Hello, 2016!

2015 is done. We are now onto 2016 and as always it is a good time to use the New Year milestone marker for all major activities- both professional and personal.

2015 was a good year in many ways personally and professionally. As a family, we were very busy with work, school and home but closed out the year with a good vacation. I organized a bunch of stuff in my local community, some of them small and one particular one, really big. All of them were remarkable team efforts that made me a bunch of new friends. After a period of lull in the last few years, my reading is on an uptick and I read more in 2015 than 2014. I hopefully learnt more too. My fitness levels continue to be reasonable, thanks to the wonderful folks at LifeWorx CrossFit.

My book “Mahabharata for Kids”, continues to be a steady seller on the Kindle bookstore with zero publicity and I continue to contribute all of the proceeds to worthy causes.

Professionally, I changed roles from engineering to being a Product Manager. Something I have aspired to do for a while now. I am learning quite a bit in my new job and it has been an interesting and pleasurable experience. Amazon Lab126 continues to be a place where I am learning every day and I am very thankful for that.

Goodbye 2015. Hello 2016.

This is usually the blog post where I talk about all my writing and how many views I garnered in the previous year. 2015 turned out to be very interesting in that regard. I continued to be excited about blogging but a curious thing happened- I stopped enjoying the process of typing stuff. My love for analog tools (fountain pen, pencil, paper and ink) has grown exponentially and I have a half a dozen blog posts fully written up on a small notebook but without the enthusiasm to type it up. Often times, I hear of people getting tired/bored or out of touch with the physical act of writing. I have gone the other way. I am not as excited about typing as I am about composing my blogs on pen and paper. I am still looking for tools that will do this translation for me. That said, I wrote much fewer posts in 2015 that ended up getting far more views than ever before. With 50% less output, I managed to double my readership from 30000 views to 60000+ views in 2015. Much of this was due to the network effects of writing on LinkedIn. I am thankful to LinkedIn for giving me that reach.

So where does that lead me to in 2016-

  • I hope to read more. Much more.
  • I hope to write more. Much more.
  • I have a bunch of interesting projects in the works in various stages of progress – I hope to get one of them out in public this year.
  • I hope to contribute more of my time and resources towards the right kind of causes and to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
  • And most importantly, I hope to spend as much time as possible with my precious family.

The world has had a tough 2015. Between natural disasters[1][2] and man-made disasters[1][2][3], we have lurched sideways as humanity. There are things to hate and not be optimistic about but humanity as a whole continues to want to do the right things. Atleast most of us, anyway.

I will leave with this parting thought from the bestseller “The Martian” wonderfully written by Andy Weir (must-read in my opinion).

If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are a******s who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side. Pretty cool, eh?”

Of fountain pens, notebooks and the lost art of writing

Before I get started on the post, I wanted to apologize for the lack of posts over the last few weeks. I took a brief vacation (yay!) straddled between some significant work commitments. Not to mention, doing lots of stuff with the little guy. But I am back and hope to get into the usual post load in a week or two.

Here I am typing a blog post on my laptop on the lost art of writing. It is definitely ironic given that the laptop is probably the biggest reason for the writing habit to slowly but steadily disappear. The purpose of this post is partially to bemoan this sad state of affairs but equally nudge the readers to give writing a shot. For old times sake.

Long long ago, when I was in school I discovered that I could write pretty nicely. My handwriting was clean, legible and with the right effort, appeared print like. My teachers raved about it. Soon, I was scoring great in every exam that involved lots of writing.  I carried my skill to college and continued to live vicariously through my writing. My wife (then girlfriend) probably fell in love with my handwriting more than my physical self. I came to the US to do my Masters and a year later, bought my first laptop. Like any new fancy toy, I took to the laptop as my be all and end all tool for everything. Soon I was taking lecture notes on my laptop and doing fancy note taking on pdfs from Professors. It felt cool. The more I did it, the more I felt empowered by it. Before I realised it, I had almost entirely stopped using pen and paper other than writing my exams, some of which were also computer based.

A few years later, I felt the urge to pen a letter to someone and sat down with a ballpen that was lying around and a sheet of paper. Five lines into it, my wrist and hand started hurting. My fingers were extremely uncomfortable. I attributed it to not having written for a while. The only writing I was doing over the years was check signing and the occasional form that needed to be filled by hand. I tried again few days later and the same problem. To my utmost horror, I realized I couldnt write a page at a stretch anymore, leave alone reams of them. And my much prided handwriting was gone. Never to come back again. It didnt make much of a difference to my life but a small part of me wept silent tears of loss.

Fast forward to 2009 and the smartphone bug struck. What was not being typed on a laptop was now being fingered in on a smartphone and soon a tablet. It was as if the technology gods had decided to give the old art of writing a quick burial. Like with the laptop, I took to the smartphone quickly and didnt even pause to think about writing this time.

Late last year, I faced a different kind of a problem. I was going to meetings with my laptop or my smartphone and starting to get distracted. I was either typing away on my laptop or hunched over my phone. It was not a good feeling. I decided to give pen and paper a shot, after all these years. I started taking notes in meetings with a simple notebook and pen. Started writing anything and everything and slowly but steadily the joy of writing started to come back. It was time to get outfitted right. I discovered Daiso in Cupertino and picked up some nice notebooks (I have always fancied Japanese coworkers and business contacts for their notebooks). I then started hunting for the right kind of pencil and pen. Last week I found a cheap fountain pen at Daiso and followed it up by ordering a set of disposable fountain pens by Pilot (who knew they existed?). The feeling of a fountain pen in my hands after almost 16 years was something remarkable. It just felt right.Fountain pen

I am writing and writing furiously. Even stupid things now seem worth a page in one of my many notebooks at work or home. I am almost waiting to find an excuse to write. And I wonder every time I put pen to paper, how did I lose all those years. My old handwriting is not back, sadly. I miss it every day now. But I am not going to let that deter me from my writing. I am not making the same mistake twice. This time, the old art is here to stay.