“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This quote by Maya Angelou aptly describes why many take to blogging and use it as a platform to express, actualise and sometimes, even comfort themselves.
Everyone’s got a story, an idea that needs to be told, an experience that needs to be recorded, an information that might prove useful to others, a story of the voiceless, a retort to the vociferous. And, sometimes it extends beyond the mere exercise of documentation of ideas. It helps them connect with those with similar ideas or who they believe can help them. It’s a personal window that many use to reach out to others. A window that’s carved out of a willingness to share personal space.
To get a closer look at what motivates bloggers to pen their thoughts, we asked them a set of questions — ranging from the processes they adopt prior to publishing a post to writer’s block and their preparations.
Blogging, a therapy
“…I find blogging therapeutic. I feel like I’ve poured my heart out without any fear or judgement or more importantly, interference,” said Sowmya, who has been blogging for over seven years. Her statements give a peek in to how blogs can provide the unique combination of a comfortable space for self-expression — one that is both intimate and authentic.
Baranidharan achieves the same end-state via a different route. The blogger, who writes on movies, said he does it to “express his views on a filmmaker’s take on life, society and other such aspects.”
“It’s a channel to vent out my opinion and also allows me to get other’s opinion on the same. After completing a blog, I usually feel “light”, in the sense, that I was able to convey my thoughts to the world through my words instead of a prolonged self-debate.”
For others, like Ashwini, the incentive is intellectual stimulation and the ability the medium provides to “give life to ideas”. “At times even after an endless spree of editing and rewriting, you give up thinking you’d never do justice. If you’re lucky, things might turn around and you might even get to bring it to a decent shape. [But] there is something magical about giving life to random ideas, giving it a structure, looking for the right set of words and finally converting it to a post. When you see the published version, the happiness is unparalleled. Your creation is now live for the world to see.”
Mihir Balantrapu believes the nature of the medium and the disruption caused by blogs, in terms of how one’s thoughts could be ‘penned down’ without being “impeded by any institutional parameters”, has empowered and liberated people.
That feeds on itself to sustain the process and become a therapy.
“Certainly, blogging — the act of penning one’s thoughts for public readership — can be therapeutic. When blogging technology hit the Internet, and independent online publishing platforms began sprouting, the layman, who might earlier not have found space on a publisher’s pages because of lack of eligibility or expertise, suddenly found themselves empowered when not impeded by any institutional parameters. And this very scenario of not being beholden to any institutional parameters, but able to self-publish one’s deepest thoughts, unbound by time cycles, unfettered by editorial impositions, can in itself be very liberating and empowering.”
The need to a story was the most important motivator. Most of the bloggers we spoke to stressed on the “constant urge to share my perspective with the world” and how they feel “light” after the process.
“Appreciation can be motivating but unless you have a compelling need to tell your story to the world, you can neither convince yourself nor convince others with your ideas. I normally write about my experiences and I have this constant urge to share my perspective with the world in the faint hope that it might make a difference to at least a single soul. The more I write, the more I want to write.”
“The need to tell a story is my primary motivator for writing a blog. People’s appreciation is secondary.”
“Need to tell story. I have no idea who has read my blog post. Sometimes I get recognised in contests.”
“…the fact is blogging provides writers with an expansion of readership, facilitates ease of honest communication and feedback, and an identity on a worldwide network. Now, a blogger might find that his primary motivation is the reaching a large number of readers and, thereby, magnifying the potential for appreciation. Or, a blogger might wish to tap the ease of feedback factor because the purpose of their blogging was to understand the perspectives of large sections of the reading populace. Or, a blogger might simply be in search of an identity, one that is defined by the meriting of a space in the vast network of human connectivity that is the Internet or blogging community. Me, personally, I prefer blogging to put my own two cents into the cauldron brewing social narratives and see if my opinions and worldview make a dent in them or be incorporated into them. So, in my personal case, the need to tell my story is the primary motivator for writing/blogging.”
We asked them to rank different motivators, in terms of how powerful they were, on scale of 1-10. Here’s a look at the average scores:
Preparing to write a blog post
So if it’s about self-therapy, how do they go about the writing process? For many, it is a long one. The posts are a reflection of their need to get a product out that is both satisfying and useful. It is interesting to note that blogs not only provide a means of self-expression and help in achieving homeostasis by venting out, they are also a very accommodative canvas to paint any story — a space for self-actualisation which can be, as one of the respondents put it, very “liberating and empowering.”
Most of the bloggers who take their work seriously research meticulously, find support material, check content in terms of accuracy and grammar. They’re invested in it for both themselves and others.
“Being a movie reviewer, I would always like to start my blog by giving a little background on the theme of the movie and its cast and crew, before delving into other aspects. For that, I would usually browse online resources for getting the facts right, like the name of an actor, similarly themed movies that were released in the past, year of release, technicians involved and so on. During the movie analysis phase, I would be picking on some of the detailing and laying out the things that I liked and disliked with proper metaphors and analogies. Once I am through with the blog, I check for the general structure, grammar and spelling with the help of online resources like Grammarly. Then, I proof read my post atleast thrice before hitting the publish button. I would then be sharing it on social media,” said Baranidharan.
Soumya runs a personal blog. And believes in ‘flow’ and less on structure. “There is minimal plan or structuring. First, I write in a flow. Then, I check grammar.”
Ashwini does a bit of both. “I come across ideas at completely unexpected times and situations (that’s how it has always been). I scribble a note or jot down associated ideas and leave it at that. Later when I find the right time to write, depending on the context I shoot a couple of questions to Google to get a better understanding. If it’s about sharing my experience I get started right away. The first thing I do is write down anything and everything related to that topic along with a brief note detailing the points. I don’t worry about the flow or concept or if it’s contextually correct for the fear of missing out on points. Once that is done, I draft a rough structure to get an idea of how the content would flow and whether it comes anywhere near what I initially had in mind. Only after this I start writing in detail. And then follows the usual grind of re-writing, editing, re-writing, editing till I’m convinced.”
Mihir, who is the in-charge of the blog section of The Hindu, does a Sherlock Holmes every time he has to either write or edit other’s posts. One of the key reasons for asking him to participate is to look at how professional editors look at blogging and the associated processes.
“Well, in my case, I often find that thoughts can be fairly muddled, even though we seem to have a pre-formed clear conclusion. So, writing is basically then an exercise in rationalising your conclusions, working backwards and deconstructing your own opinions, almost like Sherlock Holmes working out the concatenation of events that led to an incident under scrutiny through a process of studious deduction. And yes, this often involves referring to encyclopedias to verify the validity of one’s muddled thoughts and facts. As I am reading, I must subconsciously or — at times — consciously sift through this information and do a mental check-list of which of my assumptions are corroborated and which are refuted.”
“Then, I must rethink the issue, re-frame the questions, reformulate my opinion. Then, put pen to paper (or fingertips to keyboard), and make sure that as I write no facet of the issue is misrepresented by a single clause or sentence or turn of phrase. I find it helpful to define the issue at the outset as concisely and succinctly as possible, as this process will corral the disparate ideas in your mind and pack it into an airtight canister which, when sprayed, will ensure the articulation will fall perfectly into place within the concise and succinct stencil you had created in advance. When I get stuck, it’s usually because I have gone too deep into one rabbit-hole, and it’s time to approach the issue from a different angle. As I write, I must keep checking whether a theme has been dwelt on in excess or under-cooked, and rectify accordingly. Then, of course, the usual once-over, twice-over, spell-check, value additions in terms of multimedia, and we’re good to publish.”
What does blogging offer
Here’s an assortment of words that bloggers used to describe their experience of blogging.
Clarity of thoughts, frame of mind
A question on how they get into the groove of writing and ‘the zone’, as many call it, came up with a lot of insightful replies. Most of them have a checklist of questions that they believe is a method to ascertain the clarity of their piece. And some even contend that physical exercise help in the stimulation of ideas.
“If I were to review a movie, I wouldn’t immediately start once I exit the theatre and reach home. I would allow the movie and its theme to sink in. Then I would raise questions within myself like was the movie really worth the hype? Did it really convey what it was meant to? Were the performances good enough? How does it fare when compared to the star or director’s past movies and so many more such things. Then, gradually things start falling in place with these things in mind and my stream of thoughts slowly kick in. I would usually walk restlessly back and forth while answering these questions, before I start writing.”
Some just take the plunge and start writing. They figure out the flow, structure as they move into the piece.
“If there was a way to get into such a frame of mind, I’d be happy to know. For me, it just happens at random and when it does I ensure to make the best use of it. I write down the points that I can think of or even get started with writing in detail when I have the right words and the right ideas. If I have to work on a deadline, I open Pages/Notepad and just start writing whatever I know about the topic. Even if I have no idea, I start writing about something remotely connected with it. After the first step, things get better.”
One respondent said it is “ironic” that he sometimes achieves clarity only when he writes and spoke about why it’s important to understand different perspectives before rationalising an idea.
“…most of the time that I have come to a better understanding of an issue after the act of writing, which is ironic because the writing is supposed to have been the result of comprehension! This is one of the stranger characteristics of the writing process, I find. Perhaps, as a writer becomes increasingly familiar with his craft which begins to abet and ignite his thought process. Perhaps, as a writer gets accustomed to thinking rationally, or in words, he begins to develop a codependency with words, wherein he uses words themselves to kick-start his thought process. May or may not be too healthy. Which makes it important for bloggers to take the time off and refresh their perspective outside the symbiotic relationship with words and rationalisations.”
Haste, bias and poor focus “vitiate” the process of writing and robs one of the clarity that is required to carve out a well-articulated piece.
“The best part about writing is that it forces you to still your mind and become meditative; because, only in such a state can I actually perform the task of rationalisation with any degree of competence. Most writing is unfortunately done in a hurry to meet a deadline, or steeped with bias, or with poor focus on the craft of language — all of which vitiate the quality or validity of the narrative sought to be augmented by the piece of writing. And my personal motivation for writing stems from having seen that prevailing articulations on a subject are inadequate, erroneous, or misleading, and wanting to register an improved perspective, no matter how arrogant that might seem. And to achieve this successfully, it is the writer’s duty to get into a state of mind that is conducive to contemplation, efficient in terms of arraying and organising thoughts into coherence, and focussed enough to prevent errors from creeping in.”
And for others it is documenting their experience. So the structure of the blog post isn’t a problem.
“Most of my blog posts are triggered by an incident. So I keep ruminating over it until I get time to write. When I finally sit down to write, I’ve subconsciously thought out the flow.”
An important issue germane to the concept of a writer’s block was addressed by one of the respondents. He contended that one of the reasons for a block is “a superficial understanding of subject [that] creates an air-bubble between your incomplete idea of the subject and the zealous way in which you want to write on it.”
Many also opined that taking our mind off the topic helps. Walking, listening to music were among the most favoured exercises for that purpose.
“A writer’s block can be surmounted by chilling out, taking a walk, freeing your mind with some music, unwinding the knots in your head by meditating, reading other works to see if something sparks you off, remembering to think deeply about what you intend to write about because often, a superficial understanding of subject creates an air-bubble between your incomplete idea of the subject and the zealous way in which you want to write on it, an air-bubble which impedes free-flow of thought, which we call writer’s block. Or sometimes, you can just write stream-of-consciousness, as I managed to do above, to liberate your mind from the shackles of having to second-guess or constantly verify, in an anal manner, the validity of the thoughts you are penning.”
Bloggers are less restricted when it comes to documenting personal experiences. As pointed out by this respondent,”I just start writing. I try to write anything that I can think of. If I’m unable to think of anything I write about my day or a recent incident that gave me something to think about. Luckily for me I haven’t found it very challenging to overcome a writer’s block.”