IdeaSmith is one of the popular bloggers in Mumbai and the voice behind www.theideasmithy.com . A Chronic thinker who runs a battle of sexes blog at The XX factor. A Pakka Mumbaite who writes at Mumbai Metroblogging.
She loves writing and occasionally debates as well at Desicritics. ‘Anonymity was first a precaution, then a habit and now a whim. Indulge it’ in her own words says it all. IdeaSmith has a lot of interesting things to say about blogging and her blog at Ideasmithy. Get ready to enter the mind of ‘The Chronic Thinker’…..
Q: When and why did you start blogging? Was it out of curiosity or something else?
A: Almost four years ago, someone mailed me a poem which I knew could not have been original. I looked it up on Google and discovered it on a blog which led me to read up on blogs. Then I signed up for a Rediffblogs account to see how it actually worked. I had a vague idea that I’d write a couple of things to see what they looked like on a website and forget about it. Don’t they say love happens by accident? It’s true of me. I discovered my grand passion (writing) and I never turned back.
Q: What topics do you generally blog about?
A: The Idea-smithy is a personal blog that exists because of my love for writing. I steer clear of ‘big, intelligent’ topics like business, the economy and politics. My posts are creative writing experiments so I write fiction, poetry, articles and cartoons (Idea-toons). I also like capturing my daily experiences so there is a lot about the city, personal musings and titbits from my life. I wouldn’t want to bore my readers so I try and keep these last ones as general and abstract as possible and I find that a lot of people are able to relate to them. ‘The battle of the sexes’ is one of my favourite topics so I run an independent blog on this called XX Factor which also discusses gender stereotypes, relationships and what it is like to be a woman in this generation. This is a separate blog because I use a completely different approach and writing style here. I like to think of both blogs as having different identities. The Idea-smithy is the softer, more balanced intellectual with widespread interests. XX Factor is hard-hitting, aggressive, butt-kicking, raw girlpower. And incidentally the Idea-toons came from the cartoons I used to illustrate my him/her posts on XX Factor.
Q: Do you ever get stuck when writing an entry? What do you do then?
Q: Which tools/plugins do you use to efficiently manage your blog? Any widgets or tips you would like to share with our readers.
A: Templates and headers are like clothes for a blog and I like mine fresh and dazzling at all times! I end up changing my template every couple of months.
My favourite widgets are really basic – the ones that let you link Twitter and Flickr to the blog, the Feedburner Headline Animator (which displays revolving titles from another blog – I cross-promote each of my blogs on the other) and the Random Post Generator (that displays a random post from your archives).
For the flash and dazzle I love Yahoo Avatars and the Widgetbox (which is where I got the quote generator-with-pictures and the clawing cat from). I’ve been told that these clutter the layout but I hold on to them because they’re like little toys for my visitors. In addition, XX Factor has this cool widget that displays my categories and tags in a revolving, clickable globe. If you can’t tell yet, I love colour and movement on my blogs!
I guess my only suggestion would be to use a light coloured background. A lot of bloggers are tempted to use black/dark backgrounds for their personal blogs but these are just hard on the eyes. If you have a page-friendly template, use them – they’re great!
Q: What promotional techniques work best for you and why?
A: One way to let people know about your blog is by commenting on their blogs. I don’t mean by leaving vague ‘Hi!’s or even asking them to link to you (that’s just intrusive and boorish). But if you read a post that makes you think, leave behind your thoughts in the comments section. Most of my connections with other bloggers have started from the comments section.
Being accessible is very important so my posts can be read through a feed-reader or in email, in addition to my blog. I also maintain the IdeaSmith identity on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr in addition to having them all linked to my blog and each other. This ensures multiple entry points for anyone into my content. Friendfeed is really useful in making all my content available in one place.
Q: Do you earn revenue through your blog? How does one go about it?
A: I don’t earn anything from my blog. Writing is a labor of love for me….unless any of your readers would like to hire me to write for them. 😉
Q: How important is it for the blogger to interact with their readers? Do you respond to all the comments that you receive?
A: I started as a ‘touch-me-not blogger’ who did not interact with her readers. It just gave me pleasure to write and know that someone – anyone – was reading. Over time, I realized that I owed it to the medium and to my more loyal readers to be more approachable. I now have an open conversation running with several readers, through my blog (and theirs) or email or chat.
I don’t want to take a strong viewpoint on what a blogger should or should not do since it really is a personal choice. Just this, your readership does increase and your readers stay interested for longer if you interact with them. That said, a blog does not have to exist for its comments and a blogger is under no compulsion to say anything more than what is in the posts.
Q: How, in general, would you rate the quality of Indian blogs? Share your favourite five blogs.
A: Most of the blogs I read are written by Indians. I find I relate to Indian blogs far better since personal blogs are about people’s everyday lives and choices and these are people who share my world view. My top six (I can’t drop any of these!) blogs are:
- Arzan Wadia (Captain of Mumbai Metroblogging and blog troubleshooter par excellence)
- Meetu’s (No Hindi movies without her go ahead!)
- Extempore (A good writer, a voracious reader and a great friend)
- Sakshi Juneja (Bollywood rocks!)
- Manuscrypts (I really admire his short pieces ending in “until next time..”)
- Neha Vishwanathan’s (Fiction fragments to die for)
Q: What do you find to be the most gratifying aspect of blogging?
A: The sheer soul satisfaction that comes from being able to write, unfettered. And of course, the absolute power of being able to reach out to people across the world, from the comfort of my computer screen.
Q: What is your advice to someone who wants to start a blog?
A: A blog is like a person – individual and unique. Don’t try to copy someone else’s style. Have something original to say or at least a fresh way of saying it. Don’t agonize too much over how many comments you get – I still can’t see a connection between what I think are my best posts and the posts that get most comments. Be careful of what you put up; this is the Internet after all and trolls, stalkers, trouble-makers abound. And finally, have fun doing what you’re doing!
Q: I am sure most of our readers would like to know is Who is the IdeaSmith behind The Ideasmithy and what goes into the workshop of a chronic thinker?
A: Really? I’m surprised. I have a pretty normal (if not boring) life. I’m a twenty-something urban professional in Mumbai. I work, I party, I read and I write. Oh and yes, I’m not a South Mumbaiker. Train-travelling, traffic snarls and mall-ratting are very much in my blood.
My blog is my workshop. It’s where I pick everything I’ve caught in my day – images, impressions, fragments of conversations, thoughts – and craft them into stories. Since every story, every invention, every initiative starts as an idea, my blog is the workshop of my ideas – the Idea-smithy.
Q: Your Idea-Toons feature in the blog is very interesting and a refreshing thing to see. What inspired you to start the series?
A: I came across a website that allowed you to create simple cartoons with pre-defined characters so I tried my hand at one. And another one. And another. And before I knew it, the Idea-toons were screeching at me inside my head, demanding a section of their own, on my blog. (That little girl in the green dress is more trouble than she looks!)
On a serious note, I’m experimenting with story-telling – how stories begin, in what directions they can be taken and all the ways they can be told. The Idea-toons allowed me an easy way to bring the visual element into my story-telling. I for one, never saw myself as a cartoonist. But like Alice (in Wonderland) says, “What a very boring book that must be, with no pictures or illustrations!”
Q: How does contributing on other blogs (like you do) help The Ideasmithy?
A: In a word – exposure. A group blog forces you to work within the parameters of other people’s creativity and expectations. I see this as a challenge and not a restriction.
Topic-centered blogs are intellectual stimulation for the varied perspectives they bring together, in the form of other writers as well as your readers and their comments. Mumbai Metroblogging made me dig deeper into the things I experience everyday as a Mumbaiker and also re-examine things I took for granted, that were different in other places.
Readership is an added benefit especially if there are other big bloggers on the panel. A group blog enjoys the combined readership of all its contributors and the chances are that its readers will find their way to your blog, if they like your contributions there well enough.
Q: Your Poems are so beautiful. Any plans to publish it as a collection?
A: I’d love to. Do you know anyone who’d be interested in publishing me?
Q: Your tag cloud shows ‘Mumbai’, ‘Photography’ and ‘Love’ as the most active. What is about this three that makes you write about it more often?
A: Mumbai is my stage, the mother-ship, the colourful, confusing, disturbing, inspiring masquerade. It holds my memories and it also shapes my personality. It is home. How could I not write about it?
A lot of ideas begin with what you see. Sunlight on a cracked window, a couple walking on a dirty beach holding hands, an autorickshaw filled with kids. Sometimes a story comes out of that, sometimes several do. And sometimes, there is so much to say that words just can’t capture them all. All you can do is seize that moment and pin it down in a photograph.
Love, this isn’t something that I ever intended to write about. But when you have a place to call your own (even if it is only on the internet) and a space to tell it all, unrestricted by social boundaries, you start to speak often of what’s constantly on your mind. Love certainly is.
IdeaSmith, thank you so much for the interview. Hope the readers enjoyed delving into the mind of ‘The Chronic Thinker’. If you feel you need to ask IdeaSmith something, you can do it right here !