Hello guys, I am back with another inspiring interview. This interview is about Anangsha Alammyan, who is a best-selling author, 2 times Quora Top writer, a blogger, a YouTuber and a super cool professor.
Anangsha has authored 3 books named Stolen Reflection, Best selling book What did Tashi do? and What happened to our forever?. She is also very active on the blogging platform Medium, where her articles have been curated and featured in feed for various topics.
In Conversation with Anangsha Alammyan
Something personal with Anangsha Alammyan
Arjun: Anangsha, you definitely don’t need an introduction, you have an insane following on Quora around 60k followers, and also you have authored 3 books. But for the people who by any chance don’t know you, tell them something about yourself.
Anangsha: Hello Arjun, thank you for the glowing introduction and the sweet words. I am a civil engineer who has always dreamed of being a writer. I started writing poems when I was five years old, but Quora was the only reason I got into the habit of writing daily (way back in 2014).
Since then, I’ve published three books, took part in five invited talks, four open mics, and two author workshops all over the country. Recently, I have also started blogging on Medium and am putting final touches to my yet-untitled fourth book.
Some time management tips from Anangsha
Arjun: You are a reader, writer, teacher, student, engineer, etc all at the same time maybe someday you will become a doctor and astronaut too (hahaha). Tell me how you manage to do so many things. People struggle a lot with time-management, maybe your tips of how you manage things and your time can help the readers.
Anangsha: Haha, thank you again! I have a full-time job as an Assistant Professor of civil engineering at NIT Silchar and am doing my PhD part-time from IIT Guwahati. Trust me, my job and my PhD take up most of my time. In the pre-lockdown days, I used to go to my office (or classes) at 9 AM and work till 7 PM.
After coming home, I spent one hour on working out and freshening up and then started writing after dinner. I used to write till 12 AM and go to bed.
Then, Covid19 happened and the WFH scene started. Since then, I found a lot more time on my hands to write and have been averaging at 1 lakh+ words per week. I even finished the first draft of my novel and am currently working on editing it.
If you want productivity tips, I have three
1. Plan your day on the previous night (make a to-do list and schedule it hourly)
2. Focus on doing the things you enjoy the most and that pay you money (or help in advancing your career in some form, like networking, research, etc). The rest, you can outsource.
3. Take out time to do things that make you happy.
How did writing become a passion for Anangsha
Arjun: In your interview with Shreya Badonia you mentioned you didn’t plan to be an author, how did writing became a passion for you? I mean please tell how this writing journey started? What inspired you to start writing?
Anangsha: My reading journey started when I was three years old and couldn’t understand English. My father used to sit with me and read out Tintin comics. I looked at the illustrations, heard the story in his words, and enjoyed the sessions so much. I couldn’t wait to start reading books on my own.
I read the first novel when I was ten years old. It was an adventure story by Enid Blyton that kept me hooked. Since then, I have been reading at least one book each week.
As for how I became a writer as I said before, I loved writing poems even as a kid and wrote my first poem dedicated to my mother when I was five. I thought of writing novels later in life because I realized there were no books that told the kind of story I wanted to read. There was only one way to solve this: write that novel!
An inappropriate incident turned into an opportunity
Arjun: I was very shocked to hear about your Facebook account getting hacked just to get your attention. I know today in the digital era, cybersecurity is really important. If you don’t mind can you share the story and also some suggestions, you want to let the readers know about cyber threats and cyberbullying
Anangsha: My Facebook account was hacked because I logged onto Facebook from a public computer (one in the CC lab at IIT Guwahati). Even though it was in the incognito mode and I had logged out when I was done, the hacker must have used a keylogger to track my password. When I had a conversation with the hacker and asked him why he had hacked my account, his reply was that this was the only way he could get my attention.
This terrified me.
Luckily, I got my Facebook account back soon after. But this incident taught me some serious lessons about cybersecurity that I believe needed to be shared with the world. That is when the story of “What did Tashi do?” was born.
As for tips to be secure online, here are some steps you can take as a layman:
- Always have 2-factor authentication for all apps/websites
- Never use a password that can be easily guessed. Use a random string and install a password manager to store it (I use LastPass).
- Don’t share your live location on any app as it might give sensitive information to people with malicious intent.
- Under any circumstances, do not share personal/compromising pictures with anyone, no matter how much you trust them.
Arjun: Anangsha, hats off to your attitude, you converted a problem in life to an opportunity by sharing it in the form of story on “What did Tashi Do?” Really hats off to you. My blog is very lucky to interview best-selling authors like you and Divyansh Mundra.
Anangsha Alammyan on books
Top 3 Favourite books
Arjun: Anangsha, maybe this question will be a tough one for you to answer, tell me your 3 most favourite books and the reason why they are your favourites?
Anangsha: It is indeed tough, haha. Okay, here are my top 3
1. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – because this book was my first foray into the world of literary fiction and the writing left me in awe.
2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – because these books are so funny, informative, as well as great case studies of human psychology. I was surprised by the depth hidden in the humour.
3. Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson – these are high fantasy books and my absolute favourite. They helped me through some tough times in life and inspired me to become a writer.
Arjun: Well, they all seem to be great books, I have my list as well of what I think to be the best books I have read till date: Top 10 self-improvement books
Books Anangsha wish to gift the most
Arjun: I have seen people who read books gift books to their friends as well, I know this because I also do that. Do you also gift books to your dear ones and if the answer is yes then what are some books that you have gifted people the most?
Anangsha: I am not so lucky to have people in my life who read. I once gifted my partner a copy of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” and he still hasn’t read it (it has been 3+ years). I have gifted copies of Agatha Christie’s books to a few friends because thrillers are easy to read, but even they haven’t completed reading those.
But, rephrasing your question, if I had people in my life who were avid readers, here are the books I would gift them the most frequently-
- You are a badass by Jen Sincero (self-help)
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (self-help)
- Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney (Psychological thriller)
- The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (urban fantasy)
- Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (murder mystery)
What does she plan to do as a full career option?
Arjun: Anangsha, you are a professor and a writer as well. In the long term what you plan to do, will you continue teaching or will you become a full-time author? Share what you plan to do ahead if you don’t mind?
Anangsha: That is one question I have been trying to figure out. I love civil engineering and I have a lot of dreams to find sustainable building solutions for the future (my dream project is to start using waste plastic in concrete for construction on a large scale in the country). I also enjoy teaching and interacting with the fresh ideas of students a lot and sometimes, being in the class makes me feel alive. But then again, writing is something I wouldn’t mind doing all my life.
For now, I am conflicted. Maybe I can give you a better answer two (or five) years down the line.
A great quote worth remembering
Arjun: Anangsha, I am a big fan of quotes, tell me one quote that you live by?
Anangsha: Okay, here’s my favourite by the 1965 winner of Nobel Prize in physics, Richard Feynman:
“I have no responsibility to live up to what others expect of me. That’s their mistake, not my failing.”
So many times, we measure our self-worth by the way the world views us. We judge ourselves too harshly if we fail to live up to the expectations the people around us have and end up living a life where the greatest happiness is derived when we make others happy.
But like everything else, Feynman had a radical approach to this.
According to him, when someone expects something of you, it says nothing about you and everything about them. You don’t owe them anything just because they have some expectations.
There is an unbelievable sense of liberty when you learn to separate your self-judgment from the expectations of others. After all, not giving them what they wish is not your fault, is it?
On being a best-selling author
Arjun: How fascinating it is to have 3 books to your name? and also a funny question, do you sometimes brag about being an author of a best-selling book, well if I would be an author I will definitely do that (hahaha)?
Anangsha: Thank you! It is indeed a great feeling to have written 3 books. I don’t brag about being a bestselling author because the bestseller ranks are volatile. The ones on Amazon keep getting updated each hour. Yes, seeing the “#1 Bestseller” tag next to your book feels great, but it is dangerous to attach your feelings of happiness or self-worth to a metric as fickle as that.
I enjoy the feeling while it lasts. And when it goes away, I feel grateful that it was there for a few days at least. The greatest sense of satisfaction for me comes when a reader leaves a heartfelt review for one of my books, saying how much it impacted their lives.
The ranks can change. But the feelings of the readers never will.
A definition of success
Arjun: Success has a different meaning for everyone. How does Anangsha define success for herself?
Anangsha: I am a little greedy.
Success for me has four prime aspects:
- My w0rk/writing should help people and impact their lives in some way
- There should be at least ONE major literary award to my name
- My book has to become the #1 NYT bestseller
- I need to make enough money so I can be a full-time writer.
Difficult? Yes! Impossible? No!
Viewpoint on different writing platforms like Quora and Medium
Arjun: I have been writing on Quora for a while, more than 2 years. You have seen the transition of Quora from great to _____. Share your viewpoint on the condition of Quora right now?
Anangsha: I think Quora is a great place for new writers to publish their work, because one way or another, the algorithm will put their work in front of an audience. However, since the main mode of income for Quora is through advertisements, organic reach is at an all-time low. I don’t blame them, they are changing their model and it will definitely impact writers in some ways.
As for me, the model does not work for me anymore because quality content does not find value and I am not someone who can write clickbait answers and share a picture of myself in every answer.
However, I have made peace with this because I never wrote for views. I wrote because I love writing, and no matter how much Quora changes, it will always remain the platform that first gave me exposure to millions of viewers. I would never stop writing there.
Why Medium is better than Quora
Arjun: If I ask you to choose between Medium or Quora, you will definitely choose medium. Tell me why do you prefer Medium.
Anangsha: Ah, I love Medium so much, I could probably write a book about it. Here are my top 3 reasons:
- The Medium curators read every story that is published. So, if you are a newcomer who writes great content, the curators will select it and distribute it to a large audience. No other platform values quality as much as Medium (in my limited experience)
- The formatting tools on Medium are amazing compared to Quora and WordPress.
- The payoff is great. I haven’t found another platform that pays its writers so generously as Medium does.
Arjun: A video by Anangsha Alammyan on how to get started on Medium
Arjun: What is that one habit, which you think is very important for you to excel in life?
Anangsha: Do a little bit of what you love every day without fail.
Arjun: No person can be successful without challenges. What are the challenges you faced in your journey to where you are today?
Anangsha: Is life anything without challenges?
Where do I start? There were days in my life after graduation when I didn’t have a job and was tired of asking my parents for money. I used to just eat white bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Well, that is not relevant to my writing journey, I suppose. And it might make this interview a little too melodramatic.
When it comes to writing, I think the biggest challenge I faced was convincing my parents that it is “okay” to look at it like a side hustle and not just a “hobby”. My parents belong to the school of thought that believes art should not be monetized (if it isn’t, are artists supposed to die hungry?).
Some monetization ideas for newbie writers
Arjun: Anangsha, asking this question from the point of view of someone who plans to start their writing journey, tell the readers about some monetizing ideas for people who love writing. Asking this question to make sure, the newbie earns enough to make sure to take care of their necessities.
Anangsha: I am still struggling to monetize my work enough to make a living out of it! But, from my experience, here are some ways you can make money:
- Publish an ebook on Amazon KDP
- Write quality content on Medium
- Start a Quora Space and work on it to make it reach a huge following
- Take part in author events organized by the government as these pay authors to present their thoughts.
Arjun: A video on making money through writing and blogging
Best investment of Anangsha Alammyan
Arjun: What do you think has been your best investment till date not necessarily in terms of money, but maybe in terms of time and energy which you think have yielded something which you love or admire or be proud of?
Anangsha: Hmm, again, this a tough question. Off the top of my head, here are the top three best financial investments I made in the past year:
- I got a Medium membership. This gave me access to all the brilliant articles ever written on Medium. I have learned so much and in such fascinating ways. It costs $5 a month, but the best $5 I spend on myself.
- I got a Storytel subscription. This is an audiobook subscription app that lets you read as many audiobooks as you would like to for INR 299 a month. A little expensive, but definitely worth the money. Listening to audiobooks helped me read so many books in such a short time.
- I got a paid subscription of Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid. Since I spend a lot of my time writing, I needed apps that helped me edit. I have no shame about admitting that I make a lot of errors in the first draft and (like most writers), I am blind to these mistakes. That is where these apps come in and help me polish my writing and make it even better.
Something more about life
Ananghsa Alammyan on core values
Arjun: This is my favourite question which I ask everyone I interview. What do you think is one core value or personality trait in you that has brought you to where you are today?
Anangsha: Interesting question! For me, what has worked is my thirst to keep working at bettering myself, to explore new options to grow, and to never give up, no matter how dismal the odds look.
Biggest lessons learnt to date
Arjun: What were some of the biggest lessons that have impacted or changed the way that you work? What was the lesson that you learned?
Anangsha: There have been times when I have given my hundred per cent to an article and, even then, it flopped badly. It barely got 100 views and made no money at all.
After this, I had two options — either be heartbroken and lament over why my hard work is never rewarded, or move on to the next article and hope this one makes it big.
I chose the latter because the former would only have detrimental effects on my mood and productivity.
Whether the result was success or failure — I learned to detach myself from it and single-mindedly focus on my goal of writing daily.
In this fickle world of content creation, holding too much value to one article is foolish. Often, it is the stray ones, the ones you don’t have too many hopes for, that rake in the actual money and fame.
Something unknown with Ananghsa Alammyan
Few more things she is good at
Arjun: What’s something you are really good at, that few people know about or that you are not known for?
Anangsha: I am really good at clicking pictures of sceneries (or so I believe, haha). I am also good at teaching people to work out (only tried this with a couple of my colleagues, but they have seen great results). Who knows, maybe I might start my fitness channel someday!
Some Guilty pleasures
Arjun: What are some of your guilty pleasures?
Anangsha: I love watching cliched romance movies where the nerdy “not hot” girls fall for the hottest boy in school who has the hottest girl as his girlfriend. Then, suddenly the “not hot” girl abandons her spectacles, becomes hot, and goes to prom, and the hot boy dumps his hot girlfriend and falls in love with our heroine.
I have watched so many movies following the same template and yet, I never seem to get bored of them!
Tips for teenagers and newbie writers
Arjun: One advice from you as a writer that you want to give to current teen generation to do what they are passionate about?
Anangsha: If you want to be a good writer, it is important to be a good reader. I cannot stress this point enough but read as much as you can. Diversify your tastes, read dead authors and contemporary ones, read fiction and non-fiction both – basically, read anything you can lay your hands on.
Arjun: Well, Thank you Anangsha for interviewing on The Improvement Terminal, I am very grateful to you and know this interview will give value to a lot of people and inspire them to do what they love.
Ananghsa’s Medium profile: Anangsha Alammyan
Cheers Everyone and Thank you for reading. If you like the interview, let me know in the comments section.
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