Long back, I remember reading a book called ‘What Katy did’. One bit of conversation from that book had somehow stuck to my mind when I had read it. There is a character called Cousin Helen who tells Katy on becoming bed ridden that she is now a student in the “School of Pain” where she will learn lessons in patience, cheerfulness, hopefulness, neatness and the making the best of things. This came back to my head unconsciously when I was going over the blog ‘Chapters from my Life’. The blogger seems to have learnt a lot in the very same “School of Pain” and she is kind enough to share the learning with all of us. Her writings reflect a deep understanding of the essence of life and the value of every single moment in life.
The blog appropriately titled ‘Chapter from my Life’ puts forth some chapters from the life of Farida Rizwan, an Indian rural house wife who has been through a lot of really tough circumstances in life and has emerged stronger for the same. In addition to personal experiences, she writes poetry and shares thoughts on family, relations and life in general, caring for children and on fighting cancer. She herself has lost more than one family member to the disease and has a special needs child she takes care of. But that by no means makes the blog just a cancer support or child care blog. A few posts may pertain specifically to these topics. But the general public at large can relate to and have some takeaways from most of her posts.
I would like to point out some of the things that fascinated me most about her writings. In her articles on relationships, she has structured her thoughts really well and exhibits an amazing clarity of thought. Her personal experience posts are really vivid and capture all the key events associated with a particular incident in her life and the associated emotions in an interesting narrative. Her poems are a real delight. They come straight from the heart and reach straight to the heart. No pretensions, no unnecessary words, no complications! Hers are poems even someone who does not care much for poems can easily relate to. One unique aspect of her posts is that she makes most of her own illustrations. Self made illustrations add more personal touch to the writings and connect better with the reader than images from Google.
Her back drop is a combination of light and dark blue with checks like a shirt. I feel it looks too austere like a hospital ward. Since she writes about the gloomy topic of cancer also (though with a positive frame of mind), I wish she would lighten the environment of her blog with something more cheerful in the background. As far as widgets go, some of the navigation widgets are nice but overall I get a crowded feeling with too many widgets. I am not sure if the advertisement widgets bring any revenue at all. The award badges are nice, but she has won so many contests and I am sure she will win many more. Maybe it will be nice to have separate static page to display the achievements instead of keeping them all on the side bar. The general badges pertaining to blogger sites that do not bring much traffic can be done away with or moved to a not so prominent location close to the blog footer.
Coming to my favorite topic of navigation, I must say she has put reasonable efforts in this area. There is a related posts widget and labels have been used as tabs to segregate different post categories other than the regular archives. Also there are in- post links to other posts where ever there is some connection. However navigation is an area where there is always scope for improvement. Using labels as tabs, makes it a bit inconvenient as reader has to scroll down 10-15 posts on a single page. Instead, having links to the posts on a static page with some small description can make it more visitor-friendly. In my opinion, a blog is not a news website but more a living book. So one must constantly be revisiting and reorganizing content. One can always change content in an earlier post as one gets fresh thoughts and also add links to a later post if found relevant. The ease of access must be same for a 3 years old post as a 1 day old post. In literature, personal, photo and most travel blogs content is not dated. So as more and more content is developed, a serious rethink is needed to classify and re-organize the content. In some ways it is very similar to how companies keep restructuring their organization as they grow in size.
One more thing I would suggest while organizing content is to segregate contest posts from regular posts. It has been my personal experience that regular readers of a blog do not appreciate contest posts, especially the ones with narrow guidelines or where one has to talk about a specific product unless the blog itself is a product review blog. So it will be convenient if regular readers have some mechanism by which they can easily identify contest posts and skip them if they do not want to read them.
In terms of interaction, in the older posts, the interaction level is quite low. But in the more recent posts, it is seen every comment is read and responded to. The volume of comments is also quite good. For this type of blog, I feel the comments are sufficient interaction. I don’t see the need for any specific section for general interaction as is the case of information blogs.
This would be classified as a personal blog in most directories. But I find the very concept of a personal blog an oxymoron. A blog is something public. And personal is opposite of public. A blog should be classified from the point of view of the reader and not the writer. If a blog has no utility to a reader, then it is just a personal diary or a rough book. In this context I would prefer to call this blog an inspirational or motivational blog rather than a personal blog. It is the place to go to if one is feeling down in the dumps and that life has not been fair. This blog would definitely help lift up one’s spirits. Chapters from Farida's life also offer one lot of lessons about life in general.
Find below a few samples from the blog.