Today, I want to talk about the process of writing Of Opinions – the book. It was released last week, after almost five years of being in the making. It has had a long journey, so I am going to start from the start.
In 2012, writing personal essays on everyday life was furthest from my life as a writer. I was writing articles for work on things I didn’t care about. I was writing plays – screen and stage – because that is what I did care about. Neither worked out for me, and I began to rattle my brain, thinking of what I could do. I remembered these essays I had written for the college magazine. One in particular was a humourous observation about man and mobile, called ‘Mobile Ga Ga’ (after “Radio Ga Ga”). I had been published in newspapers before, but this particular article was special, in the sense that people I did not know came up to me and told me they liked it. I didn’t have the foresight to pursue this form and get better, but I remembered it in my attempt to find something to write that I would enjoy.
The idea for a book came almost immediately after remembering that essay. A book of ten or twelve observational, personality-driven essays on contemporary life. I didn’t know of self-publishing at the time. I just wanted to write the book. It appealed to me as an idea, and stayed in the other-worldly world of ideas. I made notes, came up with topics, came up with a title, and worked on it for about a year. Little has made its way to the blog, for I’ve lost all my notes long ago. But, I remember it was very different in tone, much more laboured and deliberate than the blog has been.
I decided to blog it in mid-2013 after realising it was not a marketable concept. I had had blogs before, those random rambles most people with an internet connection make and forget about, that had never been read. I was trying WordPress for the first time, having heard good things about it. I wrote an essay called Of Course. I imagined the blog would be about books, music and movies, like all my previous blogs had been, for those are the things I’m interested in. These “Of” essays would only appear occasionally. But, neither Of Course, nor the one on Woody Allen got any attention. I scrapped my articles on Mick Jagger and consumerism, and forgot about the whole thing.
In mid-2014, I started watching TED Talks. I found them really interesting, wanted to share my opinions on a number of them, but the moment you scroll down on a YouTube video, you’re usually met with the most vitriolic comments section ever. I did not want to be part of that. I remembered the blog I had created, and decided to go back to it, whether it got read or not. And it did. I slowly built a readership, but more than that, I really enjoyed thinking and writing in this vein. I’d never studied philosophy, and I’d never been the publicly reflective kind of person. I had too much of a nervous, excitable energy to be quietly contemplative. But, I was actively noticing ideas, putting them down, and letting them out in the world.
A year on, in mid-2015, I felt confident enough to work on the book again. It would be a very serious book on essays, with how to live a good life as the central theme. It would have a different title. I worked on it for four months, hoping to self-publish it on Amazon Kindle this time, especially since it had recently been made available in India. I hoped to release it in October or November, but those are the busiest months in the Indian festive calendar, and I simply did not have time for it. It got stalled, for over a year.
I periodically revisited it, without ever considering it publishable. I must have gone through hundred of essays (I’ve written over four hundred till date for this project), chopping and changing what worked and what didn’t. Many had to be scrapped because they contained quotes from copyrighted books, music etc. that I couldn’t afford to get permission for. There was too much material, and not enough of a clear design to sift through and find what’s publishable.
Until I decided to go with what works, including the title, and put them all together. I made myself do it, especially in the last month, and I could not rest until I clicked “Publish”. Something I was able to do, on the 28th of February, 2017.
I don’t expect my fortunes to change because of Of Opinions. I wanted it to be out there, to exist as an entity in this world, and I have achieved that. I can’t want more from it, because the rest is not in my control. Miguel de Cervantes said, “Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.” I don’t want to make someone read my book. I want to earn their readership. I know people who don’t think it’s worth their time, even if they could read it for free if they want to. But, that does not undermine my perception of the book – I believe it is worthy and valuable.
However, there are a few things that are perhaps unpleasant, but also true. I have made a product of my misery. I did not think this book would be as confessional, as personal, as it has come to be. That has more to do with the time of my life it was written in, than in my original conception in writing it. I think something useful did come out of those reflections on personal vulnerabilities, but that does not mean it is what I intended to do. I don’t enjoy being miserable; I can list a billion and one things I’d prefer doing with my time instead. This book feels like the culmination not only of the idea of the Of Opinions project, but also of this period of time in my life.
Which is not to say I am done with the blog for good. For one thing, I bought the Personal plan recently, so I better get my money’s worth till the next year! But, I feel things will be different from now on.
Grab a copy of Of Opinions or read it for free on Kindle Unlimited!