Deep And Narrow, Not Wide And Shallow
I don’t think my work is for everyone, and that’s fine. In fact, if nobody sees my work as weird, it’s a red flag.
Most writings, podcasts, videos found out there tries to appeal to everyone, and they bore me to tears; on the internet, everyone tries to copy everyone, and the result is a soup filled with common things, packaged in a common way. Memorable, interesting, captivating people create unique, valuable things, and their work is a stark contrast against the common stuff out there—like a yellow ball in a sea of red balls.
Success, for me, isn’t having made everyone happy—that’s a popularity contest. If my work touched your heart, if my lame jokes made your day, if my stories made your imagination spins, if you’re so moved by my work that you shared it with your inner circle, my writings have succeeded.
Thank you for reading.
A Small Note For Creators
If you have any of these and you remove it, your readers (or listeners) probably won’t miss it.
- Three empty, vapid paragraph for SEO purposes
- 30 seconds podcast intro that says nothing
- Ads that disguise as “recommendations”
- Sign-up-for-my-newsletter popups
In fact, they might even thank you for removing it.
This piece of writing is a storytelling robot. I could be sleeping right now as you read this, but it’s still talking to you. Isn’t it cool? Look, look, I can invent a new fictional character called Laila. Boom. Laila loves her cat, and one day, her cat died of old age. The end. I could write ten paragraphs about Laila, or I could write two sentences—just like I did—or I could manufacture another plot: a pink dragon that came down from the misty mountain to hunt Laila’s cat. I can invent any character I want, I can make the robot tell any story I want, and I can create as much robot as I want. It lives inside the screen, it works all day, and it doesn’t complaint.
Isn’t it cool?!
Who Belongs To The Block List?
When someone is “talking to”, there’s a sender and a receiver. The sender wants to influence the receiver with a message—often by interrupting; the sender speaks, and the receiver is forced to listen. There’s no genuine listening. But when someone is “talking with”, things are different: there’s no sender or receiver; there are two humans having a conversation—both talk, both listen.
No one likes to be “talked to”. Here’s one evidence: no one likes unsolicited advice, which is a form of “talk to”.
Ads on TV is “talk to”; heart-to-heart conversation with a friend is “talk with”. Spam email that sells pills is “talk to”, but email from the newsletter you want to hear from is not.
TV ads annoy people by “talking to” them. Pre-internet, it worked because people had no choice—they ate what they were served. But now, there’s this magical button called the block button—it’s free to use, it’s one click away—and with this button, internet consumers can instantly banish annoying people—or companies—that “talk to” them.
P.S. If you’re curious, you can check the list of people you’ve blocked. They’re probably there because they annoyed you by “talking to” you.
Pen And Paper Is A Delightful Friend
I’ve never met a person that listens. In a conversation, I’m almost always the receiving end. I enjoy it quite a bit, especially with strangers in their old age (those folks are often ignored by their children, and they rarely have anyone to talk with). But sometimes, you know, I want to talk too.
I used to try to find a person that would listen to me. When meeting new people, I’d say, “Maybe it’s him; maybe it’s her.” Having found that person would be delightful, but I couldn’t. I just… couldn’t. In a conversation, everyone’s busy inside their head, and they “listen” so they could talk. When I say a thing, I’m often interrupted with, “You should do this,” or, “Maybe you can try that,” or, “Wow that’s sad… but let me tell you a worse thing that happened to me.” Goddamit, all I wanted was talk!
This is why I find pen and paper to be such a delightful friend. If I have something to say—no matter how long, stupid, or blasphemous—I can pour everything. A beautiful story, a sinful confession, a nonsense rant, it doesn’t matter; the paper doesn’t judge, the pen doesn’t criticize. They’re the listening ear I’ve been looking for my entire life.
My Dear Theo
Back in the day, Van Gogh often wrote letters to his brother, Theo, and today, those letters are stored in a museum. His letters—or at least, the ones I’ve read—are about his daily life. Nothing fancy: simple words, few sketches here and there. But these letters are special because they’re authentic—every sketch, every word came from his heart. He wasn’t trying to impress a crowd or sell anything; he just wanted to write to his brother. I could feel the warmth just by reading it.
In a sea of fake people, having found an authentic person is like having found a gem. I’ve found a handful of these gems, and Van Gogh seems to be one of them. I wonder what a dinner with him would look like.
Red, Black, Red
So let me come to you / close as I wanna be
Close enough for me / to feel your heart beating fast
And stay there as I whisper / how I loved your peaceful eyes on me
Did you ever know / that I had mine on you?
—Eyes on Me, FF8
For few hours, I was waiting in anticipation. I pretended to look at the passing clouds, but I couldn’t help but think about her—the voices inside my head couldn’t stop talking. The anxiety felt tingly; there were butterflies in my belly.
“Oh, is that her?” Yep. Red hair tie, black t-shirt, red shorts—nothing fancy. She walked towards my direction and sat beside me. I said hello and continued watching the clouds.
“You here only for a while?” I broke the silence.
“Yeah, kinda. What about you?”
“The clouds are beautiful today,” I stupidly replied.
Her eyes were soft—like the eyes of a loving mother—but looking at it made me fearful. So, instead of peering into her eyes, I mostly glanced at her leaf-shaped earring. Many things I wanted to say to her—many longings, many bottled-up feelings—but my tongue was tightly locked. She stared at the ground most of the time. Perhaps she felt the same way. After a very, very long silence, she said, “Hey, I, uh… gotta go.” I looked at her, knowing that it was my last chance to do so. She was pretty, as always. “Sure,” I replied. As she walked away, she gave me her last goodbye with a smile and a wave. All I could do was smile back. Bitterly.
Followers Is Not Audience
Audience is people whose heart you’ve won. It can’t be bought, it can’t be cajoled into existence. It must be earned. It might appear as a number, such as followers or subscribers, but a number ain’t audience—a Twitter account followed by a bunch of bots has followers, but it has no audience.
When you’ve won people’s heart, they like you, they trust you, they listen to you—they might even help you share your work. But if you treat their attentive ear with contempt, they’ll stop listening.
It’s about the heart.
Busy Doesn’t Mean Create Value
People are often prideful for being busy. Why? Have you ever considered this idea of busy-ness? Why is it so glorified?
In linear domain, being busy makes sense because one hour of work will give you (more or less) one hour worth of result. Sewing shirt for 8 hours will get you 8 hours worth of shirt sewing effort, and the more effort you put in, the more shirt you sew. Sure, there is variance, but not much. A few examples of linear domain: bread baking, wood cutting, cooking.
Nonlinear domain, however, is a completely different beast—effort and time spent has little to do with result. In programming, a coder could code all year without creating anything of value, then another coder could create an app in few days that end up being adored by millions. In writing, a writer could write a hundred books without saying anything, then another writer could write a book that lasts hundreds of years. In music, a musician could practice for decades without graduating from mediocrity, then another musician could invent a brand-new music genre in their 20s. Podcasting, video making, product building, designing, drawing, and the things mentioned previously are few examples of nonlinear domain.
Linear and nonlinear domain have different rules, different winning conditions, different possible outcomes. Through technology, the world is getting increasingly nonlinear, and in this domain, there are things that matter much, much more than being busy.
Bready, Bready, Bready, And Writing
When baking, my sister likes to say, “bready, bready, bready.” It’s contagious. When making this bready thingy, time is an absolutely critical component—after kneading, the bread must be allowed to sit before going to the oven. I still remember the first bread we baked: it went straight to the oven immediately after kneading, and it ended up super stiff and dry. (I still remember the bread’s texture, blegh!)
Like bread, a piece of writing must be given the amount of time and attention it requires. If it’s rushed or forced, it’ll feel half-baked.
(The pun is so good. I can’t stop smiling.)