Today is the 9th day of the New Year. This is my 9th blogpost this year. I’m not smiling yet because the first week is usually the easiest to keep up the new goals. It starts getting difficult from here onward. How do I know? Well, lets just say that I’m talking from experience of previous years!!
I want to see if I can buck the trend and continue to post one blogpost every day of 2013. That’s 365 blog posts. I know many others who wanted to do the same too. So, I invested my time in researching for ideas. Here are some ideas that you might find useful.
1) Scribble Down the Topics: The easiest way not to stare at a blank screen (the dreaded Writer’s Block) is to have a list of topics. Jot down topics that comes to your mind. Don’t wait. Just scribble it in a piece of paper or email yourself. When you sit down to blog, you will have a healthy choice of topics to choose from.
2) Shoot Lots of Photos: I’ve realized that photos make for wonderful content. Its also easy to write a description of the photo.
3) Write the Outline: Write down key points of the article. Don’t worry about sentence formation or grammar at this point. Just the important points. You can later expand them and proof-read to refine the article.
4) Expect Mood swings: There are days that you will feel energetic and ideas will flow freely. There will certainly be days where your mind blocks up, your body is tired or you will have crazy deadlines to meet at work. Just be prepared mentally. Make use of the good days and see if you can prepare extra blog posts. This way, even if you miss a few days, you will still be on track.
5) Enjoy Sharing your Ideas: It all boils down to this fundamental point. Are you having fun writing? This is key. If you enjoy writing and sharing your experience, then writing everyday will be a breeze.
6) Write in the Mornings: It helps to wake up early. You will have less distraction to deal with. Write when your mind is fresh. Read my post on how to write 500 Words before 9am.
7) Read Point #1 Again: The best way to ensure you have content to write everyday is to start off with a bunch of topics. The trick is to keep filling this list. So, remember to write those topics down as soon as it comes across your mind. This is key.
Are there other tips that you found useful? Please do share them in the comments section below. Here’s wishing you good luck on your mission to write regularly. Cheers.
Time Magazine has made a list of the Top 25 blogs in the World. I came across this list today and the timing couldn’t be better. I was looking for ways to get back to active blogging and this list gave me an idea. What can we learn from these successful blogs? What is it that makes these blogs awesome? Is there a success pattern that we can adopt for our own blogs? I decided to find out. And so, I patiently visited each of these 25 blogs and made notes as I went along. Here are my findings from my 5 hour mission.
1) Pick a Niche Topic: This clearly stands out as a success pattern. Almost every blog listed in the TIME’s list has focused on one particular area and focused deep into it. Lets take a few examples.
TheBillFold is about money. The site’s tag-line says it all, “Everything about Money you were too polite to ask”!
DesignSponge has fascinating ideas and lovely photos of home decorations.
BookShelfPorn does not talk about books. It only focuses on the book shelf designs and there are hundreds of great ideas.
Well, you get the idea. Pick a niche space that you are passionate about. Then focus on covering that area alone. Easy recipe to differentiate yourself.
Invite Guest Authors: There’s only so much that one can write. A good blog requires regular dose of good content to attract and retain audience. Mike Dang and Logan Sachon, the owners of TheBillFold do that cleverly by inviting writers from around the globe to contribute articles on their personal experiences with money. 500px, a great photo community thrives on fantastic photos shot by its members.
A possible lesson here. Open up your blog and invite your readers to participate. This ensures that your blog don’t get cobwebs for long. And its good to have company too.
Use Facebook Plugin for Comments: Commenting platforms like Disqus sucks. People hate registering on sites. Besides, they never update their avatars. See this page. FB commenting system works great, gets repeat audience and helps build a conversation going. For example, scroll down this page and take a look at the comments below. You can embed similar FB plugin from the Facebook Social Plugin Page.
Photos for Every Blog Post: Almost all the blogs in the Top 25 list use a picture to accentuate their blog post. Not only does it make your blog post look good, it provides visual relief from the monotony of text. Even better if you can mix audio and video into your posts.
Talk About Things that Others Won’t: Its very rare for people to openly talk about failures, embarrassing situations or difficulties in life. When people do, they immediately stand out and earn the attention and empathy of the readers. Take Emily Rapp, a mother who writes a blog about her 3 year old son Ronan, who is slowly dying from Tay-Sachs disease. He can no longer move or see. Its a very difficult situation for a mother but the fact that she is opening talking about it and how she is handling the situation is what makes people love her.
Controversy is Good: Take the case of Martha Payne, a 9 year old student who started posting pictures of school lunches everyday in her blog. Not many knew about her blog until the School Council decided to ban her blog. Word leaked out and this created a outrage on social media. Mainstream press started to cover the censorship and a senior minister had to step in to overturn the ban. Her blog helped raise over Rs.1 crore in charity money and she now has a book published. Goes to show that there’s nothing called bad publicity.
Well Researched Articles and Strongly Opinionated: Across all the 25 blogs, I noticed that the blog posts average around 200 words. That’s about 4 paragraphs. Long enough to write a well researched piece. Leave brevity for Twitter and Facebook. Blogs thrive on longer content. Also, remember that people come to your blog for *your* opinions. Say it the way you feel it.
So, these are the 7 trends that I found. What other trends did you notice from the Top 25 Blogs? Got any new ideas to improve our blogs? Please do share.
If you had read my previous post, “Be a Producer, Not a Consumer“, you would have known why I’m a big believer of producing new content.
Producing new content can be in various forms. Writing. Photographing. Video recording, Podcasting, Designing. The idea is to be proactively involved in creating new stuff.
Among all these, writing is the most crucial and the most potent. While I loosely consider myself a writer and confident of my writing skills, I’ve been frustrated with my lack of dedication to actually park my arse and put pen on paper.
I found a solution to the problem, strangely, through my daughter. One day, I took her to a writing workshop for kids. Since they didn’t object to Parents being part of the program, I stayed on.
Among all the techniques that they taught the kids, the most impressive one was the ‘Write anything for 3 minutes‘ task. The trainer told the kids that the rule was that they should not stop writing at any time. They are free to write anything that comes to their mind. It can be a story, an essay, an incident, an experience… just about any subject under the Sun. The writer reminded that they need not worry about about typos or grammar. The important thing is to keep writing.
I will never forget the sight of the 300 young kids in the hall, their heads bent down, focusing on the paper they were writing. For an entire 3 minutes, I never saw a single head bop up. It was amazing how focused they were. More importantly, the kids felt satisfied that they produced something original. It kindled their interest in writing. And post this exercise, I could see a visible difference in their involvement in the workshop.
I was impressed. I told myself what if I tried the same experiment. So I tweaked the method to write 500 words. And instead of 3 minutes, I made it before 9am.
The topic can be anything. It can be a personal diary, a blog post, an article for a newspaper, a page for my next book, a tweet. It can be a parts of all these. The important thing is for me to write. And to cross the 500 words mark.
True, not everything I write will be of good quality. It doesn’t matter. Remember, the experiment with the kids. If the trainer had told the kids to ‘Write an interesting essay within 3 minutes’, then 90% of the kids would have got stuck. They would be under pressure to not only to think of a subject but also under pressure to make it interesting. I realized that the same thing applies to me. So far, I was pressuring myself into creating” meaningful” content. If I wasn’t sure how meaningful it is, I would invariably procrastinate. And slowly, I was losing the very habit of writing. Its shocking that in the whole of 2011, I had written less than two dozen blog posts.
Now, the focus is on writing. Its on getting back into the writing habit. Getting myself into the groove. Once the habit sets in, I can turn my focus towards improving the quality.
It looks like the experiment is already working. I realize that I have just crossed the 500 words mark. 519 to be exact! And the time is just 8:22 am!
I recently chanced upon an article that scratched the great itch in me to improve my productivity in the mornings.
It was a thread on Reddit titled, ‘What are the small lifestyle changes you’ve made that have had big impacts for you?‘ I particularly fell in love with the first answer by user Aceex. He spoke about how his life changed when he moved from being a consumer to a producer. First, I’ll quote him. Then I’ll tell you why I so truly believe in this.
“I make sure to start every day as a producer, not a consumer.
When you get up, you may start with a good routine like showering and eating, but as soon as you find yourself with some free time you probably get that urge to check Reddit, open that game you were playing, see what you’re missing on Facebook, etc.
Put all of this off until “later”. Start your first free moments of the day with thoughts of what you really want to do; those long-term things you’re working on, or even the basic stuff you need to do today, like cooking, getting ready for exercise, etc.
This keeps you from falling into the needy consumer mindset. That mindset where you find yourself endlessly surfing Reddit, Facebook, etc. trying to fill a void in yourself, trying to find out what you’re missing, but never feeling satisfied.
When you’ve started your day with doing awesome (not necessarily difficult) things for yourself, these distractions start to feel like a waste of time. You check Facebook just to make sure you’re not missing anything important directed at you, but scrolling down and reading random stuff in your feed feels like stepping out into the Disneyland parking lot to listen to what’s playing on the car radio – a complete waste of time compared to what you’re really doing today.
It sounds subtle, but these are the only days where I find myself getting anything done. I either start my day like this and feel normal and productive, or I look up and realize it’s early evening, I haven’t accomplished anything and I can’t bring myself to focus no matter how hard I want to.”
Reading this post hit the nail on the head. I’m guilty of doing almost everything that the author wanted me to avoid. Here’s how I used to spend my mornings. I wake up at around 8am and almost the first thing I do is to reach for the newspaper. Then I pick my Blackberry to check for mails. Next I pop open my notebook, login to Facebook and get sucked right into it. I start by catching up on statuses by friends and invariably click on videos and links.
Before I know it, I’m into random aimless browsing, hopping from one link to another. By this time, two hours melt away and I’m already running late for office. And then I have to worry about the meetings and the deadlines I have to meet at work. I knew I wasn’t doing the right thing. I had this deep urge to change.
I’ve decided to take small baby steps to change.
1) Wake up at 6am instead of 8am. That’s 2 precious quiet hours I get for myself without any disturbance.
2) I no longer pick up the newspaper in the mornings. News can wait.
3) I don’t check my mails before 9am. Either on Blackberry or Notebook.
4) I don’t open up Facebook. No sir. Not until 10 am.
Instead, I start the day by listing down the important tasks I need to do. Then I quickly dive into writing. Be it my personal diary, the blog, proposals or my books. The important thing is for me to produce new stuff instead of just consuming others’ stuff. That’s where my next project, ‘500 words before 9AM‘ comes in super handy. Read about it in the next post.
I don’t cry often. Never in public. So, it completely surprised me when I broke down in the middle of my talk at the launch function of my book ‘Copy Right and Left‘ two weeks ago. Right in front of a packed audience. For a full 20 seconds (which felt a lot, lot longer, trust me !!).
It was an outpouring of relief. Authoring a book had been on my bucketlist for as long as I remember. I have tried many times and failed in as many times! Wrting a book is a long, arduous, tiresome, sometimes lonely journey. To cross the finish line and to see your baby come to the world is an amazing feeling. I just proved a point to myself. Guess, I got overwhelmed.
So good was the entire experience, I couldn’t wait to get started on another arduous, long journey! :) Especially, if its on a subject that is very close to my heart : Couchsurfing.
The book is titled, ‘COUCH : How a Simple Furniture is Helping World Travelers Save Money and Build Lifelong Friendships.” Read more about the book at http://Kiruba.com/couch
I remember the first time I couchsurfed. It was in Kuala Lumpur in May 2008. I stayed with a very friendly young Chinese guy, who was extremely hospitable. Two days earlier, I stayed in a plus 5 star hotel, courtesy of a large corporate who had invited me to speak at their conference. The stay at the 5 star hotel was luxurious but I enjoyed the couchsurfing experience more. I realized that it was the genuine hospitality, the kindness of the human heart and the opportunity to experience the local life is what couchsurfing so much more endearing. After my first experience, I was hooked. I knew this was my calling.
Since then, I have traveled to many countries which included USA, UK, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Croatia and South Africa. In each of these countries, I had wonderful experiences staying with the locals. Each of the experience had been memorable.
Being a guest can only be surpassed with the joy of playing host. Me and my family have had the privilege of hosting travelers from France, Belgium. Japan. Australia, Malaysia and other countries.
I have since been a big evangelist to the concept of couchsurfing. I have been encouraging my friends to open their doors open to strangers and to experience the joy that I have felt. This book is an extension of that.
I genuinely felt happy with the book project, the sort of exuberance that a kid has while waiting to watch a KungFu Panda movie. I actually woke up at 3:50 am when subconciously the idea of the title came up. I fell in love with it and immediately started to work on the outline of the book.
To me, this book is an escapism. Just like how people take a coffee break or smoke break to break the monotony, I take out time to write this book.
This book has practical advice from my own experience and from experienced couchsurfers around the world. We already have some awesome people on the Advisory Panel.
I have always enjoyed doing collaborative projects and in the same spirit, this book is being authored in an open, transparent manner. The book is written on a Wiki. You are welcome to contribute to the book. You are free to chip in and edit the book as you feel is right. Every person who contributes to the book gets mention both in the ‘Contributors’ section of the website and in the book.
Couchsurfing reaffirms my faith that people are good hearted. couchsurfing has taught me many life lessons and this book is my way of saying ‘Thank you’!
Its July 20th. Already? Whoa. Time can run really fast. The book ‘Copy Right and Left’ has been a 3 month labour of love. Its finally set for launch.
The launch function is at Anna University campus in Chennai. Specifically at the Henry Maudslay Hall, right next to the Mechanical Department.
Time : 9:45am till 11 am on July 20. (today) We wanted it to a crisp little function.
We would love to have you at the launch function. Please consider this as my personal invitation. If you are coming over and need directions, this post would be handy. Ignore the initial rambling and head straight to the pictures.
The event is also webcast live between 10AM and 11AM. You can catch it live here at http://www.Kiruba.com/live
Even if you miss that, no worries. We will have lots of pictures and an edited video for you to catch the little function. Keep watching this space. Cheers!