Saturday, September 10, 2011

‘BAT’ing For …..

It was in September 2009, that I came across Blog a Ton (BAT). I am a member of IndiBlogger and I came across the information of BAT through IndiVine. The first BAT was conducted in August and the second one was announced. I decided to participate in BAT.

For me participating in BAT was indeed a challenge in many ways.

First, I was very new to blog-world. I was blogging about a year. None of my friends or people around me read any other blog; leave writing one. But my friends and colleagues at workplace read whatever I wrote and encouraged me to write more about my experiences. So, my blog was a sort of ‘family affair’.  I was not sure whether my blog would appeal to ‘outsiders’ – meaning those who do not know me personally.

Secondly, those of who read my blog beyond BAT entries (I hope some at least read it) know that my blog is mostly narrations of my experiences. I don’t write scholarly articles; neither do I write movie or book reviews; nor poetry. My writing range is indeed limited. So, whether I would be able to write on different topics and satisfy the unknown readers was a question to me.

Third, I have always believed in freedom of writers. My blog should be a place where I have complete freedom about what to write, when to write, how to write, and whether to write it or not. Accepting BAT terms was little contradictory to these values. I mean I was still free to ‘not to write’ and I could still choose the form of expression. But the topic of BAT though decided in democratic manner – was not always of my choice. It was like writing according to someone else’s command.

Fourth – my travel schedule did not allow me the luxury of 24X7 connectivity. It was not necessary that on every first Saturday (that was the initial regular schedule of BAT) I could post for BAT. But here the Marshal came with support. On many occasions I have scheduled my post and requested Vipul, the Marshal to publish the link on the BAT date – and he always did it.

Fifth:  I am actually not a competitive person. If you are reading my blog regularly, you know that I do not participate in any kind of competitions – that does not mean I doubt intention of those who participate in various blogging competitions. I am not cut for it – that is all.

In spite of all these obstacles, I have till date participated in as many as 18 BATs. My blog has ‘Blog a Ton’ as one of the labels and it shows 19 posts – but the post RETURN, though written for BAT, could not be published due to technical reasons.

Honestly speaking, I have never felt competition in BAT – though it has clear voting (now cheers) guidelines and deadlines and clear winners. I have almost always read all the BAT entries and I am sure most of the ‘BAT’ers do it. For me the most creative aspect of human thinking is brought to the forefront through BAT. It amazes me every time I BAT to see how a single word creates so many different ideas, so many different perspectives, so many different forms, so many different expressions, and so many different feelings. The whole canvas of writing opens to you, you get to know a range of experiences. That is the reason I love BAT.

BAT balances discipline and freedom – you need to post during a timeline on a particular topic but you are free to choose the form, the tone, the presentation etc. As my blog is mostly about sharing experiences, after couple of BATs I started to feel the bondage. Then I came up with an idea. I had always wanted to write short story but had never explored it. BAT gave me an opportunity to work in this direction. Though my short stories are always long enough, I have enjoyed writing those stories. The whole gamut of experiences could be woven together through story. And then for me BAT became a Story Writing Challenge. Except for four posts - Teachers Aaja Kal, The Indian Dream, If I were a Baby Again and Pencil Pull, - I have always written stories. It is because of BAT, that I started writing a story. Good or Bad – does not matter!

Through BAT I came across many new blogs and of course good ones and many virtual friends. I follow some of these blogs regularly. I interact with some of the bloggers whom I have never met. It is another matter that the old batch of ‘BAT’ers is disappearing – they must have valid reasons to make such a conscious choice. But nevertheless, the whole new batch of fellow bloggers comes in. I enjoy the flow, I like the movement, I love reading new styles and new expressions. This flow of ‘BAT’ers does not allow me to take anyone for granted. That is great. It mirrors real life.

Like most of the writers I do enjoy appreciation and feel happy when readers take notice of my post. But somehow, I have never bothered about votes and cheers. Initially I thought of writing “Please do not vote” as a footnote to my BAT posts – but that would have sounded like a very egoist declaration.  And anyways, I realized that very few people were actually voting for my post- so dropped that ridiculous idea.

I do not bother about votes for three reasons. One: I am grown up enough to have crossed these boundaries of success and failure. Two: somewhere within I know that I am not a great writer as yet. I have a long way to go. Three: I trust ‘BAT’ers for their fairness. I am sure if they like my post the best, they will cheer for me, if they don’t they won’t. If I don’t get cheers means I still need to excel my performance. The credit goes to all ‘BAT’ers who have maintained this ‘fair play’ rule intact – voluntarily.

For me, BAT is more of ‘support group’ rather than a competition. We all strive together to excel. We all work hard to express. We all long to reach out, but more than that we all long to search within. The beauty of BAT is: it is more like a long distance running and not sprint. Here we run together, draw energy and inspiration from each other, encourage each other. In the end, only one or two are going to be winners, but there is always a joy that “I tried my best once again.”  

So, even after 18 innings, I am not tired. I would love to keep ‘BAT’ing – for the joy it gives, for the horizons it widens, for the challenge it brings, for the variety it presents and for the fun it assures. 


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Fooled by Randomness

Blog-a-ton has played a pivotal role in the chaotic evolution of my blog. I started my blog in 2008 as a social/political/philosophical blog.  But after a couple of posts, I got stuck and realized that was not the way to go. So moved on to humor and that was an instant hit with Desi Pundit showcasing my Bride Hunt series. But then there is a limit to the number of humorous incidents in one’s life. So slowly the number of posts started dwindling and posts totally stopped after I was kicked out of my job.  You can’t sit at home and write funny posts when you are unemployed, eh?  I returned to blogging a few months later but by then all my regular readers had left me. I found myself unable to recreate the magic of the Bride Hunt series. I then tried reviews of books and movies. But my reviews found hardly any takers and I was not motivated to write any more of them.  So my blog was suffering an existential crisis when I came across a post from our Marshal on Indiblogger about Blog-a-ton.
 In hope of reviving my Blogging fortunes, I threw my hat into the ring in Feb 2010.  The topic of my first Blog-a-Ton was ‘What-if’. I got so many ideas but I was tongue tied or should I say finger tied? I had never written for a prompt before. So I ended up not participating and decided that Blog-a-ton would not work for me. Then a month later, one Sunday I was feeling bored. Generally surfing randomly I meandered into the Blog-a-ton page. And it was the Blog-a-ton day. The topic was ‘Time Travel’. Somehow this topic lit some lamp inside my head. Within the next couple of hours; my first Blog-a-ton post was up.
That evening when I logged on to my computer, I was pleasantly surprised to see 6 comments on my Blog post. I was so excited I replied to the comments and then read their posts and then went on to read all the other posts. Overall the post got 38 comments, just 2 short of the Bride Hunt series and also 2 people – Mahesh Kallal and Vivek Nanda had voted mine as the best post. In those days participants were allowed only one vote per head. So getting 2 votes was a real big thing.
By reading the entries, I realized lot of Bloggers write short stories on their blog. I particularly liked 3 bloggers – Karthik, Vibuthi and Harsha. I started visiting their blogs regularly and came across an online story writing contest conducted by a website called IndiMag from their blogs. That’s when I wrote my first two proper stories – ‘The Lonely Bus Stand’ and ‘Mohiniattam’. My stories were well appreciated and I made lot of good friends on IndiMag. I had now entered the fascinating world of short stories.
Soon it was time for the next Blog-a-ton. I started thinking about my post even before the topic was announced going by the topic trends. And interestingly the topic turned out to be my own blog name ‘Fool’.  I came up with one of my best works, a poem called ‘The Fool’ written in Victorian style.  But to my disappointment there were very few comments. Those that were, were lackluster and I got 0 votes. So I decided to keep away from poems and this postponed my entry into the world of poetry by one year. I still wonder why it bombed so badly, though even now looking back I find it to be one of my best works.
 By the time of next Blog-a-Ton, things were going bad in my personal life and I wrote a dark story for the topic ’Escape’ keeping with my mood. This was one of the best Blog-a-tons with lot of participation. I was happy to get 3 votes but I was not sure if many understood my story. It was a bit complex and blog readers generally have too low attention span. During this period, a few of the participants in the Indi Mag story writing contest came up with the idea of jointly publishing a book of short stories and invited me to join. I was very excited by the prospect. But sadly after a few days, the idea died a natural death.
But it was again Blog-a-ton time soon. This time the topic was ‘Hidden’. I managed a para normal thriller that was well appreciated. I wanted to build up the story into a novella. So I followed up with sequels the next two Blog-a-ton for topics ‘Wish’ and 'Return’. During this time I also came across another Forum called Ginger Café. Here I got to participate in an innovative team blogging contest called BPL (‘Bloggers premier league’). Though my team stood first in the first round, we got eliminated in the second round.
At this time I had to change jobs and my mother’s health began to deteriorate seriously. So my blogging began to dwindle again. I just participated in one more Blog-a-ton, where a picture was a prompt instead of a word for the first time. I wrote my first 55 Fiction. Around November 2010, my blogging came to a grinding halt. IndiMag had shut shop. Nothing much was going on in Ginger Café. And that was when Marshal announced that Blog-a-ton was also shutting down. I was so disappointed. I had missed my chance to become a veteran and to win Blog-a-ton. That was it. I decided to throw down the towel and wind up my blog.
By March 2011, the itch to write was catching up with me again. I had been through tumultuous times in personal life and was looking for some means to de-stress. Something told me that Blog-a-ton maybe up again and I decided to check it out. And guess what! Season 2 of Blog-a-ton was indeed starting. I was back to Blog-a-ton and blogging with ‘Change’.  Seeing the quality of other posts that Blog-a-ton, I felt I might win at least a bronze that time. But instead I landed up with 0 votes again. But this time I started writing for other prompts as well and one of my stories ‘Space in her heart’ was selected as a Tangy Tuesday pick by Blog Adda. From there, there was no looking back.
I continued my Blog-a-ton participation as well. Soon I was on the way to become a veteran. Only regret was I was becoming a veteran   without getting even a bronze. But somehow my mail to Vipul mentioning I had finished 10 posts got missed out and I was not declared as a veteran on my 10th post, where yet again I got 0 votes. But now seems like it happened for good. Now in my 12th attempt, I have at last conquered the Blog-a-ton Gold. So I become a veteran with a BATON gold in my kitty.  Thanks to all those who voted for me to make this possible. I also thank aativas and SIS who served as an inspiration to me by winning their gold in their 18th and 11th posts respectively, showing that it is possible to go 10 posts without a win and still come back and win. And of course a big thanks to Vipul for creating this wonderful platform and Sid, Leo and SIS for reviving it. Thanks also to all those who have voted for my past posts and commented on my posts for helping keep my passion for writing alive. Last but not the least; I would like to thank all those people who have posted wonderful posts that have inspired my writing.
I wonder if anyone has got till here. If you have, thanks to you as well for reading patiently. My journey as a Blogger has been so intertwined with Blog-a-ton that I could not resist putting up a lengthy Oliver Twist kind of post, starting with how my blog was born and all that.