I can’t, I probably would still get more done than I have previously, and learn a lot from the attempt. So I win no matter what. 

If you’re reading this at the end of December / beginning of January (or at any time really), I encourage you to set a challenge for yourself that seems like a big stretch, something that makes you feel excited and nervous in equal measure. Share your goal or keep it to yourself, but don’t hold back. After all, you will win either way. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

New Book Out and General Update

I have been absent from the blog for a while, and that is because, as we sometimes know, life intervenes. 

The short version is that I moved back to India for a while, with a new job, and basically it took me time to adjust to being back in the city I used to call home, but which seems to have changed a lot. I joined a new industry as well, and was basically just to busy getting the hang of things to have the headspace for much else. And I was struggling with being ill almost the whole time, so there is that.

I didn’t however, stop reading, and have read and am reading some great books, that I hope to write about soon. I also finished the book I have been writing since last year or maybe even earlier than that (gosh!), and it is finally out and available to buy on Amazon

This book has been a huge challenge. I remember hearing a quote from Neil Gaiman, or it could be that he was quoting someone else, which basically said you learn to write the book you’re writing once it is done. And that’s basically been my experience. I have jumped from one genre to the other and one type of book to the other, and basically struggled through till I figured it out. But this book specifically was the toughest one till date, simply because I was trying to write in a style that doesn’t exactly come naturally to me, and I was working with material that was challenging as well. 

On the face of it, a book about my experiences in college sounds simple to write, but I struggled with it because I wanted to write humorous, Marian Keyes-style essays, and needlessly to say, that was easier said than done. I am not sure the resultant effort is anything like Keyes’ writing (whom I admire very much), but it is definitely a departure in style for me. While I am not sure I can or want to write in this style again, I feel that my writing has improved as a result of this book. 

I am also proud of myself for finishing the book despite the challenges of my new job and adjusting to this new environment. It isn’t easy to juggle work and family and personal time and writing, and while I have given advice regarding this subject before, I didn’t ever have quite such tight time deadlines to face. I have a new-found respect for those who manage to do this on a regular basis and still put books out.

This is why I have also decided to set a new challenge for myself for next year. I love to follow the blogs of authors who publicly post challenges and record their progress; however, I never had the courage to do this myself. I still don’t, but I am willing to try. And perhaps I will do what Dean Wesley Smith keeps saying, I will fail to success. I’ll share more details in another post, but for now, I am excited and nervous.

You can check out my new book at the link below; it is available at the new release price till just after Christmas. It might make a good  gift for the college students and college-bound in your gift list. 

"I learnt in my second semester that college life can be thrilling, but you might want to pack a shield."
With plenty of self-deprecating remarks and tongue firmly in cheek, Geetanjali writes about her days as an international student at a leading university in England. Although covering the usual topics of academics and crushes and part-time jobs, this isn't your usual "handbook of student life". Geetanjali takes you along on an adventure as she samples her way across a non-traditional college experience, from joining a Rock Gospel choir to singing in a Portuguese band to fending off sword-attacks in the middle of the night. Whether you are a student embarking on your own college adventure, or simply looking to revisit your university antics, you will enjoy this unique collection of essays. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What I'm Reading - August

The Power of Moments - Chip and Dan Heath

(I read an advanced reader copy - this book will be out in October 2017.)

This is the first book I have read of Dan and Chip Heath, and I loved this book so much, I immediately got a copy of one of their earlier books, Switch, which I am also thoroughly enjoying.

The Power of Moments is about why certain moments and experiences in our life are so powerful that they can change us, and how to create more such moments for ourselves, our children, our employees and our customers.

At first glance, it doesn't seem like this is such an important goal - creating more important moments. But think about it, how many days and specific moments do you remember from high school, or college, or your vacation last summer? What would you like your kids to remember from their Christmas holiday or their vacation with their grandparents, or your customers to remember from their interaction with your product or service?

At a time when word of mouth is essential for marketing, when the practice of recording each meal and experience of our life is mandatory, how will we look back and what will stand out in our memories as something that mattered, even was life-changing? The stories the authors share are varied - from experiences in high school that remained with the students even years later, to a hotel that provided an amazing level of service, to the perfect way to welcome a new employee. There are so many points in our life when with a bit of thinking and planning, we can transform the moment to something we will always remember. This book teaches us how to do that.

This is not the kind of book you speed through. It is something you dip into from time to time, and work through the writing exercises. The author helps you become authentic, on the page and to yourself. You see parts of yourself you didn't see before, and you realize that you are on your own unique journey, not to compete with or be like anyone else. Sometimes the language and style felt heavy and overly academic, but the message and intent was clear - peel back the layers and discover who you are underneath, and live more fully, more true to yourself.

(I read an ARC of this one as well - from NetGalley.)

This book was difficult to read, primarily for two reasons. The writing is dense, full of facts, sometimes overly so. Also, reading about characters who it was impossible to like or feel much sympathy for, I had to put the book down and do something else or read something else to cleanse my palate of a story of greed, jealousy, corruption and immorality. Sure, the lives of the uber rich may not be the same as ours, but the scale of disparity, with no redeeming features, was not always fun to read.

Having said that, the book is meticulously researched and very well-written. I also found that the pace picked up, and I flew through the last third of the book. I also learnt a great deal about French laws and cultural norms and perhaps some of the seedy reality behind the fa├žade of luxury and style.

( I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley to review.)

(I received a free copy of this book from the author to review.)

This is a short novella set in the same world as the Feeder series. I enjoyed the first book in the series and am looking forward eagerly to the next one. "Dissent" is the story of Dom, and to some extent, Shiela. This story fills in some of the gaps in the story from the first book, and helps to explain some of Dom's actions and where he is coming from.

Although "Dissent" makes reference to the story from the first book, this is a mostly new story. You get to see behind the scenes of the first story in some way. And you get to know Dom better. It is also easier to follow, with only POV, unlike the previous story (which made it at times harder to follow and stick with). All in all, a good, quick, fun read.
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