An interview with Habib Fanny, co-author of the book 'Let's Talk Politics: How Different Sides Approach the Same Issues'

 

Click the picture to read a preview of the book or buy it on Amazon!

As you might remember, I recently interviewed Matthew Bates about his experience of writing his very first book "Let's Talk Politics: How Different Sides Approach the Same Issues." However, he didn't write that book alone.

His partner-in-crime, Habib Fanny, is another brilliant voice on Quora and the other author of that book. Since it takes two to tango, I felt like my interview wouldn't be complete if I neglected to chat with Habib as well.

I reached out to him and, to stay fair, asked him the exact same questions as I asked Matt. What follows are his (lightly-edited) answers to my questions. Enjoy and thank you so much Habib!


Questions and Answers

Hi Habib, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. I'm glad to have the chance to speak with the other half of Let's Talk Politics!

No problem!

With over 60,000 followers on Quora, you’re clearly already very well-known and respected on the platform. Why did you then feel motivated and/or the need to write Let’s Talk Politics given that you already have such a strong online presence?

Truth be told, it wasn’t my idea. Bates approached me and asked if I would be interested. I was conceited enough to think that people would want to pay to read what I had to say, so I decided to give it a go. Motivation was hard, to be honest. I didn’t have to write. And many nights, I had writer’s block. But I took breaks when I needed to.

Let's talk about this idea of being an author then because it seems to me it has this air of grandeur to it (or, at least, people ascribe this to it). Hence, people perceive writing a book as something that only “overachievers” can do and certainly not something that “regular” people like you and me are capable of doing. Given your experience with writing Let’s Talk Politics and the fact that you’re just a normal, everyday guy, what would you say to the people that lack this confidence to believe that they could write a book?

You write a book one page at a time. And you write each page one paragraph at a time. And you write each paragraph one sentence at time. It sounds silly, but it’s true. I never thought: “I’m writing a book.” I always thought in terms of writing something manageable like a page or a paragraph. And when I was done with that, I’d decide whether I had it in me to tackle another easily achievable goal.

Allow me to shift gears and focus on the book-writing process itself. Walk us through the step-by-step process of writing Let’s Talk Politics from idea to final product.

We had to decide on what topics we wanted to cover. We also didn’t want to just recycle material from Quora because we wanted people to feel that they had enough new content that it was worth it to them to purchase the book. We first looked for good Quora answers that we had both written, after which we looked at topics where one of us had written an answer but not the other.

Then, we looked at other popular political topics where neither of us had written answers. Sometimes we would see a question on Quora and feel that it would be a great one for the book, so we would make sure not to answer it on the site. Other times we just crafted questions ourselves.

Then it was just a matter of sitting down and writing. Sometimes I was too busy to write anything while other times I would have an easy month at work and I’d make time. In the end, we decided that we’d add 'soapbox' questions [i.e. Part 3 of the book], where we would each talk about matters of interest to us. Hence, the book ended up being not entirely symmetrical.

The interesting thing about the process is that Matthew got to see my answers, but I didn’t get to see his in real time. He was the one putting them in the format; I would just work on crafting my answers, running them by my editor, and emailing them to him or pasting them into a shared Google Docs document.


 
The minute you tell me something is going to be compiled together with other pieces of writing into something called a book, I freeze. I feel like my writing needs to be of a higher caliber.
— Habib Fanny

Matt mentioned that it took the both of you from about April 2017 till December 2017 to write and complete the book? How much time did you spend on it on a day-to-day basis?

It really depended on the month. Sometimes, I couldn’t write at all while other times, I’d spend one to two hours a night on writing.

Talk to us about the challenges of writing Let's Talk Politics. What was the most difficult part of writing it?

By far the most difficult part was relaxing and writing. It’s a lot easier to rewrite an answer than to write it from scratch. I write almost every day. But, the minute you tell me something is going to be compiled together with other pieces of writing into something called a book, I freeze. I feel like my writing needs to be of a higher caliber.

So, it becomes harder to write. I start obsessing over every sentence. Maybe I don’t like a choice of a word here or there. Maybe I don’t like the rhythm of a sentence. That’s the hard part, just relaxing and writing something. You can always revisit and reshape it later.

What was the most satisfying part of the journey?

Just being done! And seeing people actually willing to pay to read something I’d written. That was pretty wild.

What advice would you give to those that are already planning on writing a book?

Pace yourself. Write something. Leave it alone for a while. Revisit it a week or so later when you have a bit more detachment. You will see things you want to fix.

You write a book one page at a time. And you write each page one paragraph at a time. And you write each paragraph one sentence at time. It sounds silly, but it’s true.
— Habib Fanny
On a scale of 1-10 – with 10 being the best – how awesome is Quora?

9, easily. It’s a great platform, in spite of all its imperfections. It allows you to develop a style, see what works with your audience, and get the best kind of feedback which, really, is the ratio of upvotes-to-views for your answers [Editor's note: upvotes are equivalent to likes on Facebook. Hence, users on Quora 'upvote' answers and comments to questions that they really like]. Sometimes, there’s a glitch in algorithm but you’ll mostly be able to see what kind of pieces resonate with readers. Good writing makes people want to comment and write to you.

The other thing I like about it is that it allows people like me, in all my introversion and aversion to leave my home, to find kindred spirits. There are a ton of really intelligent, really well-informed people. It’s a great place to be.

Anything else that I haven’t asked you that you would like to shout out to people? It can be anything; don’t be shy!

Regarding the book, it represents a real attempt by two non-pundits, non-politicians to think through some of the biggest political issues facing their country. I think the exercise was worthwhile. 

But then again, I’m biased.


Recap

Once again, thank you to Habib for taking the time to answer my questions! If you haven't bought Let's Talk Politics yet, click the picture link above to buy it in e-book or paperback format.

There are two points that Habib made in his answers that I want to emphasize before I close this post. First, the point he made about how "you write a book one page at a time. And you write each page one paragraph at a time. And you write each paragraph one sentence at time." As he points out, even though it sounds so silly and cliché, it really is true. People think that achievements like writing a book happen overnight, but it's all about decomposing these frighteningly large goals into the smallest possible actionable items on your to-do list. I guess the true talent isn't writing the book, but rather having the ability to break the activity down into a series of tiny, tiny daily actions.

You might not write well everyday, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.
— Jodi Picoult

This leads me to my second point. Habib achieved this brilliant accomplishment with his book not by wishing hard enough or reading a countless number of inspirational quotes. No, he did so by writing every day. In other words, he practiced and practiced every day on a particular skill before deciding to take a chance on a more ambitious endeavor like publishing a book.

Accomplishing great feats in your life is all up to you, just remember that it starts with the daily habit of simply showing up and practicing a skill.

See you, Space Cowboy.