A Writer's Life

Bestselling author Ravi Subramanian discloses the real reasons he writes

The money’s good, but had it not been for these factors, he would have stopped writing long ago.

Every time I log on to Facebook, I find a number of people either wanting to write a book, or desperately hunting for a publisher having written a book. There are also scores of published authors, all attempting to promote their books.  This is indeed symptomatic of the fact that everyone today wants to become an author. And why not? If you have a story you want to tell the world, all you have to do is to open your laptop and start typing.

But why does everyone want to become a writer? Is it the inherent desire to tell a story? Is it the desire to change the world? Is it the passion for writing? Or is it greed?  I have no idea. I dare not make a value judgement on the motivation of hundreds of other fellow authors. But I can talk about why I started writing  in 2006, and why I continue writing even today.

I had always wanted to write a book. Always. This was a consequence of the yearning to be remembered after I die.  I was convinced that if I ended up writing a book, then, long after I am gone from planet Earth, there will be some library in some corner of the world which will have a copy of my book. And that book will remind people that an author called Ravi Subramanian walked this planet.

That was the elementary, vanity-driven motivation to write my first book. That's how If God was a Banker took shape and was published in 2007. When I wrote that book, all I wanted to do was write one book. Period.

But the success of If God was a Banker changed everything for me with regard to writing books. And I didn't end it there as I had planned to. But the question that often comes to my mind now is: why do I continue writing after seven published books? What keeps me steadfast on this journey? And when I sit back and rationalise this passion – or alternate career as some would say –several reasons come to my mind.

I have a lot of stories to tell.

Anyone who has lived through 20-and-odd years of corporate life will surely be a treasure house of interesting stories, experiences and anecdotes  – some his own, some observed. To me, this is the raw material.

When you put Jeffrey Archer in prison for three years, you got three books, didn't you? I have spent 22 years in an interesting industry, which has all the elements required to make a story fascinating: money, relationships, sleaze, fraud, crime and investigation. So why hold myself back?

I enjoy writing.

This is the most basic of all reasons. And probably the most important prerequisite for anyone to become an author. I was not turned on by the success of other authors. It was not the glitz and glamour which attracted me.

When I wrote my first book, I fell in love with the process. It is like a drug. An addiction which is difficult to kick. I succumbed. If anyone wants to become an author, the desire has to be immense. Strong enough to be able to spend hours away from family, from socialising, from television, from partying and to focus on writing instead.

Writing involves sacrifices. You have to like it enough to be able to make those sacrifices. I was willing to. More importantly, my family was willing to support me in this endeavour. And that made it easy for me.

I see a lot of youngsters these days getting swayed by the media making superstars out of some authors and getting into the “If they can do it, so can I” mode. To all of them I have to say this:  Writing is a result of a good education, and storytelling is a gift. Assuming you have these, converting them into a book needs truckloads of commitment and perseverance – and will produce results only if you like and enjoy writing.

Writing helps me stay grounded.

Those who are not in corporate life will not appreciate this, but the truth is that as one climbs the ladder in any organisation, position, power and money often goes to one’s head. It makes one vain, proud and less tolerant.

This happens a lot in banking and financial services.  Given that there are always enough subordinates willing to suck up to you and play to your vanity, you begin to lose touch with reality, growing averse to dissent and becoming intolerant  of anything which goes against you or the direction you have set. Criticism is unthinkable.

Life is very different as a writer. When you put your book out for people, you are essentially naked. Readers who pay to buy your book will not care about your reputation or seniority. If they don't like it, they will rip it apart – in public. You are just another person who has written a book. It is purely the quality of the book and the reader’s experience that matter.

For people like me, writing has emerged as a great leveller. It has taught me to take the rough with the smooth. Writing has taught me not to get super-elated when readers say something nice, and also not get too depressed when they say something nasty.  It has helped me keep my feet firmly on the ground. It has also given me the ability to solicit, and listen to, negative feedback, for this genuinely helps you improve and grow.

I learn something new from each book I write.

Every bit of research I do, every story I tell, every book I read adds to my knowledge. I read over eight books on Bitcoins when I did my research for God is a Gamer. Had it not been for this book, I would not have known so much about the Darknet, TOR and Bitcoins.

How else would I have read up on diverse topics like diamond-mining in Angola (for The Bankster) or the intricate details of the gun control laws in America or even the way academia functions overseas (for Bankerupt) if not for my books? All this research helps me develop a perspective on multiple subjects and leaves me enriched.

Writing has helped me forge new relationships.

Hundreds and thousands of readers, publishers, retailers, business partners and the entire writing ecosystem is a gift that my books have given me. This world is very different from the one I am used to in my profession.

And what about other authors? No other profession would have given me the cherished company of fellow-writers. Authors are strong personalities. Each one is unique. They have, at times, rigid points of view. And yet they are fun to be with.

Contrary to popular belief, most writers are quite friendly and get along with one another. When the community gets together the interactions are quite amazing and adrenalin-packed. Unlike the corporate and banking system, where discussions centre around work, growth, and organisational politics, and where most relationships are driven by a motive, bonds between writers are refreshingly different. This alone is a good enough reason to continue writing through the rest of my life.

And lastly, yes, I do end up making reasonable amounts of money as a writer. However I have no doubt that had the earlier reasons not been in play, I would have stopped writing ages ago.

Ravi Subramanian is an award-winning author of seven bestselling thrillers. His new book, a romantic Intrigue, is being released this October. His most popular books are: If God was a BankerGod is a GamerBankster and The Incredible Banker.

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