Writing is hard. Writing requires you to sit down with seventeen open tabs, with a great majority of them being inspirational quotes from JK Rowling. After mindlessly going through each and every blog post in the interwebs about writing, if there ever was one, you sit down to fabricate your first twenty words and wonder if twenty words are enough to be called a paragraph. And then you open your 18th Google tab to search “how many words is one paragraph” and it tells you that two hundred words make one paragraph. Then you curse yourself and the only way to numb the pain is to post something on Instagram and soak your bones in attention, from people you haven’t met in five years. The cycle repeats itself.
I might not be the only one going through such self-loathing experiments when it comes to writing and I am hoping that there has to be a way out of this hamster wheel. The best way I know is to talk to someone who has far more experience in this subject than I do. Therefore, I decided to talk to Mr Pankaj Giri, a self-publisher and author from Sikkim who has written the Amazon Kindle bestseller, “The Fragile Thread of Hope” and was also featured in Amazon Best Reads, March 2020.
He was far from writing books when he was working in the software industry for six years in Bangalore until he had to fly back home to the mountains due to his father’s sudden demise. He got a job in the government sector but he fell into depression, unable to cope with the loss of his father. His mother reminded him of the articles he used to write when he was in school days and a whole new world opened up in front of him, and even though the light was small, it was light nonetheless.
He found himself writing fiction in the world of his own, with his characters Soham, Fiona, Prakash, Purvesh and Richa. He co-authored with Apoorva Wanekar to write his first novel, titled “FLAKE: Friendship, Love and Killer Escapades” revolving around four main characters pursuing engineering in Bangalore and their struggles in the campus, their relationships and career. After taking the constructive criticism offered by his first work, he immediately started working on the other book and submitted its manuscript to various publishers and waited patiently. When he lost hope that his manuscript would be buried beneath the pile of other similar works, he was exposed to an advertisement from Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and he decided to go that route. Luckily, Amazon was hosting a “Pen to Publish Contest 2017” during the time and he hoped to make it through. It was a surprise to him when he found out that his book was listed in the top five. It seemed as if life had always given him a ray of hope and a chance to find the answer, hidden in plain sight. Which, suffices to say, has evidently culminated into his best work till date, that is, “The Fragile Thread of Hope”.
He has also published a supplementary novella to “The Fragile Thread of Hope” named as, “The Thirst for Intimacy”. He has been felicitated for his contribution to literature in Sikkim and has also been featured in Your Story, TGIF, ABN Tv, Sikkim Chronicle, Wandering Souls of Sikkim etc.
In such a short time, Pankaj decided to answer some questions in the field of creative writing and self-publishing, which I am quite delighted to share with you.
So without further ado.
Red: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your work?
PG: I am a simple, reserved guy. I live in Gangtok and have a government job in the Power Department. I love to read selected books, listen to melodious rock music, and watch TV shows and movies.
Red: What is your favourite documentary or a movie?
PG: It is difficult to select a particular movie as there are several movies that I have loved, but if I had to pick one, it would be ‘The Godfather III’. This third part of the trilogy is widely criticized as being the weakest one, but in my humble opinion, it is the best among the three. The unadulterated guilt and grief that manifests in Micheal Corleone touched me deeply, and it was an apt conclusion to one of the greatest trilogies in the history of cinema. It is one of my favourite movies along with Interstellar and Revolutionary Road.
Red: How do you stay productive on lazy days?
PG: I watch movies or shows. It helps kill my boredom, and I also get to learn narrative techniques and the attributes of good dialogue. Watching the subtitles also helps me polish my punctuation. Moreover, watching movies gives me inspiration for my future books by giving me ideas about plot construction and how to evoke emotions in a story.
Red: How has your culture affected your art and vice versa?
PG: I feel art is a mirror to our culture, the best way to highlight our culture and preserve it for future generations. That’s why it is imperative that writers, musicians, and artists include our culture in their creations. I try my best to infuse local culture, the beauty of our landscapes, and food into my stories, but I try to do it in a way that doesn’t distract my readers from the story itself.
Red: What is integral to being an artist (or writer)?
PG: I think patience is one of the necessary traits that an artist should possess. Patience is not only needed while creating your work but also during the long wait for approval by a publisher (or a music company for musicians or an art production house for artists) until it goes to production and gets released.
Red: What advice would you give to someone venturing into writing before she gives up?
PG: Although it sounds cliched, it would be to ‘Never give up’. This is not an easy thing to do; it needs oodles of patience and hard work, but it’s not impossible. If someone like me, who had no contact in the literary industry, could manage to traditionally publish my book, you can do it too. If you love writing, just keep at it.
However, there are a few ground rules that really help. Firstly, before writing, please spend time thinking about the plot, and don’t forget to note everything down. Create a timeline, scene by scene, about what exactly you are going to write. Then, once that is ready, it will be much easier to fill the pages, and you will most likely not face the dreaded writer’s block too.
Secondly, please brush up on your grammar and punctuation by reading articles on the internet and going through critically acclaimed books to understand how award-winning writers go about their business. That builds a foundation and helps you write better. Marketing is another difficult challenge that only a few have been able to master, but it just needs some hard work, luck, and a bit of money. It can be done, so don’t lose hope.
Red: What have you become better at saying no to, in recent years?
PG: I have become better at saying no to marketing agents on social media who attempt to loot you by charging a huge amount of money for ordinary services.
Red: What is your favourite failure? How has failure set you up for later success?
PG: My favourite failure is when I got scathing reviews for my first book named ‘Friendship Love and Killer Escapades (FLAKE)’ which was a co-authored venture. I happened to make many mistakes, and I regret publishing my book at that stage, but the critical reviews really helped me. They pointed out the shortcomings in the book and when I did some research, I discovered how to avoid such errors in the future. If it had not been for the harsh reviews, I would have never improved.
Red: What investment of the past still positively impacts your day? Could be an investment of money, time, energy or other resources. How did you decide to make the investment?
PG: The time and energy that I invested reading good books, learning the craft of writing, researching about writing techniques, grammar and punctuation, really helped me become the writer I am today. However, there is always scope for improvement, and I plan to continue my learning process to further enhance my writing.
Red: What keeps you ticking the difficult times?
PG: Sometimes when you get a scathing review or book sales don’t happen or you fail to get good ideas for your next book, doubt creeps in, threatening to deject you. But the appreciation from readers all over the world fills me with encouragement and keeps me ticking.
Red: Any ask or request from our readers? Last parting words?
PG: I would like to thank all my readers for believing in my work and giving me encouragement. I’m nothing without you all. I would also like to express my gratitude to Redendron for considering me worthy of sharing my thoughts on their platform. I am truly honoured. Also, I must applaud you for promoting local talent and artists like us. That means a lot.
Steven Pressfield, the author of “The War of Art” states in his book how writing is easy but how sitting down to write is the hard part. I feel like a lot of exaggeration is being put around the attainment of goals and working hard towards it, whereas little discussion is being done about creating systems.
The practice of writing is therapeutic and helps improve cognitive functioning and emotional well-being, therefore, I believe it should be done on a daily basis. It does not matter if it is good writing and it is obvious, it won’t be good in the early days. However, just the act of sitting down and writing whatever comes to mind without judgment can undoubtedly help anyone.
In our conversation with Pankaj Giri, we can understand just how meditative it was for him during the hard times. Even when he was subjected to criticism in his first book, he did not give up writing but chose to polish it as much as he could. One thing is for certain, our ego shouldn’t hinder our learning as it is a lifelong process.
I hope that this post helps you start writing that piece you have always wanted to.