Romance with books
I think I started writing when I was in sixth grade. I remember writing stories in the last pages of my school note books. This was the time I started reading novels. God, those days were just fun. I didn’t have a phone back then. I was constantly glued to books. My brothers were avid readers. Naturally their habits infected me.
I read Harry Potter, a ritual I did every day religiously. My mind buzzed with wizards and Hogwarts. I also read Dan Brown. He is one of my favourites. I remember reading Enid Blyton’s mystery series. I even read a big deal of romance.
As I read so many books over the years, I started getting story ideas of my own. They were just a rip-off from the chapters of the books I read. I tried combining them together and see if I could come up with a plot.
They were bad, really bad. I wasn’t writing, I was just scribbling stories. Another thing that stalled me from becoming a better writer was the fear that I wouldn’t succeed. I feared people will hate my stories or will laugh at my grammatical errors.
Dive into a cyclone of engineering
I was done with school and joined a college. Like every kid in India, I made the biggest mistake of choosing engineering and deciding what to do in life.
But here’s the thing. No one forced me to take engineering. It was entirely my call.
I was nuts back then. I thought studying engineering was the only way to survive, settle down, have a family and mint money. Back then, my ideas, my values were limited to the level of a guinea pig.
Once I joined college, I had to embrace the fact that engineering is among the biggest scams in India. The whole prospect is just goddmn ugly.
Hey, don’t get me wrong. I know there are engineers who make the world a better place with new technology and everything, but I am blaming the system here. I am so pissed with the Anna University syllabus.
I didn’t learn anything about life, entrepreneurship, how to speak with people or build relationship. It was just grades, grades and grades. Engineering is business. That’s the only thing I learned. Just pay the damn fees, revaluation fees, examination fees and keep rolling with the system.
Nevertheless, I did learn a lot about gratitude, patience, adjusting with the system (maybe you embrace these things when you are hustling to come up in life). I also learnt that our education system was screwed. Anyway, while I was in college, it was tough to survive.
To ease my mind, I started reading new writers like Stephen King (the guy’s a genius), Cecelia Ahern (I love her romance), Matthew Reilly (the bugger writes really cool action-packed techno thrillers), James Patterson (I love how he markets his book. He’s a true entrepreneur).
I loved reading them more than my subjects like thermodynamics or maths (I scored 45% in four semesters. I hate math. Arggghhhhh!). I hated my subjects. Only a few interested me.
But I did manage to survive four horrible years, thanks to incredible friends who taught me a lot about life than the subjects could ever teach. In the meantime, I continued scribbling stories. This was also the time when I started buying ‘How to write’ books. I started learning the craft of writing good stories. My brother helped me sign up for Kindle Unlimited and I hoarded many ebooks on writing and selling. I just loved them.
My baby steps into journalism
Gradually, I could tell that my writing improved a little. Yet I didn’t share it with anyone. I never said anyone that I was into writing and stuff. I kept my stories hidden in my shelf.
I wrote to vent out my frustrations. I knew getting published would take years, but I still tried. In the meantime, I kept buying and reading a lot of books on writing. Soon, I created a blog, rayaanwriter.com, a platform to showcase my writing. I had written a novel, or at least that’s what I thought. It was a half-baked story.
Some of my cousins, friends, relatives started noticing my writing interests. People started talking that I was a writer, blah blah blah. I also realised that my first novel was minced by grammatical errors, wooden characters, and a totally ridiculous plot.
When I think about it now, I can't help but smile at my own dumbness. I shared it to some of my friends. They were sweet to offer honest and constructive feedback. I realised I had to learn a lot.
That was when a thought hit me like a lightning. Why not ask writers how they write?
So, I started emailing writers with: ‘hey, how are you? I just started my blog and I thought of interviewing you about your work. I would like to know how you did it. I'll be honored if you agree to do this interview.’
I then waited for their reply. I continued reading a lot of books. I even scoured books and read articles on getting published and book marketing.
One day, a really sweet writer, Kate M Colby who has written a sci-fi series and an extraordinary collection of writing prompts which I came across on Kindle Unlimited, connected with me via Instagram. I said that I loved her writing prompts and I asked for an interview. She agreed. That was the beginning of my life as an amateur journalist.
Soon more writers started to take notice once I kept updating and made my blog more attractive. Then I thought of not just interviewing writers but people doing other jobs for a living.
In time, I had interviewed TEDx speakers, NASA scientist, military photojournalist, artists, entrepreneurs, social workers, stand-up comics, podcasters, and many more. It was fun to chat with these folks. They were sweet and kind.
In January 2018, I attended The Hindu Newspapers' Literature Fest. Those three days changed my life. I met many aspiring writers like myself, wonderful journalists and renowned authors. It was here that I got inspired to publish my very first short story, 'The Girl in the crowd of books.'
In my heart, I knew that the only thing that will make me happy is if I do a work that makes me write every day. That was it. Soon I started to learn a lot about how journalists get hired and how the print media works. I was months away from finishing my engineering when companies hopped in to hire students. I didn’t attend any.
Looking back, I'm glad that I never got worried. I knew in my heart that I will find a job one day. I started sending my resumes to many start-ups hoping to grab the post as a content writer. I waited and I didn't get any response. My best friend from college, Monish and my family encouraged me to wait for the day when I'll get the job I'll love.
Then I came across a local newspaper. I applied here for an internship and I got selected. Interning here as a journalist was the best learning experience I ever got. After a month, I asked my senior editors if I could work here full time. They told me to write an exam.
By God’s grace, I got selected. I think my blog in a way helped me to get the job as I had a decent load of articles in my digital kitty.
But why from engineering to journalist?
When people ask me why the shift from engineering to journalism, I have a lot to say but two things matter the most. The first is writing. It is something I cherish and love.
Writing every day and getting paid for it is freedom.
The other thing is that I love talking and listening to people. It excites me. Everyone has a story. It's the job of the writer to find stories and offer voice to unsung heroes.
Being a journalist, I have this glorious opportunity to talk to people who live ordinary lives but do extraordinary things.
Joy of being a journalist
Writing is fun. It's a lot more fun when you take away the prospect of earning, at least in the beginning. I learned it after so many years.
Writing is also about enriching lives. I didn't say this. It was Stephen King. I believe it with all my heart.
Working as a journalist for the past six months taught me how words have the power to impact lives. Words touch hearts and help us get away from ignorance. Another cool stuff being a journalist is that a lot of people often call back to thank me. ‘My friends loved the article,’ they would say. I smile a thank you and I promise to stay in touch.
I have met many kinds of people. I've met a social worker who trains kids to play football so they could stay away from weed or alcohol. I've met a traveler who cycled 7819 kms to meet his grandfather. I’ve met a Canadian who shelled out $2 million from his own pocket so he could help relocate 50 Syrian families. I’ve met a young guy who feeds the homeless for free.
Giving voice to all these unsung heroes is powerful stuff. I know at least there’s one reader out there who read my articles and got inspired to do something exciting. Words can change the world. It sure did change mine.
What is the blog about?
In this blog, you'll read about things I keep learning everyday as a journalist.
I hope to share simple yet essential stuffs like how to interview people, how to deal with shit-heads, what to do if you mess things at work, how to work along with your colleagues, how to interact with celebrities, and a lot of more. I would try to keep the articles short and sweet.
If you are wondering why I named my blog as ‘Madrasi Clark Kent’, well, it just sounded cool.
Clark Kent is a journalist. He wears specks. I wear specks. And the name sounds just right. Madrasi Clark Kent. I will see you guys soon.