The Five Values (and the Ten Principles) of Writing as Enjoyment

The Five Values (and the Ten Principles) of Writing as Enjoyment

It is the dream of everyone to write a book. When you are young, you have great visions of becoming an author. You feel that you can make a living writing a book, rather than by doing a regular day-job. But, as you get older, your romantic notions of writing a book to be seen as an intellectual start fading. If you have not written a book by the time you are 35, it is highly unlikely that you will write a book for the next 20 years. You have too many mundane things to worry about. As a householder it is difficult to write a book. This is what I feel. Don’t ask me for evidence of this.

Now, once you cross 55 and start thinking about retiring from your regular-day job, your writing urges start coming back. But now, you have more lofty ideals. Rather than being seen as an intellectual, you want to ‘give back to the world’. You want to put your experiences on paper so that, hopefully, others can benefit from them.

I have now written and published three books. The fourth one is doing the round of the publishers looking for a home. My first book was published when I was 62. So I fall into the second category. Having written four books, I have come to some conclusions about writing. This ‘manifesto’ is the manifestation of those conclusions.

I will enunciate five values and a set of principles that can form a guide for anyone, of the first or second category, to start writing a book. I call this method of writing – following these values – as ‘writing as enjoyment’. These values may seem contrary to all the management principles you have learned so far, contrary to all the advice you will find on writing books, but so what?

I want to hurry here to add that all these values and principles are only for unknown writers like you and me. They are not for writers of the ilk of John Grisham or Amish Tripathi – writers whose books become bestsellers while even in the womb. And they are not for those, who though they are first time writers,have otherwise made a name for themselves and whose first book will sell automatically. A person like, say, Nandan Nilekani.

So, here goes:

In my experience as a writer, I have come to believe in the following values and principles as paramount in ‘writing as enjoyment’.

Note: I have presented the values as ‘something over something-else’. You find that what is on the right-hand side is what is traditionally and normally presented as important for writing a book. I am not saying that there is no value in what is on the right-hand side. What I am saying is that there is more value in what is on the left-hand side. The ten principles outlined, if followed, by you as a writer, will help you live the values mentioned.

Values

  1. Writing the book over publishing the book
  2. Enjoying the writing over enjoying the end product
  3. Starting the writing over planning for the writing
  4. Writing for yourself over writing for others
  5. Living to write over writing to live

Principles

  1. Do not be constrained by what you think others want you to write
  2. Approach publishers only after completing the writing of the book.
  3. Write, write, write; do not worry about the result.
  4. Write, read, re-write, re-read, correct, re-write, re-correct… 
  5. You can start your jogging regimen even in your old shoes
  6. Don’t be a word counter.
  7. Do not let others manipulate your idea
  8. Don’t worry about the audience.
  9. Do not expect to make a lot of money writing.
  10. Write, because you have a message for the world.

Explanation of each value and principle

The first value is: Writing the book over publishing the book

What this value means is this. When you write a book, do not write it with the aim of publishing it. Of course, you may ask, then why the hell am I writing it? Not for keeping it among your hidden files hoping that your great-grand-child will one day find it and publish it. But, if you focus on the publishing aspect of the book, you will be constrained by what publishers look for in a book – market value and sales potential. You don’t want that to happen. You want to let your free spirit flow into the book. You can worry about market needs and sales potential later. So, the first principle that goes with this value is this: Do not be constrained by what you think others want you to write. You are writing for yourself. Not for others.

If you are lucky, a publisher may accept your book and give you an advance, even though you have not even written a quarter of the book. Maybe the publisher likes the genre, maybe they like the plot, or they are just feeling generous. The problem here is that now you are committed to a date, a particular storyline, a particular position etc. The publisher may, and it is their right to, start dictating terms. You may even need to change the entire plot. My suggestion is this. Look for publishers only after completing the writing of your book.  I know it is difficult to say ‘no’ if some publisher offers you a tidy sum and a promise to publish your work. Though the chances of such an offer are as low as th at of your going to Mars one day, if you do get such an offer it will be difficult to resist it. Then you will have a trade-off decision on your hands. So my next principle is this: Approach publishers only after completing the writing of the book.

The second value is: Enjoying the writing over enjoying the end product

Most writers and authors have grand visions of the end-product. A book that becomes a best seller and sells in the millions, the author a rich man etc. While writing my first book, I would constantly go into a dream, thinking of my book breaking all records. Remember only a small percentage of books become successful. So, the chances of your book breaking into the big club are very slim. But, don’t lose heart. You are in it for the writing, not the publishing. Enjoy writing the book. Enjoy the journey more than arriving at the destination. In fact, what you will find is that, while you were excited to no end while writing the book, once it is over and published, you suddenly feel a void, and no sense of achievement. As Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Geeta, ‘your right is only to the work, not to the result’.  If you concentrate on writing, rather than on what the end-product will look like, you may end up with a good book. So, the next principle of writing is: Write, write, write; do not worry about the result.

Does this principle mean that you type out letters randomly on the keyboard and hope that a book will form, as promised by the infinite monkey theorem? No, no. As your book develops, you enjoy reading and re-reading it as you write. While you write about a character here, you should make sure that you are not contradicting something said of him before. So, read, re-read, write, re-write, correct, re-correct as part of the writing process. Consistency, correctness, characterisation, setting, all these will and need to alter as you go along. You may get new ideas as you are writing, you may find new facts as you are writing. All these may need to be incorporated. Enjoy this as much as writing new chapters. So, my next principle is: Write, read, re-write, re-read, correct, re-write, re-correct… 

The third value is: Starting the writing over planning for the writing

Towards the end of every year, around Christmas time, you will find thousands of people buying new running/exercise shoes. They have all made the resolution that they will start an exercise and jogging regimen come the new year. So they buy new shoes, new gizmos that measure how many steps they have jogged, new shorts etc. Then the new year arrives and they find one excuse or another to not jog or exercise. The new equipment? Sitting in a corner! The main thing is starting your exercise or jogging regimen, even with old shoes, even if it is the middle of the year;  not planning for it. And remember it is more important to run your steps than counting how many you have run.

The same principle applies to writing. I know people who resolve to write a book, and buy books about writing, buy a new laptop, even buy a new chair. Forget all this. Start writing, even if it is on your old laptop. Everything else comes after this. So, the next principle is: You can start your jogging regimen even in your old shoes

And don’t worry about the size of your book. When I was writing the first book, I used to brag about the number of words I had written so far and the fact that I would reach 90K words. It is more important to say what you want to say, not saying it in as many words as you can! In fact, don’t worry about the number of words, don’t count them till you have finished the book. As Kenny Rogers says in the Gambler, “You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s is done”. And, many people tell you, ‘write at least 500 words a day’ or some such thing. Don’t worry about all that. Write what you can, when you can. So the next principle is: Don’t be a word counter.

The fourth value is: Writing for yourself over writing for others

You will hear people telling you, get feedback, get feedback early. I don’t believe in that. You are writing the book for yourself, not for others. If it makes others also happy, and therefore you make some money, see it as a by-product of the process by which you kept yourself happy – by writing for yourself. Of course, you do want some feedback on spelling, consistency etc. but not on your idea. Your idea is yours. You are committed to it. You believe in it. Don’t let anyone else say otherwise. You want to put your message across, not someone else’s. Sure enough publishers may not publish it. So what. These days you can self-publish. So, the next principle is: Do not let others manipulate your idea

One of the important advice that is given to aspiring writers is ‘Research your audience’. Find out what readers want, find out how they have reacted to books of a similar ilk, is there a common area where what the readers want overlaps what you want to write about. All this advice is okay. But, again, it detracts from your idea and from what you want to say. Did Kafka or James Joyce research their audience and figure out what the audience wanted? Of course, I am not saying that you or I are at Kafka’s level, but the general principle holds. You write what you want to write, not what the audience wants to hear. So, the next principle is: Don’t worry about the audience.

The fifth value is: Living to write over writing to live

You are a writer because you like writing. You find great satisfaction in writing. You are living to write. But, if your motivation is making a lot of money, you are in the wrong business. As you may already know, only a small percentage of books become commercially successful. If you have a family to support, don’t think that you can do it by writing. Find yourself a regular job. Of course, there are many professional writers who make a living out of writing. Writers of TV serials, for example. Many of them regularly belt out the next part of a 7000 episode serial every day. But, it is like a day-job for them. Shakespeare wrote his dramas simply to make money. But since you cannot, and may not, want to be a serial writer, you may need to keep your job, unless you are retired, like me. But this does not need to stop you from writing. You can write in the evening to unwind. See writing as a relaxation after work. So, the next principle is: Do not expect to make a lot of money writing.

You are an important person. Do not underestimate yourself. You have many things to tell the world. You have many new ideas, many new concepts. Who but you, will bring this to the world?,You are born to spread your message. So, write about your ideas. Let the world know what your thoughts are. You are born to write. So write. The next principle therefore is: Write, because you have a message for the world.

Conclusion: I think great and successful writers have followed these values and principles when they wrote their books. A word of caution though. The converse need not be true. All who have followed these principles have not become great writers. There is always percentages at work here. You have to realise that when you sit down to write.

Announcing my new book – “The Five Tantras of Enterprise Agility: Delighting Customers in a volatile world”

The Five Tantras of Enterprise Agility: Delighting Customers in a volatile world

A book from PM Power Consulting (pm-powerconsulting.com). Please click here to see extracts from the book.

Synopsis

Agile has caught the fancy of the world. It is now a force to reckon with in our rapidly changing business world. Development practices based on Agile have become the first choice of project managers and leaders across thousands of organisations worldwide. Time and again, Agile has proven to be more flexible and effective in responding to change than other, traditional approaches.

Becoming Agile and sustaining it is difficult, yet deeply rewarding. With Agile, customers and stakeholders get the best outcomes as they are engaged throughout in the process of delivering continuous value to the customer. In an environment that is continuously and rapidly changing, it is important that products change quickly to keep up with the evolving needs of customers, and to outpace competition. And being Agile allows for precisely this – quick changes to products. With its focus on users and business value, Agile thinking has lived up to its promise of being the most adaptive development approach in a turbulent and ever-changing world.

Coaches of PM Power Consulting have, over the years, helped many organisations on their transformation journey towards becoming and being Agile. They have observed that this journey, to becoming Agile, is not smooth. There are many pitfalls along the way.  Organisations do many things right, but sometimes fall into one of these pitfalls and struggle to move forward. Many organisations have successfully wended on this journey and arrived at their destination. Some have found the journey too tedious and have given up along the way. And, some organisations who have reached there and have become Agile, stay there for a while and then regress.

How do you ensure that an organisation starting on its Agile journey has smooth sailing along the way and a safe haven once it reached its destination? This book is the result of putting together the experience and learnings of these PM Power coaches to help organisations in exactly this. Reaching there and staying there.

This book is presented as the story of one such Agile transformation journey – the journey of an organisation representing many of the organisations that PM Power has engaged with as Agile coaches. A representative coach comes into this organisation about a year-and-a-half into their Agile transformation journey. He is chartered to assess how far and well this organisation has progressed on their Agile transformation. He notes at some of the good things they did, some of the new methods and practices they adopted; how they changed their culture and mindset, their leadership paradigms and their thinking on efficiencies and inefficiencies; how they changed their ways looking at learning and innovation; and how they organised themselves to meet all these challenges; and above all, how they changed their focus to delivering continuous value to the customer. He also notes some of the things that the organisation could have done differently and better in their journey – some amber signals that should have alerted them to a problem ahead.

This book is primarily intended for leaders who are looking to take their organisations on the Agile Transformation journey and managers who will drive this transformation. It will alert them to what they can look forward to and what they need to look out for on this journey. The book is also intended for change agents (coaches and consultants) who help organisations progress on the transformation. The book will add to their experience set that will help them advise their clients in the best possible way. Project / Program Managers, Scrum Masters and team members who are keen to play an influential role in the organizational agile transformation process also will be able to benefit from this book.

The objective of this book is to help these people address the concerns of organizations as they try to reap benefits of moving to Agile – in a specific sense, to address the gap between an organization’s stakeholders’ expectations from Agile (to meet business needs) and their real outcomes and to help the leadership of organizations understand and implement agility at an organizational level (as opposed to agility in teams and projects). The objective of this book is to bring to the intended readers the wealth of experience and wisdom about Agile and its implementation that coaches at PM Power have built up over the years.

The book is written in a conversational style as in our previous book, Software Project Health: An Epic Retold. This makes it easier to read and certainly, to write. The hero coach of the book, Dr Vishnusharman employs a coaching style of conversation to understand what is going on and what needs to be done.

To drive home some of the points, we have used fables, some from Panchatantra, some from Aesop and some from the fertile imagination of the writer’s own mind.

The book is divided into five “books”. Each of the “books” looks at one Enterprise Agile Transformation Value. These five values are:

  1. Focus on Customer Outcomes;
  2. Self-organisation;
  3. Transformational Leadership;
  4. Experimentation and Learning; and
  5. Lean Thinking.

In each of these books, we discuss five main aspects (in one chapter each) of internalising that particular value:

  1. The process of getting there or getting the value implemented;
  2. Ensuring the right culture and mindset for internalising this value;
  3. Creating the right organisation for success in implementing and sustaining this value;
  4. The role of leadership in implementing and sustaining this value; and
  5. The tools and processes needed for this.

The book is a compendium of what needs to be done, and done right, and what should be avoided, or not done, on the journey to becoming Agile; and after having reached there, staying Agile. The real focus is on being and staying Agile. At the end of each book we give a summary list of the set of “amber signals”, or the things that the organisation should have done or could have done better in their transformation journey. Thus, the book contains both the good practices that can be adopted during an organisation’s Agile Transformation journey and the practices that need to be avoided.

At the very end, the book has a chapter on being Agile in a forced dispersal environment, caused by, for example, pandemics spread by the Corona Virus.

What is it that this book has over other books on Agile? For one, it is based on the experience of many experts in the Agile area. As mentioned before, PM Power Consulting has over 20 experts who have, over many years, coached and consulted with various types of organisations on their Agile Transformation journey. The inputs of all these experts have been taken to arrive at the details presented in this book. In addition, we have talked and discussed with many people outside PM Power, to get their ideas and opinions.

Secondly, this book is not a book on the nitty-gritty of Agile. That is, it is not a ritualistic book that gives details of how to run a scrum, how to hold stand-ups etc. It rather looks at the leadership aspects of being and doing Agile. In fact, as mentioned before, the book is more about “being” Agile, restricting the “doing” Agile part to the basics of getting to “be” Agile.

Thirdly, it is written in a style that is easy to read and understand. These set this book apart from the many other books on Agile.

The book is around 82000 words long.

Current Status: The book is with the publishers and should be available in the market in two to three months time.

A book from PM Power Consulting (pm-powerconsulting.com). Please click here to see extracts from the book.