Write daily to improve (not) – Finding my own writing process

I’m pretty sure you will see this kind of content everywhere. I’m writing it anyway because I want to share my process and how I make my writing work.

The general consensus amongst writers, especially those what we deemed to be high-performers based on metrics like how many views, how many pieces of content they put out, how many claps or likes they get, and the amount of engagement they have, is that you should write daily. As wise people always say, quantity over quality. Keep putting yourself out there and not be paralyze by the fear of not putting out a piece of viral content.

Those advices are not wrong. I tried writing daily and now I can just hit publish without worrying whether my content is good enough. The market will decide by giving me likes or views or comments. And thus far, based on those metrics, my content sucks. Big time. But I digress.

Anyway, there are days when I simply don’t feel like writing because they are dry in terms of things that I have done or learnt or seen. My only excuse is that I live through most of my day following a fix routine => Wake up, go to work, go through my task list, do them, go home. Rinse, rise, repeat. Fixed routines can dramatically drain one’s inspiration but it is also one of those things that keep me sane in an insane world.

I’m neurotic in that sense.

And my day job does make me write a lot. I’m a software developer and so I write codes. Those things, when you do them for eight hours straight, they are bloody draining on one’s mental energy. Then there are those menial tasks like meetings and customer support.

I also do freelance development work for a long-time client. My mind is constantly working and churning.

By the time I get home, I’m already floored. I’m a highly-sensitive person and do need more personal time than the average person to relax and clear the toxins from my body.

Being highly-sensitive is not an excuse. I have also been building up my emotional immunity but there will be days when the balance is off and I didn’t have enough time to tip the scale accordingly. That’s when you will see me spiral out of control, have lots of mood swings.

Well, I don’t want that. It’s bad for my health too. My friends and family don’t want that because I do get extremely grumpy when I don’t rest enough. So I will find ways to shut down my mind for just a little while. Have a massage or something.

I’m also predominantly a fiction writer. Those take a lot of time to write. It’s even worse when you ran out of ideas, and feeling exhausted mentally and physically. Yes, you do see non-fiction writing coming from me but those are out there because I felt the urge to write them. Including this one. I am not specifically looking forward to write them. I don’t even write my daily log or journal daily.

Of course, you can say that there are other fiction writers who can put out daily content without problem.

Yes, I know. I do read content from these writers too. Good for them. They found a writing process that works for them. Some of them are even full-time writers. I’m not them. I have a day job that is equally draining for someone like me. I don’t do micro-fictions. I’m a long form fiction writer. The average length of my short story is anywhere between 2,000 to 4,000 words. Those take a lot of effort on my part to churn out. And need a healthy dose of inspiration. And a rested mind, not a moody one after a long day of work.

So I do spent time playing video games (sometimes for hours non-stop), watch movies, exercise, and read. If I need it, I will nap for four hours straight. This is how I take care of my mental state and health.

Then there will be days I’m feeling it. The inspiration just struck. I will just sit there and write. I could hit up to 9,000 words, maybe even 10,000, if I wanted to. After all, I did that a few times when I want to write a novel.

There was once, I even managed to churn out 14,000 words over three days as I was writing a novel. I was in the zone (or flow state) after being well-rested, full of motivation, and inspiration. That was one of my best records ever.

So yeah, you won’t see me putting out daily content just because it will improve my writing. I do believe in consistent practice but rest is equally important. Play is equally important. Balance is key. So I will put out content when I have the capacity to do so. I have other means and ways to improve my own writing.

Now that’s my writing process.

Social Media – Don’t need it for news, you are only making yourself stupid

A conversation today with a friend over lunch gave me an inspiration to write this.

The conversation began when I told him about the fan event for the Marvel’s Infinity War hosted at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore tomorrow. Then he asked, “You don’t have Facebook anymore, how you know about this news?”

For context, the news article that started the whole thing was this: Benedict Cumberbatch drops by Singapore Heritage Festival

So you see, I get my news from traditional news outlet. The intentional act of searching for, deciding and choosing what to read is both liberating and empowering. There is simply no need for the army of bots or AI or moderators used by social media to tell me what I should be reading, or hide news/articles that I won’t be interested in just because I clicked ‘like’ on some articles or pages and ignore some other stuff.

I curate the type of content I like to read myself. This is also inline with my minimalistic lifestyle—that intentionality behind everything I do.

What most people don’t realize when they choose to read news from Facebook or Twitter is, they have just outsourced their critical thinking or research skills to an external system be it human or machine. They don’t really stop to think if what they are seeing is fact or fake and don’t bother asking questions because they ‘trust’ the platform to give them exactly what they want to see or hear.

They also stop realizing that they can get information through other means like forums, actual news sites or even reddit. Like in my friend’s case. He even asked me who else still read the news or even newspaper when I replied him.

That’s just one of the many issues plaguing our modern societies.

Another would be when these people see something else out there that disagree with their world view, they get all upset and call those things ‘fake news’. No one is willing to talk to anyone anymore because they don’t want to deal with that discomfort. At least that’s how I view it.

So my question is, if nobody is talking to each other, how are we going to solve problems or how are we going to progress as a society?

You need to understand one thing. Social media sites like Facebook are good at delivering what you like to read or see because they target your emotion centers through the use of algorithms to show you news or articles with titles that trigger something inside of you. As far as I know, they have experts behind the scene guiding how those alogrithm should be developed to maximize the delivery of content to the audience. Those news or articles delivered aren’t necessarily fact-checked or from a credible source.

These sites also make a person even lazier. And humans in general are quite lazy. I mean look at the amount of technology we have develop just to make our life easy and simple. As an example, I have had friends who skimmed through articles presented to them by Facebook, never checking the source, and then make stupid comments, causing unnecessary arguments or unhappiness. I’ll admit that I was guilty of that when I had Facebook too.

This form of lazy masked by the need for the next new thing will spread to other areas of one’s life too if left unchecked. Soon, people will stop thinking if they want to get red wine or white wine to drink or which car they should get, etc. They will just let algorithm decides for them.

At the end of it, they have just made themselves look stupid and their brains smaller. I for one don’t need that in my life. I like having a bigger brain.

Poem – End Human

Another day gone,
Comes another Day.
Humans Beings,
scurry across the streets,
Goes to work, to school.
Impervious to their surroundings,
Humans continued their pathetic lives.
Construction works continues,
Environmental destruction ensued.
Environment destroyed due to greed,
Thus Humans seeking own extermination.

When humans will stop?
Till the oncoming of doomsday,
or is it till the end of time?
Will nature lashed out, dishing
unforgiving punishments?
Seek to protect, save own skin,
Humans don’t do.
Humans understand not what’s life.

Black clouds from the pipes,
deadly gases consumed surrounding,
damage to environment is doubling.
Will human stop?
Human don’t know what’s stop.
Knowing only destruction,
immature fightings,
Humans don’t stop.

Green goo into the hydrid
of Hydrogen and Oxygen.
Black gold into the ocean,
Resources depleted.
Human continued their senseless doing,
Seeking their own extinction,
I agree.
Love, care, compassion?
Humans know nothing.
Love no oceans, love no trees,
Destruction continues.

Killings, bombings, fire, destruction,
These few words are what humans know.
They seek no peace, they seek war.
Why? you ask. There’s no answer.
I agree fully, extermination of human,
is a must.

P.S.: I wrote this poem when I just turned 18. I found it in one of my archive folder and thought why not post it in its raw form.

Poem – Internet Friend

Young, that we were,
innocent, that we were,
and different lives, we lived.
The common thread binding us,
the Internet.

Internet, a vast digital network,
connects all of us, like vessels
in our bodies.
Data, like bloods cells,
carries life giving knowledge.

Using data as our servants,
transmit our thoughts
and individuality.
Each other we find,
forming thread within thread.

Day by day,
thread became rope,
rope became chains.
Chains became gravity,
We fell in love,
with each other.

Random Thoughts Collection #1

  1. A nation’s infrastructure is a representation of its wealth and management. Singapore government constantly repairs or repave our roads because it is necessary. A failing infrastructure will cost the nation millions if not billions of dollars. Try imagining poorly maintained roads resulting in traffic accidents or goods tumbling off transport vehicle
  2. I never liked working on legacy systems with limited budget. It feels restrictive… Stifling…maybe part of it is because I wasnt there to build it… Thus never get to see it grow up… So yeah….hate to work on somebody’s stuff
  3. You pay money to subscribe to a service. And then you come with an expectation of how the service should be. So if there’s something wrong you’ll get upset and wonder why you even pay for that service. And if the customer support goes the extra mile, you are happy. It’s the same thing as being an employee. The concept is exactly the same. The company pay you for a service and therefore they expect to get their money worth. So does it make sense for company to continue to pay you for poor service? Are you as the service provider even worth the kind of money?
  4. Glass half full or half empty. Neither. It is simultaneously full and empty.
  5. In your writing, it is necessary to achieve a balance between your privacy, authenticity and vulnerability. You don’t want to be revealing too much details about your life but reveal enough to show that it’s real.

Poem – Off

I flipped the switch, lights off.
Out on the street, I see someone ugly,
I turned off, into a dark alleyway
where the lights are off.

I strolled along and felt off. A punch,
a kick, I’m down. People run off
with my things, only to be put off
by red and blue lights.

The attack, I shrugged off.
I made it home, my clothes came off.
In the shower, dirt and blood came off.
My love join me in the showers,
made me go off, then the lights went off.

Again.

It’s definitely my off day.

Rebooted Writing, One Year Later

I started out my writing first on Blogger before moving to WordPress in May 2010 because it was a so much better platform to write on. I posted at least one article every week in the past until October 2016 when I stopped completely.

I cleaned out all my posts, images and pages because of my desire to protect my own privacy after experiencing multiple data breaches in 2016 alone. Over time, I convinced myself I didn’t need to write anymore.

I was wrong.

I restarted my writing in mid-March 2017 because I needed an outlet again to deal with what I was going through in my working life. I posted something at least three times a week before graduating to posting everyday over the last 6 months.

In November 2017, I joined Medium because I wanted to put myself on more places to build up a portfolio of sort as I wanted to be a full-time writer. On the other hand, it was also to prove to and convince myself and my friends that I’m a writer.

But the truth is my self-esteem is low and I am easily influenced by others’ opinions, e.g., when people say I’m not a writer, I tend to agree. It’s the same with any other endeavor I take on. That’s why I keep falling into bouts of depression. I admit I was trying hard to be somebody else that I’m not. Again.

So now it’s time for me to stop listening to those opinions because I know I’m a writer. I’m just a different kind, so is every other writer.

I also came to realize that creating and publishing content curated for different platforms is splitting my focus, making it hard for me to write. For example, Medium is a platform better for those listicles, self-help, personal growth, entrepreneurship type of articles whereas I can treat WordPress as my personal blog.

Couple that with my strong desire for the perfect piece of writing, I’m constantly stressed. My day job as a programmer is already making me pull my hair out metaphorically. So it is now obvious to me that I’m doing it all wrong. Writing is supposed to be therapeutic for me and not contributing to my stress.

Gary Vaynerchuk always talk about doubling or tripling down on your strength and why it’s important. If you think deeper about it, it’s a good strategy because you won’t find yourself expending too much energy on something that you just isn’t good at. That’s why I have decided to pivot myself towards more fiction writing and less non-fiction writing in this ratio => 6:4. After all, I started out writing fiction and done it for most of my teenage and young adult life before going into non-fiction writing.

And I will put more attention on WordPress and get my own domain name.

As for what I will do on Medium, well, it will just be another platform where I re-post stuffs from my WordPress account that I think are suitable. I will remain a paid member because there are paid articles that I like to read.

P.S. This article alone saw me changing the title four times and I re-wrote the first few paragraphs at least thrice.

Poem – Blank

It’s white as flour with a blinking bar
staring at you waiting for the first command.
You return the favor by staring back,
eyes squinting like bird looking for food,
fingers hovering above the buttons waiting.

Tick tock, tick tock, the hands move
signaling time flows like a river,
oblivious to obstacles in its path.
Tension rises with sweat dripping,
like you have just ran a marathon,
blood boiling like lava waiting to burst.

Still nothing, canvas remain white as flour.
Over the edge you went, screaming as the ground
rushes to embrace like a long lost child.
The world is now dark like black hole,
you feel nothing because you are as blank
as that white canvas.

What I learnt trying to write non-fictions

Most of the non-fictions I wrote are actually my personal journals called Daily Logs that are published almost daily. They serve as documents of what I have gone through, my deepest thoughts, and how I see the world. However, they get little to no readers because they only serve two audience. One is me, and the other is my friend.

As a writer, that’s just not the right way to grow because you will always end up writing about yourself and become self-absorbed whether it is intended or not. That was why I decided to try and write other kind of non-fictions because I want to be known as a “true” writer.

The past one year saw me writing more than a dozen articles so far ranging from reviews to my thoughts about stuff in life and published them. They are on my personal blog here on WordPress and Medium. Through those writings, there are some lessons that I learnt that are highly valuable.

Ideas are slippery things

Ideas are slippery little bastards. One moment an idea comes to your mind and you get so excited about it. Then it’s gone when something or someone interrupts you. If you didn’t note it down somewhere, you will forget what it was. When that happens, there is no guarantee you will get it back.

Therefore you should always have a notebook or something that you can write on with you. This is to ensure that you can easily jot down ideas that comes to you.

Good non-fiction requires good experiences

In order to write good non-fictions like those self-help, listicles or life lessons type contents, you need to have first experience whatever it is you want to write about. It is only then you can distill that experience down into lessons that you have learnt, what you have done, and could have done differently. The moment you try to imagine and ramble on like you would in fictions, the writing that comes out may not look authentic, could come across as pretentious, and readers are smart enough to pick it up.

So if you don’t have real life experience on something, it’s always important to stay away from it. You are better off writing about something you truly know. This is why you will never see me write anything about how to improve your lives or be a better person because I’m aware of how limited my experiences in life have been.

Informational or instructional content requires a lot more effort

It takes a lot more effort to write content that inform or instruct. However, before you can even start doing that, you need to be very clear why you are writing it in the first place and who’s your target audience.

Then you need to ensure you truly know what you are writing about and how to present that writing in a digestible and engaging manner. I’m pretty sure no one wants to read a research white paper because of its long-windedness and most of the time irrelevant to your life and what you do.

The moment you aren’t clear about the why, what and how, then your writing will be all over the place and nobody will ever read it.

When you get writer’s block even for your Daily Log

You know something is wrong when you can’t even write your own Daily Log. Or it took you way longer than it should. After a few tries, nothing comes out. You gave up.

But it is supposed to be a piece of writing where you document what you have done, what you feel, and/or what you think about things that happened during the day.

So how difficult can that be, you asked.

There are a few reasons.

One, you become overwhelm by the feeling that everything you do is mediocre despite the best effort you put in. Some of the things you tried keep failing to turn out the way you idealize. One punch, two punch, three punch, your face is now all swollen and you wondered why you even try.

Two, you forgot the reason why you write those Daily Logs in the first place and are caught up by what people say or what the charts and stats say. Or maybe your “why” for writing those Daily Logs isn’t strong enough to withstand the effects those other things have on you.

Three, you recognize that your days have become so monotonous that writing about them is just a waste of space and time. Maybe it should be called a Weekly Log and not Daily Log

Four, you repeatedly fail to learn from the lessons because either you don’t know what the lesson is or just plain stubborn. And that is you keep trying to be someone else you are not because you want more readers. The more you try, the more it affected your perspective and has started to affect your ability to write Daily Log.

And what’s the solution to all of that?

Take a break. At its core, you are just burnt out.