What is content writing anyways?

Let’s traverse through the waves of Content Writing!

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This blog post is inspired by my last four months of work as a Content Writer in an I.T. firm. I came across the job profile and never knew that there is such a profession called as being a “Content Writer” Ain’t that cool! I come from the most mundane profession; I am an engineer who spends hours in front of the screen designing a circuit. The job advertisement of content writer immediately caught my interest. Creative writing in the form of personal blogs is something that I have been doing regularly. Hoping that it would open a whole new avenue for me I decided to give it a try as a profession.

While in the job, I wrote different kinds of content during the initial on-boarding phase. There’s where I learnt that as a content writer you write a Press Release- for public relations, email campaigns, website content, case studies, manuscripts for videos and webinars, blogs, posts for social media like facebook and twitter. As exciting and challenging it was, it left me with a lot of unanswered questions, to be pondered upon. Some of them definitely made to this blog post.

Does content writing require a team?

Most definitely yes. It is difficult for an individual to be able to produce all aspects of a good content within the limited time frame. Say as an example a blog post, it’s not only the article itself, it usually begins with the required research and unless it is a technical or a product description there is a step that precedes it, which is what should the blog topic be? In today’s digital age, it has become imperative to optimize your content so that it has larger visibility online. You need to implement what is called as search engine optimization (SEO). Use of publishing tools and techniques will make your content more readable.

It’s a well-known fact that “A picture is worth a 1000 words”. Picture helps convey the story behind the act easily, not just that, it helps retain your audience’s attention. Aside from that, what’s worth the content that has not bounced off from several brains in a room, imagining, arguing & discussing on a messy white board and coming to congruency!

Should the content change as per the reader?

Let’s call this as recycling. Once for a assigned task I wrote an email at least 4 times, with having different receivers and senders. Though the primary idea remains the same, the structure and language changes significantly. To quote Josh Bernoff’s iron imperative from his book “Writing without Bullshit”,

“Treat your reader’s time as more valuable than your own”.

You don’t just want to write something and send it across, you want be assured that your readers or followers look forward to email/articles from you. It is beneficial to know your readers beforehand, treating them all as same is usually not a good practice.

Should content have intent and a set goal?

In engineering, when a product takes shape it is designed to meet specific requirements and then tested to some measures. Sometimes even customer feedback is sought. This leads to improvement, like a closed loop system. Similarly, writing content without an intent and goal does not guarantee improvement, growth and maturity in the writing.

Having either of them alone does not suffice, if you have set an intent you want to know what went wrong that did not produce results as you had expected. You want to have performance measurement criteria, have some stats and do the analysis for working towards betterment.

Do content need to have references or validation?

Content writing is less stringent due to the social and moral responsibility it carries as opposed to journalism. It leaves more leeway for presenting thought to the readers. Tweaking of the content is possible when you are content writing where the sole liability is either of the writers or the company that the writer is representative of. Though if use of quotations, research data, and previously published article is used it is best to reference it. It protects you from infringement and let’s the reader know how well researched and proven the published content is.

With such methodical writing, as content writer does creativity gets lost?

That’s where the challenging nature of job portrays itself. Like any other job, writing assignments will see a decline in the outcome unless you pay attention to the creativity factor. Good thing about content writing is you are not merely stating the facts but creating a story around the main idea. Though you cannot digress much from the central theme you can creatively nurture and develop the content. Based on my past experience, if as a content writer you are adamant to not loose creativity, I think Sean Connery’s saying “There’s always a challenge to keep you motivated” will be the mantra where your challenge will be “sustaining creativity”

Why this blog post?

The idea behind the post is to spread my learning and may be bring the beginner drenched content writers to the shore again, and see the vastness before they decide to dive in deeper.

"Step into the scene, and let it drip from your fingertips" - M. J. Bush

 

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How do you celebrate Christmas?

For me.……………………….

How it all began?

“Jingle bells, Jingle bells , Jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to ride , In a one-horse open sleigh”

That’s exactly how it began for me ! It was going to be a day off from school, I did not know what christmas is … I was told that if I be good, I will receive a gift on the morning of 25th, Santa Claus gifts all the good kids. Indeed ! I wasn’t small enough to fall for my mom’s story neither was I old enough to not wait for the gift! And there it was, on the morning of 25th I woke to a neatly wrapped gift  besides me and parents that could not help smiling……

How did it continue ?

Gift tradition did not last that long , since Santa Claus was not the one delivering it, but christmas cakes became a part of the tradition at my home in India. Being a hindu Indian, christmas is  not celebrated but my liking and the fact my parents never really objected , the festival shaped itself very uniquely. Christmas for years continued to be enjoyed with cakes and evenings were spent going out to see beautifully lit streets and shops.

“Starting on the 25th with a  bright cheerful note it lasted till the end of the year” Slightly longer than Diwali! Over the years of fierce battle to choose between the favorite festivals, I can say Christmas won!

About 2 decades later…..

A tradition was formedfor the past 10 years or so , christmas tree is put up every year

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Christmas of 2017

 

The decorations does include gifts received during christmas- like Legolas!, Cake still continues to be an integral part of tradition and a newer addition has been christmas carols.

I was lucky enough to spend a decade in the United States and for last 3 years of my stay volunteered  at the “Garden of Lights ” celebrations during christmas. Definitely no better way to spend !

Besides the fun and festivities, christmas has a religious significance to it. It is celebrated on the 25th of december as the birth anniversary of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of christianity. Though Bible does not include the actual date of birth of Christ, it has been celebrated on the same day ever since.

……..?

Christmas is a time to be celebrated with family, with warmth and love and the gifts

To Quote –  Charles Dickens

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home! 
To know more about the facts behind Christmas,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas

Merry Christmas !

 

One weekday….

 

In my pursuit of exploring new Surat, restaurants have gained a high priority. Unlike some of the western countries, where eating out is not considered luxury, or merely a means of celebration, to be able to find a good casual sit-down place used to be a challenge in itself. Either the eateries  turn into hangout places for the college goers or close down due to slow business. With changing times , economic growth and increasing need of adapting to a better living regime, you are likely to see lot more occupied food outlets than previously.

Last week I had a rough day and not being in a mood cook, i started walking in search of food- had a few restaurants in mind which are in about 1 km radius from my home. I let the inner instinct , govern my feet. After a few temporary halts and walk back  from the usual place to get a sub I ended up in this Deli cum Cafe called the Rangilu Cafe. I had eyed this place for a while, though wasn’t sure what would be on the menu.. pastries and coffee- yet another coffee shop? but to my surprise menu had much more to offer. Check out for yourself (https://www.zomato.com/surat/rangilu-cafe-piplod) . I ordered a vegetable grill sandwich with coriander and a mocha. It tasted good and was filling.

I particularly liked the decor of the place, brick wall paper gave it a rustic feel complementing well with antique hanging clock and Paulo Coelho and Ayn Rand books on the corner shelf. Music was a little loud, live guitarist would have just filled in the empty space and it would have been a prefect representation of the ever urbanizing India!

There were only two other customers besides me. It was tranquilizing- brought back memories from one of my most frequented and enjoyed sandwich shops in the U.S. “Potbelly Sandwich Works”.

If you are in need of a break from the routine, want to spent some quite time or hangout with a friend Rangilu Cafe should be on the the list to consider from. It’s conveniently located close to Sargam Shopping Center near parle point, (https://www.google.co.in/maps/place/Rangilu+Cafe/@21.1643822,72.7773464,14.94z/data=!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x484932013d90f5b2!8m2!3d21.1706027!4d72.7886372).

Not to mention it is worth the penny spent! Happy relaxing!

 

 

 

 

Navaratri – nine nights

 

“Dholida dhol re vagad, mare hinch levi che , ” keeps spinning in my head during these nine days which literally means  “Play the beats, I want to dance” Its a festival of light , colors, dance, music – celebration of harvest and victory of good over evil. Festival that is celebrated  in different parts of India during the same time of the year for varied reasons exhibiting the multicolored culture of the country.

On  the 8th day of  festival, also known as ashtami or Durga Ashtami  rituals of worshipping Goddess Durga are performed celebrating her 8 “shaktis”- power. It is considered to be the most auspicious of the nine days. It is believed that on this day Goddess Kali appeared from the forehead of Durga to kill  demons of Mahisasura.

Pictures from visit to one such celebration in the state of Gujarat are inserted in the blog post. Street was  decorated with “Rangoli” , beautifully lit with Diyas where the traditional state dance “garba” was performed. Dancers dance in a rhythmic style  going in  circle around the idol of Goddess  Durga . As seen in one of the photos, are 108 diyas, typical to ashtami worship.

10th day also known as Dusshera or Vijayadashami marks the end of 9 days of celebration , victory of good over evil and onset – prelude to Diwali where Lord Rama returns home after victory over Ravana (symbolizing evil) – one of the shades of Navaratri celebration in northern states of India

For more read on Navaratri and Dusshera celebrations in different states of India please read

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navaratri

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vijayadashami

 

Long Hiatus

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I moved to Surat,Gujarat in January 2016- my hometown where I was born and lived 24 years of my life, after staying for 12 years in the United States. Other than few old areas of town the city seemed unfamiliar and unwelcoming . I found it extremely difficult to stay, shop, eat, or put in better words live.

I was an american within , with the Indian mask on the outside where passers by would not know whether to help me or laugh at my strange – out of place ways of doing things.  I lived in the city for 4 months before I moved to Mumbai for work and I started to breathe again! Work , and the new city gave me an opportunity to explore ways of life in India.

It reminded me of Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City – Bombay Lost and Found. To quote from his book “Somewhere, buried beneath the wreck of its current condition—one of urban catastrophe—is the city that has a tight claim on my heart, a beautiful city by the sea, an island-state of hope in a very old country. I went back to look for that city with a simple question: Can you go home again? In the looking, I found the cities within me.”
After moving to Mumbai I kept coming to hometown every few months.
As a soldier would say “after about year and a half of acclimatization” I am ready to explore the city as a new resident, a new neighbor in the streets.

I hope during the exploration I will have more findings of the new city and more blogs to share.

Home

Mumbai

In an unexpected turn of events , I moved out of  Mumbai back to my hometown. Though completely disheartened, I managed to click a picture or two of the PG accommodation I was staying,as you can tell window sill was decorated with indoor plants. After about 10 days I went for grocery shopping today and a strange gloominess creeped in, left me a little unnerved- was I missing Mumbai? It reminded me of a discussion over beer with one of my co-worker friend who has spent good amount of time outside India like me – I had posed him a question -whats home? Born and brought up in Surat, Gujarat, spent about 12 years in the United States and all of a sudden, in just a year and a half I grew so fond of Mumbai?

Referring to one of my earlier blogs In Aamchi Mumbai as a mumbaikar would say! am I enamored by Mumbai? Did Mumbai become another home? Or Is there such a thing called as home? Aren’t we all just travelers of time, with no real destination , no permanency, no place to call  home, where you live for the time being becomes your home! In a more extended sense earth is your home with varied travel destinations- you are continuously traveling either from one place to other or from one frame of thought to another.

So Long Mumbai,

Rediscovering Bharatnatyam — Malavika Sarukkai

On 29th March 2013 I watched Bharatnatyam  ( indian classical dance ) performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.  Call it my ignorance or lack of exposure but I had never heard of her before. I had been trained in Bharatnatyam for more than 9 years then and after watching her perform  I kept asking myself how is it possible that I have not heard of her and do I really know Bharatnatyam? Do I really dance or it is just  some movements that I been taught and I do them. I had  heard of the term “Angika Abhinaya” where your entire body is used to convey emotions, depict various forms  but not until that day I really understood what it meant.  Malavika Sarukkai was performing the  dance “Ganga” ( the sacred indian river) where she takes to you through Ganga’s journey from birth to her  merging into the ocean. She actually made Ganga come alive for me. I was absolutely enthralled! I could see Ganga in her different forms – she was chirpy and playful at times, sensuous the other. In one of the acts she takes Ganga to the Banaras Ghat. I have never been to Banaras before, all I have known about Banaras is through bollywood movies, but it felt as if I am sitting on Ghat where Ganga is talking to me about different people that visit her and their life stories. One of the stories involved , a woman lamenting the death of her son and asking for her own “mukti”; or  crossing over to the other side , Malavika Sarukkai’s heart touching performance brought tears to my eyes. There was a time during the performance when I felt that may be she is good with Abhinaya and  probably not so strong on Nrita but I was so wrong, the next act was where she exhibited how equally great she was to both abhinay and nrita. She was forceful yet elegant and subtle at the same time.

After the performance there  was  discussion session, which was equally intriguing. She was asked how does she decide what gains priority in a dance act – meaning whether should the expression be made through just the face or the whole body or just the feet because it felt that its her feet that are doing all the talking. I was puzzled when I heard the question , I mean I have never thought about it , she said she thinks of dance as a language, and that makes it easy for her. While choreographing a piece she just thinks of how will she be able to express herself, convey her emotions and feelings better. If you think of it ,she stated the most complex of the behavior so simply.  She was asked that she does not stick to the traditional style in fact she has tried to bring various aspects into it like culture, politics, human beliefs and traditions how does she do that? Answering that she said that it is exactly like when you have learnt intricacies of a language that you actually start seeing gaps between the alphabets and may be you can put something in between two alphabets.

One other thing that touched me was her oneness with this form of art. When as I kid I went to dance class my dad always said that any form of art is like doing “Sadhna” i.e  meditation.There is some spirituality to it. I probably do not understand it so well but when she was performing, one thing I could tell for certain that her body movements felt as if they are originating from within her not merely an act . When she showed Ganga it felt as if she is Ganga  herself , not that by some hand gestures she is exhibiting flowing water.

To me it felt that  Malavika Sarukkai was one with her soul ….I can watch her perform for hours and not get tired. It was an experience that will stay with me for long.I am glad I decided to see her perform.