This Is Why You Will Never Write Like Me (And Why You Shouldn’t)

A woman sitting in front of few laptops with a red glowing VR headset on her head

I don’t know exactly when I made the transition from regular writer to a consultant of sorts, but I’m thankful for the messages I’ve been getting. Most being questions on how they too can write for a living.

And the more I listen to to their dreams and circumstances, the more I realise something—that I’m not the best person to give advice, even if I were to continue writing professionally for another decade.

Why, you ask? Because I’ve had certain privileges growing up that you won’t have, and it’d be wrong for me to tell you to follow the steps I did without the luck I had.

So before I present you with unsolicited writing advice, let’s first explore the reasons why you’ll never be me.

1. English is my first language

There are certain nuances in the English language that require a certain command of it—preferably attained from a young age.

And thanks to my mother, who’d sat me down with English workbooks while I was barely old enough for primary school, I too had developed a skill I would take for granted throughout my life.

Sure, you can write with your second language—I’ve written in Malay for work, albeit terribly—but trying to hone your turn of phrase or the rhythms of the written word will come more naturally to someone with an innate understanding of the language.

So if you’re currently trying to write for a living, and you grew up with a different mother tongue, just know that you’ll always be playing catchup, just like how I would if I decided today that I wanted to be a professional musician.

2. I don’t have any other notable skills

Besides being able to string a couple sentences together, I have very few marketable skills. Okay, maybe I can speak in front of a crowd, and I could also give you a snazzy haircut, but other than that, I really have nothing much to offer the world.

That’s why I’ve clung to this vocation harder than I’ve clung to anything else before—and that includes my exes. I know I don’t have much else to fall back on, so I take my writing very seriously.

But being rather skill-less has bestowed upon me a blessing, and that’s the drive to work on my craft. Because if following my muse comes at the cost of not meeting my deadlines, then I should very well go back to being a hairdresser.

And I’d much rather write than cut hair.

Barber cutting someone's hair with thinning scissors

I guess you can say going back will make me tear my hair out. Photo: Agustin Fernandez

3. I live in Malaysia

It’s easy to stand out in this country when you have a good command of English. At least that’s how things were when I first joined the industry a decade back.

Sure, we may not have a thriving publishing scene, nor the infrastructure to support writers, but I didn’t have to compete with a bunch of people equipped with MFAs, or even English Studies degrees.

Heck, writing was seen as undesirable when I secured my first writing gig, mostly because it paid little and the jobs were sparse. This was before companies started using Facebook too, so it wasn’t as if there was a demand for content writers.

But hey, while the prospects were low—especially when compared to industries like accounting or IT—at least I still had a high batting average for every interview I went to, and I’d like to think it was all due to point number one.

4. I don’t have anything to my name

I drove what I’d consider a jalopy for two decades, and I don’t own a house. Throw me out on the street and I’d still be me, sans roof over my head.

Of course, things can get awkward once I meet up with my peers, because they’d roll on in with their BMWs, talk about their latest crypto score, and show off the phones they bought with their latest bonus.

And there I am, with only a paper-thin insurance policy to my name, wondering what I’d do if I ever get seriously sick.

But I’m privileged in that I have a certain freedom from bills and shitty bosses, because while a responsible adult may stay in a job to support their lifestyle, I can pick and choose who I want to work for, or listen to.

Most of the time, that person is myself, and I’ll need to talk to him about bonuses and all, but you know what? Living a simple life is what I’d consider lucky, because I get that much more time to write.

A white empty room with one chair

Some might call it poverty. I call it opportunity. Photo: Andrew Neel

5. I’m not educated

At least not when it comes to writing.

Fun fact: I didn’t even finish secondary school. Not to glorify illiteracy though. I think education is a one of the most important things someone can have, at least for the effect of learning on the brain, if not for the subjects themselves.

But I digress. I meant to discuss adult education instead, such as MFAs. I think not having those qualifications is a privilege because it’s bestowed me with a sense of freedom.

Without formal training comes the absence of student loans. And when I have one less bill to worry about, I can focus more on my writing. I think we’re going around in circles here, but that’s life, right? We can never truly separate one part of our lives from another.

Also, as someone who hasn’t been through the system, I haven’t been corralled down one literary path or another. I have the ability to just be me, someone who writes without knowing the rules. It’s a wonder I haven’t been arrested and sent to grammar camp yet.

6. I’m a master of none

I collect hobbies, and that’s why I flit from one thing to another. What’s worse is I like the peripherals more than the actual thing.

So when I got into rock climbing, I spent a good amount of my first months searching for the perfect pair of shoes. Never mind the fact that I wasn’t going to do them justice, since my climbing technique was poo.

But you know what I got out of all that pointless shopping and studying? The ability to construct random metaphors.

Because you see, writing is like finding your perfect pair of climbing shoes. It’s when it hurts that you know you’ve found the right fit.

Or it could be like your journey to improvement. You spend months on the wall, feeling like you’re not getting any better, then one day you realise that you’re climbing much harder routes and you can’t pinpoint exactly when you’d levelled up.

Neil Gaiman once said that writing is all about confluence, about combining two separate things in ways others never thought of, and I’m here to tell you that I can confluence the hell out of things.

Like how resilience is like batter (the more you beat it, the tougher it gets—thanks, baking), or how browsing for a series on Netflix is like trying to choose an ice-cream flavour at Baskin-Robbins (you spend all that time only to realise it’s still junk—thanks, bad decision-making).

So I may not ever reach the upper echelons of any one thing, but I see that as a unique advantage not many people have.

A Jack Russell terrier looking cute

I know this wasn’t the ‘jack’ you were looking for, but you gotta admit he’s much cuter. Photo: freestocks

7. I’ve had terrible careers

One benefit of having jobs you hate so much that you’d rather just sit in the toilet to pass time, is that you tend to fantasise what you’d rather be doing instead. And for me, I used to picture myself writing for the magazines we had in the salon.

In fact, the thing that stoked my interest in writing for a living was an article about a writer from For Him Magazine, where he attempted to learn boxing in one week to spar with a professional.

That tiny thing would be my guiding light all throughout my career, and I would finally follow in his footsteps many years later, when I travelled to India to spar with the mud-pit wrestlers of Maharashtra.

I wish I had the writer’s name and e-mail so I could give him a proper thank you, but alas, those were the days of print, where writers’ bylines were quickly forgotten in place of the attractive images, and where digital archives were non-existent.

Had I enjoyed my first careers from the get-go, I’d never had even thought of becoming a writer in the first place. So yeah, having a sucky decade in the workforce was a privilege indeed.

You have your own path to take

Are you starting to see why I might not be the best person to give advice? That’s because I had certain opportunities that wouldn’t be available to you, and me saying ‘write for free if you have to’ may sound reasonable on my end, but might not work for you if you’re worrying about next month’s rent.

But here’s the catch. You see all the ‘privileges’ I’ve listed above? If you put on your pessimistic glasses, you’d see that they could be excuses to why I didn’t succeed as well.

I personally know a mother of two, who told me that her lack of time was exactly the reason why she made every writing minute count. She’d crank out a few pages—even paragraphs—while her children napped in her arms. She’d also make use of the midnight hours when they were tucked in bed for longer sessions.

And what did that get her? An award winning book, that’s what.

Me? I’d love to have been born in the United States, or to have experienced a good MFA programme, but you know what? This makes me me. And you’re never going to be me, just like how nobody else can ever be you.

So own your life—regardless of if you have a sick family member, three jobs to juggle, or if you write with your mouth like the iron lung guy—because at the end of the day, nobody else can do you better than you.


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123 thoughts on “This Is Why You Will Never Write Like Me (And Why You Shouldn’t)

    • Indeed! I believe it’s David Ogilvy that said you should spend most of your time on the title, because if that isn’t done right, then there’s no point polishing the rest as nobody would even click to read. Thanks for your input!

  1. Stuart you have narrowed it down here. You have made a list of things that made me realise that in life no one can ever be me. For example, in my life and in my local area where I stay I am the only Blogger so far as I know and I have to say writing is what I am still going to pursue because I have had success last year such as being nominated for the first time for “Blogger of the year” award but alas I didn’t get it

    Anyways, your blog is awesome and each time I read your work I enjoy the topics you address here😀🤗

    • It does feel lonely sometimes, doesn’t it? But that’s also cool because you get to forge your own path. Even if there were other bloggers in your area, they still couldn’t be you, especially with the specific niche you’re in, and how you approach your blogging.

      So great to learn more about you, so thanks for sharing. Here’s to getting more nominations and awards too!

  2. This was a really interesting read! I definitely think that everyone’s different background and experiences all end up being what shapes you as writer, and I think it’s what makes it all so interesting. Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Definitely! And that’s what we all need to be reminded of sometimes, since it’s very easy to lose sight of how unique our voices are. Love that you decided to stop by. Thank so much for the comment!

  3. You are absolutely right. Each one of us is unique, with different experiences, background and talents. It is q different thing to admire someone and totally different to try to be like him and write like him.
    Even if you do try so, your true self will appear at some point and I must say that I consider this a positive thing.
    I really enjoyed reading this and it felt like I had the chance to know you a bit better.

    • Oh yeah. I must admit that I often fall victim to the emulation game. I finish reading another book from Pratchett and instantly I try to infuse some humour into all of my work. But the more I write, the more I fall into a groove of finding my own voice, which is why I believe in the adage ‘just write’.

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment!

  4. I really enjoyed this article, it rang so many bells for me. I’ve always loved writing and I’ve had some crap jobs too, when I would daydream about writing articles people would want to read. Fun fact: I started my own blog because I was working for someone who made my life hell and I needed an outlet. Fast forward five years on and writing is now my livelihood. So yes, don’t be afraid to give up the day job :)

    • Wow. In some ways, you have that person to thank for treating you like crap then. The day job thing is pretty iffy, because some people aren’t so lucky to not have a chunk of debt they have to pay.

      But yes, if it’s possible, don’t fear leaving the day job, because I too did the same thing and would never have written and published my first novel otherwise!

    • Oh yeah. No matter who you are, you’ll definitely have an angle that nobody else can cover. But people tend to forget about that just because they can’t write like their favourite authors. Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

  5. This was a great post! And I completely agree when it comes to possessions and having a job you hate to support a lifestyle vs. having a job you like with fewer positions. To me the creative freedom would be much more satisfying. Great post sir! 😃

    • Creative freedom is so underrated. I grew up jumping from job to job, each with people telling me exactly how to do things, and when I compare it to gigs with good clients where they give me creative freedom, the feeling is like night and day. Thanks for stopping by, Matt!

  6. The furthest my creative writing education goes is high school creative writing class and a poetry class in college for my political science degree. (I meant to further study creative writing, but hit 103 instead of 102, so good job me.) Outside of that, I’ve got most of my knowledge from reading writing articles, watching book/movie/video game reviews, and writing fanfiction. You can learn a lot from reviews; its not the same as writing, but movie, game, and book reviewers all seek good stories, so it is interesting to probe around their channels to see what works and what doesn’t. On another note, I bought a few “how to write [book/screenplay]” books, but haven’t opened them in a few years. Action is the best teacher with everything, and writing is no different.

    Also, in regards to #4.
    A simple(r) life will be great. I have a house which I am thankful for, but it is getting closer to sell without penalty, and when that happens, I’m hoping to get enough cash out of it to own a plot of land and maybe get me someone to build a hobbit-house with a prayer room. If that is successful, then I can have a completely different house from the others and live a simpler life. Also, it’ll be cool to own a fancy hole in the ground that isn’t a former nuclear silo.

    • Simple life is the best life. But sometimes simplicity comes at a higher cost. Weird how that goes, huh? I really do hope you get your shire dwelling on your own land though.

      And I totally agree with action being the best teacher. I have fallen victim to hoarding all types of learning materials, from compiling all the writing articles in one place to checking out all the top books on the craft, but it’s when I actually started writing that I began learning. Totally underrated way of internalising knowledge.

      Always great to have you here, JB, and thanks for today’s comment!

  7. Thanks for sharing. I write more as an “intermittent blogger.” Sometimes I think I should quit but I still have an audience that reads what I write. I keep at it!

    • I think the feeling of quitting is pretty normal across all things in life. I still feel like quitting sometimes, lol. Not just in writing, but also in running, or cooking, or whatever new hobby tends to come my way. But that’s how I find out which things are most important to me. Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. A good read.

    English is my fourth language. My mother tongue is Konkani, and my medium of instruction in school was Marathi. I had to learn Hindi (the national language of India) and English (one good legacy of the British empire and the language spoken in many countries) as they were required subjects.

    I appreciate the rich literature in the Marathi language and can read and write fluently. I love the English language, and with the help of my grandfather and father, I devoured books of prose and poetry in school and college.

    I had inspiring teachers in Marathi and English who nurtured my interest in literature and explained the nuances of each language. Also, my couple of decades in the UK and now in the US offered me opportunities to attend college, read and write to hone my English.

    At first, I used to think in Konkani or Marathi, translate it into English and then write in English. Over time, I started thinking and writing in English. Soon, I could think and write in the above-mentioned four languages.

    I don’t consider myself a great writer. But I love to write about topics that matter to me. I feel English doesn’t have to be one’s first language to write well. Nor should one try to copy someone else’s style of writing. One can hone any language, think, speak and write fluently if one passionately wants to.

    Best wishes, Stuart

    • Wow, what a lovely comment, Chaya! That is such a unique combination of languages you have there. And it’s so cool to see how others think through different languages, because I don’t believe I went through the ‘translation’ phase.

      I just think in any language randomly, especially when it comes to swearing. If coming across native Malay or Chinese speakers, it’s almost as if I think in ‘universal’ thoughts, which I then express through the appropriate language.

      And yes, writing is so much more than just mastery of language, but then sometimes we come across the Pratchetts or the Gaimans of the world and then we realise just what it means to have full control of your prose.

      Lovely comment to start the day off with. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. finally a minute to catch my breath and read all of your post.

    but I want to write like you and there are others but I’m stuck with me and I continue to grow and learn.
    laughing here…. 😂
    “I’ve clung to anything else before—and that includes my exes. I know I don’t have much else to fall back on, so I take my writing very seriously.”

    and stick to writing sounds like hairdressing would just make you a shrink and shrink you may.

    your honesty in writing sets you apart:
    “Not to glorify illiteracy though.” I can relate but this isn’t my post. .😂

    I can see your jalopy transform into a rolls but I’ll never be able to be malaysian or you caucasian so we best stick to our strong suits.

    Always good to read you my friend!~ 💖🙏👏👏🙌

    • Exactly! As much as we’d like to be someone else sometimes, it’s always best when we stick to our strong suits and live life as who we are.

      I sure do hope my jalopy does transform into a Rolls someday, but I’d also take being at peace with my life. Now that’d be sweet.

      Anyway, always great to have you here, Cindy. Thanks so much for your lovely comments!

      • Absolutely my wise friend~!
        I’m rooting for you there and with your gifts I have no doubt it will be the car of your dreams. And you will have all the peace you deserve!

        You’re so welcome and it’s always great to hang out with you! 💖

  10. I think it’s always nice to read about how other people got into writing. I love how your story is a reminder that persistence pays off. Sometimes, I forget. Also, thanks for stopping by my blog a couple of times and making comments, it means a lot to me since I only have like 19 follwers :).

    • Well if I clicked on your post through the Reader then your work must really resonate with me. Keep on writing, and I’m rooting for you to grow! Also, thanks so much for stopping by :)

  11. “Because you see, writing is like finding your perfect pair of climbing shoes. It’s when it hurts that you know you’ve found the right fit….” Awesome. Every time you referenced climbing after that, I cracked up.

    You’re basically correct on all points. I dipped a bit into content writing but got propositioned by a dude from somewhere like Cambodia wanting to use my profile and scores to snag writing jobs (and give me a kickback). I did a few gigs that he’d signed up for but stopped when he got angry over misunderstanding original content scores (your Point #1 about English being your first language is a very good one).

    I tried to search l’internet for your article in FHM but think it’s not worth the time. If you had any clue about the year, they offer back issues for sale…

    • Wow, you have one of the more active comments I’ve ever seen, and I’m super thankful that you’d even search for that piece in FHM. I’ve tried too, and can’t track it down for the life of me. All I remember is that the story took place in UK and was written by an Englishman (which, if I recall correctly, was used in the Malaysian edition of the magazine).

      Anyway, your story about the Cambodian gig is very interesting. what do you mean by scores?

      I appreciate you stopping by, Chelsea. Thanks so much for your lovely comment!

      • Of course; I’ve got to prove I’ve read your post, right? ;)

        By ‘scores’ I meant when I took a few paid tests to prove my proficiency: English, typing, computer competency, etc.

  12. Hi Stuart, Thanks for sharing your journey. A glass can be half full or half empty. Yes keep life simple, and do what gives you joy and a sense of fulfilment. That’s such a blissful life. Sounds like you had your own mind even as you were growing up and you knew that school was just not for you. Don’t you find that we have been so conditioned to believe and behave in a certain manner to function effectively and prosper socially when in fact we are collectively regressing and becoming robotic? I find that we have to unlearn what we have been taught in school and gradually figure things out for ourselves. Thank you for such a delightful post :)

    • Yep. I have to admit that I fit that mould. Always trying to do things by the book, and trying to follow the more ‘established’ paths of life.

      And the weird thing was that I actually did well in the beginning years of education. Then I just lost interest from when I was 15 onwards.

      You always come with the great comments, LH, and I appreciate you for it. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

      • Totally impressed with how you’re calving your own path. Kudos to your mother who had started you on English workbooks since very young age. I think it is important to master a language and it can be any language. To me schooling means mastering one or two languages and learning to count, the rest should be optional. As much as I’d like to think that I’m liberal with my children, honestly I wouldn’t know what to do if my children decide to stop going to school.

      • Oh yeah. No parent wants their children to be bums—or wise-asses like I was. They used to say I’d understand once I grow up, and now I really do understand the pain I’ve put them through, from picking up smoking to not wanting to go to school to just doing nothing with my time.

        But hey, perhaps that all needed to happen for me to realise that I didn’t enjoy having vices, and that I should stop taking my time for granted.

        Anyway, always love chatting with you, LH!

  13. Hi Stuart! I always enjoy reading your posts…your humbleness and honesty are very endearing, and you really do have a great sense of humor! Your positivity and advice are truly appreciated, and I love that you’re letting us all get to know you a little better. We’ve all taken such different paths to get to this point, and writing from the heart can never be the wrong way. Stay true to yourself!

    • Aww, and I’m humbled to read such kind words from you! It may seem like a comment for you, but it’s something that makes my day over here, and I thought I’d let you know :)

      I hope people don’t view my post as advice, but I’d really love it if I’d spread some positivity into their day, and your comment really does spur me on, so thanks again!

  14. Great and inspiring post

    When I started writing, I never thought anyone will be willing to read my articles.
    Writing is an hobby for me. No formal training in the art of writing.

    I laugh sometimes when I think about how I went from a degree in mathematics to writing 🤣🤣🤣

    • Throughout my writing career, I’ve stumbled across people from so many disciplines—lawyers, waiters, athletes—and it’s so cool how writing doesn’t care about your past. In fact, it’s enriched by it. Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

  15. Wow, I didn’t know most of this stuff about you, Stu! (And that’s saying something considering our intertwined history.) But well, English is NOT my first language. As usual great post!!

    • That’s interesting. What’s your first language, if you don’t mind me asking? Being multilingual is a great addition to writing, I’ve found, because of the extra understanding of different nuances. Anyway, glad to see you here again this time around. Always appreciate your comments!

      • Thank you! I don’t mind telling you that my first language is Arabic, something that I see many people glorify because of the complexity of this language. But I’ll admit that while I’m more accustomed to my nation’s culture rather than the Western style, I still write and read better English than Arabic. I guess of the most fun things to do is to get some extremely slang idioms from one language and literally word-by-word translating them to the other, amid gales of laughter. Thanks as usual!

      • Whoa, and you’re learning French too. Which means that the languages you know are all pretty different from each other, which I can only see as a benefit to your brain. That’s pretty cool. No, thank YOU!

      • Replying again because the other one was cringily short.

        Just read your latest email newsletter and I have to say it feels like it did take a fortnight to write because it was really good.

        The point you make, which you illustrate very clearly through relatable examples, is very thoroughly discussed, and I love that!

        I remember writing a blog post about amplifying your productivity and I discussed that idea in one out of five topics, which means three paragraphs at most. There’s so much more to it, however, and you met the demand with a pleasantly plentiful supply.

        It’s not like your newsletter wasn’t concise – on the contrary, I felt like every sentence was necessary and taught me a lot, both because of its purpose and because of the way it was phrased.

        Again, I’ll say that I love how the newsletter is simpler and somehow more personal, which is pretty clear was one of your main aims with it.

        Overall, keep going both with the blog (which is the more showy part and also the deeper part) and the newsletter (which is the IG Story counterpart of the blog; it offers more sentimental content for already existing fans, so you don’t have to be so polished). Thank you so much again!!

      • Please don’t feel obligated to always write a long comment, because the last thing I want is to make our chats feel like a chore, lol.

        I appreciate you spending the time to craft this thoughtful comment though, and your endorsement for the newsletter would really help, especially if there are readers on the fence about joining.

        Yeah, sometimes I stress over the e-mail, but what you said is so true, that those who’ve signed up are already familiar with my content, so I don’t need to cave in to the pressure to always ‘perform’.

        Once again, thanks for your lovely comment!

      • Lol, I do love writing comments, long and short, and it’s definetely not a chore for me. And I daresay an amazing writer like you is beyond taking elementary feedback. All the same, I shall share the newsletter with others who may be interested. See you!

  16. Stuart, as someone who has been plagiarised before (I even wrote a post on it!), so many of your points are relatable.

    I’m born, raised and living in England (no, not London lol), so my grasp of the English language is pretty good. At the same time, I’ve had lots of chances to practice and hone my writing – time spent camping in fields with little more than a pen and paper for entertainment, journalling at least three times a week, pen pals, and so on. Nobody is born good at writing, but you can practice regularly and find a style that feels right for you. I get plenty of compliments for my penmanship and wordsmithery, but it’s mine – my very own writing style.

    You are so right in what you say; we all have our own individual quirks, traits, and stories. I’ve seen people try to write like me, or to write as though they’ve been through the things that I’ve been through (hence, plagiarism post), but what people so often forget is that the same person who has written an inspiring post that they may want to copy, has also been through hardships to get there. For example, I can only write about confidence and self-esteem because I’ve been made to feel worthless by others. I can only write about living with less because I’ve had to make peace with financial hardships and workarounds. I can only talk about making peace with disabilities and medical conditions because I wake up in pain each day. Before copying anyone, I think those who do really need to ask themselves an important question: before I copy someone else, would I like to endure the same hardships that they went through? If the answer is no, tell your own story instead :)

    Your humility too, that’s so relatable. I never say that I’m the best or better than anyone, I’ve just got my strengths in certain areas. There are people out there who can write better than I do and there are also people out there who can do a triple backflip, whereas I can’t even manage a forward roll. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, that’s just part of being human.

    Anyway, great post as always, and sorry for rambling on :)

    PS. Also that Jack Russell is so cute and reminds me of my last dog, Milo. I have another Jack Russell now, “the cloud” as we call him because he’s broken-coated. His actual name is Hugo.

    • That’s one thing about plagiarism: if you draw from your own experiences, others will find it so hard to copy you. And that’s when you know you’re on your very own unique path.

      It’s so cool that we share the same draw to pen and paper. Growing up with very little in the way of extravagance, I learned to find entertainment in pen and paper, or even the command line of a computer. I think there’s a certain magic in trying to make something out of basically nothing.

      And not only do you have your unique style, you’ve also chosen a very interesting niche. Plus, you have so much on your plate, each serving as valuable experience to draw from in your writing.

      I loved reading your experiences, and am glad that you’ve been so generous with your time. Thanks so much for all your thoughtful words, Helen!

      Aww, Jack Russells are so cute, despite being powered by nuclear reactors. I have a cocker spaniel and even she can’t contain herself sometimes. She’s named Lady, because she looks exactly like the dog in Lady And The Tramp.

      • I hadn’t thought about that, though you are right. What is frightening though is how given the chance, some will copy as much as they possibly can. It does make you wonder what their lives must be like for them to do that.

        Sometimes a pen and paper would be all I wanted. You can write letters, draw pictures, practice origami or go completely crazy and make confetti if you want to (though maybe don’t do that in a tent you share with your parents lol). You’re definitely right and creativity is such an invaluable skill later on.

        Haha thank you Stuart. You want to know what’s really crazy? For a time, I actually thought to hide my disabilities. I actually thought that people wouldn’t want to read from someone who was broken in some way. Surprise! Here I am now.

        Thank you Stuart, though honestly, a fairly good type speed helps. Not thinking and planning and actually conversing instead of trying to seem articulated and informed,, maybe? Bah, now I’m thinking about it lol.

        Nuclear reactors! Stuart you made me laugh out loud because that is so true! I played fetch with Hugo for half an hour straight yesterday, and two hours later, he wants to go again. Somebody needs to harness that energy, we;d probably be able to stop drilling for oil within a week, Oh bless her, my Mum has a dog called Ladye (she’s a Golden Retriever x Collie) but the ‘e’ is purposeful – she’s named after Ladye Bay, in Somerset, UK, where my parents got engaged. She’s all cuddle and no brains though!

      • Oh yeah. It’s one thing to be a bot and scrape content as your own, but another to copy-and-paste and be proud of that.

        Isn’t it interesting how our minds always want to talk us out of doing great things? I’m glad you decided not to listen and to bare everything to the blogosphere.

        And high-speed typers unite! I do reach three-digit wpms once I’m warmed up, and it’s a skill I’m proud of, though I can foresee keyboards going the way of typewriter in the future—a fancy, outdated tool.

        And thanks once again for your lovely comments! It feels like a true conversation here.

      • Exactly, bot creators and content thieves? Something of a kind there, maybe.

        It’s as the saying goes, “everything you’ve ever wanted lies on the other side of fear”. It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t let the world see it. People interrupt you a lot less if you look like you’ll throw them through the nearest window for interrupting your train of thought lol.

        I average about 40 – 45 WPM these days, so ‘fluent’, but I do use a wireless keyboard (a preference thing). When I used a laptop in school, my WPM was around 72. Triple figures though? Your keyboard must be making steam! I’m not sure abount the end of keyboards. I think it’s possible, but then I know several people who use keyboards over shallower laptop keyboards, or even touchscreens. It’s a nostalgia thing perhaps.

        You’re very welcome Stuart! Thank you for replying to me :)

  17. Reminds me of a post I wrote: https://mestengobooks.com/2018/05/16/jack-of-many-trades/
    I love your ‘hey-this-is-who-I-am-and-that’s-okay’ attitude about your life and your writing. Even though you don’t see yourself as any kind of expert, I appreciate much of the sound advice (based on experience, which is the best teacher) you offer. I like that after ten years in the business, you still have a passion for writing (and a good sense of humor). I figure if I read your posts for long enough, some of that passion and simplicity will rub off. Kudos.

    • It’s so cool we share the same views on being a jack of all trades. Yes, we may not get the same depth as someone who spends all his waking hours studying a subject, but learning about climbing helps me learn jiu-jitsu a bit easier, weird enough. Anyway, I appreciate your kind comment. It was a treat to read!

  18. This gives me hope. Hope that I can make it too even though right now it feels like the burden of the world is upon me. I also have never taken any formal writing courses or joined any programs but I know it’s in me and I affirm that to myself every day. Thank you for this post. Also, good insight about English being your first language, I always assumed it otherwise. I have struggled with English in my earlier years since we spoke multiple languages growing up in India. It was me translating every thing from one language into English. Kids today however, are born into an English speaking world(I sound so old when I say this but it’s true).

    • As someone who grew up speaking a few languages (the Asia effect), I have to say that we have an advantage over those who only know one language, and that’s the ability to connect the dots quicker, at least where language is concerned. Like the Malay word ‘manja’ does not have an English equivalent, and that makes me appreciate the nuances between languages, and the limits of each. And I was also very intrigued by your own experience with languages, something that nobody else has, yet something that people still can relate to. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  19. Thank you for this. With all the obstacles in my path sometimes it seems impossible to continue with my goals, writing being one of them. This has inspired me to continue despite these obstacles. I know I can do this, to make the impossible possible, like you have described here.

    • That’s definitely the highest honour you could bestow me with. Most times it’s hard to see why I keep writing too, until a comment like yours comes along. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  20. Life’s experiences often are the best teachers. Without them we wouldn’t know what we do and do not like. And what we can and cannot handle on our own. Writing is therapy for some, in addition to earning a living. And even if it doesn’t pay the bills some months, the main thing is to keep going.

    I know all about having too many hobbies. With all I’ve dabbled in over the years, I still stick to crocheting (have designed and written patterns for a few things), gardening (have a just-for-fun website and am working on a series of short gardening ebooks), and reading (if you want to write well, you have to read). Notice how writing is still a part of everything I do?

    Your posts are truly an inspiration to us all Stuart. I think as writers we all share one common goal: to get the words out in coherent sentences, with the hopes that someone can a) either learn from our mistakes, or b) think we’re one of the most batshit crazy people out there, and keep reading because we’re entertaining. I think I may be a cross between the two some days, but that’s what makes me unique.

    • Always love your comments, Diane. They’re super well thought out and make for a great addition to any post.

      I’d like to think that people keep reading my stuff because I’m entertaining, because a lot of my work is far from scientific. But words like ‘inspirational’, especially coming from you, really does make my day.

      And high-five for being in the hobby collecting gang! Yeah, we may have a main squeeze or two, but it’s so easy to drop what we’re doing in favour of the next shiny new thing.

      Anyway, thanks so much for your kind words, and for writing something I’m sure the other readers would love to read.

      • I sometimes have to slap my hand when I reach for something new to do. It’s like “No, you DO NOT need to learn how to make bath bombs!” But still the kit found its way into my shopping cart and is now in my closet. Maybe I’ll give it to someone for a gift one day…

  21. So true, Stuart! I believe perspective is everything! One could easily look at your situation and see the glass half empty as you say or they can see it as half full (all dependent on everyone’s own lens and where they come from)! I always appreciate and get inspiration from seeing people take a not so great circumstance in their lives and turn it into something positive for themselves. You definitely did that! I also relate to have plenty of hobbies and interests with no real education in professional writing- and I guess that’s where I can throw caution to the wind and give into ignorance is bliss (grammar, schammar)!

    • Lol, I really do think that being ignorant does allow me to do things that would be considered ‘bad practice’. Maybe once I build my writing values, I’ll benefit more from a formal academic qualification. Maybe. We don’t really know what the other ‘what ifs’ could have turned out, so it’s best to appreciate what we have in this moment, am I right? Thanks so much for stopping by, Jen! I appreciate it :)

  22. This is such a great post because you highlight that everyone has a unique voice and if you want to write, just start. The more you write, the better you’ll become. Very motivational, thanks!

  23. Unbelievable! We seem to be in some kind of cosmic alliance this week, you with your excellent piece here of the power of staying true to your chosen course despite the odds, and me staying true to my writing voice no matter the odds! There’s so much similarities between us dear friend (in terms of how our past led us to this writing life we share) that I seriously think we two should arrange to meet someday soon and trade stories bro! Plus all that’s separating us is a causeway for cryin’ out loud! So what say you pal? Anyway, luv this piece. Were it a print book, I’ll hug it close and hold the feelings it’s stirred in me to write on. Just like you!!

    • Wow, what a great message to hear from you this week, Kelvin. Now you have my interest piqued and you know I’m going to check out your post for sure. Yeah, timely too, since access has recently been reopened. Definitely sounds like a plan to meet up. And thanks once for your constant support!

  24. Yet, you can string words together in beautiful, touching, funny, and thought-provoking ways. All of the degrees in the world won’t get us that.

    • Whoa. It’s one thing to receive kind words, but another to get it from you, Pete, especially since you’re in education. Thanks for making my day and for stopping by!

    • It’s much more prevalent than the other countries in Southeast Asia, actually (except Singapore), but most times it’s a second language. And things are definitely worse in the public sector, so if you’re a non-local needing to get governmental work done, then you might run into some communication problems.

  25. I found this post very uplifting. So often we’re tempted to sit back and give up before we’ve even begun because we don’t have the right credentials or life story, but you’ve shown that it’s in precisely those details that our unique vision and voice are found. Also–I did not know English was your first language, I just assumed it was from your country. I am always like daaaaaamn this guy really absorbed the natural cadences of English, you can’t even tell! And now I know why 😂

    • Lol yeah, but if you hear me speak it in real life, you’d probably not guess I was a writer, because we have a Manglish accent, which isn’t too far off from Russell Peters’s impression of a Chinese man.

      Yet another reason why I prefer writing to, say, podcasts or videos. Haha.

      Always great to see you here, Hetty, and your comment is uplifting as well!

  26. “One benefit of having jobs you hate so much that you’d rather just sit in the toilet to pass time, is that you tend to fantasise what you’d rather be doing instead.”

    Glad I’m not the only one! (Say, you didn’t sit on the toilet in the middle of giving someone a haircut, did you?)

    • Lol oh gosh, no. The toilet was my escape from the craziness of the salon, so it’d be death to have a customer follow me there.

      I’ve had a few more jobs like that, and whenever I found myself just sitting on the toilet not doing anything, I knew that it was my cue to leave.

      Thankfully, I’ve never had that feeling once in all of my writing gigs.

      Love having you by. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  27. Full disclaimer: I read the title of this blog post in my email when I woke up and sleepily misread it as ‘Why You Will Never Like Me (And Why You Shouldn’t)’ and I thought, GASP, surely not our Stuart! What on earth has he DONE?! So you can imagine my relief when I actually read the post and realised my error!
    While I don’t live in Malaysia and have never cut hair, we have several life experiences in common (including not finishing secondary school), so I like reading your posts and imagining that we would be friends if we knew each other IRL. Although I would absolutely love to be A Writer like you, I don’t know that it’s ever something that I’ll be able to achieve. I wouldn’t know how to get started in this day and age, when there seem to be already-established writers everywhere! I think it’s wonderful how our reactions to our accumulated life experiences create the person we are. You wouldn’t be you without your experiences, and I wouldn’t be me without mine. So you’re absolutely right, I will never be like you and you will never be like me, but that’s the beauty of being human! :D

    • Oh wow, I rarely meet people who haven’t completed secondary school, and I have to be honest, this choice didn’t seem as dramatic during my final year of school. I just didn’t want to go, and was enough of a dipshit to rebel against my parents to make that happen. The education system isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean we should stop learning, eh?

      You can be a writer, because I’m just an average schmuck who’d added to his portfolio one piece at a time. It’s definitely not a destination you can arrive at magically. Maybe you volunteer a couple of articles to an NGO, then you get paid for a feature article, then you take on other projects with known brands, then before you know it, you too will become one of the ‘established’ writers you talk about.

      Like I said, I’m always wary of telling people what they should do, but do reach out if you ever want to talk about finding your way through the writing industry!

  28. Thank you for sharing your story. When you first mentioned “privileges,” I did not expect you to list out the items that you did. I wouldn’t even call them privileges haha. It’s funny how our mindset shapes how we view different things in this world.

    I definitely want to make every moment count, especially as a full time English teacher!

    I’m happy to say to meet an actual published author at my school. She’s currently a counselor, but she had published over 13 books! I definitely want to connect with her more since this was a more recent discovery 😁😆

    • Oh yeah, connecting with people who’ve been through the entire process (especially multiple times) can be super helpful.

      My mentor was someone who’d published nine books (albeit in Malay), but having her walk me through the process was encouraging, to say the least. That’s the only reason I managed to put out my first book.

      Anyway, thanks so much for your kind words. And here’s to you changing the lives of your students forever!

  29. For myself, I hear an authentic voice. It’s like you’re talking to me, not teaching or selling me.
    An MFA might corral you into a writing style you may have never developed.
    Besides, the likes William Faulkner, Maya Angelou and Mark Twain have been successful without an MFA.

    • Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, there’ll always be greats on both sides of the education fence, but what’s most important is that I don’t use my circumstances as an excuse.

      Because if I DO get an MFA in the future, I could end up using that as an excuse not to write, lol.

      And I appreciate you saying you hear an authentic voice. That makes my day, Kevin!

  30. I don’t think I’ll ever make it professionally. I’ve had bad luck when it comes to my life because I rarely have control over it and am stuck in survival mode aka… “desperation” a lot of times. I’ve taken a lot of writing classes, not professional ones. I’ve had classes about how to write a short story and how to read various forms of literature. I took some community enrichment classes as well. I carry the burden of being disabled and needing more help due to both a mental illness and brain damage. I have the advantage of being on disability, I suppose. I think you know how that turns out. A lot of people who want to write don’t really want to. They have another desire such as fame, money, accomplishment. They don’t want to sit in a chair and do the painful parts of writing or expect the failure I embrace. I think I’m going to get an English degree and work at some shop.

    • Don’t lose hope. I know this may sound like an empty platitude, but again, what you’ve written here has already shown me how unique your circumstances are, one that others can’t storytell (yeah I made up that verb) from even if they tried.

      Like do they know how much effort it takes to write with disabilities? What would your journey be like should you actually make it professionally someday?

      And perhaps most importantly, imagine all the hope you could give others who are in the same situation as you, merely by sharing your stories and making people feel less alone?

      I think you discount yourself too much, because through this comment alone, I’ve sensed so much raw energy that so many other bloggers lack.

      Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by and you’re making the right decision no matter what you do!

  31. The grand ol’ question of “Should I get an MFA?” has been haunting me for quite a while. I go through these literary journals, become awed by the authors’ command of language, and wonder if going back to school would solve everything. But then it’s posts like these that remind me that even with the best training and schooling, at the end of the day you just need to sit down and write. And through the process, you’ll receive all the training that you need. Thanks for another wonderful post Stuart.

    • Who knows? Maybe you would end up getting an MFA sometime in the future. Or maybe you won’t. Either way, the most important bit is actually taking the time to write, because that’s the ultimate goal regardless, right? Easier said than done, and it’s something I want to improve on myself. Thanks so much for stopping by as always!

  32. I think that so much is made of a formal education when living through all of life’s challenges is an education within itself – so I’d say you’re highly educated :). Excellent advice to own your life exactly as it is. Thanks for an encouraging post!

    • Aww, thanks so much for your kind words. Academics was always a problem for me (I actually did well but hated school) so I’ve always resigned to being the uneducated one. But your comment made my day :)

  33. You have a beautiful warmth that shines through in your writing. You can’t learn or teach that, it just is. Another great read, equally entertaining and encouraging!

    • Aww wow. I appreciate the kind words, and I guess I’ll have to take this as what I uniquely am :P

      I guess that’s a good niche to be in. A warm person with cosy writing. You’re giving me ideas now. Thanks Helen!

  34. I keep seeing over and over that one doesn’t have to have a degree to be a writer. I believe that, yet at times I feel like that’s a cop out and I am just nothing more than a writer-wannabe. Then I tell that inner-critic to shut up and keep writing. Even if no one ever cares to read what I write, it’s therapeutic for me and I can’t imagine life without writing!
    Thanks for sharing your journey!

    • That’s great that you know what you want in your life, which is writing. I still get that doubt sometimes, of whether I’m good enough, or if I’d chosen the right thing, but that’s pretty par for the course, I feel, educated or not.

      So keep on keeping on, and here’s to continuing writing!

  35. I don’t like people giving me advice. But I love to hear and read other people experiences. That way I can pick up whatever I can and this is what I try to do. Thanks for sharing your story😊.

  36. While reading this article, I realize why I also stick so hard to writing as well.

    Mostly, because for all I like programming, most of the jobs are for designing webpages, not something I could do. Anything beyond that, and the interview is so tough that people might as well run away crying in advance. I don’t have a problem in giving the interviews, even though I’m sure I’ll blunder a lot of them. But companies don’t want to give me a chance, and that is the real problem.

    Anyway, great article Stuart.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your story, Tanish, which makes for a totally unique circumstance (despite the challenges). Maybe it’s because of this experience that you’ll find success through writing, or maybe one day you will overcome the obstacles and become a programmer. But what you’ve shared is something that can’t be replicated by others, and I’m so honoured you’d tell that story here. Always appreciate you coming by!

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