August has always been about my mother’s birthday and my motherland’s independence day. Till date, I celebrate her birthday by cutting a cake hoping that her soul finds peace in her heavenly abode. But this year, August became a landmark month in my life after winning the Lights, Camera, Chatter contest by Blogchatter. As winners, we had the opportunity to perform our pieces live on camera. Through this forum, I transformed from a story writer to a storyteller this year. I have been thinking of doing this more often through my some selective storytelling sessions on my YouTube channel in 2019.
On 13th Sep last year, when I took the plunge to switch my career choice from being a corporate employee to a solopreneur with this blog, I honestly hadn’t expected this journey to be one of the best experiences in my life. After moving back to Kolkata in 2016, I had decided to take a sabbatical. The purpose was to step back from the jazz of being a high-profile Banker and analyze what made me the happiest. Between being a hands-on mother to an infant and reading every single book that I could lay my hands on, I realized that I looked forward to the quiet time every night when I gave a structure to my thoughts by writing them down in my diary. This had become my coping mechanism to deal with my mother’s sudden demise and then a routine that I enjoyed the most.
I also have an honest confession to make here. I doubt if I could have broken the mold and ventured into this new territory hadn’t I taken some time off to get used to the phase of salary credit messages not arriving every month end and rewards and recognition parties not happening every quarter. Also becoming a mother had suddenly brought about a spectrum of change in my priorities.
I really didn’t have a plan when I started out. I wrote on topics that I was fond of like food, travel, movies, and books. Either the narrative was based on my personal experiences or it was of the nature of a review. It felt great when celebrities, authors and restaurant management appreciated the efforts through a message or a re-tweet. The personal journey category came next and it is still one of my favorite corners of the blog. Just before my toddler started his preschool, I decided to write about parenting based on the current stage in my life. It took me a while to write about topics closest to my heart like normalizing breastfeeding, the taboo associated with menstruation and gender stereotyping as part of my social issues column. They were all based on my perspective and experience. My confidence got a boost when multiple articles were featured and trended on portals like Women’s web, Youth Ki Awaaz, Momspresso among others.
Until this period, I rarely read or interacted with other bloggers. I realized my approach was incorrect at different levels I participated in the Blogchatter A2Z challenge in April. It involved a lot of dialogues and suddenly I was exposed to a wonderful community of bloggers and their fabulous work. My blog had started receiving a good number of visitors as well. This was also the period when I heard of other blogging communities like Indiblogger and BlogAdda.
The next best thing happened in May when I turned an author with my debut Detective novella ‘Deal of Death’ as part of the Blogchatter Ebook carnival. From a blogger, I had transitioned into a published author. June brought along the Write Tribe festival of words followed by Bar-A-Thon in July. I had finally discovered my love for writing fiction and flash fiction posts. It was thrilling to weave a story around a prompt in a restricted number of words. Quite a number of posts made it to the featured section and the top posts in Indiblogger. August brought in a pack of surprises. All the posts written on WOW prompts won the WOW badge by BlogAdda. But the best was when one of my stories made it to the nine winning stories in the Lights, camera, Chatter contest by Blogchatter and I went on to narrate it live on FB. I wrapped up the month winning the Muse of the Month contest by Women’s Web.
September began with a positive note as I won the first prize in a blogging contest. But what I really look forward to is the new journey that I am about to begin as I take on the role of an invited speaker guest at the Women’s web Breaking Barriers event in Kolkata this weekend.
Overall, the experience has been extremely satisfying and humbling. Summarizing my learnings in just six points, I would say –
1. Read, reciprocate and engage – I would call this my biggest takeaway for the first year. When I started out, I would publish my post and wait to be discovered. I rarely visited or read others. It is essential to understand that without engaging in a meaningful conversation with others, there’s very little that we can achieve in the blog-o-sphere. Do note the word ‘meaningful’ here. It goes beyond the great post, well written, nice story kind of comments.
2. Optimum utilization of social media for promotions – As much as it is necessary to write, it is also important to promote it on social media for wider reach. However, I would suggest not to overdo it. I have received good response using FB and Twitter as a medium. It is only recently that I have started focusing on Instagram and Pinterest still seems like a far-fetched dream. Having said that, I would emphasize the fact that great content definitely gets rewarded eventually.
3. Do not hesitate to seek help – During the initial months of blogging, I had been snubbed by a senior blogger for asking some ‘frivolous’ questions. We have definitely moved beyond that incident today but this bitter experience conditioned my mindset in a way that I stopped seeking out help. It was only after I met Maya, my closest friend in the virtual world that I realized the technicalities of blogging isn’t so difficult. I will also be eternally grateful to another close friend of mine Ashvini for being a great support and introducing me to the wonder-woman of the blogging world Shailaja. It is really difficult to meet a person as helpful and knowledgeable as her. I have met so many amazing bloggers and writers of late that I realized how vibrant the blogging community is.
4. Take your time to find your niche – Despite the fact that I got a lot of appreciation for my movie reviews and recognition for my articles on other portals, it was only after ‘Deal of Death’ released that I figured out where my heart lay. I started putting my heart and soul into my stories as I transitioned into a fiction writer. In the near future, I have plans of starting a YouTube channel dedicated to the art of storytelling and narration camera.
5. Explore other possibilities in the same domain – I always prefer to call myself a writer because that covers both aspects of being a blogger and a published author. Now I also add the term storyteller to describe my profession and I am looking forward to donning the cap of a speaker next. I have grabbed every relevant opportunity to explore something new and it has turned out to be beneficial.
6. The long-term vision of sustainability – When I started out, my tagline read ‘Embarking on a new journey’ because that described my state. With time, I realized that my blog was basically very high on emotions. Recently, I redefined the tagline as ‘Words, photos & emotions’ summarizing what this blog is all about. Whether blogging is a hobby or a full-time profession, there needs to be a purpose of its existence. As a matter of principle, I don’t do promotions irrelevant to my blog. I have lost out on the financial gains but it makes me happy.
It has been a great year with the booming stats, awards, and recognition. I hope to work harder and bring in stories of wider variety in the future. Thank you for the continued support and love. I’m planning a surprise as part of the birthday celebration very soon, so stay tuned for further details.