I’ll start off with the condensed summary of this entire piece — I’m not good with blogs.
It’s rather amusing, actually. I’ve wanted to be a writer since heaven knows when, and yet in the 25 years since I wailed my first syllable I haven’t been able to maintain a blog. I’ve tried, believe me. Umpteen times I’ve downloaded the app and promised myself and the imaginary readers of my first post that this — THIS would be the blog that would catapult me into literary fame. And every time, after the first ambitiously worded post, the fizz died out faster than you could say “slow down” and I was left with a site that bore little more than a pompous name and could only be relegated to the dustbin. And of course, each failed attempt left me less and less inclined to try again.
Sad. I know.
And what’s even sadder is how my ongoing creative block and my disillusionment with blogging reinforced each other to a point where I had almost — almost — considered giving up my writing for good.
I’d known about blogging for a while, but I never really considered it as something to take up. In my mind, blogging was associated with some sort of public diary where one told the world all about one’s day, and I always wondered why anyone would actually read such blogs. Sure, I get the logic behind Facebook and Instagram. You share pictures, add some hashtags, tag some friends, get some likes and hearts…there’s a lot less commitment expected of viewers. Blogs, though, long text pieces. Who has the time, the patience and the interest to read them? Of course, it was different if you were a celebrity or had an insanely luxurious lifestyle, but regular college girls like me? I wouldn’t read about them myself!
It was only in 2014 that I realised what a good platform a blog could be for writers to share their work. I checked out some examples of writers successfully gaining large followings through their blogs, and saw that major blogging platforms are a cinch to use and can be promoted on social media with one click.
“Hey, I’m a writer, I can do that too!”
And so I resolved to start a blog of my own.
The first one was a plain old text-and-white-background affair, the most basic option I got when I logged on to Blogger (I hadn’t given much thought to the power of aesthetics back then). I’d only lately resumed reading literary classics after a long reading hiatus and had an insufferably inflated opinion of myself on that count. I thus wrote three lengthy posts that basically boiled down to rants on why I am super intellectual and hence not entitled to change myself for anyone’s sake. It felt good, writing those. Yesssss, finally a punch in the face to all those who don’t like me! And I may have written several more in the same vein had a few friends not pointed out — gently — that my posts came across as a little high-handed. Re-read, cringe, delete.
The next one started in B-school. I was away from home for the first time, I was a complete misfit both academically and socially, and my depression had become an all-encompassing reality I couldn’t really understand myself. I resorted to writing poetry to vent my feelings — deep, dark poetry, full of alcohol, tobacco, failed loves and twisty metaphors. It helped — at least as a salve to my wounded ego — but it reinforced the darkness too. I created a Blogger account and started posting a depressing piece of blank verse every week. The result? Zero views, and an exacerbation of my depression. Delete before someone actually comes across it.
Subsequently, I moved on to WordPress (which I found much more fun than Blogger) and tried a couple of opinion blogs. One was a generic compilation of my views on everything from feminism to masala tea. It could have been interesting, except that it was 100% “me” oriented, and got called out as such by a couple of friends (nicely, over private chat). So I became wiser, and the blog became history. The second one was about books, reading recommendations and the reading lifestyle. It actually wasn’t too bad, I wrote around 10 posts and two of my bookworm friends faithfully engaged with my posts. But, somehow, I lost heart in it. I let it languish for a few more inactive months before pulling — somewhat regretfully — the plug on it.
I tried a couple more book blogs in 2017. I’m a fervent reader, so books were naturally the subject I felt I should focus on — especially after I started working full-time and reading became more of a luxury. I used to have fun experimenting with the layouts on WordPress — my favourite ones were the minimalistic themes in dark colours. With one of them I actually tried a bit of extra tinkering — added a few aesthetically pleasing coffee-themed headers and planned out some extra pages. It looked good. But the content, as usual, dried up after the first post or two. A more personal blog, where I tried writing about life experiences and dealing with depression, suffered the same fate.
In all of this, I naturally tried asking myself — multiple times — what the problem was. Themes didn’t seem to be the issue — my generic blogs went down death row as speedily as my topical blogs did. Neither was viewership — back then I knew squat about blog promotion or SEO, believing optimistically that the best blogs were just “found” because of their awesomeness, so I wasn’t expecting any engagement at first. It was just that after the first few posts, I lost interest in the project and let it die out. It was blogging, in general, that appeared to be the problem.
What I suspected only a long time later was that the problem lay deeper. It wasn’t just blogging, it was writing. In any medium. Whether as an outcome of my depression or something else, that old ever-sparkling literary creativity had simply flickered out. This was something, however, that I refused to admit to myself. Whenever the thought flashed across my mind, I’d tamp it down. “Writing isn’t the problem — isn’t blogging supposed to help with writing regularly? But it’s not! So blogging is the culprit, it isn’t for me,” I told myself firmly. While deliberately ignoring all the times that I sat down with pen and paper in my hand and couldn’t write a word.
It was only earlier this year, after a long internal struggle where I re-evaluated every aspect of my life, that I opened my eyes, millimetre by millimetre, to the truth.
If I took an objective look at my blogs, they all had a few things glaringly in common. Nomenclature, for one — long, pretentious, wannabe quirky names like “Deya Unplugged”, “Love Art Insanity” and “Literary Luxe”, along with others I’m glad to have forgotten. Themes — all me-oriented, with my opinions on books, capitalism, feminism, food and everything else. But most importantly, the writing itself — it wasn’t real. I didn’t truly feel any of the posts I shared. I wrote to appear intellectual, to garner admiration as a well-read person, to flaunt my vocabulary…all the wrong reasons, in short. Strip away the pompous statements and the deliberately lengthy sentences, and you had nothing. No originality, no finesse, no purpose, no value. Nothing.
I was unable to blog because I was unable to write.
I was in creative limbo.
And there was no telling when I would come out of it.
It hurt, this realisation.
I was confronted with a reality where I could no longer do the one thing I loved above everything else.
But amidst the pain, I realised something else.
It was also a start.
Things have been better the last few months. I quit a job that wasn’t right for me, moved to a new city and took time off to introspect, assess my priorities, plan my future and work on the talents I have and the hobbies I love. Now that I’m no longer forced to do things I’m uncomfortable with, my mind is freer and the creativity has started flowing again. I’m working on the first draft of a novel, and while it’s an uphill task, I couldn’t be gladder to do it. I also work on freelance writing projects — I get to hone my skills and earn some extra money at the same time. I’m as happy as I can be right now.
I started writing on Medium only a month ago. So far I’ve found it an easy-to-use, accepting platform. It’s a place where everyone can share their views and readers get recommendations based on tags they follow — not to mention the top-notch publications that provide every writer with the opportunity to reach out to thousands of new readers. I find it easier to write under the umbrella of a platform like this, rather than build a site of my own and wait for people to find me. Of course, readership on Medium depends on promotion too, but for now, I’m happy to focus on just writing and publishing. I still feel nervous about sharing personal posts — will anyone read them? Do they come across as self-indulgent? But I keep writing all the same. Considering the years-long creative struggle I went through, I’m grateful that I can write at all, and that Medium provides such a user-friendly platform for me.
I have started thinking about a WordPress site again. I’ve built one, in fact. I don’t post any content there, but I use it to familiarise myself with website customisation. If I do have a site of my own, I’d want it to be fabulous — and that needs lots of testing and tweaking for a novice like me. And I am, in fact, planning to use the site to showcase my writing projects and kick-start my freelancing career. It’s definitely easy to use, and allows tons of customisation — the ideal place to share my writing skills as well as my sense of aesthetic!
I don’t know if I will blog again, though. My past experiences have left me somewhat bitter about it, even though the real problem was with my mental health. In some way, I feel that my failure to sustain even a single blog is now automatically built into me, so that any blog I start will flop even if I don’t want it to. Maybe this is just negative thinking, maybe the next blog I start will survive. But if I’ve learnt anything from my experience with blogging, it’s that you can’t force it. You can’t build something unless you’re truly ready for it. Where I stand today, I don’t feel the need for a blog, as I am happy channelling my thoughts into articles like this one without the pressure of posting at fixed intervals.
So I’ll wait, for now, until the time is right to renew my relationship with blogging.
And this time, I intend to make sure it works out.