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Ever wonder why some people get to be so happy? So far, I have established one thing, happiness is somehow tied to simplicity in life .. the simpler your life is, apparently the happier you are going to be.

I like to think that I am a fairly happy person. It might not have been the case just a year ago but in the last year alone, I have managed to rediscover my self. I was able to achieve all of my goals – and more. Through sheer hard work and determination, and with a positive approach to life.

I started my kids in a great school and daycare, got in my Post Grad diploma of Teaching in a highly prestigious university of my choice.

I changed house, bought new furniture along the way and topped it of with a new SUV a few days ago.

I started my blog that got great exposure when my Blogging Tips post made it to freshly pressed – for four days. YAY! I also got great readers and subscribers, who wouldn’t have found me otherwise. I also found great writers and bloggers to learn from. :) I got some work published on the web, a great start in the world of web writing.

I completed two teaching placements and one year (half) of my teaching degree. Phew! It’s hard to believe I actually survived.

After my parents’ visit from overseas, I am going for a holiday of about 6 weeks with my family. YAYYY :) Leaving on Jan 15, so get in your comments early. :)

So yes I have had a very good year. This brought on a sudden burst of inspiration to write something light-hearted on life and happiness, taking a break from blogging and writing advice. Psst .. it helped to read The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It by David Niven as well.

Here goes

My top tips that are helping me to lead a truly happy life.

Have a Purpose and Meaning in your Life

Set goals in your life and make sure they are in perfect harmony with each other. They are life tyres of your car, they must move in the same direction. If they conflict with each other, you will end up being very stressed out and dissatisfied with your life. 

Invest in Friendships

Life without close, meaningful relationships is meaningless.

You do not have to be a social butterfly, however true friends will make you come alive. Take care of your friends and reap the rewards of belonging.

Friendship beats money, hands down. Tell your friends what they mean to you and make their day, as well as yours. Keep your word. 

A happy life

It Hurts to Compare with Unrealistic Standards

Think of those whose examples are worthy but make sure you stay true to yourself. 

Have realistic expectations. You are a person, not a stereotype. Be comfortable in your own skin.

Be grateful that you are fortunate than many. Accept yourself. Believe in yourself – Just not too much.

Ask for help when you need it and share your problems with your mates.

Every relationship is different, don’t compare yours with your friend’s.

Let your goals evolve or you will get seriously hurt. Do the things you are good at. Money is not the end to all problems. 

Turn off the TV

Excessive tv watching takes you away from life. Your partners and kids literally need to shout to be heard. It makes you lazy and makes you take your relationships for granted. Do not take tv’s view of the world, the picture is tainted. 

Be Open to New Experiences

Life-long learning is the key to life long fun. Get a hobby, be it dance, cooking class, new form of exercise or some course at the university; try something new to stay young and fresh. Volunteer your time in your community. Join a group. Have fun. 

If You are Not Sure, Guess Positively

If somebody is being nice, do they have an agenda or are they a nice person? Are you the type of person who stays positive, or assumes the worst? Try banishing this self-defeating habit and see the profound effect on your life. Check  out positivity blog’s 5 powerful questions that can help make 2011 a fantastic year for you.

Be Happy

Develop a Household Routine

If your life is all over the place, you will dread waking up in the morning. You will be harried, rushed and overly stressed trying to manage your average day. Surround yourself with beautiful things and wonderful smells. Enjoy the ordinary. 

Get a Good Night Sleep

Works wonders. Exercise and get physically active. Its nothing like feeling your best throughout the day. 

Keep Your Family Close

Develop shared interests with your loved ones. 

Be Thankful

Pay attention to your life, you might already have that you really need.

Your definition of success has to be your own. Remember to think good, your life is a success based on your judgement only. Keep perspective, maintain integrity.

  2010 was my happiness project, check out Gretchen Rubin’s site for her book in which she documented her year long happiness project. What has made you particularly happy with yourself the past year? Any major goals, any outstanding achievements? Please share. What are your best tips for being happy?

If you want to get the best of books on; writing, blogging, publishing, personal growth, inspiration, women issues and more, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog & keep talking in comments section. Looking forward to knowing you more. Many thanks. :)
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How many times have you started reading a post and your eyes start to glaze over after two sentences..

How many times have you read the words ‘well written content’  while going through posts on blogging and scratched your head – what does it actually mean, you wonder?  

Is ‘Content is King’ web cliché of sorts? Of course, it is, but like all clichés, there is 100% truth behind these over used words.

Content is King

This post was inspired by an old favourite I recently revisited for its good writing tips, titled  ‘English Essentials- The wouldn’t-be-without-it guide to writing well, co authored by Mem Fox, world-famous writer of children’s picture books. The book is geared towards students of English, however the advice applies equally well to writing a great blog post. Here’s is what I walked away with.

How to write Great Blog posts that will leave your Readers wanting MORE

1. Good Writing Keeps the Reader in mind.

Picture one person you are writing for. Imagine them sitting in front of you while you talk to them about your ideas. Ask yourself these questions. Do they appear to be interested in what you have to say? How can you capture and keep their attention?

What questions might they have? Will they get bored if you write too long, or confused if too little. What might they already know?

You cannot write a post to please everybody, different readers require different levels of language and detail. Write for your one ideal reader. Who do you write your posts for?

2. Good Writing Captures Hearts and Minds Early.

Readers on the internet have limited patience. Hook them in quickly before they move on.

Make sure your posts are ‘scannable‘ , meaning, readers should be able to read them quickly and understand what you are telling them about.

Write short paragraphs. My earlier posts resembled a printed article style and have longer paragraphs. Now I am trying to make my posts as scannable and ‘easy on the eyes’ as possible. Am I succeeding?

Blog posts – in the manner of non fiction – can be clearly set out with headings, sub headings, lists and dot points to help your message get across. Do you do this while writing your posts?

Look at your paragraphs, there should be a smooth flow from one to the next.

How to write great blog posts

3. Good Writing has a Voice.

Every blog has a living, breathing person behind it. It shouldn’t sound like it has been written by a robot. It’s a good idea to develop your voice over time which will stay consistent throughout your posts.

When you write, let your personality, your real self shine through. Advises Mem Fox. If you are funny, be funny in your posts, if you are sensitive, then be that. If you are quirky, allow some quirkiness to come forward .. your readers will love you for it.

Your voice tells the readers that you have enjoyed writing something. It shows your passion for what you do.

I follow a person, not a blog. Do you? Checkout Four Steps to finding your ideal writing voice on Copyblogger. Highly fascinating and satisfying read.

4. Good Writing Connects with your Readers.

We learn from good writing. We FEEL when we read. We are bored and unmoved when we read something we don’t like and don’t even finish reading it.

Be imperfect, be yourself. You are constantly evolving and so is your blog. Be human and other humans will love you. Imperfection is a good thing, says Men with Pens.

5. Good Writing is Clear Writing.

If you can’t understand something, don’t blame yourself, blame the writer. Too harsh? Well this is especially true when it comes to writing a blog post. A well written post is only effective when the message is clear. James Chartrand of Mens with Pens has done a fantastic piece on Copyblogger where he says, “Tight, concise, easy-to-read pieces are heaven for readers. Long, complex, convoluted ones are just confusing.”

Unless you are writing an academic essay, stay away from writing to impress. Get rid of long words, pompous sentences and empty padding, says Mem Fox. ‘Aim to express, not to impress.’

Good writing also has well crafted endings. For a blog post, ask your readers a question and invite them to offer their thoughts on what you have written.

6. Good Writing has been Revised.

Make sure your grammar, spelling and punctuation are correct. These are good table manners of online world. Incorrect spelling puts your readers in a bad mood. It says ‘I am not serious about my work’. It also helps you to maintain your authority over your topic.

How do you define a well written post? What makes you want to stay and finish one post from start to end? And most importantly, did YOU end up reading this whole thing?  :) Do share.

Update: After revising and proofreading this endlessly, I still found a few errors … hence revising again. My apologies if you read it before I had a chance to do so.

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Best Blogging Tips

As the original post was getting a tad too long, I decided to split into two parts. For the first 4 tips on blogging, check out part 1.

5. Respect your readers

Don’t blog about anything you can’t say to a person’s face. Scott McNulty of The unofficial Apple weblog

Accept criticism with open attitude and see what you can learn from it.

Think about others’ feelings before you post. Your blog is not a license for rudeness.

6. Gain experience from your personal blog

Blogging means different things to different people. Peter Rojas; Engadget. Figure out what are you blogging for.

Before starting a blog, make sure you have more than one thing to say. Make a list of half-dozen or more ideas. Rebecca Lieb. ClickZ

Blogging for free, on your own, may win the attention of paying blogs. Victor Agreda Jr. DIY life

Experience with a personal blog can prepare you for blogging for pay. Deidre Woollard. Luxist.

A personal blog is a better platform for being yourself and communicating honestly, rather than a blog you are paid to write. You admit to your biases rather than hide it. Mary Jo Foley of All about Microsoft.

A blog can support and extend the life of a book. Brad Hill. Weblogs, Inc

The strength of successful blogs is their authenticity. Content and personality are both important.

Blog from your heart. Deborah Peterson of Life in the Fast Lane.

7. Blogging is a learning process

Says Gary Lee of An internet Marketing Website.

Blogging is an ongoing learning experience. Gina Trapani of Lifehacker. It can help you learn more about a particular subject.

8. Increase your readership over time

Be passionate about what you write, it shows.

Write original, thoughtful, well written content and readers will come.

If you want people to come to your blog, you must offer them something of value. Steve Rubel. MicroPersuasion.

Respond to your comments, your readership counts.

Look for opportunities to self promote your blog.

Comment on blogs of high-profile bloggers in your niche area to draw traffic. Kristin Darguzas. ParentDish

Growth does not happen quickly. John Neff. Autoblog.

Learn about SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Link to other blogs where appropriate. They might link back. Joel Comm. JoelComm.com

Links from other blogs are more important than SEO, because those links give you the effect of SEO. Robert Scoble. Scobleizer.

Avoid begging for links. Mike Masnick. Techdirt.

Rather than focusing on bringing in traffic, let content guide your blog. Philipp Lenssen Google Blogoscoped

Setting up titles that appeal to both search engines and humans is all the SEO that most blogs read. Brad Hill. Weblogs, Inc

       So, anytips for having a successful blog? More importantly, what is your definition of a successful blog?

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Blogging Heroes on how to have a successful blog

I have just finished reading ‘Blogging heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World’s Top Bloggers’, and I must say  that Michael A Banks is a GENIUS. I simply could not get enough of it. 

Being relatively new to the blogging scene, naturally I was interested in picking the brains of the best of the best – how they started and made it big. Although the book mostly covers the major players in technology, news, politics and lifestyle – and my blog doesn’t have anything to do with any of it-  it really is a must read for every new blogger who is dead serious about it.

At the end of each interview, Banks summarizes advice for newbies these veterans have churned out. Here I compile my own list of bits I especially loved from these world-class bloggers.

How to have a successful blog, for new bloggers

1. You don’t have to write everyday

Write when you are inspired and and set up extra material to post at later dates. That way your readers know when to expect your new posts. Dave taylor of The Intuitive Life Business Blog.

It does help to post regularly, this way people are likely to return. Frank Warren of PostSecret.

Readers expect fresh content every time they visit a blog.

2. Go to other blogs

.. and engage in discussions to bring readers to your blog.

Don’t write quickie comments as an excuse to leave your url, its annoying. Add your comment if you genuinely have something to say. Don’t spam other blogs with link to your blog.

Keep up with other blogs. Almost all bloggers admitted to subscribing to 200 or so blogs on average.

3. Find a niche

Chris Anderson of The Long Tail advises to focus on specific interests. You don’t have to appeal to an overly diverse audience. Focused blogs are self selecting…

‘A specific focus or mission is necessary to sustain a blog’. Ina Steiner, AuctionBytes.

4. Cultivate Good Writing

Don’t worry about reporting on new things, find a fresh and exciting perspective instead.

Write descriptive headlines to your posts, especially important for people who subscribe to your feeds. Mark Frauenfelder of Boingboing.net.

Don’t forget other blogs as sources of information and always credit by linking to them.

Use a relaxed and personable style rather than a news style. Ken Fisher of Arts Technica.

Take time away from your blog to get fresh ideas. Credentials are not necessarily indicative of quality of blog posts.

    The final 3 tips on blogging are posted here. These also talk about how to build readership – the million dollar question.

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Food Memoirs have been the craze for a while now. But surely you knew that, unless you have been living under a rock – such as myself.  Run a search for food memoirs on Amazon, and you will find more results than you cared to know about. Who knew, apparently write about food, and you can’t go wrong. 

So I picked up ‘A Homemade life – Stories and recipes from my kitchen table’ by Molly Wizenberg. The cover is totally gorgeous and does precisely what the publisher intended it to do – makes you take a second look. Then I found out that she got her book deal after her food blog Orangette proved to be a world wide sensation. Food blogs are not my thing, however, I love stories of wonderful things happening to ordinary people. I was sold. 

The blurbs on the dust jacket alone want you to purchase the book straightway. The praise makes it sound so irresistible, yes the whole package is a publisher’s dream. This precisely why I was a bit hesistant picking it up, although it had been sitting on my bedside table for sometime. I always find it hard to start reading a book that looks so beautiful on the outside. The inside almost always never holds up. This particular one, sadly, was not an exception either.

Everything about the book is cute. The blog is cute, the book is cute, the writer is so damn cute. Except nothing really happens in the book. The book is filled with short essay type, lackluster stories. I would be more interested to read these stories in magazines rather than have them take the form of a book. There is no coherence. The writing is good, the stories are not. The book is too long.

A young girl grows up loving cooking because everybody cooks in her family. She leaves her academic pursuits for cooking and writing. Her elderly father passes away and she goes to Paris. There she starts a blog and meets her husband. That’s all that happens in the book. Seriously. 

The book does pick up a bit half way through with her love angle taking shape, however the stories still remain mildly amusing. I skipped all the recipes as well. At times, I found her food writing to be quite annoying – I know she is a ‘foodie’ but does she have to talk like a food critic on Iron Chef? Over the top and unnecessary.

In stark contrast is the classic ‘Home Cooking – A Writer in the kitchen’ by Laurie Colwin. Her book is concise, and a perfect treat, waiting to be devoured. She makes you fall in love with her life, her writing, and her cooking – even if you are not into cooking. She surprises you with the simplest, most unpretentious prose and gentle humour, often catching you by surprise. I could relate to almost everything in the book and could not get enough of it. I read every single thing she had to say. At the end, I sighed with total satisfaction, albeit little sadly, to finish the book. Just like you do after finishing an awesome meal. You wish for more, but not really. You know it was perfect. 

Read Laurie (right) if you are after a fantastic read that just happens to be about food. Read Molly (above) if your primary love is food/cooking. Very much a matter of individual preference and yet makes a world of a difference as to what you are getting. As for me, I am quite fussy about what’s on my plate.

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My a-ha moment

I spend all day yesterday with my nose buried inside a book titled ‘You don’t have to be famous: How to write your life story’. What an absolute delight. I finished it in two days straight, and probably could have sooner, if something called life hadn’t intervened. 

Do you ever think about writing your autobiography or perhaps have somebody else in mind just perfect for that? Have a look at this book. Printed by writer’s digest books, relax, you are in good hands. Steve Zousmer is a highly acclaimed speech writer in US, (which is probably why you haven’t heard of him), and has got an addictive writing style. You won’t stop reading once you start, I promise. His passion for trying to convince nobodies to write their autobiography- for family & friends, is infectious and by the time you are finished with the book, you immediately want to start. I have a better idea, I took upon a challenge, of persuading another person to do it. That person is certainly not a nobody, not by a long shot. He is extremely well-respected, quite well-known in Pakistani higher education system. Lots of people, and I mean LOTS, will rejoice to have a copy of his autobiography. We will treasure it. 

Zousmer assures you that you can do this even if you are not a writer. And the book is geared more towards amateur writers, (not amateurish), really anyone who is interested in writing personal narrative and/or memoir should give it a go. I am lucky, the person who I have in mind is an excellent writer, teacher and best of all a story teller. He served in the Navy for 30 odd years, held various management positions, is an educator and a writing enthusiast. He is the reason I keep going on, making books and writing my life support system as I do. He is my dad. 

So papa, this is for you. Remember this date. Your copy is on the way, although you don’t need any help, perhaps motivation? This book will explain it way better than I could possibly do. However one thing might trump it. Do it because I am asking.

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Is it wrong of me to not read Harry Potter? Not now, not ever. It’s not like I am required to read and write a book report on it, but you know, being a readaholic and all, maybe I should? People are actually quiet surprised to hear that I have not read any. What can I say, never saw any magic. 

Kitty got taste.

It’s very hard for me to pick up books that have been extremely hyped up. For this reason alone, Harry Potter never interested me enough when it first came out, like a hundred years ago. Also since when did books like these – books meant for ‘young adults’ become very fashionable for over 18’s. Curious incident of the dog in the night-time and The book thief are two other ones that immediately come to mind. Considering that I have finally gotten around to reading the latter, five years after its release, I am doing extremely well. 

It’s also hard to pick up books so late that even their moves have come out. I read Bridget Jones’s books only this year, tried to read Julie & Julia and read Lord of the rings trilogy after I saw the movies innumerable times. (Loved it, hated it, loved them, in that order). When you see a movie after the book, you know most probably you will end up hating the movie, but it’s a dilemma when it’s the other way round. You don’t know to feel cheated if the book turned out crap or relieved that the movie didn’t. Still haven’t read Confessions of a shopaholic, the movie is cute (on a 17 hour flight to US), the writing is not. 

Cannot end this post without bringing my significant other into it. He has never read a book in his life – not to my knowledge. Allow me to correct this gross exaggeration by saying that he has indeed read many books, many Harry Potter books. This is more than enough reading to last him for his lifetime. What can you do, some people read, other people like to point at them and laugh. To be perfectly honest, I did try picking up one, it was so heavy.

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