How (not) to write your first blog post

I have a confession to make: This is my first blog post too!

But, certainly not my first attempt at blogging. In fact, before I could gather the courage to type out my confession, I was stranded in a state where it felt pretty sure that I had ticked all the necessary ingredients to create that ever-elusive ‘first’ blog post.

1. I had the right Intent   √

No. of years… it had been part of my New Year’s Resolution: 3

“This year doesn’t go into my count though – it has just begun” 😛

2. I certainly had no dearth of Content   √

No. of months… since I had a crazy experience and promised myself to blog about it: 13

“And since then, I have had at least 13 more of them, if not more!”

3. I was adequately tech Competent   √

No. of weeks… since I had setup the blogging account: 23

“I selected a theme, customised it, and then…. changed it, only like a zillion more times”

4. All of my other Excuses had also been Spent   √

No. of days… since I had zeroed down on a name for the blog: 33

“In my defense, I was ‘Absolutely Unsure’ about the name for a long time!”

Nevertheless, during this entire unproductive phase, you could have never caught me sitting idle. I had pulled up the most relevant google search, ‘How to setup your blog?, and religiously completed all the ‘top 10 things to-do’, enumerated by the wise men (and women) within the top 10 pages of the search query. Eventually, it got quite perplexing because even at the end of this entire ordeal, the

No. of hours… I had been sitting and staring at a blank screen: 43  (…. and counting)

Let me just clarify that it was not my attempt at euphemism when I had told you that my screen was blank. Gazing at a barren stretch, I sat hypnotized by the only sign of fertility around – the repeated resurrection of  the timid cursor, who, by now, had also began to seem as if it was slyly shrieking at me all this while, “…..loseR …..losER …..loSER …..lOSER …..LOSER”. In sharp contrast with the serenity of the empty white screen, I could feel its shrill noise getting louder and more annoying with each passing tick.

In all honesty, I had even begun to fiddle with the possibility that the cursor’s assessment of me might not have been completely wrong. Least of all, I should have been able to string together an introduction to my post.

This predicament was inexcusable. I felt extremely powerless, in fact, I couldn’t recollect ever feeling so helpless since my days in school.

I wondered, “Was I back to my childhood ways? Was I really getting bullied again?”

“No, wait! but I was told that I could not be bullied anymore once I had finished school, at least not by a piece of code embodied in the form of a screen cursor”.

The hypnosis broke, and I realized soon that I had to stop moping over some (silly) bully! What I needed was to give writing another shot.

I set out to find a fix after carefully assembling all the scattered pieces of my determination. Once again, I reached out to my dependable ally, ‘Internet’, and began to take dips at his infinity pool, which was widely believed by everyone to be always brimming with omniscience.

However, before I had even drench my hands completely, my rejuvenation attempt caught somebody’s evil eye. Till date, I had no tangible evidence, but I could bet that it was the overburdened web browser that had spelled a curse on me.

It all started when I was innocently browsing the neighborhood, while back at home tab, unbeknownst to me, my trusted search engine had suddenly turned sarcastic. At the 11th page of my search query, “How to setup your blog”, I was instead asked,

Did you mean: ‘How to setup your blog in 10 minutes?’

No

Nooo!!

Noooooo!!!

“Google, we need to talk! you don’t understand me anymore.”

‘Time’ was not really my biggest worry right now. I could have taken 10 days instead of 10 hours and still not be guaranteed to produce something that I would want to post on the Internet!

“That’s it! You know what? I am done… Writing a blog is not my cup of tea”

I still could not accept that the mess I was stuck in right now was because of my own fault! I shook away my responsibilities and very conveniently decided to rest the entire blame on the worldwide web.

I was ready to press charges legally.


The Trial

Criminal case for pleading: Me vs The Internet (where I am also the acting prosecutor attorney)

My Lord, during the course of this trial I shall prove it to you beyond doubt that the real culprit behind the current plight of my blog post is indeed the ‘INTERNET’. I shall demonstrate the Court that there is enough factual basis for the plea that my actions were inconspicuously being manipulated by the Internet.

To begin with, Your honour, let me call your attention to the events of last night:

It was 7:30 in the evening. By then I had already spent a few clueless hours with my fingers perched motionlessly on the keyboard. Suddenly, I receive an urgent request from ‘that-guy-whose-friend-request-i-had-accepted-3-years-back-but-had-never-spoken-to-in-real-life‘ that he needs help at a piece of his cyber property, where he spends his clicks and real-world time to live in an illusion that this maneuver can grow crops and rear animals.

May the records reflect that its analogy in real world is called a farm.

Now, although I had never toiled at a farmland, I had been nurturing a kitchen garden for more than a year now. And, being the gentleman that I am, I decided to oblige a fellow comrade in his agrarian pursuits; only did it never occur to me even once, that why on earth did he pick me for this job, that too when I was busy trying to accomplish something really important?

My Lord, if you think that was entire extent of my misery, you would be grossly mistaken. After a hard day’s work at the farm, a man’s naturally desire is to relax. And what better way to release stress than to hit the beach and probably surf a couple of waves.

I pulled out a brand new tab, and sped to my favourite surfing address, ‘Youtube’. When I stepped on to the first wave, I was pretty sure that I would get down after a couple of them. However, what was made to escape my notice was that the waves were on ‘Autoplay’, and I ended up in a never ending loop of interesting waves that I could not resist surfing.

With the autoplay switch tucked neatly out of sight, this could have easily continued all night, had it not been for a guy who approached me in the middle of nowhere to remind me of how little time I had left in this world to live – he was trying to sell me ‘Insurance’.

The thought of being dead soon brought me back to my senses, I had already wasted enough time surfing. Out of gratitude, I decided to check out what he had to offer, not before promising to myself that this would be the absolute last thing that I would do before I get back to my writing.

I followed him through a dingy lane, lined with houses on both ends. The buildings had walls covered with eye-catching murals. Noises of people talking loudly from their windows had completely suffocated the street. I observed a peculiar pattern – most of them would begin saying something that would capture my fancy, and then quickly fall silent in the middle of their sentence. It seemed as if they were all trying to bait me into entering their house if I wanted to know more. But, I was not stupid, I had already sensed that something was awry about this address! So, no matter what was hollered towards me, I kept on resisting my urge to even glance at them.For a long time, I manged to stand fast on my resolve, until finally I came across a door that claimed to protect the secret recipe of converting any metal to gold!

Your honour, I remind you that I am under oath when I tell you that I have never had any weird fantasy of living in a house made of precious metal. But by profession, I was a material scientist. It was eating me from inside that how could I not be aware of such an important breakthrough in my very own field of study. I had to find out!

However, what I did find the next morning was that my single tap on that mysterious door, was the last memory I had left from that day.

I couldn’t quite recollect vividly what happened next. All I knew was that I started moving rapidly from one house to another by whatever means possible, whether jumping from rooftops, or crawling under tunnels.

I regret to inform the court that in that process I even granted some unverified strangers the permission to cross the ‘wall around my own base’, which I had installed specifically to prevent trespassing.

After some time though, I got pretty exhausted. My guess is that one those doors must have opened into my room, because, I have no other explanation for how did I wake up on my own dear bed the next morning?

Do you see the pattern now? I missed all the signs that night, Stupid me! That was my only fault, your honour, to repose my faith in the Internet.

My Lord, I am innocent, I reiterate – INTERNET was the culprit, I plead not guilty!

It had taken control over my entire itinerary. Even in my dreams that night, I saw it transmuting into a scary monster with infinite tentacles, that oozed out from everywhere, entangled and ready to wreak havoc.

Oh Baloney! all of this had happened when I was still completely sober. By the way, your honour, if just for a tiny moment you could consider a future scenario, at a time when machines start having a life of their own, the physical appearance of “Internet” may not be very different from what I saw in my dreams. There is a reason it has to stay hidden in the narrow dungeons of fiber optic mesh.

Wait! What? Where was I?…..   I am sorry, I digressed!


Back to reality

I apologise again, let me bring you back to the actual battle that I was fighting, the one with writing. So far, I had led myself to believe that I was doing absolutely nothing wrong. You just witnessed that even my creativity was still intact. It’s a separate matter, however that, instead of helping me with my post, it was engaged with its own amusements.

Then, maybe I was experiencing what they call a writer’s block!

“Nope, I don’t think I could agree with that as well. Because the way I see it, for it to happen, should I not have to be at least a writer first? which is again something I can’t really call myself, unless I have published any of my written content out there; Okay, even a bare minimum of one article would have done it.”

“But, here I was still struggling with my first blog post, which would at least qualify me to be legitimately diagnosed with ‘a  writer’s block’, the irony!”

I had to finally accept that things could not get any worse than this. I could not keep blaming my ineffectuality on things that were beyond my control. I knew that if I ever did manage to get out of this rut, I would be telling the tale of “The 1st Battle of Blog Postery” to the entire world.

Accepting my mistake gave me a weird sense of relief, even though I did not have a solution in sight. I could think clearly again. Now the immediate problem in hand was that how on Earth do I actually start writing?

At this point of time, there were two things very clear to me,

One, Beginner’s luck is a myth, at least in the field of writing.

Other, I desperately needed to find a way out of this deadlock.

After having spent so much of my time and energy here, I was not prepared to give up without an outcome. Concurrently, the more effort I put into this, the more helpless I felt.

I was in a Quicksand.

Like a fettered animal, I had been trying to wriggle and break free at all costs. All this while, I had utterly lost cognizance of the real price that I was paying for this battle.

It was definitely my confidence that had taken the biggest hit. I started staying agitated most of the time, my productivity had touched an all time low, and worst of all, I started avoiding people, even the ones that tried reaching me online. My friends probably presumed that I was becoming a bigger snob with each passing day.

Deep down I knew that I could not let this continue. I decided to swallow whatever little pride I had left, and beg for help. I again started scouring everywhere for a remedy: online blogs, magazines, meditation therapies, and, with a lot of courage, I even approached living and breathing people. As an outcome of this extensive research, I had amassed a potpourri of ideas, ranging from the logical to the outright weird ones.

Some worked, most didn’t. Here are some of the significant ones,

Read content written by other bloggers in your chosen domain of writing

It is a very valid point.

Before writing my own stuff, I consider it extremely important to carry out research on what has already been written by others in the same domain. However, somehow that could never nudge me to get started with my own content. On the contrary, since I was exploring a field that I was interested in, I would invariably get lost and spend hours just reading other people’s work. And at the end, I would arrive at the invariable conclusion that I possess a pretty narrow scope to write about something that has not already been written before.

“The result would be that I would sink deeper into my quicksand of guilt.”

Cut off distractions while brainstorming

This worked for me, but only after I had already gotten into the flow of writing. Right now, my biggest problem was to find a way to start that flow.

“My biggest distraction was my own mind. How could I tame that?”

Come up with a topic for your article

That piece of advice was obviously a no-brainer! I already had three half written blog posts: a book review, a travelogue, and a DIY post. However, what troubled me was that none of them gave me the vibe that was worthy of being ‘my First’.

“It was like losing my virginity, all over again.”

Go to the loo

“I did forewarn you about weird ones!”

Although this did not really work as anticipated, it proved to be very vital.

By the time I tried out this idea, I was completely exhausted, and was at the verge of giving up on my writing for the final time (No wonder, I had to go the loo!). As it most often happens during these solo trips, I began ruminating, “What would a dying soldier do during his last moments in a battle?”

“Wouldn’t it be his wish that his story could be recorded and retold to others?”

Irrespective of the outcome of the battle, the tale of a fallen soldier is always worth telling. Least of all, it could teach others what not to do.

Woa! that was it, EPIPHANY had struck me!

I shall chronicle the journey of failing miserably (or not) at writing my first blog post

“…and the rest, as they say, is history. Okay wait, maybe not yet! I still had to put together an assembly of words that I won’t feel scared enough to open it up for public scrutiny.”

I had a direction now, an extremely strong sense of purpose – I had to fulfill the last wishes of a dying soldier.Gosh! but I had a lot of work to do.

However, my reaction, and in turn, the action that followed was very different this time. I began to borrow time from the reservoirs that I used to generally keep for the One (who had also always nudged to me to write more), and others that I cared for in my life. I knew that they may get mad at me for a short duration, but in the long term they would invariably be proud of what I had created.

Plus, I also had to let all of you in on the secrets of what I had learnt from my personal struggle. My entire learning could be summarized in two main points:

  • The best way to get out of the quicksand is to stop trying to jostle your way out of it. Allow yourself to relax, and swim your way out taking advantage of the natural flow.

“Intuition and a little bit of luck had guided me to the topic of my first blog post, but for you it could be something different. Stay true to yourself, and your inner voice will definitely speak out.”

  • You just need to find a story that you passionately want to tell the world about.

“Once you are that passionate about the story, you will be roaring to let it out of you. The subsequent steps automatically become easy. You don’t really need a ‘how-to manual’ to script your thoughts. It needs to be original, needs to be reeking of you!”

That is all I had to say, dear readers.

However, since you did manage to survive reading this far, I feel that I have been a tad bit unfair with you. You sat patiently through such a lengthy blabber, perhaps with the expectation that I would provide an equally lengthy step-by-step delineation of the entire blog creation process. While, on the contrary, I ended up summarizing my entire learning in just two statements.

Hence, I consider it a moral obligation on me to shed a little more light on what should be done after you have found that “one-thing-which-you-can’t-really-stop-yourself-from-yelling-out-of-your-rooftop”. Plus, I wouldn’t do real justice to the title of the post if I don’t write a little bit about what is the best way to approach the actual writing process.

“If I tell you that the truth is that those two statements are, in fact, the only ones worth reading in this article, and the rest is just fluff generated by me to deliver that message effectively, you would probably punch me right through the nose!”

But, I would like to do it in a different way, instead of spelling out the process for you, I would quell some of your most burning queries regarding it.

With this opportunity, I welcome you to my very own version of FAQs. Let me present you with some of the most Common Questions with Answers Complicated by Everyone Else (CQwAC bEE, which I love to pronounce as Quack Bee).

Okay Fine, I agree that I could not find an abbreviation as sleek as ‘FAQ’, but my one sounds cooler (read imaginative). Just say it out loud a couple of times – ‘Quack Bee’, and you could imagine it to be either a Honey bee that can make duck sounds (they are probably bees from the childhood cartoon Ducktales), or else it could be a duck that can fly around flowers and collect nectar – You get to take a pick!

Quack Bees

So before I give you another reason to shoot me right through the head, I beg you to at least go through them once

  1. How do you get over the ‘writing inertia’? How to put together your first statement?

    The technique that I use is very simple. I pick up an article from a magazine or a newspaper, and just start copying a section from it, word by word. This has two major benefits,

    • It gets rid of the question of “What to write?”
    • and, the monotonous activity of keying in the article frees my mind to wander around and generate original thoughts. In fact, it has been proven by research that boredom inspires creativity. Generally, after copying a paragraph, I end up with enough ideas to put together an original sentence of my own.
  2. Which Word Processing software should you use to draft the blog post?

    None.

    I just start typing directly at the word editor of my blogging platform (WordPress, in my case). And for keeping notes, I prefer to use a physical pen and paper, it gives me so much more independence in the way I get to organize my thoughts.

    I try to skip all intermediate steps involving any type of Word Processor, even Notepad. This approach has its unique advantages,

    1. Most importantly, I get a real preview of how the post will appear to my readers even during the process of developing the article. This is impossible to replicate in any word processing software, no matter how powerful it is.
    2. It eliminates another step of copying the content from the software to the Blogging Platform, and re-formatting accordingly. Reduction in the net effort required to publish your work is always a good thing.
    3. And finally, I get to access the draft from anywhere on Earth (or even the International Space Station, if I ever do visit there) with an internet connection, and continue from wherever I had left off.
  3. Which portion of the article should you start writing first?

    I prefer to start writing the blog from anywhere except the first sentence of the post!

    You could begin from the conclusion, or somewhere else in the between, or even start out with jotting down the ideas in a bullet list.

    I like to call this the law of minimizing inertia.

    I begin with whichever portion requires least effort. And, then gradually move towards the more difficult segments of the post.

  4. What should be the length of your first post?

    I am probably not the right person to be answering that question!

    However, having said that, research by Medium’s data labs have found that the ideal blog post is seven minutes long (around 1600 words). In general, length of the article should be decided based on the type of audience that would be reading your blog. Since, here we are talking about your first post, there probably won’t be enough followers for you to make an informed decision. The best thing to do, in that case, is to write as much as you feel comfortable with, as long as you remember these two important points:

    • Remember to stay relevant to the aim of your article, and
    • Do not repeat any ideas.
  5. What is the most important phase in the development of the post?

    Editing. Period!

    I cannot emphasize enough the importance of editing repeatedly. As the old adage goes, “The more, the better”.  The way I do it is that after I have finished drafting the post, I take a break. Once I am back, I go through the entire post, make necessary changes, and then go for another break.

    I keep on repeating this editing cycle of ‘Read-make changes-take a break‘, until finally I stop feeling the need of making any more changes. It is then, that I ask one of my friends, who can give me a constructive feedback, to take a look at it. The perspective that I receive from a fresh set of eyes helps me decide whether I should go back to the editing cycle, or consider the post worthy of being published.

There you go – I have shared with you, whatever little I knew. In case you have some more queries, do mention it in the comments below or you could write to us, and I will try my best to answer them.

I also have a small request to make – I would be very grateful if you could come up with suggestions on what I could be writing about next, as I don’t feel that I would be so fortunate in finding a topic the next time!

I admit that it is still difficult for me to believe that I could finish writing my first blog post, that too about how I actually wrote my first blog post (Inception, anybody?).

Finally, before the tap on the ‘Publish’ button, I reminisce that the

No. of minutes… that has passed since I typed the first word of this post = 3153

And, No! in case you were wondering, I don’t have any special affinity for the numeral 3

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