Writing Is the Only Time You Truly Reflect on Your Own Experience - Sunil Mishra

One of the best things according to me is to inculcate the habit of reading books. That is where the learnings come from. When you read any book, you get knowledge with the right context. This adds to your wisdom.

1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

I am a software professional with over two decades of experience in the field of technology. Currently, I am working with Infosys in India. Previously I have worked with McKinsey & Co, Accenture, I-flex solutions and Tata Steel.

My current book 'Who Stole My Time?' is a story about how digital tools and social media have impacted our lives. The story tries to explain how we can reset the phone-life balance and manage our digital engagements. I actively follow new technological disruptions and their impact on our daily and work lives.

My previous book "Who Stole My Job?" is a business fiction that relates to these topics. My work required extensive travelling to different parts of the world, and this constituted the basis of my first book - Transit Lounge.

I write a fortnightly column ‘Tech-n-Biz’ in Free Press Journal. I also work with universities and schools as a startup mentor in the area of new technologies. On the academic side, I am an MBA from IIM-Lucknow and a B.Tech from IIT(ISM), Dhanbad. I have completed my schooling in Bokaro Steel City, Jharkhand, India.

2. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

Well, I write more as a hobby. My first book Transit Lounge was more of serendipity. I used to travel on work like many of the software professionals (well much before the lockdown). I used to blog about my personal experience of interacting with local culture, people etc. This eventually evolved as a book.

I have been blogging and writing on multiple platforms like medium, LinkedIn etc. more on work and later general life experience. I think writing is an art of having a conversation with self and can be a fulfilling act by itself. Writing is the only time you truly reflect on your own experience. 

3. Is it a financially stable career?

Categorically No. Book publishing is the type of industry where winners take it all and there are very few winners that you can count on fingers. So, unless you are the kind of author who sells lakhs of copies, this is not a financially supporting career option.

Every year there are thousands of new books coming up but hardly 15-20 books make it to top seller list. That is like getting into the Indian cricket team for an aspiring cricketer. Also, you must keep in mind that writing a book is a very time-consuming exercise, publishing is even tougher and marketing and selling takes up a lot of effort.

Most authors I know write because they have a passion for writing and not for financial benefits.

4. Who is your favourite writer and why?

I read a wide range of books on different topics, so it is difficult to call out any writer. I have read multiple books from Yuval Harari, Nassim Taleb, Malcom Galdwell, Cal Newport among the non-fiction writers. I also have an interest in reading books on psychology, technology and Indian history.

Among the fiction writer, I would mention George Orwell. I have read his 1984 and Animal Farm. These books are relevant even today in the current context.

5. Where does your inspiration lie?

I get my inspiration from reading books. I have taken up a challenge to read 50 books this year. Last year, I read 25 books. I have used the lockdown period to catch up with the deficit. I have read 30 books so far.

One of the best things according to me is to inculcate the habit of reading books. That is where the learnings come from. When you read any book, you get knowledge with the right context. This adds to your wisdom.

If you compare that to social media browsing, TV watching or even newspaper reading – they are all fragmented data points without much context. If you start loving books you can live without all the distractions in our digital world and that will not be a bad idea.

6. What does your typical day look like?

First two hours of my day when I wake up, I devote to writing without any interruption of morning news or social media feeds. In fact, I deliberately switch off the wi-fi as I believe online browsing interferes with your thought process. I spend next half an hour for a bit of exercise, yoga and meditation.

Thanks to lockdown, we don’t need to travel to the office as the usual work hours begin. In the evening I spend time reading books. Other than the office work, reading and writing are two main activities I spend time on.

7. What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring writers?

I hear many people say that they want to write a book. However, they keep waiting for some grand idea to strike. The secret to writing, according to me is to just start. Even if the first draft is crappy, it does not matter. The story evolves on its own. The key is to keep the focus and write regularly.

Some people say they don’t get time to write. My response to that is time is just an excuse. We always manage to find time for things that we prioritize. One of the best writing tips, according to me, is to inculcate the habit of reading. That is where ideas come from.

When you read any book, you get knowledge with the right context. At one point, you transform yourself from being a passive reader to a writer. I have written a medium post on this topic that has been liked by many - https://medium.com/@sunilmishra_85164/10-tips-to-nourish-the-writer-in-you-26d5f07ea4bc

8. Which is your favourite book and why?

Among the fictions, one my favourite book is Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. I have read this book several times. There is a Bollywood movie created based on the novel with the same name.

Among the non-fiction, I recently read ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. This book by the Nobel laureate is one of the best reads on human psychology.

Interview By - Amatullah

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