October 13, 2015

India's best film critic says, discipline is the key to successful blogging

Baradwaj Rangan is a well-known name to people reading about good cinema. He is a recipient of India's national film award for the best film critic. He writes a column on the Hindu paper, and is a  published author.

On his very well maintained blog, he has posted over a thousand film reviews, besides his views on other art forms and things social. His discipline is marvelous; he has been maintaining the blog for a decade without a break and without compromising on quality.

No wonder, the blog has been finding a place in ITB's Directory of Best Indian Blogs and Patinum Blog Rankings every year for the last five years. 

We requested Baradwaj to share his thoughts on blogging with us and he obliged, giving detailed responses to our questions. 

What do you think as your biggest success points in the blogging journey?

Hmmm… It’s probably creating a space that a community gathers around. The readers. They come and go, some stay longer than the others, but there’s always a critical mass that keeps things interesting. I mean you write something, and you want people to react to it. They could be mad at you because you dissed their idol. They could love what you wrote. Whatever. But the point is that they come and read you every time you post something. I think getting this critical mass has been possible solely through my blog, which consists partly of the stuff I write in print, partly the stuff I write exclusively for the blog.

Any regrets about blogging or any blogging-related actions you think are worthless or a waste of time?

Not really. It’s a bit time-consuming, and you have to be a little disciplined about it – but then nothing comes easy. It probably helps that I love to write and don’t consider it a chore/job.

How much importance do you give to these: quality of content, consistency, use of SEO, engagement with others, look & feel, or anything else?

I like typography and design, so I like my blog to *look* a certain way. The Wordpress folds have great templates. But all this is secondary to the content. If you don’t have good content, then you won’t get readers.

Have you monetised the blog? If so, how. Do you wish to share any monetisation tips with bloggers?

Nope. But if you know ways, do let me know.

Considering fast growth of social networking sites and other such media, what in your opinion is the future of blogging?

I think blogging has already mutated into the miniaturised forms we find on Facebook and Twitter. That whole initial rush we saw – where everyone had a blog titled “Musings on…” – that’s gone now. But I think there are still readers out there waiting for good content that’s different from what they get in the mainstream media.

What advice would you like to give to budding or less established bloggers, especially Indian bloggers?

First you have to ask yourself: Why do I want to blog?

Is it going to be a hobby? Or maybe you want to be a writer and are taking baby steps towards that goal through the blog? Or maybe you like to keep a “diary” of your thoughts?

If it’s just a hobby, then no advice is needed. For the diary as well.

But in general:

I think the most important thing is to find a niche, find that ONE thing that you’re good at and that you do differently enough that people say “let me check out what he/she has to say.”

Then, keep writing. Write 500 or 1000 words every day, without fail.

The big problem with writing is that the tool (language) is, in a sense, a somewhat generalised one. We all use language in some shape or form, and we all *write* in some shape or form – we write emails, we write reports, letters. So some people tend to think that writing opinion pieces or reviews or whatever is just a small leap. But it isn’t. It’s a discipline. Just because you hum a song in the bathroom, doesn’t mean you can make it as a concert singer. You need a lot of dedication, practice. You need to find writers who inspire you and read, read, read. You need to then use that inspiration to formulate your own style.

The first few attempts may come off as derivative, but slowly – if you’re any good – you’ll find a voice. And once you have the language, there’s the other thing of trying to use that language to put down precisely the thoughts in your head. So I’m talking content as well as style.

I know this sounds like a lot of work for someone who wants to be a “casual” blogger, but I really do feel that if you want to stand out in something you have to plunge it and not just skim the surface.

As for “Indian bloggers,” try to find something to talk about that’s unique. Let’s take reviewing. The whole word reviews English films. But when it comes to Indian films, it’s a smaller sample. So that might be a good place to start, especially if you can present films from a region of India to an English-speaking and –reading audience.

Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Do what you do best, and you’ll get an audience if you’re good.