What NOT blogging often taught me

While you would have seen experienced bloggers putting out posts what they had learnt along their blogging journey, as a starter-blogger this post is just about my blogging journey since the publishing of my very first post on April 1st this year.

As the year comes to a close, I had a look at my blog-9 months, 9 posts (including this one) and frequency of the posts. Let me be very honest here- I was not very happy with the insights WordPress gave about how my blog was performing and I knew that it needs much more effort and time than what I am putting into it. WordPress can help me with the stats, themes, plugins, SEO and a whole bunch of other stuff.But definitely WordPress cannot help with n number of other factors . I decided to trace my blogging journey so far. It looked like NOT blogging often had actually offered me more insights into what I need to work on as a person rather than a blogger.

So, let’s begin…

I wanted to put out ” the terrific first post ”  that would get the reader hooked and he/she would connect with it from the first line and there would be more hits at the star icon and the notification bell will have more things than only likes to show. I can visualize all experienced bloggers slowing shaking their heads saying “Kiddo, dream on!!!…”.Yeah , that was a superb fantasy and in the attempt to make that come true, I read numerous blogs about must-haves for a terrific first post. Another thing that egged me to put out the “perfect” post were the compliments that I received from my friends and colleagues for my work on our  magazine.Finally,the first post came a good 6 months after I created a WordPress account and  it was written just to kick-start blogging . In the quest for perfection I lost out on experimenting with my blogging and it goes without saying-writing better.

Lesson 1: There is no “terrific” first post. Your first post would be your introduction to the blogging community. So take it easy and don’t sweat about giving a star entry into the blogging community with the first post itself. 

     I was not ready to take a fall or even stumble and because of that I was afraid of taking the first step.And the journey doesn’t begin without the first step.When it began finally,I realized that I had lost time and most importantly on improving my writing

When I was finally posting at very irregular intervals, keeping up my motivation by reassuring myself that I was “taking one step at a time”, “doing things in my own pace”, eventually I realized I needed to get people to take notice when I post when I saw my blog languishing without much views except for the references from WordPress reader. Even if I spotted interesting stuff that could have become interesting posts, they mostly became ideas-that could-have-been-posts or very late posts.

Lesson 2: Nothing can make your writing better except for writing regularly.

Perfection  is just an illusion-there is always a better way any day.

3 posts later I decided to jump into the Community Pool as I wanted to hear from other bloggers out there and I thought that 3 posts ( and maybe another 2 posts on the way ) was enough to take a dive into the Pool . Yes, the Community Pool helped my posts to reach out to wider audience. Some of them did not stop with reading the articles-they gave their opinions on the posts, some fantastic book recommendations and tips on how to improve my writing.

After another lean period of blogging, during which I read some really awesome posts and even better, discovered some wonderful bloggers, I was all fired up to put out something even if it was a month late. I wrote this post the same way as I did my very first post- I started putting out the content directly on WordPress and all editing and spellcheck was done there only and I hit the publish button on the same day. If any of my roommates had taken a peep at my laptop on what I was working on in the “it’s – now- or – never” style, I would have got some weird looks.

The extensive reading about blogging which I did during the period when I did not write helped me to a certain extent  but EOD it’s only the content and for a starter definitely writing as often as one can is the only thing.I had decided by then that all the Pinterest blogging prompts, tips to grow your blog traffic Xx times in Y months and a whole lot of blogging related extensively informative articles’ ideas can be implemented later. I need to get a decent number of posts in the blog. I can very well imagine how people feel when they get to very few posts in the Archives section. And, then came quite a decent number of posts.

          Lesson 3: If you go with research which is a good thing (not only by itself), you should also have some good number of posts to actually start out with the other things that would give your blog more visibility.

There is a saying which goes “Life can only be understood backwards ; but it must be lived forwards” . So, tracing my blogging journey so far is a step in that direction . In an optimistic note,let me count my contributions rather than the blessings as Sheryl Sandberg says. And if not during the initial months, I am happy about how much I was able to write during November and December.I believe that the contributions which we are able to make despite several roadblocks themselves are blessings in disguise.That’s because they make you stretch your limits and definitely motivate you better than anything or anybody .

As the countdown to the  new year nears the end, I wish that 2018 becomes a year where we all  do better each new day and realize our dreams . Until the next time then….Ciao!!

 

 

 

 

 

A Writer’s gotta write first…

There is one Indian author whom I have been following very closely for anything except his writing. The man is not confined to writing bestsellers alone- he is a reputed columnist who writes very insightful articles on any niche,a screenplay writer for some of the highest box-office-grossing movies in Bollywood ( Hollywood,you have missed out a great talent…) whom The New York Times identified as ” the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history” in 2008. Perhaps,that might be true – but are his works really noteworthy? If you are not familiar with Indian writing,I ‘ll tell it straight-Chetan Bhagat.

           First Point Someone was really good for a debut novel-the narrative style, the rib-tickling  wry humor (courtesy Ryan) were instant hit with  the audience ( particularly the youth) and Chetan Bhagat  became a voice of the youth and most importantly, for the youth .Most importantly,it portrayed the failings in the Indian Education System that was prevalent even in the premier institutes of the nation like IIT. Being an alumnus of one such institutions,the narrative voiced the disappointment which he probably felt during his Under Grad years and he did it in a very entertaining way with his prime characters-Alok Gupta and Hari Kumar when Hari says “ So, we’re not just five-point somethings anymore, we are five point somebodies. ” when they manage to get a job finally.

So,when 2 States came out,this time Chetan Bhagat’s strategy became very apparent. I should say that he is a man who  should know very well that ” Successful people do not necessarily do extraordinary things-they do ordinary things  in an extraordinary way”. When you tell a regular campus love story with all drama in Bollywood style with all the drama thrown in  with a happily-ever-after ending, the masala factor became the crowd puller rather than the writing. Yeah, it was a fun read again only for his tongue-in-cheek narrative and humor. But, I had learnt to not expect much and had designated Chetan’s books for a light read during 6 hour train journeys.

When a picked up my last Chetan Bhagat novel, I remember thinking about The Three Mistakes Of my Life after finishing it

  • Picking up a Chetan Bhagat book again
  • Sitting through a plot-line that does not resonate with the political climate ( set in Gujarat during the earthquake and later communal riots in 2002 ). If at all anything,I was mentally making note of n number things that went wrong that were too jarring.Let’s say I became a better reader and ever better at picking up books
  • Still giving a place for Chetan Bhagat’s books in my bookshelf- Five Point Someone can stay.The others are going to the second hand book-dealer very soon.

He became a pioneer of a new kind of storytelling. Several other motivated Indian youth joined the bandwagon of this breed of storytellers who believed that stories need everything else-the masala factor, very creative and intriguing names like this one( Of course I love you..!Till I Find SomeOne Better, Now That You’re Rich Lets Fall in Love– this guy can give starters tips on how he comes up with such titles that gets the reader hooked even before he/she take a read at the plot summary) , a narrative that borders more on the type of fantasy genre with the most improbable locations and situations) .

When finally One Indian Girl came out,Chetan Bhagat marketed it aggressively on social media.But,when the book became epic disaster( finally, the average Indian had learnt to choose better as Chetan Bhagat was touted to be the one who made them read English books…Duh!! ). Have a look as the Indian twitterati trolled him and its too spot on and hilarious to miss out. Click on this link- Just for laughs

When people become staunch advocates for these writers saying that they made the average Indian to pick up English books,I have only one thing to say to them-

Indians’ contribution to the English literature did not start with Chetan Bhagat or the others. It started way back during the independence struggle only with Rabindranath Tagore, R.K.Narayan. For a better idea, have a look at this Wikipedia article. I am planning to check out one or two myself.

I should say that Chetan Bhagat was working all the while for making his entry into Bollywood as a screenplay writer. I can say whole-heartedly that he fits the bill for a screenplay writer better.If his books were dishing out only What Young India Wants ,the movie adaptations of each of his books tapped into that talent more. And his works do not count as any contribution to English literature.These books can be seen as some recent contributions to the English literature

A Train To Pakistan-Khushwant Singh(I know this is not a recent one but I loved this book )

 The God Of Small Things-Arundhathi Roy

The White Tiger-Arvind Adiga

Ibis trilogy-Amitav Ghosh

The Inheritance of Loss-Kiran Desai

Midnight’s Children-Salman Rushdie(still in my TBR list)

So,that brings up another question -if the book is not in English, does it’s literary value diminish? Will that book not gain widespread recognition that generally comes with English? The answer is a straight NO. Have a look at the list below –

The Millennium trilogy(Swedish) – Stieg Larsson

The Alchemist (and every other title by the same author in Portuguese) – Paulo Coelho

The Dinner (Dutch) – Herman Koch.

For more  click here.The more I google,the more number of whole new lists keep coming up.

When it comes to India, there are several languages and only very few epic works have got the privilege of reaching a wider audience (especially the regional works capturing the society and the political scenario in the background during the independence movements) . Sometimes, translation would prove to be a lesser substitute as the dialect of the regional language which gives the distinct style cannot be captured in a foreign language. For Indian readers check out this link  for some must-read translations.

When I was reading Michael’s post, the words “A scorpion’s gotta sting, a writer’s gotta write.” brought Chetan Bhagat instantly to my mind and this post.Thanks Michael for giving me a title for the post. If I might add, write  something worthwhile first . Probably he should have a paper with these words pasted just above his writing desk. He might be an alumnus of IIM-A but now you are a writer, you should know better that all the marketing gimmicks would not help if your story relies heavily on everything else except a good plot-line. He had done it previously and gotten away with it but this time, his marketing backfired in an epic way.

Lastly, to quote the man himself –“ I think half the trees in the world are felled to make up the IIT entrance exam guides. Most of them are crap ” Just substitute IIT entrance exam guides for Chetan’s books. Just can’t resist taking a parting shot 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wuthering Heights-Getting answers for some questions…-Part 2

The way Wuthering Heights panned out with Heathcliff on an avenging mission, I have often wondered that who had a major role in advancing Heathcliff’s schemes(knowingly or unknowingly) on both the families.Was it Hindley’s alcoholism cum gambling mania that made him a debtor to Heathcliff or Isabella’s attraction towards Heathcliff?If it had been only Hindley,the scene of action would have been only Wuthering Heights .But Isabella too comes in and Thrushcross Grange-the Lintons’ happy and normal home becomes a setting for the climax-the climax that preceded the story of avenging one’s love .There is one person who connects both the houses-Catherine Earnshaw,the ‘tragic’ heroine of the novel. Throughout the entire first half of the novel, there is ample evidence that Catherine Earnshaw’ s actions and words played a major role in setting up Heathcliff in his avenging mission.

Firstly,there was nobody to hinder Catherine from choosing Heathcliff over Edgar Linton-a proud (and definitely uncaring) brother definitely did not stand a chance against Catherine’s strong-willed nature. It was only Catherine’s pride and fear of poverty that made her choose Linton over Heathcliff. She could comprehend her feelings towards Heathcliff even then when she says-

“This [the acceptance of Linton’s proposal] is for one who comprehends in his person my feelings to Edgar and myself.[…]my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and all else remained ,and he were annihilated ,the universe, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger;[…]My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware; as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath-a source of little visible delight but necessary.

This alone says it all-her marriage to Linton is chiefly out of selfish motives for herself primarily despite her saying “The others [motives] were for the satisfaction of my whims and for Edgar’s sake,too,to satisfy him” and for Heathcliff chiefly.The only thing that sets apart Catherine (who caps even  all the Brontes’ unconventional heroines) from the rest of the Victorian heroines  is that she is very vocal about her factors(however despicable) that influenced her course of action.With the Lintons pandering to every whim of hers, she soon forgot about the only living person “who was her great thought in living” until the day he made his reappearance.While Heathcliff had come only to pay back Hindley, Catherine’s rapturous welcome of him showed him plainly that he had not lost Catherine’s love. Edgar Linton’s evident discomfort at his wife’s attachment towards Heathcliff, made it a sport for Heathcliff to repeat his visits to the Grange.

When Isabella confesses her admiration for somebody whom she perceived Heathcliff to be, Catherine plainly puts forth Heathcliff’s failings to make Isabella see sense.

He’s not a rough diamond___[…] he’s a fierce,pitiless,wolfish man.[….]I say ‘Let them alone, because I should hate them to be wronged’; and he’d crush you like  a sparrow’s egg,Isabella,if he found you a troublesome charge. I know he couldn’t love a Linton, and yet he’d be quite capable of marrying your fortunes and expectations___avarice is growing with him a besetting sin. There’s my picture; and I’m his friend -so much so that had he thought seriously to catch you, I should, perhaps, have held my tongue, and let you fall into his trap”

Despite knowing enough about the Heathcliff who had returned [no guesses there-Heathcliff laid bare his desire for revenging himself upon Hindley during their long rambles], she still reveals the girl’s fancy to him “to punish her for her sauciness” which seals Isabella Linton’s fate. Heathcliff had to just step up his revenge on Edgar with his marriage to Isabella Linton.Catherine Earnshaw knowingly not only betrayed her husband but also his beloved sister despite declaring that her intentions were otherwise.Even if she was honest in her intentions towards Isabella Linton,her betrayal towards Edgar Linton gives her fallacies that would make her an “anti-heroine” just like Heathcliff becomes an “anti-hero”.

I can go so far as to say that Catherine Earnshaw’s presence in the Lintons’ home was a luckless one. And Ellen Dean says that it was Heathcliff who was the “luckless presence”, a bird of bad omens”(Duh!!) .She does get very good adjectives but she did not use it to describe the correct person.

Catherine kept her word assiduously when she said

“I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own.That will be a prompt way of finishing all when I am pushed to extremity!”

If Catherine, alive and headstrong could inflict only this much damage, a delirious Catherine Earnshaw in her deathbed, with her words, destroyed any happiness that everybody could have had, if Heathcliff had been given a chance to move on.

I shouldn’t care what you suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings […] Will you forget me? Will you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence, ‘That’s the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved her long ago, and was wretched to lose her: but it is past. I’ve loved many others since; my children are dearer to me than she was, and at death, I shall not rejoice that I am going to her. I shall be sorry that I must leave them! ‘Will you say so, Heathcliff?

Even when Heathcliff for once speaks his heart at the very moment when he says “Do you reflect that all those words will be branded in my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? [..]Catherine, you know that I could as soon forget you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?”. But this anguished plea  falls on deaf ears and she again wishes to never be parted from Heathcliff and rambles on about how she expected Heathcliff to wish to be near her always.Knowing Heathcliff unlike any other person,and her hold on his heart,if her marriage was a betrayal,her confession about her undying love for Heathcliff during her final moments was even worse.

That day,the “anti-hero” Heathcliff emerged when he says-“I forgive what you have done to me.I love my murderer-but yours!How can I?“Although he clearly perceived Catherine’s fallacies,the intense grief totally eclipsed every other notion of reason/moving on-and The Hate Story started from there.