When

These days, I can typically track how busy I’ve been by how many days go by between each of my blog posts. Since I started doing this, I’ve missed days at least twice (if not more). 

This is the longest it’s been between postings. But it wasn’t totally because I was busy. 

The truth is, I’ve been dejected. In September, I wrote two pieces for submission — one fiction, one creative non-fiction. Neither one made the cut. 

Since the start of the year, I’ve been questioning my ability as a writer. And suddenly, hit with these two rejections, one of which I didn’t even really care about getting into, my entire professional identity came into question. 

Who was I, if not a writer? And could I even call myself a writer if I wasn’t getting published enough? 

Even as I hit milestones in the other work I do, I wonder why this hasn’t been happening for my writing. 

What if this was as far as I could go? The thought frightened me. 

So I worked on other things. I read books, played games. The blank screen suddenly seemed like the scariest thing in the world. 

But then I remembered something I’d read years ago: the answer to the question “when can I call myself a writer”. 

When you write. 

So I keep writing.

Test

One of my hobbies is testing out website builders and content management systems (CMS). I recently got around to building a proper website on Squarespace and this time around, it seemed a lot easier to use. 

Got this basic website up in about half an hour. Blog posts are from the demo.

Previously, I couldn’t get over the fact that the only way to access the CMS was through the page builder and that put me off working on the pages. 

But after today, I realise that the website building experience is actually a lot simpler compared to WordPress (which is usually my first choice). 

It also has email marketing built into the website, which can be convenient. There’s no need to sign up for separate marketing software. 

On the other hand, I don’t love the fact that, compared to WordPress, there’s limited flexibility in terms of design. It’s also slightly more expensive and there’s no free tier. 

The email marketing plans are also on the pricy side, compared to tools like Mailchimp, Mailerlite (current favourite for marketing) or Substack (current favourite for content). 

In terms of analytics, Squarespace again provides a lot of convenience with their built-in analytics, which is comprehensive enough. Using it means one doesn’t have to set up Google Analytics (Google Search Console still required though). 

After trying it out this time, I’d say I would probably use Squarespace to build a portfolio website or a content website with a fixed focus but likely not as a personal blog. 

Fantasyland

Hours turn into days, and days into weeks. Even as she sleeps or tip-tap-types on her laptop, her mind is only halfway present in the world that her body exists in. 

Most of it is alive in Fantasyland

There, she spies on the lives of Men Without Women. She relives the events that led to the Animal Liberation movement. She follows Egwene through her training to become Aes Sedai. 

Sometimes she dives through the curtain of words and lives for days in the world between those book covers, half emerging only to eat or sleep (only when she absolutely has to). 

Walking through the “real world” is like being underwater. Everything feels like too much, and yet, everything feels muted.

She resents the tasks that require her mind to remain solid within her body, never allowed to wander (or wonder). The feel of her skin, pulled tight against her spirit gives her blisters. 

Even as her face puts on a smile and her legs take her from point A to B, she is drifting. She longs to go on The Great Hunt, to try to understand The Soul of an Octopus. 

She wants to escape. She wants to go home.

Forgiveness

Some people are difficult to get along with, and that’s okay. Humans have their curves and rough edges. Their different personalities and idiosyncrasies.

I’m learning to accept people for who they are. I may not always like the things they do, but then again, who always likes the things I do? I have my rough edges as well.

It’s possible to respect someone without liking them. To admire some of their traits, even though they have others that completely goes against your values.

To disagree and still be able to hear each other out. To be on completely opposite sides of the fence but still be able to care about each other anyway.

It’s possible, and perhaps even required, to treat someone with human dignity even if you hate them.

It’s possible to forgive someone who’s tried and is still trying to destroy your life.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean we’re rolling over and giving up. It means that we’re strong enough to get over things and move on. To not let someone else’s negative actions affect us.

To realise that a person has to be in so much pain in order to want to cause that kind of pain to someone else. And instead of feeling anger or the need to retaliate, show graciousness instead.

Sword & Sorcery

I have been caught up in the world of The Wheel of Time. The complete series in ebook format has been sitting on my e-reader since earlier this year and I’ve been putting off the re-read. 

Now that principal photography for the TV series has begun, I thought it was time to begin. 

I first started reading The Wheel of Time at 14, when nine of the books had already come out. I kept up with the series up till the 11th book, then somehow after the four-year gap until the next book, I never continued. 

It was the first sword and sorcery fantasy series that I’d picked up, and it spawned a love for the genre. It broadened my reading horizons — which at the time, was mostly chick lit and sci-fi. In a way, WoT led me to The Lord of the Rings

In discovering WoT, I found myself discovering more and more fantasy stories and as always when it comes to reading, one thing leads to another. I eventually found Terry Pratchett, who led me to Neil Gaiman, who led me to even more writers. 

In the past couple of years, I haven’t read much fantasy. And now that I’m immersed in the world of high fantasy again, I realise that I’ve missed it. 

Copy

Having been fascinated by ecommerce for some years now, I tend to follow brands and stores that excite me. 

One of these is Whisky River Soap Co, an amazing example of how ordinary products can be made special through great copywriting. 

Their products include soaps, candles and stationery. When said this way, it sounds utterly ordinary. 

Take their “First World Phobias” collection for example. It’s a range of soy candles with different scents and features names like Burn Away Guacophobia (the fear of missing the two-minute window of a ripe avocado). 

Now, I’m not saying that all brands have to write in the same irreverent way. 

One of the keys to great copywriting, I think, is knowing one’s audience ie. who are you selling to? 

And it’s also about knowing yourself ie. who are you and why do you exist? 

The struggle to appeal to the masses results in a watering down of one’s brand identity. 

Like the story of the father and son with the donkey, if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one, including yourself. 

Having a good product should be a given, not a USP. The question is, how can you go further? 

Irrelevant

“Do the work. Be happy with that. Everything else is irrelevant.”

This was the last line in the Oct 3 issue of the Daily Stoic newsletter. It was a reminder that it’s the work that matters, not so much the awards or prizes it could win. 

The start of the newsletter highlighted a quote by Nassim Taleb: “Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel, or a private jet.”

Hard work, great work is not always rewarded. There’s a little bit of luck — being at the right place, at the right time — at play as well. 

But without the work, all the luck in the world won’t be able to help. 

The Daily Stoic newsletter reminds me that the distinction lies in knowing what’s up to me, and what’s out of my hands. 

“Pioneering new research in science—that’s up to us. Being recognised for that work (e.g. winning a Nobel) is not.

“Writing a prize-worthy piece of literature—up to us. That’s time in front of the keyboard. That’s up to our genius. Being named as a finalist for the Booker Prize is not.”

Striving for rewards is all good. But at the end of the day, if there were no rewards to be had, the work is all I have. 

“Be happy with that. Everything else is irrelevant.”