NON FICTION: Why ‘Keep Showing Up’ Isn’t Just Cliché Advice

Woman at soccer field practice

Photo: Jeffrey F Lin

People like to throw around the phrase ‘keep showing up’ as if it’s the solution to everything. Want to finally finish that novel? Just keep showing up. Earn a gold medal in your sport? Keep showing up. Trying to perfect that hard guitar solo? Keep. Showing. Up.

The thing about this advice is that it’s pretty easy to categorise it as cliché, a hackneyed term that somewhat inspires but lacks in lustre thanks to its overuse. It’s one of those phrases that belong with ‘Fake it till you make it’ and ‘There are plenty of fish in the sea’.

The thing is though, is that while it sounds simple, it does hold a certain truth. Of course, you’ll always run the risk of not achieving the thing you set out for, but if it were that easy, you probably wouldn’t even want it.

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NON FICTION: I Don’t Know What I’m Running Away From

Man running down sand

Photo: Remi Jacquaint

I’d like to think I have a universal face. That’s probably the reason why people tend to speak to me in their mother tongue at first meet. I’ve been mistaken for a Filipino, Thai, even Vietnamese, but I seldom get people speaking to me in Chinese, which actually makes up half of what I am.

As a result, what’s supposed to be just a transactional conversation often turns into a tactical decision. Should I continue speaking to them in Malay, or do I reply in Chinese and risk a follow-up conversation that I don’t have the energy for?

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POETRY: A Waggy Tail

Sometimes I tell my dog,
‘I love you, understand?’
I know she really doesn’t
But I take her waggy tail
as a reply.

And then they’re days I feel
that something much, much bigger
is giving me what’s best
And all I know is to
curse up towards the heavens
My very little version
of a waggy tail

NON FICTION: Why I Won’t Just Work For Money Anymore

Man holding cash

Photo: Lucas Favre

“So I’ll need you to do a travel assignment for like a coupla weeks,” an ex-friend said.

“Well you came to the right guy.”

“I’ll need sixty articles total.”

“That’s, a lot.”

“You’ll need to write two articles a day, about five hundred words each…”

“I guess I can manage.”

“… while on the road, for like eight hours a day.”

“Okay…”

“Expenses aren’t covered.”

“Oh.”

“Food’s pretty cheap in Myanmar,” Jess said. “So what’s your price?”

I did a quick calculation and quoted the average market rate for 30,000 words.

“We can’t pay you that much.”

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NON FICTION: Why Everyone (Especially Creatives) Should Embrace Imperfection

Coffee stain art

Photo: Sandhi Soemarto

I’m a fountain-pen enthusiast, and my ultimate pursuit in this hobby involves finding my grail pen. It’s the perfect one that just glides across the page, is ornamented in a way that makes my heart skip, and can take enough of a beating to last multiple lifetimes.

But alas, as any other hobbyist knows, a grail is just an illusion, a placeholder until they find their next one, because there’ll always be something better, or failing that, there’ll always be something wrong.

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NON FICTION: For When The Night Terrors Strike

Night Terrors Bed Silhouette - Ben Blennerhassett

Photo: Ben Blennerhassett

It’s 4 a.m. and I’m sweating bullets. I woke up ten minutes ago with the surety that I was going to die. I leap out of bed, run downstairs, almost pass out from the effort, then crash on the couch.

Am I having a heart attack? Is there an underlying disease here? Am I going to die?

I’d had similar episodes like this before, but not this bad. Those with hypoglycaemia would understand—the way strength drains out your body, the cold that creeps into your bones, your heart almost beating its way out your chest…

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NON FICTION: Thinking Of Being A Writer? Don’t.

Fountain pen dripping ink

Photo: Nicolas Thomas

Every once in a while I get people asking me if they could write for a living, and my answer’s always: “Why of course.”

Then they ask if they should make the switch from their current careers to writing, to which I’d say: “What. Why! Why would you do that to yourself?”

It’s not that I’m in any position to give out career advice. Eight years in various writing positions probably makes me an average minion at most, but since I’m like one of two writers in my entire circle of friends, the responsibility of pointing hopefuls in the right direction kinda falls on me.

And most times, that direction is away from the publishing industry.

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