Geetanjali Mukherjee

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

New Book Published on Study Skills

Update: Anyone Can Get An A+ Companion Workbook just hit #1 on a Hot New Releases list! Check it out here.

I wrote the study skills book in 2015 to not only put down all my thoughts on studying, but to share with students who are struggling with school that there is another way, that they can actually do well in school and improve their grades simply by changing how they study. 

However, I realized that there was a lot of new information to assimilate, because in essence I was suggesting that students completely change how they were approaching their studies. It was entirely possible that someone would read the book, think it had a lot of good points, and then go right back to their old study habits. 

So I created a workbook - for students to work through each lesson and tip, step-by-step customizing the advice to suit their own needs. The workbook helps you to be clear about your study goals, pinpoint exactly what you want to achieve, and then go through the book, doing exercises that help you understand how to apply the advice in the book. Instead of simply reading the text, you get a chance to understand it, engage with it and begin to implement the knowledge right away.

The workbook is available as an ebook version, with a paperback version to follow soon: 

This is a companion workbook, so you can definitely benefit from it even if you have read Anyone Can Get An A+. I did however, design the book to be self-contained, so even if you haven't read that one, you will be able to gain from going through the book and completing the exercises. I also think it will be useful for parents and teachers as well as adults returning to education after a gap, either part-time or full-time, and those preparing for standardized tests. 

Get a copy for yourself or the student in your life today!

Monday, February 20, 2017

You Deserve The Last Slice of Pie

I grew up thinking that life was a zero-sum game. If I got a piece of pie, it meant that there was that much less for everyone else. And that I didn’t deserve to have that piece of pie, because I wasn’t worthy enough. 

This belief was taught so subtly by everyone around me that I didn’t even articulate it till much later in life, till I started to read books and articles about self-esteem and self-worth. Knowing isn’t the same as doing something, and I might be able to rattle off all sorts of information about the subject, I am not sure I have moved much further along the spectrum.

Yesterday I went to someone’s house for a meeting. They had a sofa, some chairs further away, and everyone else was expected to sit on the floor. When I arrived, there was already someone sitting on the sofa. Now when I sit on a sofa, I sit in the corner, kind of trying to squish to the side as much as possible, trying to take as little room as I can. I don’t deserve the pie. But this person was sitting kind of in the middle, taking up a lot of room. But there was space for another person. And I am sure she would have moved a bit if asked. 

I have knee issues, and I try to get a chair or something to sit on for these sorts of meetings, so I crossed over to the back and grabbed a chair. Far away from everyone else. Not that I didn’t want to be closer, I just didn’t think I deserved to sit on the sofa - which would only seat two people. I don’t deserve a slice of pie if everyone else can’t get one. And I kind of seethed, wishing I was on the sofa. By now someone else was sitting there, so I couldn’t change if I wanted to. 

This may sound like a silly little incident, but to me, it was another time I told myself, I don’t need this. I don’t deserve this. If there can be only a few writers who make money from their writing, then I don’t need to be in that list. If only person can get this job, what makes me think I am so special? If only lucky authors get fans and readers and books on bestseller lists, then why should I dare to dream to be among them? 

Not believing I deserve something, not feeling like I should ask for something, or make my wishes known, is a lifelong habit. Recently my mom’s close friend scolded me, saying that I never say what I mean. I was taken aback by her tone, but I know what she means. When asked if I want coffee or a soda, I always say “Whatever”. Meaning whatever is convenient for you. Whatever is spare. Whatever you don’t mind offering me. Again back to my childhood beliefs. I don’t deserve anything special. I don’t deserve the pie. She thought I was being noncommittal. What I was doing was protecting myself. From being rejected. From being told no. No you cannot have more, otherwise there won’t be enough for your cousins. No you cannot have any meat, the adults have to be served first. No you cannot meet your friends, you need to run errands for your grandfather. So I don’t tell people what I really want, because I simply assume that I am asking for too much. That I am not staying in the shadow, making myself small like I should. 

The worst part is that this comes across in my writing. I don’t dare to write the stories I want to. I don’t dare to declare that I need to be alone now because I want to write. I don’t dare to say to the world that I am capable of writing a short story or a play or a novel. I don’t believe that I am worthy, so why take the time to find out that I am not good enough or can’t do it or am a failure. I reject myself, before anyone else can get a chance to reject me. 

But here’s the power of words. You can rewrite your thoughts. You can say enough. I am worthy. I can write what I want. I can dream. I can decide whatever future I want for myself. I can ask for the drink I want. I can sit on the sofa. I deserve the last slice of pie

Thursday, February 16, 2017

What Will You Do For Future You?

I read a blog post somewhere, I think it was on Wil Wheaton’s blog, about being kind to future you. Since I read this near the beginning of this year, I decided that it was going to be my sole New Year’s Resolution. Of course it was cleverly concealing the fact that it was multiple resolutions packaged as one. And of course that meant that not all would go according to plan.

So what does being kind to future you mean? Well in the post, if I recall correctly, Wil said that in order to be kind to our future selves, we would need to do things that may not be palatable or high on the priority list right now, but in the future we would be glad we did it. And sure that includes things like saving for retirement. But it doesn’t have to be our future 90-year old selves who will thank us. It could be as simple as not eating that bag of chips now because tomorrow morning you will wish you hadn’t when you’re feeling queasy from all that grease. Or going for a workout that you don’t feel like now, but will give you energy and make you feel good, halfway through the workout. And of course take you one step closer to being healthy or losing weight, again helping your future self. 

While there are countless ways to be nice to future me, the biggest problem I have is remembering to do this, and prioritizing doing stuff for future me, when present me is taking up all my time. In the moment I have obligations and things to do and instagram feeds to catch up on and tv shows that have new seasons. Where is the time to do all this and also do things for some nebulous future self that I can’t imagine or have empathy for? 

I may not be able to clearly visualize my future self or what she will want. But something that is crystal clear to me - my past self. And in the present, quite often actually, I am pretty vocal in telling my past self what I should have done, or should not have done. I shouldn’t have eaten all those bars of chocolate and those boxes of doughnuts. I should have gone for more walks. I wish I had taken the chance and sent those emails to people I wanted to work with. Or written that short story, or those blog posts. The list of things I wish I had done is long, and repetitive. It always revolves around themes - taking better care of my health, writing more and especially the things I am afraid to write, taking chances for my career, learning skills that could be of use to me now. Its not that hard for me to know what I wish my past self had done. And I am like an annoyed big sister, wanting to slap some sense into a bratty, lazy younger girl who just wants to have fun and not worry about the consequences. 

With that line of thinking, its not too hard to know what my future self would hope I do. What she would appreciate. Less TV now, go to bed and workout in the morning. Write the stories even if its scary. Reach out to those people even if they reject me. Put the chocolate away and grab some fruit. Sure its kind of like a constant nag has taken up residence in my head, but I bet I will look back and be glad. 

This reminds me of a scene or rather a song and a scene from the best movie I saw this year, on 2nd January. An Indian film, called Dangal. About a female wrestler, a family of wrestlers actually, and how they got to be among the best in the country. And early on in their training, their father and coach set down some strict rules about how they could behave, what they could do and what they could and couldn’t eat. And the girls, being young, naturally rebelled. And there is a funny song about this in the movie. A little later however, there is a scene. Where the girls are at the wedding of their friend, not much older than them, who berates them for being angry at their father for pushing them, for giving them a goal to look forward to. Which is in stark contrast to her, because she is being married off, at a ridiculously early age. And the girls realize, that instead of complaining about their father, they should thank him. He was doing them a huge favor, by believing in them, by giving them something to aspire to.  

And that’s really what being kind to your future self is about. The hard work in the present is a present to your future self, who will thank you for better health, improved skills, greater opportunities that come at the expense of a few missed tv shows, some unhealthy snacks that you forget the taste of minutes after eating, some discipline and new habits that seem onerous at the moment but will seem like nothing when you look back with pride at what your past self accomplished, the life she created for you. 

So whether you are aspiring to be a world-class athlete, or just want to be better at work, or excel at a side business, or want to lose those last stubborn 15 pounds, decide today to do something that your future self will thank you for. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Positive Gift of Creativity (or a Love Letter to Art)

Last night I was watching the BAFTA awards, which had many funny and interesting and nostalgic moments. But a couple of speeches really stood out for me. 

(Spoiler alert) The first was actress Emma Stone’s speech on receiving her BAFTA for Best Actress (La La Land). She spoke about the positive gift of creativity, and how it can make a difference, especially when times are hard. Many of the other recipients spoke in the same vein. The movie’s producers talked about the same thing - how important it is for people to keep producing art, and to keep giving us experiences on screen that remind us of our shared humanity.

I have been reading this book by psychologist Anders Ericsson - Peak. And among the many things I am learning from this book, was this giant insight (it wasn’t technically in the book, but the pieces fell into place while reading it) - you need to write and keep writing, and with each story, you become a better writer. Now this seems so obvious, until I parse this out a bit more. 

I am working on (or rather am supposed to be working on) revising my first novel to publish it. I am putting it off and not working on it, because I am scared its not very good. Which is quiet likely since its my first novel. And yet, the point of writing it and putting it out there isn’t so that I can put out a great novel. Because that’s not very likely, right off the bat. The point is to become a better writer. I will become better just through the act of writing and finishing. And with each story I write and publish, I will get even better. And one day, maybe not too far away in the future, I will write a story that will remind those who read it of our shared humanity. And make them cry or laugh or both. 

I believe in the power of art. I always have. But at the same time I don’t believe in the power of my art. I don’t think that I can write all that well, and the more scared I am, the less likely I am to do the work, the work that will make me a better writer. 

On one hand, I put Art on a pedestal. Art with a capital A - everything that is beautiful, moving, full of emotion. But in order to be an artist, with a small a, one has to remove some of that power. One has to claim that power for oneself. No one becomes an artist, small or big, successful or otherwise, in one day, with one piece. You have to hone your craft, no matter how much talent you are born with. And being afraid to experiment, being afraid to play, that stops you from developing your craft and honing your talent. 

Although that is easy to say, I have found that it is difficult to do. Fear stops us. Fear gets in our head, telling us that we are stupid to even think of writing a book, painting a portrait, performing a play or whatever. How do we stop that fear? I have read lots of books and tried lots of techniques, but at the heart of it all - love.

I know I know - corny. But on Valentine’s Day, maybe you can indulge me. Remember why you wanted to do it in the first place - write, paint, sing, act. Remember what it feels like to watch a performance, see a painting, read a story that mesmerizes you. And for the love of that feeling, go for it. It is important to love the people in our life and to express that love, but I think it’s just as important to love our art, our creativity. To love the fruits of that creative expression, no matter how rough-hewn and unpolished for the moment. And I believe that for the love affair with your art to count, you have to nurture that love, give it time and patience and loving care, spending every moment you can steal with it. Like Elizabeth Gilbert says, have a love affair with your creativity. And watch it love you back. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Italian Translation of "Will The Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up?" and a Book Giveaway

I was waiting till the book was up at all retailers, but the process is a bit slow and I am impatient, so I will go ahead and make the announcement. My book “Will The Real Albert Speer Please Stand Up? The Many Faces of Hitler’s Architect” is now available in Italian! Yay!

I am really excited about this. The book has been translated by Cristina Ventrella and it is now up at several retailers, including the iBookstore, B&N, Kobo and Google Play, as well as some of the others like Scribd, Inktera and Thalia. Here’s the link to the book, and you can navigate to your favorite retailer from there (as it appears on more retailer pages, I will update the link):

Also, to celebrate the launch of the book, I have set up a Goodreads giveaway for the English version of the book. It is open to residents in the United States, and I am giving away one paperback copy of the book. The giveaway is live right now, and will be open to entries till February 28th. Here’s the link for that:

I also want to announce that a Spanish version of the book is also on the way, as well as maybe a Portuguese edition. Looking forward to having readers in other languages reading my words. I love that all these things are possible because of technology. The publishing industry is going through lots of changes, and while I don’t write about that kind of thing here (although that may change), one thing I am very excited about is being part of the industry and I am looking forward to going along for the ride. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

What's The Real Goal For Your Book?

I have been working on a book that is much harder than I thought it would be. For some reason I thought it would be a quick diversion, something of a palate cleanser between harder and more involved projects. It is not really turning out that way though.

And I think one of the problems I am having is that I don’t really know what I am trying to accomplish with the book. Or even if I do know, I forget or get confused while I am actually working on it. I’m in the editing stage at the moment, which is usually the stage that takes me the longest, when I try to corral my rough ideas into shape. In this case, I am struggling because I guess to some extent I didn’t really think the book through, and while I am editing I feel like I am constantly fighting something, but I just didn’t know what.

And then it hit me. I couldn’t figure out what the goal was. I think each book or painting or piece of art you work on has a goal. Or rather you have a goal for it. It could be simple - I want to tell this story. Or it could be a grand ambition - I want to win a prestigious award. Or it could be altruistic - I want to help people lose weight, or get a better job, or become happy. You could have multiple goals. Knowing what your goal is makes it easier, you have something you are aiming to, something to work towards.

I am struggling because I didn’t explicitly name this goal. And therefore I defaulted to my usual goal - which is to have a perfect book. And that never works out well of course, because nothing is perfect. This book is a follow-up to one of my previous books, which I wrote with the goal of just putting down everything I learned about study skills, in the hope it would help someone. I approached it with a sense of play and fun, and that is most probably why its my most easy-to-read, accessible, relatable book. 

And yet for this book, I complicated it. I was trying to write it quickly. And perfectly. I was trying to do a good job. Instead of trying to simply write a book that hopefully helps those who read it. That hopefully creates some sort of value. And a book that I enjoy writing. 

So far, I have to admit, I haven’t really enjoyed writing this book. But I think that’s not really the fault of the book or the subject, but the way I was approaching it. With an impossible tight deadline. With a lot of expectation and stress. 

I hope to change all that, now that I realized this. I am planning to write down what my goal for the book is, and to keep it where I can look at it every day till I finish - reminding me that all I want to do is write something that is helpful. The book has already helped me, even though that hadn’t been my intention. I do think it can help others too, but I have to lighten up a bit. Not take myself and it so seriously. 

I really think, regardless of what your goal is for a given project or creative endeavor, it will help to clarify it for yourself. In words. Be clear what you’re trying to do, because its far more likely that you will achieve it. And you never know, you might be surprised when you clarify what you were trying to do for yourself, that you were actually going in a completely different direction. Fortunately, it is never too late to turn around, to start afresh or just to tweak your approach. Being creative means being flexible. That’s something I am learning all the time, whether I want to or not. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Taking Yourself Too Seriously

Writing and finishing books is really important to me. But sometimes, it becomes more important than everything else, and I lose sight of what really matters. 

I have been struggling with completing a project I thought would take just a few days, and I have been really behind on some other projects - things I am working on on my own and some that I need to deliver to others. I have been feeling a lot of pressure to finish everything quickly. But at the same time, I have really high standards, and the projects I am working on are all ones that are difficult because they are in areas that are new to me. I am taking risks and moving out of my comfort zone. 

Bottomline - I am working on things that are hard, they are taking time and I am not making progress as quickly or as easily as I would like, and I am getting frustrated. 

And sometimes I take that frustration out on others. 

Lately, I have been cranky on the phone with my parents, or calling them up and sounding out my problems, but not having the patience or time to listen to anything going on with them. I have been feeling very irritable, and even things out of my control, like the weather, is getting to me. I chalked all this up to just the stress of getting things done and perfectly normal. 

Till it occurred to me that working on books and large projects was a choice I made. I love working on books. I love doing research and putting something together. And being cranky and crabby all the time isn’t a price I want to pay, and its not a way to work. I know many people who work that way, in jobs they can’t bear, hanging on by looking at the size of their paycheck. I might be in that position one day, but I don’t have to be now, not when I am my own boss. 

And I realized that I was taking everything too seriously. It is important to do good work. I do believe that high standards are important. But I can’t make progress, or take on difficult challenges by being afraid to make a mistake, by being afraid to just play, to do the work and see where it takes me. And I can’t do that if I am tense, if I am watching the clock and trying to hit somebody else’s measure of productivity. I just have to do the best I can each day, and that’s it.

Besides, I am writing a book. It is meant to be informative or entertaining, not supposed to save lives. No need to get so serious here. It is ok if I make a decision that doesn’t work so well. It is ok if I just rush through this draft and fix what I can. It is ok if some small mistakes pass me by. I am not advocating shoddy work, but it is always possible to go back and fix things.

This lesson was underscored even more because I spent a little bit of time the last couple of days doing a copy-edit on a book I had already published and edited several times. I am working on a companion workbook to my book on study skills, and I found many little typos and errors, so I spent some time going over the draft again and fixing what I could. And that felt good, but also made me realize that no matter how perfect I try to make something, many errors will slip by. Some I will catch, others I won’t. But it isn’t so bad. This is a book that everyone who has read has really liked, and obviously they did so despite the few remaining grammatical and spelling errors (mostly differences between British and American spellings). The best thing about publishing it myself is that I can change my manuscript when I find something that needs fixing. 

So anyway, I realized that it doesn’t hurt to take a bit of time out to be present in the lives of my family, to read a book or just cut myself some slack. I still have a lot to do, I still have obligations and projects that need completing, but maybe I can do them with a lighter touch - on my work and on myself. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Blog Changes

As it might be obvious, there are some changes to the blog. I am no longer accepting interviews from authors. 

Last year, I developed a weekly series of author interviews, where authors talked about their writing process. I published an author interview every Wednesday, and honestly, it was my favorite part of this blog. However, it was taking up a lot of time, especially since I also committed to sharing quotes from their interview on social media and generally helping shine a spotlight on their work. I loved it, but I realized reluctantly that it was taking a lot of time away from my own book writing. I was revising one of my published books, which also took a lot more time than I had anticipated, and as a result of these and other factors, I didn’t publish any new books last year. As a writer, I am not happy about that, and hope to more than make up for it this year. In order to do that, I need more writing and research time. 

Therefore, I have ended the interview series. Obviously I will still honor any prior commitments, so any authors who have already been accepted for an interview will be accommodated. I am still accepting guest posts, so if you’re interested do get in touch, although it won’t be on a tight schedule. 

Although I am no longer doing interviews with current authors, I am still obsessed about the writing process and learning from other authors. I have been doing a ton of research on how various successful authors write, and I hope to have a book on this topic in the near future. I am also reading a lot of books on the craft of writing and the other topics I cover on this blog, so I hope to share some insights from them as well. 

If you are an author who was hoping to be interviewed on my blog and feel disappointed, I am truly sorry. However, I will note there are several excellent blogs that provide this service, many of them genre focused and better targeted to readers. 

I learned a lot from interviewing authors, and again I hope to share some of my insights in a future post. For now, its back to my reading pile and my WIP.

Update (March 2017):
I am now accepting author interviews again, on a rolling basis. I won't be able to keep up a weekly schedule, but will try to post when I can. I also regret that I may not be able to accomodate all requests, but feel free to send me an email and ask (see my About Me page). 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...