Mercy

“Every writer starts in the same place on Day One: Super excited, and ready for greatness. On Day Two, every writer looks at what she wrote on Day One and hates herself,” says Elizabeth Gilbert, in an Instagram post on how to write.

She continues, “What separates working writers from non-working writers is that working writers return to their task on Day Three.” 

It’s true that writing is when I hate myself the most. The worst client I’ve had has never said anything worse than what I’ve said to myself. 

But Gilbert’s post reminds me to practice self-kindness. She says, “What gets you there is not pride but mercy. Show yourself forgiveness, for not being good enough. Then keep going.”

I suppose this applies to more than just writing. Any work that requires constant improvement — building an app, starting a business, making a drink — requires self-forgiveness and mercy. 

Although the knowledge that you’ll never be “good enough” is at the back of your mind, you keep going. 

You inch from good to better to better some more. And the funny thing about this is that at each level you arrive at, although you’ve travelled a long distance to get there, the road ahead seems just as long. 

You’ll never arrive. 

In the manga Shokugeki no Soma, the world of cooking is likened to a raging storm that chefs have to walk into. 

You learn to be okay with stumbling, falling down. You learn to pick yourself up and keep going. 

Angst

Some days, I have a lot of angst when it comes to the field of writing. 

Interacting with other writers can be a pain at times. “There’s a difference between writer and content writer,” said one. (WTF?)

Dealing with clients who don’t understand the value of good writing is another pain. “It’s just a brand name. Why so expensive?” (Okay then, DIY okay?) 

I’ve even seen people saying that writers who “just write what they’re told” should be paid less. I’ve been on the client side and if I got someone who could turn my vague ideas (what they’re told) into solid writing, I’d pay them what they’re worth. 

What is it about writing that makes people think that everyone can do it? 

I’ll admit that there was a time when I thought this skill wasn’t anything special either. It was something I took for granted. With practice, anyone can do it, I thought.

And yet, I’ve seen people who don’t want to pay writers because they can “do it themselves” publish pieces that have bad grammar, spelling errors and clumsy sentence structure on their company’s blog. 

Something ironic: I’ve worked in a range of industries and journalism — where the content is the product — has paid the least. What a sad turn of affairs. 

Some days I’m angsty. But some days, a reader will send me an email or a text to say that something I’ve written spoke to them, made them think, made them feel less alone — and I’m reminded of why I write. 

Not for the masses, but for that single reader, to whom the right words at the right time, makes all the difference.  

UI/UX

If you’re into UI/UX — like I am — you may find yourself interested in the user onboarding teardowns from User Onboard. 

There are a number of slide decks, each diving into the respective sign-up experience on popular apps.

Many of these apps I’ve used before and I’ve forgotten most of the sign-up processes. In my head, they seemed seamless — easy. 

After going through a few of the teardowns, I realised that because of my relative comfort with technology, I don’t mind a little hiccups here and there. 

But some users — like say, my mom — need things to be a little more straightforward. Some users don’t have laptops or high performance smartphones. 

How can our designs be inclusive if we’re not thinking about these users as well? How can our designs be accessible? 

A Google Design article on making apps accessible talks about designing with some considerations in mind: old operating systems, varying contrast, smaller screen sizes, low battery life, damaged screens etc. 

“As product designers, it is our job to advocate for end users no matter what we’re hearing from stakeholders or product influencers,” goes an article in UX Planet on designing for the elderly. 

Having cutting-edge technology is useless if your target audience can’t use it. 

Stone

“Perhaps, self- actualisation, if it’s something that we should truly be striving for, is not a goal to be met just one time in our lives,” goes an article in Psychology Today

The article’s title is: When Do You Really Become Yourself?

In it, Jen Kim writes about how she has achieved the things she’d always longed for but isn’t sure that she feels “particularly different or fulfilled”. 

“Have I really grown into a better or different person, the person I was supposed to be?” she questions. 

She examines the concept of self-actualisation, the top of the pyramid in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which is described “as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming”. 

To do the things that make you truly happy. 

“But here’s the problem,” Kim writes.  

“What if the thing that makes you happy today doesn’t make you happy a decade later?”

Maybe self-actualisation, Kim says, is a goal that we must continuously strive for. 

“It’s a never-ending, constantly evolving, real-time acceptance that our full potential, just like our tastes and values, are strange and unpredictable—that ultimately, we are never set in stone,” she says.  

We are never set in stone. What a marvellous thought. 

Regret

One of the emotions that a multipotentialite may face on a regular basis is regret, or some form of it. When you’re interested in a range of different things, but recognise that you have a limited amount of time, you have to make choices.

Pursuing one thing means giving up something else. As I get older, I realise that there are lives I desire but will never get to live.

In an article on Puttylike, Neil Hughes writes about having an alternate perspective on regret.

Besides exercises in self-awareness and using regret as a motivational tool, he also suggests reframing it like so: “Consider your parallel universe regrets”.

“There’s something paradoxically freeing about how universal regret is. There’s always something to regret—and that’s just as true for the parallel-universe version of us who lived the life we’re jealous of right now!” Hughes writes.

I have a parallel self who went to college on an ASEAN Scholarship. One who’s still working at a bank. Perhaps one who plays trumpet in an orchestra.

There are days when I look back and feel a mixture of regret and jealousy. But according to Hughes’ reframing, maybe each of those parallel selves are wishing for the life I have now.

“The grass is always greener works both ways,” he writes. And anyway, regret serves no purpose.

Crash

Sometime last week, I maxed out my laptop’s space and memory, which resulted in my computer crashing.

I successfully got it going again but some of my work went missing. (Even some of my cloud software didn’t manage to save.) Tough luck.

The last week has been challenging because: (1) it’s crunch time on a few projects, (2) there are a few writing deadlines looming and (3) I finally succumbed to a cold that I’ve been holding at bay for some time.

But I’ve realised that life’s like that. Sometimes you manage to seize the quick win, and sometimes you just have to grind.

But it’s times like these that I learn to appreciate the small things, little pleasures and blessings that are normally so taken for granted.

Like being able to eat banana leaf-wrapped nasi lemak because I had to wake up early for a call. Or getting pampered by Ming because I’m sick.

Life is a lot like surfing, I think. To ride a wave, you have to have a strong core to stay on your feet. But you also have to be able to move with with the wave, be flexible, shift your weight when you need to.

And you have to enjoy it. Otherwise, what’s the point.

Menstruation

Whenever I read stories about women having adventures or women living in the wile, I often think about how they manage their periods. They’re often not mentioned. 

Or so I thought. In a Ploughshares article on Menstruation in Fiction, Farah Ahamed highlights some passages that examine periods in different ways. 

I realised that I’ve read quite a number of those books / stories and never paid attention to the parts about menstruation. 

I especially liked Jeanette Winterson’s description of it in Written on the Body. In it, the narrator (not sure if male or female) says about their lover’s period:

“When she bleeds the smells I know change colour. There is iron in her soul on those days. She smells like a gun.”

Iron in her soul. How beautiful, but the gun hints at something dangerous.

In her review of the different mentions of menstruation, Ahamed notices that there’s always a return to smell. And a recurring idea of unfamiliarity and danger, even when women are describing their own periods. 

“Fiction illustrating menstruation clearly emphasises the shame, myths and confusion surrounding it. 

“But perhaps more, it illuminates, in a way that is uncommon for literature, the fear felt by the menstruating woman about her body, as well as a societal fear that the menstruating woman is a threat,” she writes. 

Perhaps it’s time to rethink that notion.