A is for All Out of Material

For the past four (!) years, April 1st has marked my return to the blogosphere to embark on the A to Z challenge. For the past four years, it has also become the only time I blog, leaving this space to wither away and die during the rest of the year before I come back with a bucket full of water and some fresh fertilizer to try and bring it back to life. (That’s probably a really inaccurate gardening metaphor, but just focus on the metaphor part and go with it, okay?) And voilà, here I am, right on time, with my supplies!

Except, as the title suggests, I’m backing out of this year’s challenge. I did think about it, honestly. I thought about what the challenge represented for me in previous years. It meant stepping out of my comfort zone to pursue a skill (writing) and a state of mind (creativity) that I was increasingly growing out of touch with. It meant keeping my close and distant friends abreast of what was happening in my life (these posts are linked to my Facebook account) and it meant having my writing (and therefore the experiences and opinions contained therein) to come back to and indulge in whenever I wanted.

This year, as I was fretting about the challenge, I realised that I didn’t feel like enough had happened over the past year to warrant 26 new posts. I know ‘new stuff in my life’ is not the only criteria for blogging, but I’ve sort of emptied the tank in terms of ‘old stuff in my life’, and so the new stuff becomes quite critical to keep going. Last year, my big move to India gave me much writing fodder, but life’s been pretty steady and straightforward since then. Also, now that my job involves more actual creative writing compared to before, I feel like that tank’s far more depleted than it has been in previous years too.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop blogging. In fact, in order to assuage my guilt about not participating in this challenge, I made a deal with myself to make up for it by continuing to write when the inspiration strikes, and just spreading my posts out through the rest of the year (like I intended to at the end of last year’s challenge, but never followed up on). It will still have to be a conscious effort on my part (inspiration stops striking once you stop looking for it), but I hope I’ll be able to manage. That title isn’t entirely accurate – I am not completely out of material, just low on it. More will come to me in time, I hope. I also hope that what I write then will be more satisfactory to me than cranking out 26 not-well-thought-out posts in one month would have been.

So, good luck to me, and see you guys around throughout the year!


Zip Zap Zoom

Aaaaand I’m done!

Okay, I have this post left, but after that I’m done. Phew!

April does seem to have zoomed by this year. It usually feels a lot longer, especially because I spend so much time thinking about and nagging people for topics, but this year was mercifully not as painful, even though I did no sort of advance preparation. Like I said before, I think the move gave me more to write about than usual, so I’ll need something big to happen in my life before next April, please.

You know, I wonder what’s better – doing this sort of concentrated posting once a year or trying to do 26 posts spread throughout the year. The latter seems more manageable right now, but I know myself, and there’s a good chance I won’t come back here until next year (if that). In case I do, though, and you’d like to stay posted (pun intended), please follow the blog so you can get notified when I post and don’t have to keep checking the blog for new content.

A big thank you to my fellow bloggers for the company and the inspiration. Thank you to my friends and family who put up with this nonsense on a yearly basis, and thank you to the readers for reading, commenting and being encouraging! No matter how much I tell myself that I blog for myself (specifically, for future me to read and cringe at), it’s always nice to have that little bit of external validation.

I think I’ve managed to keep up with friends’ blogs over the month, but I haven’t ventured out at all. (The official challenge blog didn’t have a sign-up list this time, so there wasn’t one easy place to go and find everyone else participating.) What with work, freelance, reading and writing, that might just be too many words at the moment for me. I think I’ll go back and read other blogs in what I’m coming to call “the off-season”.

So, cheerio and hope to see you guys here again… well, sometime! 🙂

Method to the Madness

It’s always interesting to me how different people approach blogging. I think the mark of a good blog is how effortless the writing seems. I remember, when I first started reading blogs, it seemed like churning out posts would be the easiest thing in the world. I mean, everyone has thoughts, and blogging is pretty much just putting that down in text form. Easy peasy, right?

When I first started blogging, it really was that simple. I had a lot of ideas, thoughts and opinions that I hadn’t really shared with a lot of people, and so it was always easy to think of something to write about. Back then, pretty much anything was “blog-worthy”, because I was working off an empty slate, and no one really knew much about me. My life in university gave me plenty of “adventures” to write about, and I had about 20 years of backstory to draw on for any deep, intellectual posts about life and growing up and such.

Then, as I emptied that first barrel of blog-worthy topics, and I began to feel the pinch of posting regularly, I started to look everything I did through blog-eyes. Was this worth posting about? Would people be interested in it? Was it funny enough to make a story out of? I started thinking a lot more about the mechanics of posting – it wasn’t just enough that I had a thought or an opinion or an event in mind, it had to “click” for me to be able to write about it. Some things were blog-worthy, most things were not. I would often whine, “But I have nothing to write about!”, when people around me, whose lives really weren’t that much more exciting than mine, were managing to churn out much more content than me.

Getting on board the A to Z challenge has really been a way to try and get out of this “click” mentality, and to write without getting too critical about the content. By and large, it has worked, because about 60% of what I’ve written in the four years of the challenge so far have been things I never would have considered “blog-worthy” before. (I’ve gotten desperate enough to write about gourds, for crying out loud.) Without the challenge, I wouldn’t even manage the 26 posts a year I do now.

From what I’ve seen of friends doing the challenge, everyone struggles with ideas, even the regular bloggers. The easiest way to go about it is to make a list of things you want to write about anyway, and then assign letters to them as needed. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work for me, since the whole purpose of the challenge is to get me to think of things to write about. It also helps to have a muse, like a child who does and says something new and different on a daily basis, but even that takes skill, to be able to take the everyday things and turn them into material worth reading about, and I’m not sure I have that skill. Many people pick a theme, which does make coming up with content easier, but since this is a personal blog about my life, I don’t like the idea of it getting too factual or repetitive.

There is no method to my madness (and, trust me, it is definitely madness come April every year). A lot of people write their posts in advance, but I just like the feeling of everyday panic and despair too much to do that. The mood varies every day. Some days, I know what I want to write about. Most days, I’m struggling to come up with ideas. About half the time, that struggle leads to a post I’m happy with. Other times, I write with the knowledge that future-me will not be as critical and that she’d rather have something to read than nothing at all.

On my most desperate days, I just have to write and hope that no one notices that I’ve essentially written about not having anything to write about.

Z is for Zapped

OMG, you guys, I made it! OK, just barely, but I’m here! It’s done! I feel like someone who’s finished a marathon (and come in last). And, as you can probably guess from the title, I’m exhausted.

It’s been a whirlwind of a challenge this time around, and a small part of me can’t believe a whole month has gone by. It doesn’t feel so long ago that I suddenly realised it was April and jumped head-first into the challenge, without having thought out any of my posts in advance. Now, that’s not too different from how I usually do the challenge, but I’m at least mulling beforehand, a step I skipped this time, which proved to be near disastrous. I managed to do things on the fly for the most part, before completely dropping the ball in the last (and, to be fair, hardest) week. And now I’ve sprinted through six posts in two days, and, whew, I need a minute (or bajillion) to catch my breath.

As always, I’m glad I had friends doing the challenge with me – it’s always fun to have people to brainstorm about topics over, even if it is usually to the tune of “OMG I have nothing to write for tomorrow HALLLLP MEEEEE”. That is an exaggeration, of course – I was rarely planning things the day before. At best, I would write my post for the day after I’d come home from work, and at worst… well, let’s just say my biggest lapse was three days, which doesn’t seem like a lot in retrospect, but felt like longer at the time, probably because all I was thinking all day was that I’d fallen behind, but had no idea how I was going to catch up.

On the whole, I’m probably happier with this year’s posts than any other’s, which is rather odd, I think, considering how many were done in a mad hurry. But, hey, there’s no predicting how creativity works – often, my least thought-out, fastest-written posts get the most praise from readers. A special shout-out to the non-bloggers in my life who had to endure me ranting about the challenge every day, and who tried to offer help whenever possible. Here’s to posts that were never written about xenophobia, excuses, zucchinis and thunder tea rice.

Even with help from others, most of the time, it wasn’t lack of time tripping me up as much as it was the lack of ideas. I feel like the challenge works great if you’re a regular blogger, because then you can just line up all the posts you were going to write anyway, and the task becomes more about finding an appropriate letter to fit each one. In my case, since this has become the only time I have to actively think about blogging, I have to consciously think of what to do for every single letter. In the future, I may experiment with a theme. At the end of every challenge, I end up feeling like there couldn’t be possibly anything more I could have left to say the following year, but maybe a themed effort will help assuage that particular fear.

As usual, I didn’t end up blog-hopping nearly as much as I wanted to. I didn’t put my name on the sign-up list in time, but I did click around a little, mostly when I was looking around for ideas for my own posts, but what I found made me curious to read more. I need to put blog-reading further up my leisure activities list – I know I’m missing a lot of good stuff by sticking to just the people/blogs I know!

At any rate, I hope this doesn’t mark the end of my blogging experience for the year. Whether it’s writing or just reading and getting ideas and inspiration, I hope I can make more time for it. I got to 200 posts with this challenge (and a grand 10 years after I started blogging, at that) – here’s hoping to 200 more in lesser time!

A is for April

*blows cobwebs away*

Hey, it’s April! Already! Doesn’t time fly? I still remember what the 1st of April used to signify, before it was replaced in my consciousness as the starting date of my yearly pilgrimage to Blogger Land. The end of March now routinely brings about a flurry of “Are you doing the A to Z challenge this year?” queries among the blogger buddies, and even though I have serious misgivings every year, it always ends the same way.

So, here I am, for the third year in a row, desperately clinging to this challenge as a way to keep up some semblance of writing as a hobby. I spent a lot of my youth thinking of myself as the “creative” type, something that started feeling more and more like an overestimation the older I grew. I like creativity, but I’m also quite daunted by it, and the thought of writing inspires mixed feelings these days. It’s not that I mind writing – rather, it’s the pressure of having to think of fun things to write about and/or make mundane things fun wherein the challenge lies. Well, life throws up an opportunity for me to flex those muscles a little every year (to whatever effect), so the least I can do is make use of it.

This challenge has also been a good way for me to track phases of my life. The first year I did it, I was unemployed with all the time in the world, the second year, I had just started working again and was basking in the glow of a relatively stress-free job. This year, I’m neck-deep in work – new people to train and manage, new procedures, new standards, change everywhere – and it’ll be interesting to see how that affects the content and quality of content here. (Spoiler alert: it’s just gonna be me turning in crap work and complaining I didn’t have time to think of anything better, starting with this cop-out of a post. You’ve been warned.)

And, hey, stuff changes while you’re gone, huh? WordPress seems to have a new, fancy layout now, almost as though it’s trying to tempt me back into using it. No need for the seducing act, WordPress – I’m here, just as sure as April is.

Ack, and at a minute to the deadline, I’m cutting this one pretty close.


Once More, With Feeling

If there’s anything I’ve learned in the almost 10 years of having this blog, it’s that I should stop making even the most vague allusions to its future. Every single time I’ve ended a post promising to be back soon (“this time will be different, and here’s an optimistic smiley to prove it!”), I’ve ended up going out of my way to do… well, not that.

And yet, here I am, writing a post in which I promise to not only “be back soon” (admittedly a less cool-sounding phrase than “I’ll be back”), but be back (almost) every single day in April. Yes, my friends, against all odds, I have been persuaded to join the A to Z Challenge again this year, and while last year was not all smooth sailing, the signs portend a much bigger scale of difficulty this time.

Last year, when I did this, I was jobless (quite literally), in the comfort of my parents’ home, where I was nourished with food cooked by my mother’s loving hands, and where I could shirk responsibility from other duties by claiming I was thinking of and/or writing my post for the day, which, for some reason, was a good enough excuse for my parents, who took the challenge almost as seriously as I did. This year, I’m 0 for 3. I’m working full-time, in my own apartment where I have to cook for myself and have no one I can con into doing my laundry for me by claiming I have “important posts to write”.

Still, I had enough fun doing this last year that I want to be able to participate again, especially considering some other people whose writing I enjoy are also doing it – Sayesha, my sister-in-law, who does this with all the above restrictions AND the challenges of looking after a young child, thus making me look silly for complaining, Macho Girl, my long-time partner-in-crime who, like me, grew silent for a while, but who I know is itching to be back on the blogosphere, and Sujata, who WILL finish the challenge this time, dammit! For the sake of my sanity, I’m not picking a theme, so prepare to be treated to a full spectrum of randomness (or, in other words, more of the usual).

If you’re participating, good luck (and let me know, so I can follow your progress), and if you’re not, I hope you’ll drop by to read whatever inane thing I come up with on the spur of the moment.

Deep breaths. Here we go again.

Challenge Completed

So, here we are. One month and 26 posts later, I have to admit that the A to Z challenge was far more… er, challenging than I thought it would be. For the most part, I managed to stick to the schedule and bang out a post a day, so I’ll allow myself a tiny pat on the back for pulling through, even though there were days I was pulling my hair out (and making others do the same).

A formal part of the challenge is blogging about your reflections at the end, so here is a list of things I’ve observed, experienced and learnt through doing this challenge.

– I can cross off one item from the bucket list! WOOHOO!

– I got to know about the challenge through Sujata, and passed the news on to Sayesha, and both of them kept me company through the challenge. Thank you for the support, ladies!

– On March 31st, once I had decided on my theme of “Growing Up”, I sat down and brainstormed a list of topics for each letter so I’d have to do less thinking on the actual day. I ended up using less than 5% of the words I’d brainstormed. Lesson learnt: you can pre-plan all you want, but you can only write what you’re in the mood to write at that moment.

– I wrote/drafted some posts in advance (the previous day), but a majority of the posts were written on the day itself. I was able to churn most of them out in time, but there were a few for which I really had to rush to meet the deadline.

– I have mixed feelings about setting a theme for my challenge. On some days, the theme helped me come up with topics I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise, but on other days, I found myself wishing I could just write about any random thing. My biggest worry towards the end was that I was getting repetitive, and I think it was trying to stick to one theme that caused that. I’m not 100% happy with all the posts, but I can live with that.

– I really liked having a letter theme, but there were days I was absolutely flummoxed as to what to write about. For some letters, there were just too many options to choose from. For others, I had to open up a dictionary and look for words. (You’ll be amazed at how weird a letter starts looking when you glance through a 100 words starting with it.) I remember having a particularly hard time with Y and Z, not because I couldn’t find words, but because I didn’t feel like writing about any of them. I was probably just suffering from blogging fatigue by that point, though.

– I won’t lie – I Googled “[Letter] is for” almost every single day. It was rarely helpful, but I did it just the same, in the hopes that something somewhere would give me inspiration.

– In addition to Google, I asked a lot of people for help in coming up with topics. A good friend gave me the idea for the theme, and others gave me ideas for different letters. I pestered my parents for ideas more times than I care to admit. Some days, they’d take the initiative and suggest something themselves. I know they checked my blog multiple times a day and read every post at least twice. (They’re awesome.)

– Prior to this, the most number of posts I had written in a month was 6. There were also many, many months where the post count was 0, so I really consider this an accomplishment. (Even more so when you consider the fact that I started this blog NINE YEARS AGO, and have only just reached 150 posts.)

– I’m tired, and I’m definitely going to take a break, but I’m not as out of juice as I thought I’d be. In fact, I already have a draft that I wrote for one of the letters but decided not to post because it didn’t fit the theme. Hopefully, I won’t need too long of a break before I’m back.

– This past month, the blog has seen more visitors than ever before, and the credit for that goes completely to the challenge. Thank you to all the newcomers who dropped by and decided to take a minute to leave a comment. It made a huge difference to me to see that people were reading, and the positive and encouraging words were so helpful in carrying me through to the end.

– I have a few new ‘regulars’ now, who I hope will stick around for future shenanigans. On that note, a big thank you to the regular regulars (from before the challenge) for making an effort to keep up with the blog, even if it meant they had to catch up on multiple posts in a single day. You guys know who you are. 🙂

– I haven’t been able to blog-hop nearly as much I wanted to. Some 2000 odd bloggers signed up for the challenge, and though I’ve barely visited 1% of that number, I’ve already found some great people. I plan on keeping that sign-up list bookmarked so I can continue visiting and making more friends. You can never have too many blogs to keep up with, can you?

In sum, this has been a great experience, and I hope I’ll feel as energised to do it again next year. In the meantime, you can keep expecting a regular slew of posts here, and I do hope you’ll keep me company then.

Thank you for reading, and please keep coming back! 🙂

Challenge Accepted!

Just this morning, I was fretting about failing my ‘at least 2 blog posts a month‘ resolution as early as March, when, like a gift from the heavens, my friend Sujata pointed me towards the A to Z Blog Challenge for the month of April. It’s been on my to-do list for a while now to participate in a proper month-long challenge, not only for the sake of my own writing, but to reach out and find more people in the blogosphere who love doing this as well. Also, the A to Z format really intrigued me, so signing up (even though it was pretty last minute) wasn’t too hard a decision to make.

Significantly more difficult was deciding on a theme. I could have chosen to wing it and go theme-free, but I am almost positive that would have ended in tears after about a week, with me wailing, “I just don’t know WHAT to write about!” and annoying everyone in sight. So I decided to annoy some friends ahead of time to help me think of a theme on which to base my posts, something that I could use as a backbone while brainstorming possible topics to write about. After some sound input, I decided to go with the theme of “Growing Up”. It’s pretty apt for me at the moment as I laze around in my parents’ house, unemployed, gorging everyday on food cooked by my dear mother, wondering when my proper “adult life” is going to begin again.

To be quite honest, I’m excited about the theme I’ve picked. It’s not something I would have come up with by myself, but now that it’s in my head, I can’t stop thinking about all the stuff I can write about. I’m still figuring out the specific A to Z topics, but while I’ll have that done soon, I’ll most likely be writing the posts on the day itself. I’ll try and keep them short and sweet, but I do tend to ramble sometimes, so consider yourselves warned in advance. I’ll also be tagging the posts in case anyone wants to read them all at one go later.

So come spend April with me here as I journey through the emotions, experiences and adventures of growing up, and join in the fun if you can!

A (Melo)Dramatic Return

You know how they say cycling is a skill you can’t really unlearn? You learn it some time in your youth, and eons may pass before you get back on a bicycle, but after the initial wobbliness, you’re pretty much good to go again. I wish blogging was like that. Unfortunately, blogging is more like… yoga. Or exercise in general. You’re in good shape as long as you’re doing it and you don’t really have any problem keeping up the momentum, but one day, you bust out the “I just don’t have the time!” excuse, and before you know it, it’s been three years and you’re all stiff joints and achy muscles, cursing yourself for ever letting go in the first place.

This is me stretching those achy muscles. To be honest, it’s not like I’ve completely abandoned this place in the last three years. Six sentence-long drafts, written at different points of time, stand testament to the fact that during occasional bursts of optimism, I tried to get back on the wagon, only to be let down by my startling lack of creativity. When the words didn’t flow, I resorted to tinkering with the layout, but you can only change background colours and move around your widgets for so long before it’s back to blank screens and blinking cursors. At some point after that, I just gave up for good.

Here I am once again, though. Things in my life have worked in a way that has opened that optimism gate just a wee bit, the brain is cooperating with some creativity, and I’m running with it. I’m not really sure why I believe this particular resurrection will stick, or how it’s different from the previous six times (seventh time’s a charm, I guess?), but maybe it’s time to stop questioning why things happen or trying to predict what will happen and just live in the present. I felt compelled today to change the tagline of this blog to “one foot in front of the other”, and for once, I’m going to try and take my own advice.

For now, the drafts have been deleted, the layout has been tinkered with (old habits die hard) and a new post has been published. Let’s see where it goes from here.

Ahoy there!

So, as is probably obvious if you’re reading this, I now have a WordPress account. Yes, I have finally jumped on the WP bandwagon. (Was there ever a WP bandwagon? I don’t know. Let’s assume there was.) Why, you ask? Oh, let me count the reasons. (No, seriously, let me. I love lists.)

  1. I haven’t updated my Blogger account in months, and I don’t really feel inspired to go back there and kick-start it. AGAIN. Especially because I know it will go dead again in a few months (or if I’m feeling spectacularly lazy, right after the kick-start post), and there’s only so many times you can resuscitate something before you just have to let it go.
  2. I’ve always been fascinated by the WordPress interface, and wanted to give it a whirl.
  3. Starting up a new blog when you have tons of other stuff you should be doing is always an irresistible prospect, isn’t it?
  4. Whoa, I always thought it was spelt ‘irresistable’. Mind = blown.
  5. WordPress endeared me to it by asking me to agree to its “fascinating terms and conditions”. Direct quote.
  6. Going back to the old posts on my other blog was making me cringe. Oh, the unnecessary ellipses! I figure now that I’m into my 20s, my style won’t change as drastically, so the most this post is going to get from me when I’m 30 is a slight wince.
  7. I’d rather get used to a whole new system than figure out what updates Blogger has made since I last used it back in my previous life.
  8. Dude, WordPress lets you “like” things! You know, Facebook style! Who needs well-written, insightful comments when you can register your pleasure with a single click of your mouse? JOY! (If Blogger also has this feature now, don’t tell me.) (Also, I just typed “let’s” instead of “lets”. I need to start blogging again!) (Okay, just spent another 10 minutes figuring out which one was correct, because I totally confused myself there. Sheesh!)
  9. Although it does occur to me that I myself do not benefit from this “liking” business unless every blogger I follow jumps ship as well. HMMMM. *plots*
  10. Because I don’t like ending my lists on odd numbers. (5 is an exception because it’s wholesome.)

So there. Now that I’ve justified my reasons for jumping ship to WordPress, I shall now embark on the arduous task of letting it gather cobwebs while I not-so-inconspicuously ignore it. Fair winds!