Quick preface: I’ve been spending the last few months diligently creating for various publications and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I’ve gotten to meet and collaborate with people I admire, I’ve made brilliant friends who I’m shamelessly obsessed with, and I get to spend everyday researching, writing, and creating – it’s what I’ve wanted. Yet as glamorous as following my dreams looks from the outside, it’s got hoards of kinks. Allow me to explain:
PITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY
I haven’t written on this blog for so long because somewhere along the way I got used to the idea that I would get paid for my words. I restricted myself from shopping sprees until I found a viable story to pitch, write, and have published. I saved my best pitch ideas for websites that I knew boasted a tremendous readerbase. Yet creating for the sake of money or exposure, especially at the beginning, dilutes passion really fast. I started to feel obligated and looked for anything to do that didn’t involve sitting down in front of my laptop and punching out articles. I was so bored with writing for someone else and trying to fit their voice I even trained a little for a 5K. I’m here writing this post because it’s been ages since I’ve done something for myself, which is ironic because that’s why I started this whole stint in the first place. While getting paid for your passions seems like a dream – and I’m still not 100% there – all jobs have their menial days. So here is me taking a break from pitching and churning out whatever has been on my mind for the past few days. Self-care is so important because it brings you back on track and reminds you why you’re doing whatever it is that you’re doing in the first place.
“WHY YOU ALWAYS LYING?” – MY BRAIN TO SOMEONE WHO TELLS ME I’M KILLIN IT
- Here’s something weird to admit: I lose my internal chill a little bit when someone tells me they admire what I do. I’ve always wanted to inspire in the way others have inspired me. And don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful to have people in my life who actually give a shit about my work. But in my mind, I think the more people I have looking up to me the more obligated I feel to them – in a sense, my work should exist to serve. I think it’s something all artists face once their work starts to gain some amount of traction. But I’m scared of my own voice being fizzled out of my work when I focus on impressing. It’s a beautiful burden to have – like watching your every step because you know you have a younger sibling looking up to you.
- I’m an awful writer. Whatever work you’ve read of mine is inevitably the product of me scuffling around for hours trying to avoid writing a piece, then finally getting around to writing it, then hating myself after realizing it’s been two hours and I only have two REALLY good sentences so why don’t I just give up because the rest of the piece will probably be shit. And after repeating this cycle for way too long, I’ll eventually get swept in a rip current of inspiration and pump out a piece in 20 minutes.
- That is all, of course, if I feel like my idea is worth writing about. 90% of my ideas I feel aren’t worth following through on and 90% of the ideas I do follow through on don’t get accepted by publications. MERP.
- So why am I still doing it? I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Writing and creating – whether it’s serious or funny or really personal – is so inexplicably satisfying. I can’t go a day without thinking about it and it’s not so much the finished result that’s satisfying, but the whole process – warts and all. I heard a quote by director Shane Black who tells to keep working despite your fears. Nobody is fully ready, but if you plunge into it and just keep writing, you might come up with an idea so great it’ll momentarily distract your brain from its fear.
- I have such a long way to go. I’ve seen those who are at the top and those who are closer to reaching the top and once you’re in your field, finding out who’s where on the hierarchy is instant. And while being exposed to brilliant work is incredibly rewarding, it’s also daunting. I’d wonder why on earth are people reading or listening to what I came up with when there is so much good work out there. wonder if it’s my decision to pursue my dreams that’s more admirable than my pursuit itself.
HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE
Following your dreams is like climbing Mt. Everest. From the beginning, my journey looks courageous and exciting, but climbing up is different. After I’m few feet from the bottom, I’ve barely dodged yet another loose rock and I’m screaming in frustration but I can’t scream too loud because it might start an avalanche and nothing makes sense. I see the people higher than me as distant, faded shadows and I don’t know what they’ve been through but what matters is they’ve made it that high. So when I hear people cheering me on I can’t help but wonder, why? It’s human nature; we’re all looking up.
Comparisons are arbitrary. Just because someone seems nearer to the peak than me doesn’t mean they never were engulfed by hoards of snow or kicked in the face by a mountain goat. Doesn’t mean I have to be kicked in the face by a mountain goat to make it to their level. Does my Everest metaphor still make sense?
I have a friend who once told me: “living a comparative lifestyle is just focusing on results; you’re not pursuing your goal, you’re just living vicariously.”
That friend is a genius, and also only a human who probably also gets shit-scared when someone calls him a genius.
AM I GOOD AT ANYTHING OR NAH
When I moved to New York over the summer I realized it wasn’t enough to have a talent or a passion – you had to have a passion within a passion. I worked with writers who were not only brilliant but brilliant at a ~particular thing~
I didn’t want to have a niche because I was scared of pigeonholing myself. And this sentiment surfaced after my essay on cultural appropriation blew up on the Internet. I remember seeing the number of shares and comments climb and feeling terrified because what if I never create anything that measures up? I barely left the apartment that weekend for fear that I now had a responsibility to follow up.
I didn’t write any personal essays for a long time because I thought it’s all downhill from here. Someone said my writing could serve as a voice for south Asian women and I cowered. I didn’t want to bear the responsibility of being the sole voice of millions; in my essays, I only speak for myself and hope it resonates somehow with someone. Having a niche means people expect something of me and if I don’t deliver then God have mercy on my soul from the wrath of the Internet.
Eventually I got over it and just wrote personal essays because I wanted to. Also I realized I’ll only go downhill if I actually stop. I have a stash of a few essays on my desktop that I only wrote for myself and that trained me out of the fear of obligation. So far, nothing has gotten as big as my cultural appropriation essay, but I don’t care about the exposure. If you do things for recognition, you’ll never ever be ready. It’s always more fun to plunge into things.
I have another friend who said: “after I stopped giving a fuck, things started happening.” My friends are all brilliant.
TWEETING IN MORE THAN 140 CHARACTERS
I don’t know exactly when it started but at some point in college I turned my Twitter into exclusively a repository of pithy one-liners and daily observations I found humorous. After a while of that I wondered how great it would be to get IRL faves and started dabbling in standup comedy. I was inexplicably drawn to standup because no matter if my thoughts were actually funny or downright awful, at the end of the day they belonged to me. No editor could edit out the muck and I spearheaded my own learning process. Writing to fit a certain publication’s voice almost always ended in the editor telling me I did a great job and then replacing an entire paragraph with his/her own thoughts. Standup has instant feedback – nobody sugarcoats anything.
I’m new to writing standup material and I’ve also been writing comedy sketches – both are fun as hell. I’ve gotten the chance to perform at some stellar comedy clubs in Austin and I just finished filming my first sketch with the help of two talented and hilarious comics. I’ve also choked on stage, forgotten my material in front of a full audience, and taken more pre-show anxiety shits than I can count – it’s not all peachy by any means. But here’s the cool thing about failing in a creative pursuit no matter what it is: you’re only getting better from here. And failure is great fuel. I have a joke that has worked in every single Austin venue – whether there were five people in the crowd or 30 – and I wrote it after being doubled over in tears after bombing in front of a cute guy I was totally into.
I look at my writing and even my tweets from a year ago and I feel like I’ve gotten better. It’s amazing to think that a year from now I’ll be even better than now, no matter how many times I get writers’ block or just come up with something stupid. IT’S A MAGICAL FEELING Y’ALL.
FINAL THOUGHTS BECAUSE IT’S FRIDAY AND I GOTTA GET DOWN ON FRIDAY
It doesn’t matter what you’re doing but don’t ever stop doing it for you. If you’re about to jump ship and sail your own journey in the seas, keep going because it’s what you want. Not because your boss told you to and your friends are invested in your journey, blah blah. Of course you’re going to have times when you can’t think of anything good and feel your work will never suffice and I’ll probably have these moments for the rest of my life. Nobody starts out great. But one day you’ll do something that surprises you and it’s all going to be worth it. Actually, it’s already worth it.