Mainak Dhar - What Matters the Most Is the Connection You Form With Readers (Writer, Author, IIM Alumnus)


Mainak Dhar wears many hats. Of all the roles he plays, he considers being a good husband and a father as the most important ones. An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Management.

Ahmedabad, Mainak has worked in the corporate sector for 25 years with leading multinationals such as Procter & Gamble and General Mills. He is currently working in a leadership role at a multinational company. A self-described cubicle dweller by day and writer by night’, when Mainak is not with his family or at work, he loves creating and sharing stories. 

He is the author of over 15 books, some of which have been bestsellers in India and abroad, including the Alice in Deadland series, 03:02 and Sniper’s Eye. His books have been translated into Turkish, Vietnamese, Japanese, French, German, Hindi, and Portuguese, reaching millions of readers worldwide. 

His most recent book is Brand New Start: Fast-Start Your Career with the Power of Personal Branding, through which he aims to equip students and young professionals with an understanding of how they can develop an authentic, compelling, and differentiated personal brand as a cornerstone of their career success. Mainak is also a passionate student of karate and holds a black belt. Learn more about him and contact him at www.mainakdhar.com.

1. Tell us about your background and journey.

My dad was in the government and we moved around a lot when I was a kid, with me going through nine schools. Moving around so often, without today’s distractions of social media or the net, perhaps to keep myself occupied, I developed a deep love of reading, which soon developed into a love of storytelling. 

I went on to study business and have been in the corporate world for almost twenty-five years, but have been lucky to be able to pursue my passion for writing along with my corporate career. Above all, I’m a family man, and the most important roles I play are to be the best possible husband and father I can be.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I used to keep making up stories when I was a kid, including inventing an imaginary friend who would sit next to me in class. However, the first time I really thought of being a writer was then I was in Grade 7 and read an interview by Stephen King where he said something to the effect that the moment someone paid you for your writing, you were an author. 

I stapled some stuff I had written along with the solutions to the next term’s maths syllabus and sold my first book to my classmates at 50 cents a copy (we were in Canada at the time). My first ‘royalties’ were $12.50 and I came home and told my mother I was now a published author and treated her to ice cream with my earnings.

3. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I have no idea if it’s interesting or not, but when I’m writing a book, I get pretty obsessive about being disciplined about it and I have an Excel file where I track the number of words I write each day. Most people think writing is all about creativity, and that is the core of it. However, if you want to be a published author, and especially if you want to write on a sustained basis, that creativity has to be backed by discipline.

4. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I’d say the best thing I learned from being a writer was the joy of connecting with readers through my work. When I first began to write, it was for the thrill of creating something, of putting my ideas onto paper and seeing them come to life as a book. But over time I’ve realized that what matters the most is the connection you form with readers. 

Many of my readers have become my friends over the years, and through translations of my writing, I’ve connected with readers in places like Brazil and Vietnam and we’ve bonded over the ideas in my books even though I can’t even understand or speak the language they’re reading my work in. That experience has taught me the power of ideas and storytelling and how they can transcend barriers of language, culture, and geography. When I began my writing career, I had no idea it would lead me to form such connections.

5. As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I had no idea and to some extent, even today, I’m not guided by ‘what’ I want to do. Rather, I’ve always been focused on following what I’m passionate about. At a pretty early age, I realized I loved storytelling, creating ideas, and connecting with people through those. That led me to pursue writing and perhaps also influenced my choice of career, since in the consumer products industry where I’ve been working for twenty-five years, it is all about creating brands through ideas, and connecting with people- consumers, your team members and stakeholders.

6.    Do you have any tips for people who want to be an author? 

Read widely. The best way of understanding how to tell stories is to learn what kind of stories inspire you and how different writers bring their craft to life.

Write about what matters to you. Don’t try and write about something you think will ‘sell’. Write about themes you are passionate about. It will show in your writing.

Practice. Nobody writes a masterpiece off the cuff. Like anything else in life, your writing gets better as you practice. So don’t wait for the inspiration for the next great Indian novel to come into your mind. Write a blog, an article, a diary- anything that gets you writing.

Stick to it. Writing a novel is a long and often lonely process. So while inspiration may get you started, discipline is what will see you through. Don’t believe all you hear about ‘writer’s block’. If something is important to you, you need to learn to create the time and energy for it.


Mainak Dhar's Latest Venture

Mainak Dhar | Writer, Author, IIM Alumnus
    
     Interviewed By - Shubh Jani

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