It’s a funny word that I’ve been throwing around a lot lately whenever anyone asks me how my writing is going. When I look up its definition, dozens of Physics websites pop up and talk about mass and velocity. Basically, it’s all about motion and movement. Like a snowball that grows bigger as it barrels down a hill.
I had slowly started to gain momentum when it came to writing. Last month, I started waking up early, sitting diligently at my desk, and prioritising my craft instead of answering emails. The first few days were torturous as I racked my brain for original ideas. But, slowly, the words began to spill out onto the page. The more I made myself sit in front of the blank page, the easier it became.
Then, I fell sick.
I think my body knew it was going to be a long weekend, so on Friday, it decided to crash. I felt fatigued, foggy, and frustrated because I knew I had to cancel all my plans with my friends. With a head that felt like it was stuffed full of cotton wool, I lay in bed and could barely lift my head off the pillow, let alone write.
Thankfully, my head cleared just in time for me to start working. But when I sat down to write for myself, my head was as blank as the page in front of me. I felt the same way you do when you’re just about to win a game of Snakes & Ladders, and one wrong roll of the dice causes you to slide back to the Start. You almost feel like throwing up your hands and calling it a day.
In true form, when things don’t go my way, I sit and berate myself: why do I suck?
Turns out, I’m not the first person (or the last) to feel paralysed and deflated when I lose momentum with my craft or when I feel like I’m going backwards.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how some artists lose the ability to create freely after producing one great piece of work. When their craft receives widespread praise and accolades, they believe they’ve reached the ‘top,’ and once there, there’s no where else to go but down, down, down. It’s why Harper Lee didn’t publish anything substantial after To Kill a Mockingbird – she was scared.
Last week, I published two pieces on Medium. Both were accepted in big publications and were ‘curated,’ which is a fancy way of saying an editor thought it was good enough to actively promote across the platform. I was over the moon when I first found out, and I felt driven to create more.
But since then, I’m finding it hard to write something new. Something worthy that will replicate its success. I’ve tasted the ‘high’ and now I’m scared of falling short.
But I’m learning that’s not the point.
Natalie Goldberg says we should give ourselves permission to fail. After she had published her wildly successful book, Writing Down the Bones, she signed a contract to write a second book about creativity. She entertained worries that she wasn’t going to live up to everyone’s expectations – but so what? She decided not to be intimidated by her success and allow herself to fail. Only then could she keep on writing.
It’s a lie to think my best work is behind us or I was ‘better off’ in the past. I’m always going to learn and grow as a person, and that’s naturally going to flow through to my writing.
All that to say, your best is not behind you; they’re ahead. Every opportunity and ‘win’ you’ve had so far is a jumping off platform for your next big win. You’ll continue to land promotions that match your expertise. You’ll get better at perfecting your craft and your work will land in front of the right audience. The more you keep daring to roll the dice, the further ahead you’ll progress along the board. There will be some dips and lows along the way (success isn’t linear, after all) but it’ll make the destination worth it.
This week, dare to keep stepping forward. Don’t be afraid to shoot high and miss. Give yourself permission to fail and keep creating anyways. Your future self will thank you.
I’m currently reading a book called The War of Art.
It explores this idea of ‘Resistance’ and how a negative energy exists to push us back whenever we try to improve ourselves.
For some, ‘improving ourselves’ means achieving a long-held fitness goal. For others, it could be learning to be better with money, or putting more effort into studying. For me, it’s the act of writing.
Even though I say I love stringing words together and creating beautiful sentences, most of the time, it’s hard. Like, really hard. With every blog post that hits your screen, it’s taken me hours of agonising and stressing to get the words exactly right. A typical writing session involves me berating myself over being a bad storyteller and tearing myself apart over whether I should add a comma or a semi-colon. There are tears and panicked phone calls to friends before I can finally produce a post that’s worthy of being published.
Knowing all this, it’s borderline painful to pull up a blank page each week and put myself through the same torture creative process each week. All I want to do is duck under the covers and hide.
According to the book, running and hiding is exactly what we do when we encounter ‘resistance.’ Our immediate response is to procrastinate.
I’m the self-proclaimed queen of procrastination. I’d rather watch all 4 seasons of Queer Eye on Netflix or dance solo in my living room instead of sitting in front of the blank page. I was exactly the same in uni. I’d start my assignments weeks in advance – not because I was hyper organised, but because I knew I had to give myself enough buffer time to procrastinate.
As I dived more into the pages of the book, the author states that we feel the most ‘resistance’ when we’re working on a project we know is worth pursuing. We know deep down how pivotal this goal, so our natural reaction is to fear it and put it off.
I have pages and pages of unfinished drafts sitting on my computer because I’m too scared to finish them off. These drafts are on topics I know I need to share, but it’ll also require me to relive painful memories and face harsh truths. I’m scared my pieces will receive negative reactions that’ll make me want to curl up in a ball and never write again. Even worse, I’m scared it’ll actually receive brilliant reactions and I’ll have to keep producing the same calibre of work in order to meet people’s expectations.
Does anyone else feel like a bundle of walking contradictions?
But I digress.
I haven’t finished the book yet.
In fact, I’m feeling a huge weight of resistance towards finishing the book (ha). It’s probably because I know that once I’ve read it from cover to cover, I’ll have to commit to doing the work and overcoming my resistance.
I write this today because I know there are so many of you out there who have been putting things off for way too long. You needed to start studying for exams two weeks ago. You told yourself you would start running more but your runners are still sitting in the box it came in. You need to call out the guy who’s trying to brush you off and demand an explanation.
If the author of the book is right, then you’re putting it off because it’s hard and you’re scared of the aftermath. You’re scared to find out that you know less about the subject than you thought or you’re more unfit than you realise. You’re petrified that the guy you’re calling out is going to tell all his friends that you’re crazy.
But sooner or later, we have to put our foot down and just do the damn thing. We have to make a decision to leave behind the things that hold us back and push forward.
This week, commit to one miniscule step that will help you overcome resistance and move towards your goal. Download the lecture recoding. Take your runners out of the box. Draft the text message that calls him out for his bad behaviour.
Then, commit to another miniscule task right after that. Listen to the half of the lecture. Move your runners besides your front door. Send your draft text to a friend and ask if they think you should send it (Spoiler alert: yes, you should).
After that, rinse and repeat.
By committing to one small action at a time, we’re slowly dismantling resistance and reducing it to a wisp.
At least, I think that’s what’s supposed to happen.
A string of messages flooded my phone on Friday night.
“I’ve made a decision about the future of this page,” said the message. “I think we should move on.”
‘The page’ the message was referring to was the health & wellbeing platform I helped bring to life during my uni days.
Two years ago, I signed up to be part of an extracurricular program within the Law faculty. The application for the program had dropped into my inbox while I was trying to write a paper on Australian Consumer Law. I was about seven hours into the essay, and my vision had begun to blur from staring at the same sentence, so the application was a welcome distraction. I filled it out quickly and sent it off without a second thought.
The chosen applicants were asked to kickstart a project that would add value to the Law faculty. While other groups buzzed with the idea of creating apps and networking programs, the only thing I knew how to do was create a website and write. Together, my group turned that website into a platform where students could share their personal trials and triumphs in order to encourage others. A place where people could come, read stories, and say ‘me too.’
It’s been a while since I thought about that platform. Now that I’ve graduated from uni, I’ve kept my eyes firmly focused on the future. Life nowadays looks like juggling the needs of my clients, researching new projects, and brainstorming how I was going to grow my creative copywriting business.
But seeing my co-founder’s messages brought me back to those early days when the idea of creating something felt so foreign to me. I always thought that people who co-founded initiatives or platforms were old men over 30. So, when it was my group’s turn to start something, I was anxiety-ridden over how to start and what people would think about the project.
While lost in my memories, I opened the chat bubble to read the rest of his messages. Another group of law students were interested in taking ownership of the page; to revive it and reshape its future.
“I think we should give it to them,” my co-founder wrote. “This way, all the work we’ve put in will continue to carry on.”
While we sorted out the details of the handover process, I opened the page once again and was hit by a wave of nostalgia. I couldn’t see it back then while I was plagued with self-doubt and fear, but my group and I had invested so much work into the platform. It was now home to dozens of articles and stories that other students had boldly stepped out to share.
But beyond that, I remembered just how instrumental this tiny page was in getting me to where I am today.
What had started out as an obligatory uni project, ended up becoming the first step on my creative journey. While tinkering with the website and writing articles to be published, I recognised that I had a knack for writing for the internet. In fact, I thrived on it. Writing stories was something that came as naturally to me as eating and breathing. While it would take me days of agonising to wrangle a legal essay together, putting words to emotions felt effortless and purposeful.
At the time, my graduation was looming and I could feel the chokehold of adulthood tightening around my neck. Before I resigned myself to a life of writing vague emails and conducting mind-numbing research, I wanted to do something I felt naturally good at. Perhaps starting my very own space to share my stories is the outlet I need, I remember thinking to myself.
And so, one random afternoon, I created a website, slapped my name at the top, and started writing. That one decision to publish my first blog post and actually tell people about it pushed me to be more courageous than I’d ever been. It challenged me to accept a part of myself that I had spent years trying to repress.
A month later, that very same blog post landed in front of a CEO who decided to take her own leap of faith and hired me to write for her. It opened my eyes to a world where I could get paid to play with words. It’s led to friendships in different corners of the world, new opportunities, and new discoveries.
It’s been two years since entering the program and launching the platform. Despite everything I’ve achieved, I still feel woefully inadequate at times. I experience waves of self-doubt when I read other people’s words, and I have no clue if I’ll ever scale my business to where I want it to be.
But when those messages flooded my phone, I remembered just how far I’ve come.
Back then, I never would have imagined that one split-second decision to sign up for an extracurricular program would result in me discarding my law degree in favour of a creative career. I never would have imagined that one post, when read by the right person, would result in me learning about the world of business and entrepreneurship.
But it did.
All that to say, don’t discount the place you’re in right now or the path you’re on.
When we’re in the thick of the journey, it’s easy to write off the good things that happen to us, like how much we’ve grown as a person or how much our skills have improved. The finish line can feel non-existent. All we can see are the roadblocks we have yet to overcome, the challenges of today, and the chasm that exists in between where we are now and where we hope to be.
But it’s only when we look back that we can see just how far we’ve come. Things that once felt terrifying barely shake us anymore. The tasks that once felt insurmountable are now a piece of chocolate frosted cake.
And while I think it’s important to keep our eyes looking forward through the windshield to the destination up ahead, every so often, a glance in the rearview mirror shows us just how far we’ve come.
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There are days where I literally can’t stop the words from flowing out, and there are weeks when they all dry up. At times like these, I like to turn to my crazy talented friends to fill in the gaps for me. A few months ago, I sent an email to a dear Instagram friend asking for hope and encouragement. This is what she sent back to me. I hope it inspires you just as much as it has inspired me.
I’d toss my iPhone into the ocean and live off of handwritten letters and emails typed on computers for the rest of my life if I could.
There is something about communication that is lengthy and takes a long time. Drawn out response time, carefully chosen words and phrases. The waiting. The anticipation. The angst. The trust. The thrill.
Why, yes, email—you have my heart.
The following is my response to a dear friend and follower. I thought I’d take what I shared with her and share it with other as well. I love it when questions like hers come through in email.
May the sentiments sink in deep, deep, deep.
PS: Feel free to comment below or email me with your questions on writing or being a want-to-be writer.
Girl. Thank you for giving me some time to wrap back around to this email.
I stinking love emails. I love getting them and sending them. And I love emails like this one. I love sitting on them…ruminating a bit. Gathering my thoughts and sharing them full.
First of all, thank you. Thank you for taking your honest heart and bringing it here. Thank you for trusting me…for feeling safe to share what you did. But also for trusting that I might have something worthwhile to say. I’m humbled. Honored. Encouraged. Spurred on. The list goes on. Adore you, truly.
If the stars aligned and you and I were in breathing distance from each other, latte in hand and all, I’d be pretty happy too—swaping stories and talking life.
Until then, here’s this. Your question:
I was wondering if you could pass on one bit of advice to a novice writer. The you five or ten years ago who was just venturing out in this uncertain world of creativity. What do you do when you put something you created out there, and it doesn’t get the response you want? How do you deal with the disappointment and the shame after being vulnerable and then getting no reception? I know my worth doesn’t hinge on the views, the likes or the comments I get. But it’s still anxiety-inducing and disappointing nonetheless.
“Watching all the #10yearchallenge posts has made me feel a little defensive of these younger versions of us—these extra rosy-cheeked human beings who were misguided in some ways, sure, but also trying and failing and so [explicit] brave to get up and do it all again, and again and again. There are a lot of things I could say about 25-year-old Allison. She was naive and hurting and didn’t know how to talk about what she needed or who she was. But she was also sweet and funny and loyal as hell and a fighter of the best variety. The kind of friend you want on your side. Not all that much has changed, when I think about it.”
And so, I want to start off by saying that this is exactly how I feel about me from ten years ago. I was a stumbling mess trying to figure out life and figure out myself. And I was writing my way through the mess. Maybe I was brave for sharing the words that came from that season. Brave, or crazy. But I did it anyway.
And I’m so glad that I did.
To be honest, me from ten years ago remembers when writing Facebook notes was all the rage. It was a momentary fad that is reminiscent of Instagram, sans the carefully curated graphics and pretty photos.
I had written a couple of notes and, really, I wrote them for the sake of creative expression and not so much to be read by others. But when I saw that others enjoyed reading them, it began to change the way I thought and felt about writing and sharing my writing.
Through it all, there is one thing I did, without fail, every time I wrote.
I prayed before I hit publish.
Not because I’m some super saint. But because I knew I needed to. I knew how deep the root of insecurity was wrapped within me—how wide it spread in thought throughout my brain.
Through all of the many changes that Facebook has brought throughout the years, one thing has remained the same—the tiny red notification alert that flashes on your homepage when someone likes or comments on something you’ve posted.
I hated how my worth became attached to the number of likes and comments that I got. So I prayed before hitting publish. And when I say that I prayed, I mean that I prayed.
I didn’t just whisper under my breath high hopes for God to bless me.
I got on my actual hands and knees and I put my forehead to the floor. And I wailed. And I cried. And sobbed. And I pleaded. I pleaded, not because God needed to hear me begging, but because I….me…I needed to cry it out. I needed to pour until the burden and the brokenness in me released from within. I wrestled there, on the ground, confessing the ugly in me…listing every insecurity, every time. Listing every lie and every haughty dream that was born from thoughts other than those that might glorify Him.
I asked God to take my ugly eyes off of the numbers. I asked him to kill the part of me that fed ravishly off of the words of others. And, instead, I asked for him to fill me with every confidence so that who I was in Him, before Him, with Him, because of Him would always be all that I’d need.
I dared not hit publish until I could trust that I had fully relinquished every part of my writing heart into His hands.
When the comments came, and the notifications flooded my feed, and even when they didn’t, I no longer saw it as the result of me doing or not doing something right. I saw it as God using words, written by my hand, to move and work in the hearts and lives of real people with real souls behind real computer screens.
Because of this, my writing became less about showcasing myself and more about serving others.
I don’t think that prayer is the end all when it comes to writing—there is obviously much more to say when it comes to learning and perfecting the art, craft, discipline, and (dare I say) business of writing.
But, perhaps, prayer isn’t such a bad place to start?
Even still, beyond just telling you what to do, like pray or be patient or just hold on tight—I want to share a deeper truth in hopes that it will change the way you think, not merely change the things you do.How do we handle quiet moments when the shares and the likes and the comments are slim to none?
Your answer is in the unseen. We plant the seeds and God is faithful to do the rest. Sometimes that looks like us sticking around to see the fruit. And sometimes, it doesn’t. And when we know this—truly know and believe this. We can work and write and sing and be and serve and teach and sell and create and lead and weld and sculpt and calculate knowing that the result does not make or break us.It was never meant to, and it never will. As a writer, there will come a lesson. It might look like a long walk up a high hill. Or a hard wrestle with self and with worth. But when you do finally emerge—a light, in even the darkest and loneliest places within you, will turn on and illuminate the truth that your words are enough.
You words—every dripping syllable in ink or sound—matter.
So right now, A, right now this very second. The dreaming you, the caring you, the creative you, the earnest you, the you that longs to connect and cultivate conversations and community. The you that dares to lead with written words—Let the small moments matter. If that looks like your mom being the only person sharing your words, then that matter. If it looks like the same 23 likes from the same 23 people, then you thank God for those 23 people—and you say a prayer for them. If this looks like only one person commenting and opening to respond to something you’ve written and posted, then you find a chair and make some time to pour out your heart and respond to that one person. You do not give them a one-liner like, “Wow, thanks so much for your thoughts.” You do not give them 5 emojis and 10 exclamation points. You sit down and you write to them. Heart to heart. For, when you do this, it is your heart that will expand. Your lungs that will fill with breath and air; your heart that will fill with grief and the hurt and the need that is so prevalent in our word.And as you are filled with these things, whisper an honest and humble prayer. Ask that God might fill you with the words and vulnerability to speak with savage courage to these very things.And He will.
And you will overflow.
And you will write.
And the world around you, be it little or large, will hear those words.
A comment here, an email there.
In time, you will see that this journey doesn’t disappoint.
Let the small moments matter. Stick with it and don’t give up. Write words that speak to the hurt and need in the world. Pray before you hit publish. And if all else fails—
It’s okay if your words only matter to only you.
Crazy proud of you and excited and all kinds of teary-eyed for the adventure that you are about to embark on. Embrace and enjoy it.
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When I first saw the trailer, I remember swearing that I
wouldn’t pay money to see it because it didn’t seem like my type of movie. But
then life, with its funny sense of humour, dropped 4 free tickets into my inbox
to see it at the Open-Air Cinema. Side
note: I ended up loving the movie so much I watched it again the very next night.
As we curled up on a picnic blanket and watched Freddie
Mecury transition from baggage handler at Heathrow to the lead singer of Queen,
I remember wondering, ‘When is the drama going to start?’ The first 30 minutes
felt like a montage of him reaching milestone after milestone. He became lead
singer, got the girl, landed an international tour and become world renowned, all
within 5 years.
Even though Freddie and Queen were pursuing a vastly
different goals than I was, I couldn’t help but feel little aches and twinges inside
as I wondered why certain things hadn’t unfolded just as easily or quickly for
me. Anyone with lofty dreams and big goals knows that having high aspirations comes
with conditions attached. Namely, the self-doubt and anxiety that asks: Why aren’t things happening quickly for me?
Why am I not there? How come I’m not as successful yet?
I want to pause and say that I know the producers probably didn’t have time to show all the initial striving and disappointments in Queen’s first five years. And surely it wasn’t as easy as I’ve described. But sometimes I think that’s all we see when we look at other people’s lives. At a distance, we only get to watch the highlight reel of someone else’s life and a surface level indication of the challenges they’ve faced. As a result, it can be really easy to doubt our capabilities and wonder if good things are only reserved for others.
From the outside, life really looked like it was coming
together for Freddie Mercury.
Until it all fell apart.
The drama erupted halfway through the film when Freddie had
to wrestle with the choices he’d made and his identity. I don’t want to ruin
the plot, but anyone who’s aware of his life knows there was a point where
everything came crashing down.
I heard someone say that becoming ‘successful’ opens you up
to more vulnerabilities. That behind all the glitz and glamour, you have to
deal with the side-effects of being in the public eye or having more responsibilities.
The higher you climb, the further you fall. The bigger you get, the more public
opinion you’ll inevitably attract. You’ll wonder if certain friends are genuine
or just wanting a slice of the pie, and you’ll clash with people who don’t have
the same vision as you.
Hearing that and watching Freddie’s character fall apart on
the screen got me thinking that maybe I’m not ‘there’ yet because my character
needs to be developed first. A lot of us fantasise about what it’d be like once
we become successful, but we don’t stop to ask if the person we are today can
handle the consequences of getting everything we want.
Obtaining the dream doesn’t transform us into someone different.
We’re still the same person with the same insecurities and flaws. If we can’t
handle rejection now, we won’t magically be able to handle it once we’ve made
it. If we attach our worth to what people think of us, it’ll only magnify once
we reach our version of success.
Getting somewhere too fast, too soon can attract a bunch of
gate-crashers to a party with poor security. Left unchecked, Depression can slip
in and drain your energy. Anxiety invites all his other friends, like Imposter Syndrome.
They can squash you and your good intentions so you can’t remember why you started
in the first place.
While it can be easy for me to get trapped in my feelings and get salty about why I’m not where I want to be, I also know that I don’t want to be someone who crashes and burns once I reach my goals. Maybe all the waiting and the lengthy distance between our goals is so we can be ready to handle the ‘consequences’ come attached with my success. Because the good and the bad always come as a package deal. Above all, I want to be faithful with the little I have now before I ask for more.
It’s a hard sentence to process when someone says, ‘maybe
you’re not ready yet.’ I’d be lying if I said I handle that thought with grace
and poise. In reality, I throw mini temper tantrums because it feels like
everything I’m doing isn’t enough.
Someone is probably going to read this and ask, ‘But when
will I be ready?’ And the truth is, I don’t know. No one else will be able to
know but you. You’ll most likely hate this answer, because I did when someone
else said the same thing to me two days ago. But it’s true.
Being ready isn’t a destination you arrive at. No one hands you a certificate that says ‘You Made It.’ There’s no map that marks X as the spot and the trail you use to get there. A map implies that there’s a chance you’ll go the wrong direction. But no matter how long or slow it takes, or what path you choose, everything that’s happening is refining you into the person you’re supposed to be when things do fall into place.
It’s easy to discount the places where we feel like we’re
moving backwards or are stagnant. I remember having dinner with a friend last
year who told me there was a time where it felt like absolutely nothing was
happening for her.
“A few months ago, I landed this job, then aced this comp, and
figured out what I wanted to do. And now I feel like nothing’s happening and I’m
not moving forward. I just want to go back to those months where I was kicking
goal after goal and winning at life,” she told me.
What I wished I’d said back then was that it’s easy to desire this idea of always jumping from one mountaintop to the other. It’s easy to crave the cheap thrill of a victory over and over again. But it doesn’t work like that. We eventually have to come down from the mountaintop and live our life in the valley in-between. Because it’s in our everyday life that we get to encounter all the things that’s going to prepare and equip us for the next victory we’re about to have. Your valley may be teaching you how to be patient with people or how to handle your finances. It may give you the opportunity to be a follower so you’ll know how to be an effective leader. And what a pity it would be if you missed all that gold because you were too busy chasing after accolades and validation.
Instead of wondering why we aren’t there yet, we have to appreciate the valley we’re in and trust it’s preparing us for the next level. So for the people who are going to read this then go back to scrolling and feeling discouraged, know that your mountaintop moment will come again soon and you’re exactly where you need to be.
THE WEDNESDAY CLUB
I see you struggling to get through Humpday. It’s this dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed. Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…
Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!
In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti and encouragement to make Humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends.
I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation, fun stories & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.
So what are you waiting for? Subscribe below and I’ll see you in your inbox next Wednesday!