About Writing


The beauty about writing is that unlike jogging that needs an open road or golf that needs a course or a game of bridge that requires a few friends, I can write in a closed room or a moving train;

Every now and then people ask me ‘where do you find the time to write?’  I have a standard reply, “I do not play golf.” Neither would you see me at a club, the usual party revelry or socializing to unwind. I do not play bridge. I do not have any other serious passion or distractions that could revive me after my daytime job. But over the years, I realized that I love to write; I cultivated that talent and gave it sustained time. I nurtured it like people tend to their swing or to their shrubs. As a result, all the weekends and the frequent long-haul flights give me all the time I need to be able to write.

That said, many people work below their potential. In addition, they argue that they do not have time for things they are interested in because their work itself is so demanding. In reality, every year of our lives has three hundred and sixty-five days. If you simply count the number of days we do not go to work, it adds up to a staggering one hundred and forty-four days. Add an average two weeks of vacation and all the statutory holidays and they add another thirty days. Thus, most of us “work” only two hundred days at best in an entire year. Now, if one really wanted to, that indeed is a lot of time left to pursue something seriously over a lifetime. If you have the commitment and the passion for it, I feel time finds you; you do not have to find the time.

And it is not just about writing. At MindTree, I have a colleague named Joe King. Joe lives in New Jersey. Joe drives an hour each day to work and usually is at his desk by seven thirty every morning. Joe likes to jog. Like, I like to write. So, I asked him one day, how he finds the time to jog? In New Jersey, between November and April, it is freezing cold. Sometimes, it snows. Joe gets up before five in the morning and even as it is dark and there is snow on the ground, he jogs for an hour. In spring, Joe runs the Boston Marathon and is always a finalist. So, Joe tends to his running the same way, I tend to my writing.

The beauty about writing is that unlike jogging that needs an open road or golf that needs a course or a game of bridge that requires a few friends, I can write in a closed room or a moving train; I can just open the computer and start writing whenever locked inside a long-haul airplane. So, you see – it is not as daunting as it seems. Now that we got ‘time’ out of the way, let us look at the ‘how’ part of writing. Before we get there, we must first appreciate the power of the written word.

The written word, from a book, a newspaper article, a blog or an internal memo is a powerful instrument in our hands that we seldom use effectively. We all know that written material like the Vedas, the Bible, the Koran, Das Kapital or War and Peace have impacted civilizations.  ? These have been instruments of abiding change. They contain seeds of ideas that someone first wrote down and then the ideas propagated themselves; people who read these books were impacted in a fundamental way. Great ideas expressed in writing have the power of creating alignment and with that alignment comes energy, with collective energy, many things become possible. Sometimes the many things have included freedom from foreign rule and sometimes the turnaround of a business.

There is another powerful aspect about the written word: once written down, content transcends time. It outlives its creator. Content is a powerful legacy a thinker can leave behind. Imagine how many people have read Jack: Straight from the Gut by Jack Welch and Business @  the Speed of Light by Bill Gates. They are no longer CEO of their respective companies and even the business empires they have created have a finite life. But long after they are gone, their writing is around for people to read and be influenced by.

As we all take on positions of larger organizational leadership, increasingly, we need to work with diverse teams, sometimes the team members are distributed over the world. In addition, quite often, our work requires working with and influencing people who we do not own. In an increasingly flat world, the written word helps us to present in the virtual space, communicate with and align people on whom our success often depends.

Of course, amidst all this, many professionals wonder how to make a beginning?

“How do I know if I can write at all; that I have it in me?”

Most people can write. They do not write because they think writing requires inspiration and such inspiration must flow out of some unseen source. That may be true of writing fiction or poetry that needs a “creative” capability of a high order. I am not a creative writer myself in that sense but we all know that the world needs a lot of “functional writing” as well. Increasingly, the professional space is expanding, we all have to write a report, a competitive proposal, Point of View (POV) document for the web or communicate with our teams as part of our normal working. Given the need for such writing, is there a ten-step guide that one could think of? I have evolved mine and here it is for you to consider.

Rule number one. Write as if you are speaking. Come to think of it, you speak reasonably well; it does not seem to be such an ordeal requiring any special talent. That is because, most of the time you speak, you do so to inform, not to impress. Writing on the other hand becomes an ordeal because we all get overwhelmed with the idea of impressing ahead of informing. So, the next time, write in the simplest manner possible. When we are simple, everyone understands us. When we try cladding our words with sophistication, we soon run out of wardrobe. As you have seen, I write as if I am speaking with you. It is as if you and I are sitting next to each other and I am just talking to you and you are listening to me. See how easily we are connecting with each other this way.

Rule number two. Choose a theme to write on. We are invariably looking for an earth shaking, original idea and we return frustrated. Like simplicity in writing, look for simple, everyday things to write on. They are all around us. They show up, as if by some divine arrangement but we are so obsessed with other things that we just do not notice them. One of my most memorable pieces that first appeared in the Times of India was triggered by the sight of a fallen tomato cart at a busy traffic intersection in Bangalore. It touched countless people who keep forwarding it to their friends over the Internet. My writing is full of small, everyday incidents, interactions and normal people. Thus, I do not run out of ideas.

Rule number three. Structure your thoughts around an idea before you start writing. Think of an interesting way of introducing the subject, then dwell on the subject with some data, a few examples and anecdotes and finally, leave behind a point of view, a conclusion or an open question. The process is what your high school essay teacher told you: start with an opening, have a body in the middle and finally make a clear conclusion. Think of writing as a three-legged stool. The introduction, the elucidation and the conclusion are the three legs. If you balance them properly, the idea you are trying to convey is bound to come across clearly enough.

Rule number four. Write without worrying whether people would love to read the piece.   We write with the hope that someone someday would read and without a reader, a writer is like a musician without an audience. That said, the music must be produced first and perfected and only then the listeners arrive. Someone learning music in the early stages does not give up her practice because there is no audience from the start.

Rule number five. Read what you have written and check for simple things like grammar and comprehension. These days, many of us use a computer to write our mails and other professional documents. Every computer has a dictionary. Yet, every day in my mailbox, hordes of communication arrive that are full of grammatical errors. With built-in spell check features in every possible software package, it takes no effort on the part of the writer to check spelling and grammar. The computer does it for you. If people have to deal with syntax errors and spelling mistakes, they would not read what you write.

Rule number six. Read what you have written for comprehension. Pretend that you are someone else. When you write, you must go with the flow. It does not help to keep checking comprehension and to chisel every sentence. As a result, we tend to write as we think. There is always the possibility of a gap between the thought as it originated in the mind and what really got conveyed because of a certain choice of words or the way sentences were constructed. After you have written an entire piece down, return to it after a day or two and read it as if you are someone else. The gaps will show up by themselves. Now rearrange the words and the sentences such that the new arrangement best conveys your thoughts. Again, remember rule number one: Be simple. If a very impressive word or sentence is becoming a hindrance towards comprehension, simply wipe it off.

Rule number seven. Get someone unconnected to read the piece. If it makes sense to that individual, you are on your way. Most of my writing was first read by my wife Susmita –she is unconnected to the corporate world. Sometimes, I ask my daughters to read my work. One is a school teacher and the other is a scholar – they are unconnected to my world. Sometimes I send my draft to young engineers in MindTree to read. It does not matter if the theme is very different from their world. In fact, greater the difference, better it is. Once these people send their feedback, I redo my pieces.

Rule number eight. Store your writing securely some place. Store them for the future, just the way a painter keeps all his work without discarding them. Writers are people who paint with words. So, treasure your work in a scrapbook, a hard disk or a blog. Someday, someone will come by and find them.

Rule number nine. Read what other people write. When you read different things, follow not just the narrative or the content, but look at the technique. Just the way you appreciate a painting, you notice the picture as much as you look at the brushstrokes. Do pause to consider how a writer presents issues; why a certain style or use of certain imagery? Why sometimes a particular piece becomes a compelling read?

Rule number ten. Publish. Everyone will not win a Nobel Prize for writing or become a well known columnist. I do not think my friend Joe King is looking at the Olympics in this life. But he has run many a Boston and New York Marathons. Similarly, I am not writing to get a Booker or the Pulitzer Prize but I am happy when I get published in a local newspaper. Even though, that may take me two, three or sometimes, five attempts. One of my seminal pieces was revised eleven times before the Harvard Business Review finally rejected it! As you begin, start with your college magazine, a trade journal or the company’s intranet portal. Over time, we all progress to bigger things. However, there is a huge benefit that comes along irrespective of external recognition – your professional writing ability begins to show; your colleagues and customers take notice and it leads to greater personal success. When a client calls in to say how well the proposal was written or peers compliment you on the way you express your ideas, it is a reward in itself.

So, write about your feelings, write about your experiences, and write about everyday things around you. Sometimes write about subjects that deeply concern you. Write about how you do what you do.

I want to thank Geetha Chandar who very kindly reviewed this piece for me a la rule #7.

 

 

Comments
Friday October 15th 2010

Dear Mr. Bagchi,

Greetings to you. Thanks for sharing your insightfull views on ‘The Writing’. I am too fond of writing and have scribbled few of my thought process on my blog http://www.ayelburgi.wordpress.com. Following your instructions and in particular Rule No.7-Can I request you to volunteer to review my wiritings. I have written an article on ‘Creativity – The Science of Arts’. It would be my great fortunte to receive a feedback from you Sir.

Thanking you in advance.. :-)

Akshay Yelburgi
ayelburgi@gmail.com

Lubna Says
Friday October 15th 2010

Thank you for your useful ten-step guide. Thanks Geetha for the review. Rule no 6 is so important and I find it is often overlooked. Perhaps use of highly technical words may make someone appear learned (or at least the writer appears learned to himself/herself), but it really doesn’t convey the message across.
PS: Please can your posts revert to the earlier font, it made reading easier, and I don’t have to take recourse to the zoom view. Thanks

Prashant Says
Friday October 15th 2010

Dear Sh. Bagchi,

What to write, you have written it all :-). These are TEN COMMANDMENTS in my quest of writing.

Warm Regards,

Prashant

Monish Says
Friday October 15th 2010

Thank you very much for the very informative article, will definitely guide and help us.

Smilie Says
Friday October 15th 2010

Fantastic post !
I have thought several times that I use very simple language to express my thoughts and I lacked sophestication.
Rule # 1 was very comforting.
“When we try cladding our words with sophistication, we soon run out of wardrobe.”- Absolutely true.

Vinayak Says
Sunday October 17th 2010

Very nicely written Subroto, An inspirational article.

Delicia Says
Sunday October 17th 2010

Truly Inspiring. Any thing that flows from the heart inspires others.

PAVEL PODDER Says
Monday October 18th 2010

I recently read your book “Go Kiss The World” and have enjoyed it thoroughly. I felt connceted with your ideas and phillosophy. I have started following your blogs now. If you have some tracker to send a notice for a new posting, I will be glad to receive it on my e-mail. Happy to review some of your pieces (Rule #7).

When you had announced your role as a “Gardener”, it had attracted my attention. Although I could not pursue further association with your work earlier. Will look forward to a personal interaction if you travel to Mumbai for any event.

Prakash Says
Tuesday October 19th 2010

Thank you, Subroto.

Sunil Paithankar Says
Wednesday October 20th 2010

Dear Sir, Heeding to one of your columns , i have been asking my daughter to write essays on various subjects and incidents. I was really amazed as to how her imagination has started to flower and some of her articles very well written for her age.
I think now i have another piece for her to hone her writing skills further.
Thank you SAAR!

Regards

Sunil

Piyush Says
Wednesday October 20th 2010

Wonderful piece of writing and advice to budding writers and to-be writers who are holding on their thoughts. Truly inspirational, motivational and food for thought…..Get up guys and follow the talisman- who knows tomorrow you might get published with a foreword given by none other than your inspiration – Mr Subroto Bagchi.

Mathew Zachariah Says
Sunday October 24th 2010

Dear Mr. Subroto,

I am really impressed with your 10 step guide for writing. I too enjoy writing and have won one award for the only article I once wrote for a TATA STEEL competition. I now work in the middle east, for a customer of Mindtree in Dubai
Now my writing is mainly the many email’s which I send in a day.

I have many Titles for devotional books I would love to write, but after the introduction, the progress is slow. You are so right about time. There is time in a day, and your above ten step guide has challenged me..You are right, if I organise my schedule well, Time will find me.

Regards
Mathew Zachariah

Tuesday October 26th 2010

Thank you Mr. Subroto Bagchi for this article. All these above steps will make the written communication very easy.

Ajay Das Says
Tuesday October 26th 2010

Excellent piece of article. Typical Bagchi style: simple and honest.Cheers Mr.Bagchi! You make people listen to you.

Sasirekha Prasad Says
Tuesday October 26th 2010

Sir

how did you manage to build such a wonderful vocabulary in yourself? could you help me do so, i am so fond of reading and writing, but i fear if i would make a good writer

Beena Says
Tuesday October 26th 2010

Dear Subroto,

Your words ‘If you have the commitment and the passion for it, I feel time finds you; you do not have to find the time.’ pretty much sums up the entire post for me.

This article reminds me of my school days. Once we had to write an essay on ‘If we could be anything for one day ,what would we be?’ Some of the students wrote that they would like to be the president of India, others wrote about becoming actors and cricketers. I wrote about becoming a Tiger. I love animals and Tiger is one of my favorite animals. My teacher seemed shocked and asked me why I decided to write on such a strange topic. In fact, I was taken to the teacher’s room where the teachers looked at that essay and then at me with surprise / shock and smiles. I was confused. I thought I made a mistake writing on that topic. Ha! :) I think I was following Rule 4 above.

Writing for me in a wonderful medium to connect with people far and near.

Thanks for sharing a very informative and interesting post!

Regards,
Beena

Anil Kumar Tulsiram Says
Wednesday October 27th 2010

Truly inspiring, I always wanted to write something, but as you rightly pointed out complained about time constraints. Will definitely start writing and will follow your tips..

Wednesday October 27th 2010

Simply YOU are GREAT!

No words to Say.

You are the inspiration, You are the vision.

Shiva Vaidyamath

Jaishree Rao Says
Thursday October 28th 2010

Dear Mr. Subroto Bagchi, When I first read ‘Go kiss the world’, I sent it to so many people who matter to me and even put it on my Facebook profile. But I was scared to read anything else written by you, lest it did not come up to my expectations. After reading more in your blog, all I can say is “Thank you.” You have been an inspiration to me in many ways; especially to write.

    Varun Vasudevan Says
    Friday October 29th 2010

    me too :)

    Subroto Bagchi Says
    Saturday November 6th 2010

    Dear Jaishree,

    Now you make me scared!

    Happy Deepavali.

    Subroto

R. Ramesh Says
Thursday October 28th 2010

Dear Sir,

Very interesting and very valuable to every profeesional. I personal liked it very much. Look forward to more such articles on general aspects which are essential for every professional.

Thanks

With best Regards

R. Ramesh

Varun Vasudevan Says
Friday October 29th 2010

“Someone learning music in the early stages does not give up her practice because there is no audience from the start.” – well said , Sir :)

Gokul N K Says
Saturday October 30th 2010

“Content is a powerful legacy a thinker can leave behind” well said Sirji. Something which I strongly believe in but never articulated it the way you did. Will always look up to you :)

Geetha Says
Sunday October 31st 2010

Dear Gardener,

Thank you for these great writing pointers.

Reading and writing, to me, are intricately intertwined…. like breathing and living. (In fact, they can be anybody’s life support!) We are considered to be living only when we are breathing – on our own – and we breathe only when we are alive.

And as Confucius also said: “No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.”

Of course, not everybody who reads can also write but what’s to stop us from trying (or “essayer” as they say in French?) especially now that you have so generously shared your ten-step guide with us?

I would also like to mention here that I quite like what you had said once in this context: “Reading is like eating and writing like cooking…. Everyone can eat well; that doesn’t mean everyone can cook.”

Thanks and regards,

Geetha

Nikhil Says
Wednesday November 3rd 2010

Mr. Bagchi,
I have been following your blog since I first read the “my mother is an ugly woman” piece. I have re-read it many times since and It continues to inspire me. Your writing is inspiring and has won you a lot of respect and admiration in my heart.

Regards,
Nikhil

Abhay Tewari Says
Saturday November 6th 2010

Dear Sir,

Your writing is inspirational to all those who want to create something. All the aspiring young entrepreneurs will benefit to understand that businesses are created by teams and people and good ethics makes good business sense.

Your ability to mobilise so many people towards a shared vision of creating an extraordinary enterprise is one of the best HR case studies for generations to come.

You’ve been a motivator par excellence for many and thank you for writing and sharing your experiences.

Abhay

Dr Shaila Anne Silva Says
Wednesday November 10th 2010

Dear Dr Bagchi

Very many thanks for hours of reading pleasure ( Go Kiss The World )

It resonated resoundingly with me, I’m holidaying in my native Bangalore. Like you I was born in 1957 in a tiny Indian village; unlike you I haven’t given birth to any tree!

Thanks again, Regards
whatthehell1@live.co.uk
( Dr Shaila Anne Silva )
PS : Please have a cuppatea with me next time you’re in the UK

Prashanth Says
Wednesday November 10th 2010

Dear Subroto,
This was indeed a fantastic read. As you have mentioned in your blog, ” If you have the commitment and the passion for it, I feel time finds you; you do not have to find the time”, It is so true and it is a lesson for me as well.

SS Says
Thursday November 11th 2010

Dear Mr.Bagchi

This a very inspiring post. Thanks for sharing it. It’s always nice to know how an author you admire actually ends up writing those wonderful books and articles :).

Regards
SS

Dennis Says
Thursday November 11th 2010

Great one .
I am inspired to write.

Shyam Says
Friday November 12th 2010

Dear Subroto,

Can you please post the article that you tried to get published in HBR ? I’m sure it’ll be beneficial for all of us !

Paras Bagchi Says
Saturday November 13th 2010

Dear Sir

A very interesting post and more so as I myself keep brimming with ideas on writing. But “I do not find time”.

I used to be regular with my blog couple of years ago but of late I just put words around my thoughts and send them to myself in an email. Its not for anyone to read – just an expression of thoughts that would otherwise be lost.

Reading your post has inspired me to put search my inbox and restore these posts to their rightful place in my blog and share it with others.

Thank You

Regards

Paras

Archita Roy Says
Wednesday December 1st 2010

Dear Mr Bagchi , your post is very inspiring ; I like reading & writing ; and I almost stopped writing thinking what people would react to it. I liked all rules you mentioned in the post.
Thanks once again..Keep inspiring us.

Padmashree Says
Friday December 10th 2010

Thank you sir!

I particularly appreciated the importance of writing. Although i have been writing my personal experiences. I myself have never known that written material impacts many minds. I write because i love to.

I thank you for your profound insight. and rules of writing again in a simple way.. thats you i guess.

saswat Says
Thursday January 27th 2011

Truly inspiring and lets us know the insight of such a great man

Sandeep Sharma Says
Monday February 14th 2011

Dear Mr Bagchi:

At the outset, Thanks for sharing your learning your books…the learning comes from your heart and that’s how it touches all of us…Continue the good work.

Kind regards
Sandeep

Hema Says
Thursday March 3rd 2011

Dear Subroto uncle,

I’m a fan of your writing. I hope I’m able to apply these principles with my attempts at writing.

Thanks a lot for this very useful post!
Hema

Siddharth Mishra Says
Saturday July 2nd 2011

Dear Piyusa,
Pranam!!
I was just going through some of your wonderful posts. They have inspired me beyond words…In fact every single moment….I aspire to do well in life….accomplish something really unique…I am always reminded of a name “Subroto Bagchi”….I have always heard a lot about you…from my Father-in-law (Shri Ram Chandra Panda) from Juni Nani…from my wife (Honey)…..about your most humble construct as a human being….about your simplicity & lot lot more…..
I run a consulting company…We work in the Events & Communication verticals & are also working as a recruitment consulting interface in the Telecom, Insurance & Retail space-PAN India.
Would like to share with you an idea of an HR Congress that we have planned to organise for the first time ever in the East India & that to in Bhubaneswar…………
A few very sparkling resources working in the domain of HR in India have been helping me to design the event framework…We are confident to witness a congregation of about 150-200 Heads-HR of leading companies including a few CEOs of reputed corporate entities from across the country.
It would be an event of immense delight to us, if you could be the Chief Speaker of the opening session of the event…We plan to do this in the mid of Sept’2011…..
We can schedule the dates according to your convenience….
Your inspiring guidance and your most gracious presence in such an event in Odisha would be a unique sight for many to be cherished for a lifetime….
Request you to share your e-mail contact so that I can send you the formal invitation…..
May this seed grow into a tree of its dreams…..
Thanks & Regards,
Siddharth Mishra
Outreach & External Linkages
Source Consulting
Cell-09337696969.

D Chaturvedi Says
Monday July 11th 2011

Dear Sir,

I was in a train yesterday and could not get a good night sleep. Currently in my office, I was suffering from uneasiness and headache, when i thought of visiting your blog.

Read this piece and now feels relieved.

I believe its not the content which has caught my attention, having rarely been a writer, but your simplicity of style (as you have stated in rule no 1), honesty to put your experiences in words, time devotion to this piece and rich experience (not only of life and career but also of communicating).

I have been sharing your IIM Bangalore “Go Kiss the World” speech with my students and feels elated when they talk about it.

Though callous words must not be used but I just love you Sir.

Keep Writing!!!!!!!!
I am all EYES.

A genuine request to you – “Please answer/comment to quotes on your blog. We need to hear you extempore. We’ll feel more connected when we find you as real as us” – May be Rule no 11.

wishes,
D.Chaturvedi

Shivanand Pujar Says
Friday July 15th 2011

Hi Subroto ji,

I appreciate the simplicity that you have brought out in your blog.
As I was reading, there was this though of “examination” which crossed my mind… I don’t know why? May be because I am a father of a school goer! I am not sure if it too much to expect a similar 10 steps on how to ‘write in examinations’ at school/collages (even at corporate) will be of great use for majority of the populations (parents and the students).

Thanks,
Shiva

Nareshkumar Balakrishnan Says
Thursday August 25th 2011

Thanks for your thoughts..Impressive.. Infact, Im in the process of writing my own book, you thoughts gave me more confident and enthu to go further towards my works..

Cheers,
Naresh

Dileep Says
Wednesday October 5th 2011

Hi

First article I have read in your blog is this and I am quite impressed.

Thanks

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hey Says
Wednesday February 17th 2016

yo

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