Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: Makeup and Breakup Stories by Nihar Pradhan

This is a mixed bag of short stories by writer Nihar Pradhan, an IT professional, and I guess that’s why he named it as, ‘Makeup and Breakup Stories, Contemporary Classics for Digital Natives’. More than the book, I was intrigued by the title. As a professional whose life moved as much in the digital space as the author himself, I was really hooked by the title. I always thought the term, ‘contemporary classic’ is an oxymoron, and couldn’t wait to read to see if the stories explain the title or not.

Pic Courtesy:

So did the stories live up to my expectations? Well, let me tell you, that I found Nihar to be a wonderful person, who had sent me an author-signed copy to review. I was thrilled. Reviewing books is my hobby, and I am not a professional critic, so to speak. So whenever someone extends this courtesy towards me, I am always impressed. 

Coming back to the book, well, like I said, it’s a mixed bag. Some are good, and others are some I didn’t enjoy as much as my favorite ones. The ones I loved are the story of the Missing File, for very rarely people write stories of the lives of the defense people (except for Bollywood of course, but then those are glamorized versions with no relations to truth whatsoever), so it was a pleasure. ‘Fleeting Romance’ and ‘Whats in a Name’ are good too. And there’s even a ‘Makeup and Breakup’ story too, which is essentially a conversation between Marriage and Divorce (yes, they are personified).

So what’s my opinion on this book? Well, let’s put it this way: that I may live in a contemporary world, but classics are where my literary interest lies. And since this is more of a contemporary set of stories, rather than classical ones, well, these may not be exactly what I will pick up on a rainy Sunday afternoon.  I guess I am not too fond of phrases like, ‘brushing my teeth with anti-germ Pepsodent’ or ‘I just sipped the Nestle Fruit Juice’ in my books that take up most of my waking hours.  Corporate branding in stories too? I guess we are moving to a different era of publishing now.

But hey, don’t that let you stop from reading this book. You may find some hidden gems here. Let me know when you do, I will re-read them to understand your preference. Reading is all about experimenting with different genres, trying out new authors. And in that note, I am glad I read this one. Thank you, Nihar for sending me this one. Wish you luck.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What You Must Know If You Are Searching For Content Jobs

Yes, content writing, or being a digital content professional, is really a vibrant segment of careers today. And yet it is one of the most competitive arenas to set a foot on. Many a time I have come across professionals from different sectors of the industry wanting to become a content writer. 

Whenever I have been in a position to give them a chance, I have always done so. One of the reasons I did so was because I felt writing is a creative pursuit, and not something one can develop. If you are good at it, you need that one chance to establish yourself. And if you are not that good, your readers will tell you that, and then it will be difficult to for you to get a second chance.

Photo Credit: CreativeCommons

But the bottom line is, not everyone can become a writer. Just like not everyone can become an artist, or a singer, or a photographer, for that matter (although these days people think that buying an expensive DSLR is the first step towards photographic greatness). So the most important thing you’d need to make a cut in this field is your talent. Just make sure you have it in spades. This cut-throat competitive job market has no space for a mediocre writer. Even if you are good, you have to consistently polish yourself, learn new tricks, and keep yourself up breast with the latest content strategies. In other words, you need to be in top of your form, always.

These days even the best of the writers need to showcase their talents and keep a ready portfolio of their writings for that competitive advantage. Blogs are actually a very good way to share your skills with the world, and it helps if you have a strong presence in the Internet. Personal branding matters a lot these days. Get your personal brand out in the open and keep it strong. Find out your niche and talk about your domain expertise. Make sure you stand out as an expert in at least one thing, rather than a jack of all trades.  

Experimenting with different genres is important. I am amazed with Amish Tripathy, who became the pioneer of writing mythology based books through his Shiva Trilogy. Who would have thought that it is possible to sell novels based on mythological character of the Hindu God, Shiva? Apparently, no one, not even publishers. So he self-published his first book, The Immortals of Meluha, and today these are some of the best sellers and most talked about  literary fiction work in modern Indian literature.

I always felt reading is important. And not only the genres you enjoy the most, but even genres you are not that keen. Reading improves the way we think and the way we write. I don’t know about others, but I write because I read. For me, reading goes hand-in-hand with writing. The more I read, the more I am bursting with ideas to write. Can it be the reason why I have never ever felt a writer’s block till now? Is it because I read? Well, I am solely tempted to say, yes, definitely.

Sometimes I wonder who reads my work? I started my blogs with the sole aim of finding my space, giving back all those things I learnt in my career in the digital content industry, and to help others who wish to set a foot in this ever growing industry. The digital content space is filled with noise. Everyday thousands of people write, post, and share content. Some are read, others often languish in obscurity. Making an impression seems to be the most elusive of the rewards of writing. And yet I saw my blog grow. So may be if you can find your voice, you can grow too. 

So next time you are on a job hunt for in digital content space, here’s my advice:

·         Make sure you are talented in this field. There is no space for the mediocre.
·         Build your online portfolio and create a personal brand.
·         Experiment with different genres to express your creativity
·         Reading everything you can get your hands into.

·         Find your voice and stay committed.