Write Now with Rizwan Virk

Who are you?

Rizwan Virk aka Riz, video game entrepreneur and investor, author, founder of Play Labs @ MIT. I split my time between Cambridge, MA and Mountain View, CA.

What do you write?

I write about technology, startups, consciousness, and spirituality. I got started writing by trying to make sense of my own challenging experience as a young entrepreneur right out of school trying to build a multi-million dollar company. This led me to examine my own beliefs about business and spiritual seeking. My first book Zen Entrepreneurship was about this journey.

I really love writing because it gives me the ability to express things I’ve been thinking about for years, if not decades. For a long time, writing was a hobby while my day job was technology startups. Now, writing has become more of my day job.

Where do you write?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I usually wrote in coffeeshops. I found it much easier to focus in on a chapter or a part of a chapter sitting down at a table with nothing but a cup of chai latte. Since the pandemic, the coffee shops have all been closed and I’ve been writing at home. I almost always write on my laptop.

When do you write?

For me, a typical writing session is either starting a new chapter, editing or finishing a chapter that I’ve already started. It’s usually one of those three, no matter if I am writing a nonfiction book, novel or an article. In fact, my process for writing articles is the exact same as writing a chapter for a book:

  1. I start writing the intro and figure out the structure and throughline, maybe completing 20%-33% of the text in this step.
  2. In one or two sessions, I write the rest of the piece, which is usually much easier once the introduction and structure have been defined.
  3. Finally, once a draft is complete, I edit the article or chapter to take out things that aren’t needed. My content is always too long, rather than too short, so editing usually means taking stuff out. In fact, I have an extra file that ends up being about 20% the length of the article, chapter or even the length of the book.

If that doesn’t work I go for a walk, which is when I get my best ideas.

Photo Courtesy of Rizwan Virk

Why do you write?

For me, writing feels like a mission. When I was a teenager in high school and just starting college, I had this sense that I would be a software entrepreneur for a number of years and then become a writer. I don’t know what it was that gave me this confidence, but there was a sense of destiny. I used to think the switch would happen at the age of 28. Although I did start writing my first book at the age of 28, it would be many many years before I became a full time writer, which didn’t happen until the age of 48!

How do you overcome writer’s block?

When something isn’t working, it either means I need to move on to write something else, or if there is a deadline, I will create a more detailed outline and use that. The outline is like a tree with branches and leaves. Usually, even when I have writer’s block, I can write a paragraph or two to fill in one leaf. If that works, then I can do the next one. However, sometimes I just don’t feel like writing and those times, it’s most effective to switch to editing mode and go back and edit some of what I’ve already written. I find that I am either in writing mode or editing mode — rarely can I do both in one session.

Bonus: What do you enjoy doing when not writing?

I enjoy taking long walks in manicured parks. I live near Google and there are parks around the Googleplex with little hills from which I can see the mountains on either side of Silicon Valley. I also enjoy watching sci-fi, and reading. I read everything from science fiction to philosophy to new age to business books.

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