Hello and welcome to Mom Blogger October on the Times of Amma. As regular readers know, the Times Of Amma community is all about inspiring Moms and building them up as they work on being themselves and Mothers. And so, this month is dedicated to featuring Moms who are working on being themselves and mothers, while expressing themselves through their blogs.
Today we meet Saraswati Datar, a Maharashtrian who grew up in Chennai, studied and in Pune and worked in Mumbai before moving to Singapore. After studying film making, she worked in mainstream television as a producer and scriptwriter, and is now a freelance columnist who works full time at Mom. Inc. She blogs about cinema, culture, television and media, and occasionally parenting at Kaapimusings and Mumbai Matinee.
What was it that prompted you to become a blogger?
I think there are personal and professional reasons both.
I have always enjoyed writing, and grew up writing poems and short stories through school and college. I would blog when I had some free time from my full time job, but when I moved to Singapore in 2012 and found myself suddenly unemployable but with lots to say so I used my blog to express myself. I think the interest in blogging also stems from the fact that I have strong opinions on things. As clichéd as it sounds, writing is both stimulating and cathartic to me. Additionally I have realised over time, that while I love my family and friends, when it comes to work, I am at my best when I am working solo, or perhaps with minimal interaction with people. Blogging is a great way for me to enjoy my solitude and write in peace.
Professionally I think the blog is an extension of my profile of a scriptwriter turned freelance columnist. When I was in between jobs in 2013, I started a new blog called Mumbai Matinee where I would review Hindi films releasing in Singapore and that did pretty well. It has over 10.000 page views to date and I do think about kickstarting that again. I then spent a period of time writing for offprint.in which was like having a blog of my own because there was no censorship on the subjects I could write on. I still have a page of my own on their website and can write as frequently as I want.
Kaapimusings was my first blog which I have been posting on recently and hope to do so with more regularity. As an extension of my blog, I wrote and continue to write freelance, expressing my opinions on subjects, or writing reviews for a variety of publications from the Times of India, The news Minute and a parenting website Sassy Mama in Singapore.
Which has been your most memorable post to date and why?
There have been some memorable posts across all these different pages I write on. My film reviews were actually quite popular and the one on Ram Leela in particular was very well received, it had 1200 page views when I last checked.
Recently my piece on Karan Johar and Varun Dhawan mocking Kangana Ranaut at an award show struck a chord with a lot of people and was shared multiple times. My ‘letter’ to Amitabh Bachchan in response to his rather sexist letter to his granddaughters was very memorable because I wrote it in just a few hours but the response was fantastic. I usually turn to current affairs when it comes to cinema and television related posts because commenting on a trending topic makes it more relevant and readable. With parenting I just go with what I feel like sharing about my own experiences as a mom and try to strike a balance between humorous and serious posts.
What has the most memorable comment on your blog been so far?
Ironically very few people leave comments on my blog itself. I get lots of positive comments on the Facebook post that I share with the link to the blog. But as long as it drives page views I am not worried. I think while the comment itself was not memorable, I was very moved when I heard that my post on Yoga helping me cope with being an expat wife and mom had touched women in Africa who ran a yoga school there. Also, a big highpoint was when I got a like from Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni on Twitter when I tweeted the link to my book review of her novel. I don’t know if she read the review but the fact that she acknowledged me itself was a high. A lot of people shared their comments and thoughts on the Amitabh Bachchan post and it was shared several times over by people all over India, so that was a huge compliment.
Have you ever started to write a post and then abandoned it? Why?
I used to it more initially when I first started blogging. I was impulsive and my writing process was still developing. Even now I sometimes start thinking about an idea which doesn’t get put down on paper or keyboard, but I am more thorough. If I feel that while it’s a great thought, there isn’t enough material there to justify a post, I put in on the backburner or abandon the idea. As a work from home mom I get limited time to write, so I prefer spending a little more filtering and sorting out my own thoughts before actually sitting down to write, focussing on quality over frequency or quantity.
Do you stick to a regular posting schedule or do you post whenever inspiration strikes? Do you have a writing routine?
I don’t have a regular posting schedule currently. Given my writing commitments to other publications where I write freelance columns, I tend to work around deadlines instead. When I was operating Mumbai Matinee like a full time, I used to post once every week after watching a movie. These days it’s a little more dependent on when I have something I need to say about a person or event or news story. For example when I saw Bareily Ki Barfi, I was so starstruck by Rajkummar Rao’s performance I just had to write about him, but since the movie was two weeks old I did a profile on him as an artist and his craft. There was this TV show that was launched in India where an 8 year old boy is married to a twenty year old woman and I was just so disgusted and mortified I wrote a post immediately. Sometimes instead of blogging about it, I pitch my idea to a publication looking for content. Like when a woman in China committed suicide because she was denied a c section, I felt awful and wrote a piece that a popular kids and parenting website, Sassy Mama here published.
My writing routine, like most mothers I think, is built around my daughter’s routine. I usually start work early around 8.30 -9 am as soon as she leaves for school and work till 12 when she comes back. Then I get another two hours when she naps in the afternoon and maybe an hour more when she heads to the playground. If I really have a pressing deadline or cannot plait Barbie’s hair in between paragraphs, I head to a coffee shop nearby and get 2-3 hours of concentrated working time.
Do you find it hard to get your voice heard in the crowded blogosphere?
Hmmm… I think what’s hard these days is having to build a personality and brand for yourself in an environment that increasingly pays more attention to your life off the blog than purely the content of your blog. While blogging offered some visual anonymity earlier, now its becoming increasingly important to almost position yourself and differentiate yourself to an extent. That being said, I think consistency in your beliefs and developing a unique writing style definitely helps in the long run, because people will keep coming to read what you have to say.
Many say that blogging is dead thanks to other micro-blogging avenues like Instagram, Twitter and others. As the owner of a traditional blog, how would you respond to that?
I think it has diversified the blogging space. I wouldn’t look at it as a negative. There are people who have a talent they want to share, or views on a subject but find it hard to translate their thoughts into words. In such cases Instagram Twitter or Facebook is actually good because they can be seen and heard without having to write 500-600 words about it. I also think like I have mentioned earlier, sometimes it helps you get noticed in a crowded space, and helps you differentiate yourself. So while maybe longform writing has been affected, we are better off adapting and using it to our advantage.
Do you see your blog as a stepping stone to something else? Do you see yourself wearing the tag of 'blogger' five years down the line?
Five years down the line I hope to be a full time columnist, maybe run a website of my own, and while I may not call myself a blogger, having a blog has definitely helped build my credibility as a writer. Blogging is a phenomenal way for a lot of men and women to find a voice and share their gifts in art, cooking, fitness, fashion and more. It has democratised publishing and not let us languish at the mercy of media or publishing houses. I also think for me, blogging is the most selfless form of writing. You write for the passion of a subject and because you can no longer live without your voice being heard.
What tips do you have for other Indian Mom bloggers?
While writing is great to vent or rant, at some point it’s important to develop a more crystallised perspective. In this world of multiple voices, where people change opinions according what’s trending, what are your beliefs? What is your individual perspective? How is what you have to express different from what is already online? Are you going to take pictures, videos, make Youtube tutorials or write articles? These are fundamental considerations.
I think it’s also important to set up certain rules or guidelines for yourself like a self publishing unit. What products are you not willing to endorse? What kind of photographs will you not share? How much of your kid’s life or routine/face and body would you like to share? The internet is a voyeuristic space but you can decide the boundaries.
It’s important to be persistent and consistent. Don’t expect overnight success and recognition. People take time to acknowledge you as an authority in a field, or start valuing your opinion.
Don’t be riddled by self doubt. Just start writing, taking pictures, painting, baking, or doing whatever it is that you are passionate about. As someone told me, being able to express yourself and having a space to do that is empowering. So, go ahead and blog.
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Click here for the 2016 edition of Mom Blogger October.