Always a Work in Progress
A story about Curiousect, renewals and giving up.
Every suggestion or tip I’ve come across about the first post in a newsletter is to introduce yourself, and give a clearer sense of what this is going to be about.
The problem is - I am terrible at introducing myself.
It’s a function of a lot of ongoing thoughts in my head at the prospect of introductions.
I am not sure what to include or exclude. I am unclear how personal the introduction should be. If I do introduce myself, is the information I am sharing with you valuable? If it is valuable, why are you so interested in one among 7 billion people on planet earth? Isn’t a person limiting their individual experience through an introduction? Why can’t we just skip introductions?
By the time I actually do decide to introduce myself, the moment has passed and my confusion about what makes a good introduction continues to persist.
See? The moment has passed. Now it feels weird starting off with an introduction.
Instead, I’ll share with you the story of Curiousect, and why I genuinely think coming up with the name is the most creative thing I’ve ever done.
In December 2016, I was at home, on a break, after my first semester of law school. I was telling my brother (with a great deal of enthusiasm, I might add), of how I wanted to be a good writer and how law school might help me communicate stuff better.
Soon, our conversation wound up with some of the creators we both admired – CGP Grey, Hank & John Green, VSauce, Veritasium, Tim Urban among others. We also started discussing starting our own media publication. I suggested that this should be broad enough so that we can cover pretty much everything, as time would pass and if it would allow us to explore our divergent interests.
The initial plan was, I would write about the things that I was fascinated by, and he would help me build the website. Afterwards, we could delve into other subject areas and modes of publishing (for example: making YouTube videos).
All we had to do now was to think of a name that would capture this sentiment. We started brainstorming ideas for the name and started a domain name search. We were checking the domain websites for suggestions as well. Using phrases like "nerd", "geekdom", "techie" etc. to see what kind of domain names were available and if we liked those.
Side Note: At the time, I used to read (and still do) a lot of translated Chinese Web Novels. These were fantasy novels, where authors would release chapters on a daily basis, online and kind people on the internet would translate them into English for people like me.
They involved a lot of action and adventure (think of some of the Kung Fu movies you’ve seen, but even more exaggerated).
Storylines in these novels always had different factions who were trying to claim power. They weren’t families (like Lannisters in Game of Thrones) or different races (that you see in games like Warcraft), instead they usually involved Sects. A sect in the stories were community of different individuals who believed in the Sect’s philosophy and wanted to ensure the survival of that philosophy. The best web novels had great world building and deep stories for the sects, and people living in those different sects.
Okay, back to the name search.
It is difficult to find names. I was close to stealing a page from John and Hank Green and name the website – BhansaliBrothers (don’t worry, we have since shelved that idea).
I ended up stealing from Steve Jobs’ and the sects from Chinese Fantasy worlds. Finally, registered a domain name.
Curiousect - is a sect/community of those who enjoy questions and want to remain curious.
I thought the name would cover everything I will be curious about, it fits with a core value of mine and I genuinely felt it was a super cool name.
So, everything was set for the small world to find out about Curiousect.
There was just one problem – that never happened.
Once I returned to law school, I pushed this idea at the back of my head. I would try and sit down to write some small blog posts about ideas I had but, I would delete whatever I wrote. I felt my posts were terrible. Any thought I had, I believed they were not relevant. I held the view that in a world filled with amazing and bright writers, my own was dull and not good enough. So, I gave up within a month and lost all enthusiasm.
A year later I receive a notification.
Namecheap was asking me about Curiousect. They wanted me to renew their domain name again. A standard template impersonal email asking me to pay them money, felt like a big reset button. I could refresh and all would be okay.
This time, I decided instead of writing, I’ll make my own podcast (a story for another day). And I did. For half a year in 2018, I published 7 episodes - one almost every month. I spoke to different professionals and adults (all of whom were incredibly generous and kind) - about the kind of decisions they made, their experiences working in their field and what advice they would have to give to a student like me.
If you go through the archive of Curiousect. You'll see that the 8th episode I uploaded was November 2019 (more than a year later). I had stopped again before publishing that episode. There were millions of podcasts out there. I could name at least a 100 that was better than mine. Who was I, to produce a podcast? It was incredibly hard for me to find a reason for Curiousect to exist.
I received another reminder from Namecheap in November 2019, reminding me that in 4 weeks my domain name would expire.
I was saved again.
I admit, it is kind of sad that it was a domain name service that was helping me pick up my confidence every time it crumbled.
A standard impersonal email was making me question all of my past actions and thoughts with respect to Curiousect – again. I thought back to all of the past interviews I conducted, the different podcasts I heard, the various YouTube creators I follow and the diverse range of books I had read, there was one thing common among all of them - something Ira Glass captures beautifully in this video (that I keep revisiting).
This time, I did reflect and had some realisations. For some reason, my mind had associated starting a blog by making the whole universe a better place. I thought back to the original intention of starting Curiousect – to explore and have fun with different questions. That’s it.
Curiousect = Having fun by diving into questions.
I was too focused on the output, on the impossible expectations I had of myself, and the imaginative impact I wanted Curiousect to create. I wasn’t solving some global problem. My podcasts needn’t have the most value. My writing doesn’t have to be at a level where I get the Nobel Prize for Literature.
There was no need for a deeper reason for existence.
So, I was thinking about all of these things. It took me really long to get rid of perfectionist tendencies. I had a lot of things to do at the beginning of 2020, and soon the pandemic took me and every single one of us by surprise. I spent a lot of time thinking and not acting on my thoughts and I’ve already given up multiple times on this personal project.
I eventually did find my footing. I have made small progress this year and I am still working on it. The main factor that has changed this time is, I won’t be giving up.
I restarted my podcast series. I called it Time Capsule (a spin-off), where the intention was to make a podcast episode which I would want to revisit again in the future. Ideas, conversations and random things I am captivated by. I started a recommendation series to keep track of all the podcast listening I was doing – called Listening Chronicles.
It is true that much of Curiousect till now has been about podcasting (that’s because I enjoy podcasts). But, I can assure you, that’s not the only thing it’s going to be about.
The central theme still remains the same, even after 4 years. It is to foster a community of curious individuals and share with them thoughts, ideas and seemingly inoculate things that’ll get them thinking about questions.
I am grateful that you’re giving me another opportunity for working on this. Do not hesitate to share your thoughts and feedback. This endeavour is always going to be a work in progress, any help is welcome.
Until next time