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Making Of A Book #1: An Intellectual War

Published almost 2 years ago • 6 min read

Hi Reader,

There is a sandwich shop, called Aroma Cafe, that I go to every day to get a “Number 2”, which is their code for a “vegetarian sandwich with sprouts, avocados, cheese, onion, and mayo.”

My favorite part of getting that sandwich is not the sandwich itself; but rather watching how the sandwich is being made expertly by the gentleman behind the counter. Especially the way he slices the avocados!

Too often, in the knowledge worker era, people only tend to show the end result of their hard work. Social media abstracts away the “sandwich making” process to only serve the result on a rosy platter. You don’t get to see why the painter chose that color palette. Or why the designer went with Montserrat over Roboto font type. Or, what questions haunt a writer when she’s writing a book.

Andy Matuschak calls this, Working with the garage door open.

This newsletter is my way of writing with the garage door open.

This is my way of bringing you into the frustrating, overwhelming, and exhilarating process of writing a book.

Every week, I will share useful learnings based on my research for the book, along with glimpses into the journey itself of writing a book.

For this first edition, let me share some key moments and why I'm choosing to embark on this journey. Let's begin!

The Spark

(In case you didn't read my earlier personal newsletter where I shared the moment I got the idea, here it is.)

About 6 weeks ago, on March 15th, 2021, something happened during my morning meditation.

I was trying to quiet down my mind and focus on the mantra when this word randomly popped up into my thoughts: Balance.

Similar to a kid who saw a butterfly land right next to her feet, I began following it. This thought led to to a few more: How would I define balance? How many people would call their lives balanced today? What was my journey to reach the state of balance?

And then, a quieter thought finally made its way.

Hmm, could I write a book on this topic?

Since that day, I’ve not been able to let go of the idea. I’ve spoken to 12+ people about it and gone through at least 5 iterations on the idea itself. I created a table of contents and changed it thrice. I’ve begun creating the list of questions to research on. And, have been thoroughly overwhelmed by the process of writing a book.

One thing’s clear though: I can’t let go of this idea.

But really, it won’t let go of me.

About Project: Balance

Project: Balance is a book about helping you find balance in your life across the three major areas: your personal growth, your relationships, and your contribution to the world. The book helps you do this by first uncovering the hidden forces (personal, cultural, societal) that influence how you spend your attention followed by helping you externalize your goals and build systems to live a life of balance & joy.

Until I write enough to thoughtfully name the book, I’m going to call it Project: Balance.

Why write this book?

Writing a book is a long, overwhelming, frustrating journey that spans years sometimes.

So why am I choosing to embark on this journey?

Because… this is the book I would’ve wanted for myself two years ago.

Two years ago, I was living in a 2-bedroom apartment in Bellevue, Washington. I was in a job that gave me no meaning. I was writing a book (Admitted) that gave me a lot of meaning, but drained me in the process. I didn’t have a tight-knit support system. And, I never thought about balance, even though I lacked it.

I just knew, Something was not right. I’m not supposed to feel this way.

Now, two years later, I can say with reasonable conviction: I’m really happy, and feel incredibly balanced.

And, I can trace back a lot of what I did over the last 1.5 years to get to this place, and I’m still learning.

The past few months, since quitting, I’ve had more time to re-create my life and observe the lives of those around me. In this process, I realized that the lives of people I’ve witnessed are not balanced. I see people giving up their health for more money. I see people who avoid taking risks due to social conditioning. I see one set of people “hustling” hard in the hopes of changing the world; while another set focus only on their health & well-being with no regard for the world. Why? What’s influencing us to do the things we do? What causes the imbalance? How can we use systems & tools to build a life of balance? These are some questions that seem worth spending a year of my life on.

I can only imagine the hundreds of thousands of others who are feeling imbalanced, stuck, and unhappy right now. I want to short-circuit their path to get to a state of balance. How? By uncovering hidden forces that cause imbalance, sharing stories of change, and helping them set up systems. This is my goal for the book.

So, that’s a long-winded response to the question of, Why write this book?

Also, it's an extremely intellectually rewarding experience! :)

As a corollary to that, I put out a casual poll on Instagram recently with the question, Would you say your life is balanced? Out of the 500 responses, only 15% answered “yes”. 25% said “I’m not sure” and 60% said “no.”

Intellectual tug-of-war

I experienced a moment of frustration last week when I felt like I was caught in an intellectual tug-of-war.

I’m currently taking mentorship from two people in helping me navigate the process of writing a book. And, they both have very different ideologies on how to move forward.

One thinks it’s important to focus on researching, reading high-quality papers, and talking to people first to figure out a good thesis for the book before writing it. Other thinks I need to put my head down and write as much as possible to offload my ideas before spending time researching.

So… I am thoroughly confused.

I’m resorting to doing both? I think. I’m setting aside time for research, but also being conscious of the need to write down what I already know.

I keep going back and forth.

And every time I iterate on the idea, it feels like starting over from scratch.

One step forward; two steps backward.

What do you think, Reader? Are you currently working on a project where you’ve felt progress go back and forth? How are you dealing with that?

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

– Lao Tzu.

Author's Journey

Finally, below is my version of the 12 steps an author walks to publish a book (and where I am currently).

My current goal is to reach the Publishing stage in the journey within a year.

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