Category Archives: Lessons on Blogging

Why men should be writing a journal

It makes you a better person, you get to complete your thoughts, and you will lead a more meaningful life.

In my personal experience, I have found journal writing as an acceptable trait amongst women; but very few men I know actually write journals. As I work with this topic of journal writing, and its many benefits to me as an individual, I began to wonder why men do not write journals as frequently as women do?

This realization was a surprise to me as some of my earliest inspiration for journal writing came from men who made it a life habit to write diaries and journals, namely Thomas Jefferson, Issac Newton, John D Rockefeller … these are some of my favourite journal keepers and I can read about their journal writing habits over and over again. And the more I read, the more it appears that these men used their journal to record their habits, ideas and responses to the world around them, and over the years used these records to better themselves.

So this brings me back to my current question: why are men not writing journals as much as they used to? Possible answers: Too busy, nothing to say, nothing to write, no time, I am too tired to write by the time I get home… the reasons are endless. But in my opinion, journal writing is a process that forces you to introspect.

Does your work often leave you with a thousand voices in your head, each one telling you to do a different thing? Are you sometimes over-awed by the amount of work piled on your table, unable to decide where to start? Is the internet pushing too much information towards you and pushing your brain towards overload? Well, journal writing can help.

I know this sounds like I am coming up with a single solution, no matter what your problem, but it is not really that. The fact is there are different kinds of journals you can keep – some for your secret thoughts, others for your goals and plans, yet one may be just a record of the people you have met and found something interesting about… to name but a few.

If you have never had a journal, I urge you to get one. It does not have to be fancy and expensive, just get something you are comfortable with and something you feel nice holding in your hands. Initially you may find it difficult to decide what to write, and you may want to start with just putting down the thoughts that float around in your head.

If after the first couple of days, you run out of thoughts, you can try opinions, or issues that are bothering you, you can pen down your thoughts on issues impacting your neighbourhood, city or even the world. Sure, you may ask ‘what is the use?’ But do it all the same. You see, when you begin to write something down, your mind begins to solve a puzzle. The points you put down will surprise you… don’t worry about making sense, and writing in your best English. You just need to put your thoughts down, that is all.

Do this often enough and you will find yourself feeling lighter, because you have shared your innermost thoughts and feelings with your journal. You will find it easier to deal with the world outside. You don’t always have to be the tough guy, it’s ok to get upset and rant a bit.

And for those idea seekers amongst you, your journal is a great way to keep track of your many ideas that pop up in your mind all day long. Capture them, pen them down and come back to your thoughts days, weeks or even years later. Your ideas will still be there for you to access.

As you can see, there are so many wonderful reasons to keep a journal, a book by your bed, that it would be a sad thing if you did not make the time to write your thoughts down. Each of us is unique and has his own perspective on life. The myriad ways of looking at a situation is what makes our lives richer. So join the tribe of journal writers, and celebrate your uniqueness by penning it down for posterity!

~ bharti athray

Image source: http://www.daan-mag.com/index.php/2016/03/10/the-mind-journal/

How journal writing has helped me become a better person

I have always been a writer: I have written diaries, journals, stories, poems, observations, essays and articles. My home is full of diaries and journals written over 20 years ago, half full diaries and lots more.

By profession, I am an advertising copywriter, so writing is something I do for a living. When I look at my writing graph, I realize I wrote a lot more for myself before I took on professional writing. Once it becomes a job, you just feel you don’t want to come home and do the same thing.

Life took over and I stopped writing

This became a gap of some five or six years when life took over, soon after I got married – I was writing very little. Most of my unfinished diaries are from that period. It was a tough time for me, I had had my first boy, my job was going through change as I needed something that would allow me Mommy time, and the stress of being a new mother was taking a toll on me. The last thing I wanted to do at the time was to write. I just didn’t have the time, or so I made myself believe.

It was years later, after my son started schooling and I got into some kind of a routine with better time management and a clear understanding that my life had changed forever that I began writing again.

Now I am writing again

While I am still not as regular as I would like to be with my daily journal writing, I do manage to do so at least a couple of times a week. As the habit has built, with me penning down all my thoughts, angst, worries and ideas in my journal, I have realized I am growing as an individual. When I read my jottings from a year ago, it is interesting to note the changes in my life, my responses to various occurrences and I can now catch and stop myself from reacting impulsively. This awareness, this observation has enabled me to truly respond to life instead of merely reacting to stuff.

How journal writing has helped me

This has meant fewer arguments with family and friends, fewer occasions that I feel someone was saying stuff just to hurt me; and even when an event unfolds, I am prepared to walk away from a conversation that I know is heading in the wrong direction.

These learnings, these insights have come to me through journal writing, making this a meaningful process for me. As this becomes easier, I also find space within my mind to create writing that is more creative and I now find it easier to write poems, short stories and essays once again. 

My writing defines me

My learning from this experience has been that if you see yourself as a writer, make the time to get back to your writing. For most of us, it is what defines us as individuals, just as clothes define a fashionista and paintings define an artist. Get back to your passion, your craft and you will see small changes that will move your life to a whole new level.

Write, even if it is just for 10 minutes each day

If you are struggling with time, or content, don’t worry too much about it. Writing for just 10 minutes every day, or just expressing your opinion on some current affairs issue, will slowly but surely help you get back into the groove of writing. So don’t despair over the days you have not been writing, start off today and stick with the habit.

If you find this sharing meaningful, do let me know. If you are struggling with the writing habit, feel free to share your writing with me. Sometimes, just getting a feedback can be a good enough reason to get you writing. I would be happy to help out a fellow writer in anyway I can!

~ bharti athray

What should you write about every day

I think this a challenge each writer faces when we decide to make writing a habit. After the initial burst of energy, things slow down and you often find yourself wondering what you should be writing about. After all, if you are writing for a blog, or your diary which you hope one day will be published, you do want to make your stuff readable. In my experience, my eternal sources of inspiration are as follows:

  1. Material that I read. I find it extremely useful to read a novel, an article or listen to news or stories on the radio and share my views and opinions on the same. It makes you think about the content and forces you to take a stance – which I feel most of the writers in the public forum tend to shy away from.
  2. My environment. I have found that when I have the goal of writing an article, my mind begins to look for inspiration in each object. It could be a green bottle of water that makes me question the beginnings of coloured bottles and takes my mind back to an article I read almost 20 years ago about the glass blowers of Austria; it could be the pillow on my bed and I wonder about the earliest references to pillows, the wooden headrest used by the Japanese… making me want to do a bit of research to discover why they chose such a hard material to rest their heads on at the end of the day.
  3. My favourite poems. I have loved reading poetry since my early days and I could read and re-read poems by Keats, Shelly, Yeats and some more contemporary names forever. I find their use of language to be a craft mastered to perfection. I read sections of their work and am inspired to match the metre and cadence in their pieces. A tall task but worth striving for.
  4. Everyday incidences. This is one of my favourite sources where I try to pen experiences and stories that have happened to me, or have been shared with me. To convert an incident into a written document is one of the writer’s biggest challenges, as you have only words. Often words don’t do justice to the emotions and thoughts that we experience in a given situation. Which means, a situation that was filled with excitement and tension can sound very watered down once you put it down on paper. I like capturing those moments and seeing if I am able to do justice with my writing and story-telling skills.

Apart from these, of course there are others like online prompts and a word a day activities that one could choose, but I often find it difficult to connect to those. What are your inspirations to keep writing every day? Do share.

Image source: www.readbrightly.com

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

Listen to any of the talks on creative writing and this is one question that successful writers tell you to find an answer to, repeatedly.

So after a fair amount of introspecting, here is what I came up with.

  1. I write because I can.
  2. I write because I enjoy writing, I have done it ever since I can remember.
  3. I write because it’s the only way I know to get my chattering mind to shut up.
  4. I write because it lets me have a dialogue with all the multiple voices inside my head, and listen to all their perspectives. That’s a little difficult to do when all I am doing is listening.
  5. I write because it allows me to create something from my thoughts, it gives me a sense of accomplishment.
  6. I write to share, to reach out to others who also enjoy writing and reading.
  7. When I write, it is a call I send out to the universe – my silent SOS message – to reach out to others like me.
  8. I write when I feel sorry, when I feel something is not right with the world. I tend to write better when things are not as they should be. Unfortunately, that means I need to be sad or morose when I write.
  9. I write because I am upset with the world and have no other way of expressing my anger, my despair, my hurt.
  10. And at times, I write. Just like that.

Why do you write, what are your reasons? Do share.

4 SHORT TIPS ON LONG CONTENT WRITING FOR ASPIRING WRITERS

At the risk of sounding absurd, I would like to share some fairly obvious pointers for aspiring young writers.

I had the opportunity to interact with a young writer recently and realized that things have changed considerably since I got out of writing school. Students don’t write as much they used to; they are spending a lot of their time on social media, What’s App and Instagram. With all of these being short content media, most of these young aspirants don’t really get into long content writing space. Yet, they aspire to become writers.

If you happen to belong to this club of millennials, here are a few tips that may help you get started on doing some serious writing. After all, you do need a portfolio to share if you are looking for a gig as a writer. So here goes:

  1. Read long content writing. It could be in the form of blogs, short stories, ebooks on kindle, or just plain old novels – the kind we read in the pre-internet era. Some of my favourite writers of all times, especially if you like to finish a story in one sitting include Edgar Allen Poe, Guy de Maupassant, Roald Dahl, Anton Chekov, to name but a few.In the blogosphere, I follow and thoroughly enjoy posts by:
    Anthony Wilson (http://anthonywilsonpoetry.com/lifesavingpoemsblog/);
    Stuart M. Perkins (https://storyshucker.wordpress.com/)
    Andrew toy (https://adoptingjames.wordpress.com/)
    Ian Brodie (http://www.ianbrodie.com/welcome)
  1. Analyse the work you read. A serious reader shared this tip with me early in my writing career. Just because you are reading some famous writers, it does not mean you need to accept everything they say without questioning it. As a writer, you need to look at what you are reading from different perspectives. If you find something of particular interest, read up more about the incidient, story, reference as shared by other thinkers and writers of the time. This will give you a more holistic view of what’s the incident was really all about. This is a great way to broaden your horizons and increase your understanding of the topics that you read.
  2. Read autobiographies of the authors that interest you. The stories of their lives will shed new light on their works as most authors draw on their own experiences however remote the references may seem.
  3. And last but not the least, WRITE long content. Set up a blog – you are pitching to be a writer, put up regular posts. Sure, ideas and creativity are the soul of contemporary writing, but writing is a skill, just like sketching or playing the piano.

You need to work on the skill and the ‘wordsmith’ing to be able to write smooth flowing content; especially if all you want to do is write a brilliant tweet or create a smart FB post that you are hoping will go viral.

Great copy and crafted headlines are usually the result of long hours of thinking, and crafting away at a few words that sound perfect when you get them right!

What are your tips for aspiring young writers to help them get started on their writing careers? Do share in the comments box below!

~ Bharti Athray

HOW TO DEVELOP A DESIGN STENCIL FOR CSR REPORTS

One of the reasons that companies reach out to external communications agencies to compile and design the CSR reports is the look and feel of the report. In most of the projects we have handled, the client has the content in word documents – sometimes well edited, other times not; there are some photographs in various folders, attempts made by the inhouse CSR Lead to develop the report into a readable, presentable document – while this may not always be successful.

When the agency steps in, this is what you can expect as the client.

  1. The agency must know how you wish to present the information: company-wise, chronologically, or event-wise.
  2. If you have a logo or public identity for your CSR initiatives, share them with your agency in the first meeting itself. The agency may want to work around your logo forms or colours during the design process.
  3. If your agency has not handled too many of such report design jobs, help them by laying out a set of guidelines.

Guidelines for the design team

  • The pictures are the most important part of such a report; second is the content. The design is at the tertiary level. Often agencies with a background in designing brochures get fixated on layout and design and may end up compromising the seriousness of content.
  • The design team must remember that beyond a point, content cannot be edited to fit into design. The design will have to adapt to the content.
  • While content with activity details is important, your report must have adequate visual breaks. This could be in the form of factual insets, info-graphics, or a break in the page layout.
  • Most ‘CSR only’ reports range from 24 pages to upto 70-odd pages depending on the oragnisations activity in this space. The design team would do well to work on a family of 4-5 different templates for the layout.

These templates could be:

  1. Full content page
  2. Full image page with content as caption
  3. Content page with images (2-3 on a spread of 2 pages. Here, define the photos sizes and format of captions
  4. Use of insets on the page
  5. 1, 2 & 3 column layouts can be worked and used with discretion in the report especially if the number of pages is over 40.
  6. The style of illustrations in the info-graphics must be shared & approved at the initial stages of the project.
  7. Define the design & layout stencil in the first round itself. If content needs to be edited, it is easier to work with a defined word-count, once the stencil is fixed.
  8. The agency must have the leeway to rewrite your entire content if they feel the language of the original inputs is varying and not consistent.

While this is definitely not at all-encompassing list, it will definitely help you understand the process through which a design team works to deliver your expected results. Knowing the process and keeping them in mind during interactions can lead to smoother and quicker deliveries.

~ Bharti Athray

Remembering Leon Uris

One of my favourite authors, Leon Uris,  was born on August 3, 1924. Celebrated as an American novelist, known for his historical fiction and the deep research that went into his novels, his two bestselling books were Exodus (published in 1958) and Trinity (published in 1976). He has written several more, that make for riveting reading.

He was one of the writers I was greatly influenced by during my twenties, and read several of his books including QBVII, Milta Pass, Haj and Mila 18.

I have always been fascinated by the story of Israel and his works explored the history of the country, and the Nazi chapter of twentieth century history in great detail. I particularly remember learning from QBVII how each of us can be unreasonably cruel when we have the power. It also warned me against being too judgmental of others when I felt they had done something wrong, for it is difficult to really know how I would have behaved in a similar situation.

From the outside, each of us is a righteous being, but power, greed, lust can corrupt the human spirit, and his books are a revelation of how the most evolved of human beings being corrupted by these emotions.

It is writers like him and Ayn Rand who taught me a new way to look at life; they are the ones who inspire me to write. To pen my thoughts in the belief that one day, someone, somewhere will be touched by them.

Who is your favourite author? What have you learnt from his / her writings? Let me know!

~ Bharti Athray