Yashodhara Lal on life beyond the Corporates

Yashodhara Lal graduated from IIMB in 2002 and has over a dozen years in the corporate world, mostly in the Marketing space. She has three bestselling books to her credit – Just Married, Please Excuse (2012), Sorting Out Sid (2014) and There’s Something About You (2015) -her latest book debuted on the AC Neilsen Book Scan at No. 2, a feat achieved by very few women authors in India.

Yashodhara Lal- Batch of 2002
Yashodhara Lal- Batch of 2002

Despite a very busy schedule she graciously agreed to answer a few pertinent questions SMC had for her. Following is an excerpt from the interview.

Many of us enter and go through our MBA’s hearing and practicing frameworks, 2X2’s etc. whereas a book is essentially a work requiring a high degree of creativity. In what way were your MBA education and IIM Bangalore instrumental in shaping your thoughts as a writer?

Hmmm…. great question! I’m not sure of anything that I actually learned formally at the institute had any role to play in my writing. However, I’ve felt that real life is always the best source of material, so paying attention to any experience while you’re going through it can help lay the ground for writing a story. And on Campus, we feel intense emotions, intense pressure, we’re living 24*7 with all sorts of people, those we get along with and those we don’t – and yet we learn to handle it. I think it’s a great experience to go through for anyone, and while I haven’t written a story on a Management institute yet, one day I might!
Secondly, writing a book actually does require some structure along with creativity. I think we learn to think logically and analytically, not by any specific subject but by the overall approach taken in an MBA course. So this bit of course helps.
Finally – publishing a book doesn’t end once the book goes into print. These days, an author has to take their marketing into their own hands. No guesses as to how an MBA which lead to a career in marketing has helped there!

You have a very successful corporate career. Why and how did you decide to write your books? What was the inspiration behind the themes you chose to write on?

For about 8 years after graduating, I just paid attention to my job. I ignored the creative pull that was internally gnawing away at me. It was actually a serious complication with my second pregnancy in 2010 that made me realize that since life was so short, I better get around to doing what I’ve already really wanted to – and thus began the first draft of my first book ‘Just Married, Please Excuse.’ – I’ve published three books in the last 3 years and am so glad I was slapped out of my corporate stupor by life!
I continue to have a corporate career but treat my writing as a very important passion and choose to write humorous, insightful stories based on contemporary relationships. My first book was on marriage, the second ‘Sorting Out Sid’ on Divorce and the latest ‘There’s Something About You’ is about a young girl who gets fired and struggles with issues of self-discovery, work, family and finding love.

According to you, what are the 3 most important traits of a writer and how can one go about polishing his/ her skills?

I genuinely believe that if you don’t read a lot or haven’t read much in your growing up years, it will show in your writing. So the habit of reading is the most important one.
A great deal of patience and perseverence is needed to actually sit down and finish writing a book. Actually, it takes a lot to even start writing it. Therefore, all these qualities like grit, determination, discipline are important to have as a writer.
Finally, I’d say that a flair for the creative would obviously help – but I don’t think this is an inborn trait. I think it’s something that can learned to some extent if we just allow ourselves to be a lot more open-minded.

How do you feel literary pursuits such as writing and oratory sustain themselves in the age of 140 characters and instant messaging?

Short format and long format content both have their place, and therefore, hopefully, social media over time will end up actually just being another tool for recommending good reads and for an author to connect with his/her audience. Having said that, obviously the impact of technology and social media means that there is the habit of instant gratification. I do worry about the impact of these things in the long term. But I think books are just such an important part of our lives that we’ll see an overall growth in the reading habit in our country.

What would your advice be to the budding writers of IIM Bangalore?

I’d say, practically speaking, don’t plan on giving up your day jobs too soon because writing doesn’t make the kind of money you’ll get in a corporate career. But use the the corporate jobs as fuel for your stories and never give up trying to make it in the world of writing.
Secondly– write the kind of stuff you will be proud and happy about having written. Don’t just pick the kind of topics you think will ‘sell’. Unless it’s authentic for you, it won’t work for your readers.
Lastly, and this is the most important advice I can give – do not self-edit while you are writing. Once you have a story in your head, start and keep writing the first draft until you finish. If you turn back and start evaluating what you’re writing while you’re writing it – there’s a good chance you’ll never finish.
All the best!

Yashodhara is also a Zumba instructor and Mother of three kids, and writes about her family, writing and life at www.yashodharalal.com.

Stay tuned to this space for more insight into the amazing achievements of our esteemed alumni.

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