Tis the season to overcome writer's ennui
2022 reflections: How my creative soul came alive again
There are some days when I find the blank page very hard to overcome. So I open Otter.ai and start talking. For some reason, this helps get things going. Sometimes, I marvel at how fast I write with Otter!
Anyway, it’s that time of the year when I traditionally reflect on the life that I’ve had for the last 12 months. But blame it on my Tiger Parenting upbringing, but a part of me does not want to list out the good things that happened in 2022 lest I jinx 2023. But let me try to do it without alarming Lady Luck.
Despite the threat of nuclear annihilation thanks to Uncle Putin, compared to the years before, 2022 was a marvelous one for me.
Let me count the ways:
I moved into an apartment on top of a hill with two balconies. It was at an awesome price too. I wake up to birdsong, flowers and trees every day in a quiet neigbourhood.
I became a tech writer. And I think I found my sweet spot in terms of career compatibility.
But best of all, I feel like I’ve regained my creative writing mojo.
A short history of my creative efforts
2000-2010: Mostly dabbled in fanfiction and writing fiction that I never showed anyone. I didn’t take fiction writing seriously - it was a way to “blow off steam” as I wrestled with my writing career.
2010-2012: Co-wrote a non-fiction travel book and released a children’s book in 2012.
2012-2018: Started writing space opera novels. Tried the indie publishing thing.
2018: Burned out and stopped writing.
By 2020, I just gave up on my novel because I just couldn't do it anymore. There was so much turmoil in my life that every drop of mental energy I had was funneled to surviving a rough career transition from journalism to corporateland (namely, marketing. In which marketing folks will nod their head in pained sympathy).
In 2022, things just got to a point where I got super bitter about social media and Google. The more I worked in the marketing field, the more jaded I became about how content was made, and how my writing skills were contributing to the noise out there.
I miss humans
I missed writing. Real writing. The kind that was not optimized and counted with metrics. The ones written from the heart by a human, not an AI.
But I found myself doing the whole marketing thing even with my personal blog because my personal finance articles got traction and actually got me a few freelance contracts with really big companies and I was like, “I really have to be a personal finance influencer so that I can get more of these contracts and survive!”
My writing was geared towards survival and it wasn't for pleasure. It wasn't for joy. It wasn't for art. It was to ensure I continue to live and eat and have a roof above my head.
I think the Twitter meltdown really brought clarity to what was happening to me as a writer. I think for years, we've been bullied by algorithms, by companies owning big chunks of the internet.
And because they own big chunks of the internet and because we operate in their spaces, we have to behave according to their rules, or else we get buried, banned, or banished, you know?
And subconsciously, I was fretting under this control. I just felt like I was losing all my autonomy to corporations. I long for the days of the early Internet when creation felt free and limitless and unmanipulated by hidden agendas. And I felt like an old fogey for complaining about this.
But the Twitter meltdown also gave me hope.
I discovered Substack, then Mastodon, and the Fediverse. I realised, wait a minute. I don't have to accept this! I don't have to operate under corporate rule and break free from indentured creativity
This has been a really good year for me as a writer, I felt like I've been freed.
I discovered that I don’t have to “perform tricks” so that the algorithm will allow me to get heard, and that people actually can read and respond to my articles.
I refuse to be hidden by Google, Facebook and bloody Twitter anymore. I just want to reach my communities and stop losing them over and over again because of some corporate takeover.
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I still do not know what my Substack will be like. I'm pretty sure I'll be sharing my novel next year, but I am scared … that it’ll be ignored. Because I don’t know how to get myself heard. But I have to remind myself — while I don’t think of Substack as the saviour, it doesn’t have the algorithm blocking my way.
I think I still have a lot of work to do; like my lack of focus for my Substack! I'm still figuring things out and I hope you guys will stay with me as I figure things out. I'm really not good at niching down. I like to write about all kinds of things, but I'll try to keep it focused so that people will know what they're getting into when they're on my Substack.
What I wrote
Like you need any more Twitter stuff, but I explained Why I Quit Twitter on my blog.
What I did
Went on a reading staycation retreat at The Chow Kit, a fancy schmancy hotel in a formerly seedy part of Kuala Lumpur. The gentrification is astounding, but it did little to hide the fact that people are still suffering there. Homeless people sleep on the colourful elevated walkways that snake around the area. The homeless also line up for food outside a bank while well-helled yuppies enjoy RM15 designer coffee and RM30 avacado berry purees a few metres away. A very odd place to be, to dwell in luxury while outside your RM250-per-night hotel, someone is sleeping on a stone bench.
What I read
I suppose it’s fitting, obsessed as I am over the devolution of Twitter, that I’m reading Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention- and How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari and Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.- Her white-hot rage against the constant community loss we creatives have to go through each time a social media or publishing platform goes down due to corporate greed? I feel it.
Justin Pot — “A year ago I worked in a marketing department. I felt guilty about that every day, which is probably why I was depressed." Mastodon, like Substack, is helping me discover so many fascinating new writers. Yes, I agree with him, it can happen — When the grass actually is greener on the other side.
What I’m watching
1899 totally effed with my brain. I loved it. The less you know about this show, the better. Just watch.
For me, Twitter melted down long before I had ever heard of Elon Musk. Like a lot of things, it was kind of cool at first, but then people formed cliques, shunned people that didn't tow the line, tried to cancel other cliques, passed around lists of those you must block as if those you must block were even aware of your presence, etc. I don't like these types of social games.
Then it turned boring with endless inane discussions about whether you ought to eat rice with a fork or a spoon, and the like. And the follow back thing which I find so fake because people aren't really that all interested in the other person; they just want that extra point.
I like Substack because (a) it's long form and (b) people hook up with your publication, engage with your publication, maybe subscribe because they like what they're reading. Community feels more authentic.
Thanks for the read and happy new year!
Quite enjoyed reading this post. Unlike some of the other substacks I follow which come across as new analysis pieces or newsletters, this reminds me of an old-school personal blog. It's refreshing. Also, I'm putting "Stolen Focus" on my To Read list because wow has that become a problem. Cheers and happy holidays!