It’s an unconventional book that tells us to change the way we work. This book is filled with timeless wisdom. In spite of the book being written in 2010, whatever is written therein is still relevant and will continue to be useful even in the future. It is written in a straightforward style. This book can be finished in one day or even in three hours if nothing interrupts your reading.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37 signals, wrote this book. 37 Signals is a two-decade-old software company that is now known as Basecamp. The authors have shared practical insights in this book based on their own experiences of starting a company from scratch, operating on their own, hiring employees from all over the world, and handling crises as they arise.
In this book, you will find many inspirational lines that you can use in your life and work. These lines can be written on post-it notes and stuck to your desk, so you can get a little inspiration every day. Here are a few of the best:
Be a starter
Scratch your own itch
No time is no excuse
You need less than you think
Start a business, not a startup
You need a commitment strategy, not an exit strategy
Be a curator
Interruption is the enemy of productivity
Meetings are toxic
Good enough is fine
Long lists don’t get done
Make tiny decisions
Focus on ‘You’ instead of ‘They’
Say ‘No’ by default
Build an audience
Go behind the scenes
Show your flaws. Be vulnerable
Press releases are spam. Instead, call someone
Everything is marketing
Hire someone who can manage herself
Send people home at 5 PM
Sound like you
ASAP is poison
Please read this book and let me know what you think about it. If you have already read this book, please let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments section.
These days I wake up and feel like starting my day on a fresh note Then I hear something terrible Friend’s father is in the hospital Classmates’ wife couldn’t make it Colleague’s 13- year old niece is battling for her life in the hospital A friend is traumatised because he couldn’t perform his father’s last rite I am constantly checking on people Sometimes I get scared to hear phone ringing at the odd time I am doom scrolling Sometimes I don’t want to Then I want to keep myself updated so that I will be ready to face any new challenge What will happen There is anxiety and grief When this will end When everything will be normal I am telling myself every day When this will be over, I will live each moment I will never take things for granted I will be grateful Just waiting for this to end Just waiting for the day when I wake up And breathe easy Hoping for this to end soon…
“Jahan Koyi apna Dafn na hua ho woh jagah apni nhi hua karti” [A person does not belong to a place until someone beloved is buried there]
Gabriel Garcia Marquez- One Hundred Years of Solitude
Reading the book, “Bread, Butter, and Cement” by Annie Zaidi, felt like a trip down memory lane. It made me nostalgic. It made me think of my roots, my identity, and my belongingness. The book is beautifully written and expressed. It feels like a slow cold breeze passing below your feet while you read this book but also makes you worry about the things happening in our country as to how our heritage and culture are being devoid of diversity.
Like Zaidi, I always wanted to own a place that I can call mine. Do I belong to a place or Do I want a place of my own? The first one is of course where my dada, dadi, and my ma lived their whole life. It feels so right that where your ancestors have lived, that place belongs to you. If you see this in a larger sense, it’s so difficult to imagine the lives of the people who were uprooted from their homeland because of partition, communal strife, or poverty and have had to move to a different place. The second one is that place that I am going to build/buy that is my own.
The title of the book intrigued me because what story could link three unconnected words: bread, butter, and cactus. It comes from the author’s childhood when she was living in the J K Puram colony. It was a colony for workers of the cement factory of the same name. Her mother was working as a principal in the school run for kids living in the colony. They moved to this unknown place so that her mother could provide ‘bread’ to her children. The author also describes the circumstances and situation prevailing in that colony and how the author wanted to escape the everyday ‘sameness’ of the colony. The only life around was some cactus. There was nothing nearby and it almost felt like she was living on some island.
The book is neatly divided into nine chapters with unique and thoughtful names. Every chapter name has some hidden meaning. The most beautiful thing about this book is that as these chapters flow, the author narrates her personal story reflecting and interlinking the socio-political happenings of the country. For instance, I absolutely loved the chapter named ‘Gur, Imarati and Goons’ telling the story of Azamgarh in particular and eastern UP in general. ‘Listening to mother’ and ‘Place like Home’ are the two other beautiful chapters giving a beautiful perspective on how language is so important to feel the sense of belongingness and how creating your own home or having a home makes a lot of difference in your life. This line from this chapter is so beautifully written: ‘Home is where suffering is shared out, like a bread, and or a three-seat bench shared by four’. The chapter on language is insightful. It shows how much language diversity we have in our country and despite that, there is an imposition of one language on everyone. Hindi itself has around 49 variants.
Just finding out that the author’s hometown was Azamgarh which is also my hometown created a strong urge for me to read this book. Being a woman who belongs to the same district and also migrated to a different place and trying to create my own identity made me relate to the author’s feelings in this book. Just like the author of this book, ‘belonging had always been a fraught question for me’ because I also never lived at one place for long. Especially after my marriage, I moved to South India totally devoid of North Indian roots, culture, food, and the people. I am not sure where I belong.
I remember my first UPSC interview when they asked me about my hometown and I was trying to defend the reputation of my district as it has been stereotyped and demonised as a place linked to terrorism. I can say that even I was suffering from that bias otherwise there would be no need to defend. The author is also anguished about why a place of poetry, textile, and imarati has been stereotyped just because a section of minorities live there. It is sad. Even I agree with the author that this stereotyping isolates the minority community and also prevents the Hindu majority from taking pride in their regional identity. A couplet comes to mind:
“Sabhi ka khoon hai shaamil yahaan ki mitti Mein,Kisi ke baap ka Hindustan thodi hai” [Everybody’s blood is mixed into the earth here, Hindustan does not belong to anybody’s father]
Throughout the book, Zaidi shows concerns towards the marginalisation of minority communities with a special focus on Muslim communities. Being a Muslim and a woman, she has had to face a lot of questions and rejection. The socio-political climate of the country made her conscious of her identity. She was worried about what people will think or how they will behave if she wore a hijab/burqa.
This is the sad reality of this country. The recent findings of a three-year study on discrimination in housing, most cosmopolitan cities and neighborhoods continue to keep Muslims and Dalit out of their homes. Stereotyping and discrimination against Muslims and Dalits are rampant in our country. One of my close Muslim friends (I don’t want to disclose his identity), who is a writer and public policy expert tells me, ” I no more think India is my country and I want to move out from here as soon as I can”. Hearing this, I thought; where we have reached and what we have become as a nation.
“The ache for home lives in all of us.The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned”
The theme of this book is about home, identity, belonging, and most importantly about mitti (soil) of one’s birthplace. How absolutely nothing can replace the feeling of your roots. How this mitti or zameen as we call it, has ‘dual connotations’ that mean land and also a certain psychological feeling. It makes me feel proud when I read in this book that the author traces her roots to eastern Uttar Pradesh. Generally, people from Uttar Pradesh who have relocated would rather not reveal their identity out of fear of being stereotyped.
Note: I created a draft of this blog last month but could not publish it because almost everyone in my family was sick. Finally, when I started feeling a bit better and things got stable at home, I completed this blog today.
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“Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen our sense of life: they feed the soul”
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d has three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'” – An Iconic passage that gives the book its title
During my childhood days, I was this kid who was always curious about reading things written at unusual places. Catchy sentences from books, inspiring quotes, weird shayaris written on the backside of the truck and things written on walls always amused me. I also had this habit of writing things in my diary or notebook. I never imagined that this is the thing I liked the most and this will give me utmost satisfaction in my life. When I started reading this fascinating book by the author Anne Lamott, I felt as if she is telling me to do the same. She wants writers to observe, appreciate and simply write about everything you see, hear, read, and think. She emphasises that writers should be afraid of not getting the writing done rather being tensed about how it will look and how people will see you.
And I would suggest people to read this book because it is not only about writings but also about life. The best thing about this book is that instructions on writing are intertwined with Lamott’s life that makes it easier to relate.
The book is neatly divided into five parts. The author has shared the instructions step by step in these five parts. The first part is about getting the writing started, the second part speaks about the writing frame of mind, the third part describes small habits that can help in your writing journey, fourth part talks about the ultimate goal of every writer; publication and other reasons you need to start writing and the final part is about the author’s last class on writing where she highlights the role of being a writer and how writers play an important role to show a mirror to the society.
The best advice the author has for the budding writers is the actual act of writing. It has its own rewards. It is one of the best parts of writing as it has so much to give and teach. The author has poured out her heart as a writer in this book. She honestly tells all the writers to start writing as all good writings begin with terrible first effort. We all have to write that shitty first drafts and edit it, again and again, to make it crisp and clear.
Stories are mostly the same but the difference comes when someone shares their own sensibility or especially their own version of the truth. And as the author agrees that the ‘truth’ is the bedrock of life. Whatever experience you had in your life, no one can share better than you in your own voice. Something very unique, I found in the book, as the author says ‘writing’ is like ‘giving’. A writer gives her soul and deepest part of her life into writing. Reading something gives us that feeling of connection, it enriches your soul. A writer soothes the reader’s soul by giving a company and reducing isolation.
The author gave some clear instructions that need to be followed if you want to improve your writing skills or want to continue being a writer:
Sit down to write at approximately same time every day. This is how you can train your unconscious to kick-in for you.
Write at least 300 words every day. Write about anything, about your dreams, aspirations, childhood memories, etc
Keep index cards with you all the time and scribble on it whenever you find something interesting
Observe/ Look around and write about these things
Call people and connect with them to know their perspective
Find someone reliable who can read your draft before you show it to the world
Be part of a writing group that will motivate you to write
Find your voice or write whatever your intuition says
Write about your childhood
Write as if you are dying
Forget about what people will think of your writing rather focus on just writing
I will end with some of the beautiful excerpts from the bookto inspire and motivate you to write without any hesitation because as Anne Lamott reiterates in the book, writing and reading decreases our sense of isolation. They deepen, widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.
“Good writing is about telling the truth”
” We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are”
“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious”
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better”
“Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.”
“Process of writing is pretty much the same for almost everyone I know”
“Becoming a writer can also profoundly change your life as a reader. One reads with a deeper appreciation and concentration, knowing now how hard writing is, especially how hard it is to make it look effortless. You begin to read with a writer’s eyes”
“Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on”
“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they have done it”
“Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious”
“All the good stories are out there waiting to be told in a fresh, wild way.”
BOOKS -“What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave”
“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters, compared to what lies within us”