Category Archives: writing

Change is good

I spent most of last evening creating a new home for this blog.

I’ve wanted, for a while now, to have a special place for it that I could customize. Having had more than a constant month of blogging behind me, I figured I was ready to make the switch.

Some people have been joking about me having a mid-life crisis (what with a nose piercing and coloring my hair red in the last month), but I think these are just some things I’d always thought of doing and for some reason kept putting off.

Fear of change hiding timidly behind all those excuses.

Having a website was one of those “aspirations” and today I take the plunge.

By next week, I will have figured out a redirect, so any visitors to this blog can automatically be transferred to the new site without any clicking.

I’m initiating and embracing all these changes in my life.

Small as they are, they make me happy.

Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to seeing you in my new online abode.

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An inquiring mind

A couple of my posts in the recent past have triggered some “interesting” in-person/offline reactions — people have said that I am “too philosophical” or that I “want to live in an ideal world.”

I’ve been told some of these issues don’t concern them (or me, for that matter) and never will … so why bother?

Why spend time trying to tackle issues that will never arise? Why not just let things be? Why ruffle feathers? Why advocate for change when this is what it is? Why not just “enjoy life” and “take it easy”?

Why do I look for answers where there are none? Why do I keep pushing people out of their comfort zones? Why do I espouse debate?

They tell me to lighten up. To act my age. To have some fun in life.

I ask them: Why not just stop thinking all together?

What is the point of getting an education that stresses on using one’s critical thinking skills if you’re not willing to use them? Actually, what’s the point of education, even?

Why not just go with the flow, stop asking questions, and propagate the status quo?

Complacency is so easy. So is conformity.

But is that all we want of our lives? That which is convenient?

Even if we don’t really believe in social stereotypes, just shut up and assimilate?

Because it is what it is?

I ask questions because I have a thinking mind. I wonder, I fear, I suspect, I marvel, I doubt.

I seek to be a better person. I hope to be the source of some improvement, no matter how miniscule.

I don’t think everything is right the way it is.

And I think we dwell so much on insignificant things that those that really matter get sidestepped.

Those of you who read these blog posts and tell me to enjoy life: you are a privileged lot. You have the mental faculties, the education, and the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who don’t.

So, to you I say, grow up.

I use my writing to probe. To analyze. To connect with a larger audience.

I am not about to squander it for posting trivia. I am not here to entertain. I am here to start a dialogue — even if it is with yourself.

I am here to express my appreciation of this life and the world we live in. I am here to comment on the beauty and the ugliness of it all.

I am here to be honest.

I am not sober and thoughtful all the time. I know how to have fun. But I cannot live the obsequious life. Or the smug life.

This blog is a reflection of who I am — it is a tapestry of many different emotions.

It’s like a car ride through different terrains. We’ll admire the natural beauty, honk through the urban setup, and even stop for ice cream along the way, but the journey is going to be bumpy and uncomfortable at times.

Hop on if you’d like to stretch those mental muscles.

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Spreading sunshine

Yesterday, Anahid presented me with the Sunshine Award — a ray of sunshine in my otherwise sullen day 🙂

The Sunshine Blog Award is awarded to bloggers whose positivity and creativity inspire others in the blogosphere.

Sunshine Award guidelines:
Put the logo on your blog in your post.
Pass the award onto 12 bloggers.
Link the nominees within your post.
Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blogs.
Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.

At Anahid’s gracious behest, here are my 12 “inspirers” in alphabetical order:

  1. Aine — The Evolving Spirit
  2. Beth — Hope’s Breath
  3. Bill — Journey to Joy
  4. Dave — Dave’s Buttoned-up Mind
  5. Jacqui — Uplift Antidote
  6. Jen — Loquaciously Yours
  7. Katherine — Lessons from the Monk I Married
  8. Ken — Oooooh… Shiny!
  9. Lena — The Colors Magazine
  10. Marcime — Belly Up
  11. Tirzah — A Clever Whatever
  12. Tony — Artisan of the Human Spirit

Onward…

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Writing is all about editing

One of the most critical aspects of writing is often the one most overlooked: editing. Everyone thinks they can write. But there is a difference in writing, and writing well. That difference is where the editor comes in.

Looking to trim unnecessary words, making expressions stronger, paraphrasing quotes, moving critical information to the top, ending with a punch — the editor looks at the written piece with new eyes. Critical ones.

Weeding away the fluff. Polishing the rough edges. Making the piece sing.

It’s hard to retain the voice of the writer and yet capture the essence of an article. What’s harder is editing your own content.

I’ve been trained in school and on the job to never let the first draft be the final one. I write my initial thoughts. Build a structure. Fill in all the details. And walk away.

Re-reading what I’ve written a day, or sometimes even a couple of hours, later helps me finesse it. I can usually make it sharper. Add some interesting visuals. Make sure it all holds together well.

Then I think of a title that sums up the piece. And subheads that will move it along forward if it’s a lengthy article or blog post.

Finally I proofread. I’ve learned that relying solely on a spellchecker isn’t worth the time you save.

For my blog posts, I then add tags, choose categories, and, after a little bit of trepidation, hit the Publish button.

Even though this is an informal platform, it’s important to not let the quality of your writing lapse. It doesn’t matter what or why you write or blog —  editing takes your writing from a collection of thoughtful expressions to effective communication.

Also see:

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The three M’s

As I read Tony Anders’ inspiring blog post about the journey of a thousand miles starting with a single step, I was struck by this line:

I have found that for me, movement creates motivation, and motivation turns into momentum!

This sentence stayed with me. I had not realized that this is exactly what I have been doing with this blog until I read it on Tony’s.

I took a single step in reviving this blog last month — that was movement.

It has helped me become disciplined and write out my thoughts in a somewhat-cohesive manner. It allows for self-expression and motivates me to become a better writer, a more open-minded thinker with a less constricted worldview.

It spurs new ideas and forces me to think harder and longer. It provides me clarity.

And with my readers’ participation it has become an even bigger motivator — to share, to converse, to debate, to grow.

I hope, in time, it will turn into momentum — I hope I will be able to use my experiences here and harness all the good that comes out of this blog to write a book. I hope that the momentum generated, thus, will touch the hearts and minds of so many more people. I hope it will provide me with the challenge I seek and the satisfaction I crave.

So far, I’m hazy on the subject of my book, but I am encouraged to take on that project given the readership of this blog. It gives me confidence that there are people out there who will read the story I have to share. It may not be something unique, or out of this world, but it will have heart. It will have my voice. My perception of the world we live in. It will carry my story. I see it as one of those legacies I’ll leave behind — my words, my thoughts, my ponderings.

This is one step in a long journey of self-fulfillment. Thanks for being part of it and keeping me motivated.

Think there’s “the perfect” book idea for me? Let me know!

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What does “a calling” mean anyways?

Over lunch one day a friend was telling me about Chip Conley‘s book, How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow. She was impressed with his philosophy of using the model for personal success and translating that to businesses. Taking it from one individual’s “peak experiences” and applying them to corporate transformation. Part of it was evaluating which slot one puts one’s professional enterprise in: a job, a career, or a calling.

I understand what a job is — it’s the oft-mundane 9-5 grunt work that pays the bills. It usually doesn’t involve passion, vision, or aspiration.

I think I also understand what a career is — it’s when you take off those blinkers at that job and chart a plan for your professional growth. It is a commitment to improving your opportunities, your salary, and provides some amount of satisfaction. In some cases, it defines who you are, what you stand for, and where you’re headed.

A calling … hmm … now that’s a word I don’t fully comprehend. According to various websites, dictionaries, and blog posts, it is work that gives you immense satisfaction. You wouldn’t necessarily even want to be paid for it. It defines for folks their “purpose” in life.

Bu what is our purpose in life? A friend told me yesterday, she thinks it’s something that stems from one’s beliefs. But how do you form your beliefs? Aren’t your beliefs based on the knowledge you have at any given point of time? And if that is so, shouldn’t they change as you grow, are exposed to new ideas, thoughts, people…? And if your beliefs change, then doesn’t your purpose in life also shift?

So, how do we say that a calling is something constant. That somehow you know this is the one and only thing you were born to do. Isn’t that really a way of saying that at this point of time in your life, given all you know about yourself and your surroundings, this is the best you can do with your talent, time, energy, and expertise? And because at this particular point of time you think this is the best use of your potential, that it gives you immense satisfaction? Ergo, this is your calling … for now.

Of course, this led to a whole new stream of questions about what potential is — both perceived and actual — and how we define time. But that’s another blog post.

I hear many people say that their work is their calling — they drop the word around so casually even though it supposedly carries so much weight … but here I am … not even sure what that word means.

I love writing. I always have. In my journey to becoming a writer, I explored many other options but wasn’t very good at any of those. Writing grounds me. It helps me grow as a person. It helps me connect. It satisfies me when I write for myself — like this blog. I don’t get paid for this, yet I do this every single day — so does it mean that this is my “calling”?

Does it also then imply that I have reached the highest point of my potential? That there really isn’t anything in this world besides writing that would give me the same satisfaction? That nothing else will come close to challenging me, uplifting me? That this is the end?

But there are so many things out there I haven’t even tried. Some things I don’t even know about, forget trying. Then how can I limit myself to one calling? How can I tell myself this is all I was born to do? Maybe there’s a host of other things I can do well and derive satisfaction from … how can I say just this is it?

Just like we’re moving away from the idea of having only one career in a lifetime, can’t we at least look at having more than one calling in life? Maybe there is something to that whole concept that needs a little revisiting …

Maybe not?

What do you think “a calling” means anyways?

Also posted on Writers Rising.

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The five W’s of Web writing

Before you start posting any informational content on your personal or professional website, consider answering the five W’s as clearly and simply as possible:

Who is your audience?

  • Kids?
  • Young adults?
  • Seniors?
  • Parents?
  • Tech-nerds?
  • Tech-dudds?
  • General interest community?
  • A combination of two or more of the above?

What is your message?

  • Is it to impart information?
  • Is it a call to action?
  • Is it a story?
  • Is it relevant to your audience?

When should you update content?

  • Every week?
  • Every month?
  • Every quarter?
  • Every year?
  • On an as-needed basis?

Where does your audience go after they’ve read your content?

  • To another Web page within your site?
  • To another website?
  • To the search box on your site or to Google?

Why would they read the content on your website?

  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it short?
  • Is it well-written?
  • Is it current?
  • Will it point them in the right direction or end their search?

And don’t forget to consider

How does your audience reach your website?

How are they interacting with content on your site? Are they clicking on the image slideshow? Viewing the videos? Clicking on the call to action?

Putting good (read: relevant) content on your website requires planning, so don’t jump the gun; think about these questions; make a plan; then start working on your content.

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