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About Amit Varma

Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.




Bastiat Prize 2007 Winner

Recent entries

Goodwill Machine

Once there was a star of the screen, Sent to Rio as a goodwill machine. ‘With my foot on the…

The Truth Behind The Hrithik-Kangana Spat

I don’t follow celebrity gossip, but the ongoing spat between Hrithik Roshan and Kangana Ranaut intrigued me, partly because it…

Hello, My Name Is Sri Sri

Hello, my name is Sri Sri I’ve heard you guys are beastly Don’t cut the call In fact, cut nothing…

Lament For Another World

Mike Klein of Chess.com, reporting on the US Chess Championships, went around asking the participants about Prince. When I spoke…

National Highway 420 (and the EV of Aggressive Batting)

Before this IPL started, a friend of mine, who shall go unnamed, called me up. Friend: Amit, you have such…

19 June, 2009

The Choices We Make

In the course of an email discussion, Udhay points me to this superb venn diagram by Bud Caddell on the subject of success and happiness:

image

In the last couple of years, I’ve moved from “Learn to Say ‘No’” (journalism) to “Learn to Monetize” (writing novels)—which is problematic, because you can’t really learn to monetize in this field. Being a novelist is not like any other profession, and even publishers will tell you that they don’t really know what makes a book tick. You could write kickass books year after year and not have anyone notice; or you could be in the right time, at the right place, and be an overnight success. Unlike other professions, there’s no road map to success.

I made the choice that I did knowing the tradeoffs involved—I wouldn’t make anywhere near the kind of moolah I’d make if I stayed in journalism or went back to television; but I’d wake up every morning looking forward to getting down to work. I think that’s worth it—until my savings run out and I can’t meet the rent. Thankfully, MFS has sold well enough to ensure that won’t happen anytime soon. (15,000 copies so far, my publisher tells me, which makes it a huge bestseller by Indian standards—the benchmark for being a bestseller in India is 5000 copies.) My earnings from this don’t cover opportunity cost, of course, but they keep me afloat while I write the next one, and that gives me more joy than all the journalism I ever did.

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While on success, Udhay also points me to a lovely essay by Po Bronson on the subject. Here’s an excerpt that sums up my feelings on the subject quite exactly:

There are far too many smart, educated, talented people operating at quarter speed, unsure of their place in the world, contributing far too little to the productive engine of modern civilization. There are far too many people who look like they have their act together but have yet to make an impact. You know who you are. It comes down to a simple gut check: You either love what you do or you don’t. Period.

So do you love what you do?

Posted by Amit Varma in Arts and entertainment | My Friend Sancho | Personal

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