Sunday, October 20, 2019

Beating Writer’s Block with Writing Prompts



Some days are good, some days are bad but productive days… they are undeniably the most satisfying days.

I mean who does not love a day that’s been super productive; taking off the burden from your shoulders, grinding the whole day and knowing that you have created something worthy of existing. For me, productive days are the best days. If I go a day without writing, I feel stressed out and frustrated. And writer’s block is indeed a thing, my friends. And it sucks. So, how do I beat this writer’s block? It’s simple, I use prompts! 

The Internet is full of writing prompts, that are everywhere. Just enter your keywords on Google or Pinterest (like this) and tons of results, in a fraction of a second, appear before your eyes. Now, what kind of prompts should you look out for? I would say ‘any’, but still here are some examples. If you’re a fiction writer, go for the plot prompts. You can subscribe to Writers Write’s daily newsletter to have a daily fiction writing prompt and a lot more other useful stuff in your inbox every single day. Note that I’m not promoting this site or something, I am subscribed to the same and I think it would be useful for you as well. 

If you’re a poet, then go for word-prompts, picture prompts, or even a whole sentence or phrase prompt. You can pick up a book, open it randomly, choose a word from the first page you land on and get your creative cells working to frame a poem around that word. See, it’s easy! And if you share your writings on Instagram, why not make use of that ‘ask me a question’ feature on stories for something productive? You can post a story asking your readers to give you a word/topic to write on. Isn’t that sweet, writing something for the ones who’s been constantly supporting you?

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash
The best thing about prompts is that they challenge you to think outside of your comfort zone. They make you write beyond your boundaries. If I hadn’t taken part in the February writing challenge in 2016 on Instagram, I’d have never started posting romance poems on social media. I used to be afraid of posting them thinking what would my family say since they all had been reading my words each day. So, yeah, prompts helped me step out of this zone and post courageously without thinking about what would people say. Some of my most loved posts are the ones that I wrote using writing prompts. Even as I read other poets' works on Instagram, I pick up any word that I find inspiring and write my own poem around that word. 

Writer’s block can only bother you if you allow it to. When it comes, fight it, challenge it, defeat it and get back on the track because nothing is more important than writing every single day. Do let me know what you guys do to overcome writer’s block. I shall soon share about how I became regular with writing every day and I will also be preparing letters to God prompts worksheet (I am working on them). Till then, keep writing and keep sharing your art with the world. Someone out there is in need of your words.

You may read my work on Instagram at @meetlife240

Friday, September 27, 2019

Growing Your Writing Account on Instagram


The question that I receive the most on Instagram is how I grew my account to 60k followers. First of all, those who have been following me since years know that it wasn’t overnight. It took me three years to get there but it was only during the last year that I learned how to beat the IG algorithm and make my content reach more people. Secondly, all my following is organic. Buying followers is a direct act of sabotaging your account, your algorithm and even your art. I will talk about the cons of buying followers later in this post but first, I am sharing some things that helped me grow from 700 followers to 60k in a year. 

I began writing on IG at the end of December 2015, and till March 2017, I had no clue how important it is to switch to a business profile and get the insights of our account. So, until May 2017, I had reached only 300 followers. Now, I had a business profile, I could see insights but still, my page was growing at a snail’s pace. I used to follow all these feature pages and wondered what’s wrong with my content, why doesn’t it get featured ever. By the end of 2017, I learned how the feature pages work (some pages even have special feature guidelines that are mentioned on their page) and right from January 2018, my posts started getting featured and hence, my account began gaining the exposure I had been waiting for. It was hard to put it all in an article but I’ll try to share and explain as much as I can in this post along with the resources (a list of pages that feature writers/poets, and the apps that I use). So, here you go.

1. Content

Your content is what brings you followers, nothing else. If people love your content, especially when it’s relatable, they will surely hit the follow button. Ask yourself what your content has to offer to others? Why should they follow you? Make your content the best you can. Now, sometimes your write-ups are great, your presentation is not. For writers, I would suggest a theme that is simple yet attractive, a font style that is decent—not very fancy, and a font size that is easily readable—neither too big, not too small. I had a habit of typing in fancy fonts until one day my brother casually said how he hates cursive fonts that I realised it’s better to keep fonts simple because there might be so many people out there who don’t even like a font style that we love. 

There are so many of you who share long poems but when you put it on the image, people find it difficult to read without zooming it and hence, the people in the ‘instant’ world of Instagram skip reading it, saving themselves the trouble of zooming and holding onto a picture. So, to grab the reader’s attention, choose 2-4 best lines of your poem and add them to the image as a teaser, writing the full version of the poem in the caption. If the teaser catches their attention, they would surely read the whole poem. If you don’t like writing the poem in the caption, you may make carousel post with a paragraph on each slide.

2. Consistency

Post DAILY. I cannot stress it enough. Even post twice or thrice a day but try not to go a day without posting. It’s okay to repeat older posts if you don’t have new content to share on a particular day. Experiment and choose a time that works best for your posts. Check insights for the same, it would give you an idea of when your followers are most active. If you cannot see insights on your account, please switch to the business profile from settings. 
So, post daily and try to post on the same timings every day. You can even schedule your posts for the entire week if you have a busy lifestyle. I’ll mention the app I use for scheduling posts at the end of this post. 
Also, make use of other IG features. Keep your stories updated, highlight the important ones on your profile. If you can, try going live once in a while or upload IG TV videos.

3. Tags, hashtags, location 

Okay, you posted your content, now what? The reach. How do you make your content appear in searches and explore tabs? You use hashtags. Instagram allows you to enter 30 hashtags in a post (Beware! If you enter more than 30 hashtags in a caption, you will end up losing everything you wrote in the caption). It’s ideal to use 15-25 hashtags in one post. Hashtags will require a little research on your part. When you search for a hashtag look for the number of posts under a particular hashtag. For example, #writingcommunity has 4.8 Million posts while #tribeofpoets has 59.7k posts under it. So, it’s better to choose a combination of popular hashtags and a little less popular hashtags so that when people find and like your post in a popular hashtag, your post becomes capable of showing up in the ‘Top’ posts section in the lesser popular hashtags. 

 


Thus, do your research, select the hashtags and use them. You may either post them in the caption or in the comments. I don't know if it has happened with someone else or not, but my hashtags work more effectively when I add them in the caption itself.

Adding location (as shown in the image) to your post allows it to appear under the entered location tag, providing more exposure to your post. It isn’t really necessary but a good addition to your post.

Now, coming to the most important part—tagging the feature pages. I learned this in 2018 and since then, my posts have gained more exposure than ever. When you create a post, go to the ‘Tag People’ option, tap on the image and start tagging feature pages. There are numerous such pages on Instagram and By Me Poetry, one of my favourite pages, created a list of pages that feature writers. Click here to see the same and save it for reference every time you make a post. When these pages read and find your post great, they share it on their page with credits, hence exposing your art and your account to their followers and many more people. 


One thing you should note here is that people stop tagging them when they see that their work is not getting featured. Understand that these pages receive hundreds of tags each day and they can share only a few of them. If your posts don’t get featured, don’t stop tagging them each day on your posts. You might miss tagging them on a really great, share-worthy piece. Persistence is the key, always.

And please do not mention their handles in the caption. Tag the pages ON THE IMAGE because they are bound to miss your post and its notification if you mention them in the caption instead of tagging on the image. They get uncountable notifications in a day and you wouldn’t want your post to be lost in a sea of notifications.

When you are done with these steps, you are good to go. Click the share button. And once you have shared a post on your page, it’s better to share it on your story as well (see the image), so that more of your followers know that you have updated. Just another IG algorithm thing.





4. Engage 

Did you know there are engagement groups on IG wherein you like and comment on each other’s posts? These groups are good, if you’re just starting on Instagram, for building a writing community and making new writer friends. But last year, there was news that IG tracks the traffic that comes from direct messages on your posts and hence, it was advised not to share your posts with people through Direct Messages for increasing engagement on it. This would only spoil your reach. I would rather suggest you to go out and visit profiles of other writers via hashtag searches or through poets featured on feature pages. Engage with their posts, leave your valuable feedback, DM them and befriend them. Being a part of a community of writer friends is far better than continuing with engagement groups. Also, engagement groups are very very time consuming, and sometimes, full of negativity. So, reaching out and commenting on others post is a great way to let people know your account exists on Instagram without being a part of the engagement groups.

Besides engaging on others' posts, remember to reply to the comments on your posts. You may ask questions in the caption to receive more engaging comments.

Okay, so I have covered most of the things that you should do on a daily basis and it means I have covered all that I have learned yet. If you know more ways, I would love to hear them.
The other things include giveaways, collaboration, etc. but they don’t come under how you can grow your account daily with little steps.

Now, as I said in the beginning, here are some cons of buying followers:
It kills your algorithm terribly because the followers that you buy are bots that just sit in your followers list and do nothing while IG demands engagement on your post from your followers the most.
The followers that you buy have zero interest in your content, writings or your art. They can’t tell you where you’re doing great and where you need to improve.

Even if you play the follow-unfollow strategy, it brings you ghost followers who don’t care about your content and won’t engage with it.

In the end, it’s a journey. You’ll always want more and more followers, likes, comments. You see, the numbers, they are never enough. Just keep creating art to satisfy your soul. Some days you’ll get hundreds of new followers, some other days only a few. Keep going anyway, be true to your art, never stop writing, be persistent and consistent. And always respect yours as well as others’ art. Good luck, you artistic soul!

___________________________________________________________

Bonus!
Here is the list of apps which I use for editing/creating my Instagram posts:


  1. Pinterest: To find images that can be used to create backgrounds for my writings. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration as well. It’s so full of resources.
  2. Picsart: I have been using Picsart for photo editing for over 7 years and I love it so much!
  3. Over: I use Over sometimes for photo editing and mostly for video editing. I came to know about it recently only and it’s great.
  4. Phonto: The best app for adding text to photos. The best, I repeat. Period.
  5. Buffer: Buffer is the app that I use for scheduling my posts on days I know I am going to be too busy to make a post or just won’t available at my regular post timings. It sends posts with single images on its own to Instagram while for carousel posts, it sets a reminder and copies the caption to your clipboard so that you can immediately make a post on Instagram. If you schedule a post, you will have to manually tag pages on the post from Instagram by tapping the edit post button. I haven’t used it for scheduling videos yet.
  6. IFTTT: When you share your post to Twitter through Instagram, it appears as a link instead of the photo itself. So, IFTTT allows me to share my Instagram photo on Twitter automatically so that the Twitter users don’t have to open the link to see the photo.

Hope this post was useful, do let me know in the comments or through DMs on Instagram at @meetlife240

If you wish to read my book 'Poetic Letters To God', it is available worldwide on following platforms:

Amazon India
Amazon UK
Amazon.com
Flipkart

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Book Review: Unheard Verses by Tiasa Ray

Title: Unheard Verses
Author: Tiasa Ray
Format: Hardback (139 Pages)
Genre: Poetry


Review: 
'Unheard Verses' by Tiasa Ray is such a beautiful read. I was hooked to the book right when I read the opening verse of the book. Each and every poem is so relatable and very beautifully crafted. If you're an artist or a one-sided lover, this book will win your heart. 

'Unheard Verses' is a quick read but I took my time to savour the essence of each poem. I have too many favourites and I will mention some of them in this review. I also love the font that's used for the title of the poems; it's cute. This book is a treat to the senses. The quality of the book is really good as well.

The language used is simple, beautiful and effective and that's what I loved the most. There are poems about love, loss, loneliness, embracing solitude, and finding peace and comfort in art. These are my favourites from the book: He, Lost, Till Now, Coffee, Thoughts of You, You'll be Remembered, Alone, Mother, Muse, Voices. I found the poem titled 'It's Okay' relatable on a different level.

My favourite lines are from the poem titled 'Pretensions':

"Oh! All the pretensions
will fade away eventually 
when the time plays
its game of inevitability." 
-Tiasa Ray

The cover art and the illustrations are all done by the author herself and I LOVE THEM. The cover, again, is simple and classy. The illustrations are so pretty and cute, I fell in love with them. Here's one of my favourites:



The book ends with an unsent letter and it is the best part of the book. The letter has that melancholic, poetic feel in it. It's truly touching and heartwarming. A letter of a one-sided lover for a man whom she saw only once in her life years ago and fell in love with him such that he became the muse behind her every artwork. A letter that she never sent.

You'll surely love the book like I did. You may buy your copy from here or DM her on Instagram @tiasaray for a signed copy.








Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Yes, I’m An Introvert

I’m an Introvert

Artwork: Vibhu Joshi (Instagram @artist_vibhu)


Yes, I am an introvert 
and I am not ashamed of it.
I do stay in most of the times
and I do love it.
I do not interact with many people
but to whom I do,
I am with them completely 
honest and true.
When my energy starts draining
I do leave conversations in the middle
but there are those too
whom I never get tired of talking to.
I am rude at times
sometimes, I am blunt too,
I never mean to hurt anyone
but sometimes, I unintentionally do.
I do not dislike going out,
I too love to step out of my home,
but I do require my chosen company
because I hate going out with people 
who are not inside my comfort zone.
Yes, I am an introvert
and I hate a lot of people,
but those whom I love,
I love them with all my heart.
Trickery, treachery and betrayal
are not my cup of tea,
I prefer being alone
than having some fake company.
There’s nothing wrong me
nothing at all,
I just choose not to adjust
in a world full of pretentious souls.
Yes, I am an introvert
and I am not ashamed of it.
I’m rather proud that

I am more than enough for me.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Book Review: The Last Color by Vikas Khanna


Author: Vikas Khanna
Format: Hardback (224 Pages)
Publisher: Bloomsbury India (2018)
Language: English



Blurb: It's Holi, 2012, the Hindu festival of spring, and back in Varanasi after twenty years, a young advocate is celebrating a nation-wide Supreme Court order against an age-old tradition of social injustice meted out to the destitute widows of India - to whom even the simple joys of color were denied.

It was in this city that, twenty years ago, Choti, a sassy, tight-rope walker befriends an old widow, Noor. As a member of the ashram, she lives a life of complete abstinence, but her young friend's innocent exuberance and joy of life fills her with renewed hope.
The two form an unlikely bond, with Noor looking out for Choti, inspiring her to 'fly high' by seeking an education and fighting for her rights with dignity. Choti listens enraptured by the memories her friend shares: of playing Holi dressed as Radha, the consort of Lord Krishna, and flinging great bursts of her favorite pink-colored gulal into the sky. Choti promises her that they will play the next Holi together.
But then, one night, another friend of Choti's, Anarkali, is murdered by the heinous police chief and his goons. Being the only witness to her murder, Choti is imprisoned on the eve of Holi. Everything falls apart in the ensuing chaos.
Will Choti be able to keep her promise of playing Holi with Noor?
Pitting the smoke rising from the funeral pyres of Manikarnika Ghat, against the joyous color-bursts of Holi celebrations, Vikas Khanna's marvellously layered story of the survival of a delicate friendship, is brilliantly told and poignantly life-affirming.

Review: I think that the blurb gives away enough information about the central theme of the book and its characters. So, I will just review the writing style here and what I loved about the book. The Last Color is Vikas Khanna's debut fiction book and it is a heartwarming tale of love, friendship, promises and of overcoming social taboos. The book keeps you hooked right from the prologue! Page after page, the world of Choti unfolds before your eyes. The characterisation is so strong that some of the characters give you goosebumps, like the Woman in Yellow Saree. 

The language used is easy yet effective, the imagery is vivid and profound. With minor details, each character comes to life before your eyes, one after the other. I love the way chapters have been titled. The Last Color reflects how closely Vikas Khanna observes life; certain people, things and situations which other people often overlook in their life. 
The Last Color takes you on a journey through the alleys of Varanasi drenched in the vibrant colors of Holi. Even if you have never visited Varanasi before, you won't feel like you haven't after visiting it through the eyes and words of Vikas Khanna.

Choti, the rope-walker; Chintu, her partner; Anarkali, the transgender; Noor, the widow; and Raja, the heartless cop, they all are the major characters of the book. If you have been following Vikas Khanna since long and know him good enough, you will find traces of him and his passion for food and nature's beauty in Choti.

The Last Color revolves around society's major issues. Anarkali's flashback is the most heartbreaking part of the book (at least for me) but Noor's backstory is no less. However, the book balances all these heartwrenching sequences with Choti's innocent humour and her friendship with Anarkali and Noor. The title 'The Last Color'... I never understood the meaning/reason behind it until the middle of the book and it was as beautiful as the characterisation of the story. One thing I didn't like about the book is that we didn't get to see what became of Choti and Chintu's friendship at the end. I really wanted to see them rekindle their friendship.

When Choti learns about the colorless lives of the widows, she promises to play Holi with Noor. Will she be able to fulfil her promise? Will she able be bring justice to all the widows who are devoid of colors? You so got to read the book.
Overall it was a heartwarming and touching read. I am sure the movie will be amazing as well. 



You may buy your copy from Amazon: Click Here



Friday, September 21, 2018

Book Review: A Night Under The Shooting Star


A Night Under The Shooting Star published by Artson Publishing House is a beautiful collection of poems by four poets from India and Germany. They are Miriam Otto, Chirag Kumar, Mandeep Singh and Dhruv Anurag Khurana. All four poets have a unique style and they all excel in their respective styles.

Miriam Otto creates strong imagery with her words. Her poems are about life, nature, the importance of now, self-love and something as simple and as vital as breathing. Her poems make you believe in the magic of yourself and in the magic of life. The poems of her that I loved the most are Bliss; Detecting The Alchemist; and Land of Fear.

Dhruv Anurag Khurana writes about life and experiences. His poems are long but they keep you hooked till the end, more so because you can read some of your own experiences too in them. The poems I loved by him are The Lesson: From School; I Know, Everything (this one moved me to tears, literally); Salt and Memories; and The Sword.

Chirag Kumar is the only poet with Hindi poems in the book and his first poem "मैं चिराग हूँ... " is itself an amazing one. He writes about love and the issues faced by the society. My favourites from him are "ख़ामोश आवाज़ें" and "आदत". I am not well-versed with some of the Hindi/Urdu words used in the poems and thus, I cannot write much about their beauty. However, I am sure that a lover of Hindi poetry will fall in love with his poems.

Mandeep Singh, a veteran Army Officer, plays well with words and knows how to beautify pain through his poems. His short and heart-touching poems about love, loss and heartbreak could not give a better ending to the book. Each of his poems is worth reading and re-reading, so I'm not mentioning any of my favourites here as it is too difficult to choose and name a few.

The book A Night Under The Shooting Star can indeed be a perfect companion while you spend a night under the moon and stars, where you want nothing except peace and the magic of words.

The book is available on Amazon, to buy Click here.


P.S. Today marks the 6th Anniversary of my blog 💖

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Fuzia: Global Community Exclusively For Women



6 years ago, an 11-year old girl learned that she had inspired a 6-year-old girl to write her own book, and from there sprung the idea of Fuzia. Riya Sinha, the founder of Fuzia and the author of The Runaway Twins, always wanted to do something to encourage women to pursue their dreams and share their talent with the world. Thus, she created Fuzia (www.fuzia.com), an all-women online platform where women from around the world share their talents with other women. The website was initially created for writers but now it supports writers, painters, photographers, Youtubers and artists of all sorts. Let’s take a look at what Fuzia is all about.
What started as “Fuzia Writing Club” in 2012 has now become a global platform helping girls pursue their dreams and supports the talent of every kind be it writing, painting, photography, singing or any other talent.
Riya Sinha, Founder, Fuzia (left) and Shraddha Varma, Co-founder, Fuzia (right)


Founding Members, Fuzia: (L to R) Riya Kumar, Ria Singhal and Sakshi Shrivastava

The core team of Riya Sinha (Founder, Palo Alto, US), Shraddha Varma (Co-Founder, Mumbai, India) and Riya Kumar (Mumbai, India), Ria Singhal (Kanpur, India) and Sakshi Shrivastava (Bhopal, India) [Founding Members] dedicate their time daily on building and marketing Fuzia so that it reaches all the women who can benefit from it. Their focus is on global marketing, management of the team, PR and networking along with website engagement. Additionally, to make Fuzia more interesting for the users, the team also works on holding new campaigns and contests almost every week, generating riveting content and working on member relations to build a strong community.

Fuzia aims at making the web-experience for women free of online abuse and harassment. They aim at making each woman financially empowered. Fuzia is a platform where their voices will reach a wider audience and receive the recognition they deserve. The name ‘Fuzia’ is a modification of the term ‘fusion’ to make it more fun and interesting as Fuzia brings together women of different cultures with similar or different talents from around the globe on one platform.

Fuzia also has the feature of Fuzia Counsellor where women/girls can find advice on myriads of matters whenever they are in need of it. They can receive advice regarding emotional, psychological, academic, personal or any other issues. Fuzia is also working on providing freelancing projects so that women can become financially independent. For now, a number of contests are organised with cash or other prizes. 

Unlike Instagram, it’s not a game of hashtags or like for like or follow for follow. An artist receives genuine recognition and feedback from Fuzia users for their work. They can meet like-minded people and start discussions through Fuzia chat-box and public channels. 

The Fuzia Lounge is your timeline where you see recent posts from your friends and other Fuzia users. You can sort posts by categories and see only the ones that are relevant to you. You can also create your post by clicking on ‘Add Post’ and submitting your artwork or video. You sure will receive a warm feedback from other users and get an appreciation for your work. 

Fuzia is now a community with more than 3.5 million followers from all over the globe and growing bigger each day. Fuzia now has more than 10,000 registered users from more than 35 countries and they have shared on Fuzia more than 15,000 creative works. Fuzia app for iOS users has also been launched and is now available for free on App store. 

Riya Sinha, the founder of Fuzia was recently awarded the “Iconic Teen Entrepreneur and Innovator” award at Women’s Economic Forum in Canada.


"Women empowering other women" puts a smile on my face, and Fuzia is all about smiles, talent and growth. Sign up on Fuzia: www.fuzia.com