Moving On...New Passion Project

Hi guys! It’s been a while!

I’ve been reflecting on where I want to go with regards to blogging. I enjoyed blogging best in 2014-2015 when I used to have an old school WordPress site. Although I have changed a great deal, I still like the old style of blogging when everything was more conversational and raw.

It’s currently set to private, but after adding a substantial number of posts, I’ll set it to public.

I have so many ideas and I really can’t wait to share this project with you all!

 
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To My Fellow Creatives: You're Worthy Of Pursuing Your Passions

It’s tough to keep going when there are so many elitists out there (those who have the multiple degrees, years of experience, a prestigious position in their field, and industry connections) who will do anything to discourage you from pursuing your passion, even going so far as to questioning your motives: “You’re not a real writer/artist because you just want to make money and get thousands of followers.”

I’m sure we’ve all heard the following things before, not just from elitists, but from people who aren’t actively pursuing a creative goal:

“You need to be more realistic.”

“If you can’t do it every day, you’re just a wannabe dreamer.”

“You’re untalented. You can’t do what you want if you aren’t qualified for it.”

I once was caught up in that trap (by also judging passionate side hustlers for being “unrealistic” and “childish” for stepping out and creating a life that they dared to dream of), but now I realize that it’s so unfair of me to judge all new creatives for sharing their work, and I know that the creative world isn’t free from cutthroat competition imposed by elitists who still believe that if new people get a slice of the pie, then they won’t have as much.

But there’s always room for more content creators, despite how much the cynics complain about oversaturation in the market.

New people have a lot to share, and it takes a tremendous amount of courage to say what’s on their hearts. I applaud them for that.

Yeah, we all understand that life as a creative isn’t straightforward or linear. We don’t need to be reminded that it’s a harsh world out there. We already know that pursuing a life of passion isn’t easy at all, but it’s so worthwhile and we know we have the potential to create even more amazing things, though we weren’t born into the top 1% of the world and we don’t have the rare prodigious talent that people say you need. Because that’s overrated.

You shouldn’t let anyone stop you from creating, not even if they claim that you are just an average person with a shallow dream. You are not shallow for wanting more in life. You’ll never get past average if you allow their criticisms of you to influence you not to try at all.

The majority of content creators do it because they simply LOVE creating. Not for the followers, the likes, the potential passive income stream, or for people to think they’re talented. They are compelled to create because they can’t imagine a life without it. Elitists often judge newbies for pursuing it for the wrong reasons.

Even when a writer isn’t considered “good,” I’ll love that writer if he or she writes something that makes me feel understood, despite how much people think it’s too simplistic and vulnerable.

You don’t need to tell other people that they’re being unrealistic by pursuing a creative goal. I only hurt myself when I held those views in my heart. But there’s so much more to life than success and trying to beat competitors in order to reach the top of a world that doesn’t even welcome you with open arms anyway.

So my fellow creatives, keep moving, keep creating, and no matter what, keep that fire going!

Making Geek Look Cool: Karlie Kloss, Wix Advertising, And The Rise Of Coders Who Can’t Code

I’m sure you all have come across this ad a million times, while waiting impatiently for your favorite video to start…

Love it or hate it, this ad is really effective and it’s no wonder why it has millions of views. In the advertising industry, there’s no doubt that celebrities are able to generate more revenue for corporations simply because they’re household names and they have such an irresistible charisma that no ordinary person can ever replicate. However, as a self-starting writer and DIY web designer, I find that this ad, while engaging and fun to watch, can be misleading to those who haven’t built their own websites before, have no idea what they want to do with a website if they were to make one, and only think Wix is the best because someone famous is promoting it.

I’ve been a DIY website junkie ever since 2005 when my friend introduced me to Xanga. Back then, I didn’t update it too much because of dial-up and there was only one computer in the house. When I got my first Windows XP laptop (which, in retrospect, was clunky and slow, but 12-year-old me thought it was the coolest gadget ever), I made at least five different websites for myself using Wetpaint, Webs.com, Weebly, and some other DIY web service that I forgot the name of.

Shortly after, I experimented with some more website builders and blogging sites like Blogger (formerly Blogspot), Tumblr, and finally, Wix.

My Personal Experiences with Wix

When I first created a free Wix site back in 2014, I thought it was the best DIY website builder ever (that was before I found WordPress and Squarespace). I was enamored by the textures of all the cute little buttons, the gorgeous templates, the customizable layout, and the ease of using the drag-and-drop interface. I experimented with a variety of designs and spent hours just having fun exploring all the features.

However, when I switched over to WordPress, I immediately stopped using Wix because WordPress looks so much better, it loads faster, and it’s easier to upkeep and maintain a blog.

Wix’s Marketing Strategies

  • Use a high-profile celebrity, preferably one who’s supermodel attractive, charismatic, friendly, down-to-earth, and has a reputation for being a philanthropist and an advocate for girls in STEM

  • Explain what Wix is, how it can be used, and why it makes creating a website easy and affordable

  • Show how Karlie creates her own website and how she showcases her projects in an appealing manner

  • Use attention-grabbing words like “professional” and “stunning,” which people want to be known for

  • Has a target audience: young entrepreneurial and creative girls who want to make a website for their passions but don’t have advanced coding skills and probably don’t have the budget to hire a professional web developer

  • Add in a rock jingle that makes people feel pumped up and ready to jump onto the DIY website bandwagon and become a “Badass creative coder-blogger-entrepreneur” that most millennials want to be

Why is there so much hate on this ad?

A lot of people in the comments below seem to love hating on Karlie and dissing her, mainly because they believe that the Wix advertising team is only concerned about money and popularity, just so they can get more people to sign up, especially starstruck, gullible young girls who think that blogging is just something that cool people do and wrongly believe that it’s all fun and games. However, presentation-wise, I think Karlie did a great job with explaining what Wix is about, while doing so in a way that makes beginner-level web design less intimidating and more user-friendly.

However, critics of this ad also are quick to point out that Karlie’s a hypocrite - she advocates coding and STEM education for young girls, but she herself won’t build her own website from scratch (with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, Joomla, Ruby, etc.) or bother to use professional back-end development skills. And they are right because Wix requires absolutely no knowledge of code at all.

Is Wix really worth the money?

In short, no.

Personally, I believe that if you’re wanting to blog and have a relatively simple and clean portfolio for your work (especially in media, journalism, writing, photography, videography, and graphic design), you should go with Squarespace (most streamlined and low-maintenance). If you are a coder, UX Designer, and web developer, you should go with a self-hosted WordPress blog and create a theme from scratch.

You shouldn’t bother with Wix for the following reasons:

  • Poor SEO rankings compared to WordPress and Squarespace

  • More difficult to optimize for mobile (whereas Squarespace has this already built in)

  • Wix uses Flash, which makes it load much more slowly than HTML-based website builders

  • Themes aren’t as well-designed as other sites: While there are some decent looking sites on Wix, there are many other Wix users who have cluttered and tacky portfolios because there are simply too many options with colors, patterns, and textures. People who lack an eye for good design will simply think it’s cool to throw in a mix of unflattering designs and hope for the best.

  • The Unlimited plan will cost you $14/month, whereas Squarespace will give you a more professional, aesthetically appealing, and highly functional website for $12/month. I’m sure there are also other hosting options that are as low as $3.95/month.

The fact that a self-proclaimed coder is using a service that’s clearly for people who can’t code makes Wix look bad. The ad itself is only fun to watch and it can serve as a motivational video for people who want to build their own websites but not necessarily sign up for Wix. Clearly, people who are serious about making their digital portfolios will at least have the common sense to use a cleaner template on WordPress or Squarespace and not bother with Flash-based systems that decrease speed and overall productivity.

If you want to use Wix, by all means, go for it, but if you want to be taken seriously and have a presentable working portfolio, I’d recommend for you to use another DIY website builder. If you’re a hobbyist and you like having more options with how your design looks, Wix is sufficient enough for your needs.

And if you are an aspiring coder, for the sanity of those who are professional coders, instead of talking about how coding jobs are lucrative and how smart and hip coding makes you look, why not start building your own website from the ground up today?

On Being An Indigo Child

When I first came across the idea of being an indigo child, I was fascinated by this and began to identify myself as one the more I read about the signs of being one.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, here are a few articles to enlighten you on the subject:

17 Signs You’re What’s Known As An ‘Indigo Child’

20 Reasons Why Indigo Children Feel Most Lost By Their Early 20s

8 Common Struggles Of Indigo Children

6 Things You’ll Only Understand If You’re What’s Known As An ‘Indigo Child’

Throughout my childhood, I was always the child who got “lost in her own little world” because I was highly reserved, more observant of other people’s core motivations than anyone knew, and desirous of expanding my understanding of how the world worked from a very unconventional and more profound perspective that isn’t conditioned by popular opinion or education.

As I got older, the signs became clearer to me. I didn’t fit in or share others’ complacent consumerist-driven views, I sought fulfillment over ego-driven accomplishments, I became fascinated with personality theories and being considered as part of a rare 1% of the population, I was too busy burying my nose in dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction novels and anything that dealt with skepticism of the status quo, I wrote a lot about my personal struggles in a vulnerable way, I kept notebooks of lyrics that deeply resonated with me (especially songs about transcendence and simplicity), and I felt incredibly dissatisfied with resigning the rest of my life to working at a typical cutthroat place that crushed the human spirit and didn’t value who I was.

I struggled and felt lost. I felt like giving up. I made mistakes and experienced setbacks because I was too afraid to stand up for myself. I doubted who I was and who I could become in the future, but that’s because I thought I had to give up my inner self to meet the demands of a cruel and callous world. I was accused of being too sensitive and soft for survival. I wasn’t tough enough, I wasn’t competitive enough, and I wasn’t “smart enough.”

However, those were all lies and doubts that were to be expected when experiencing life as an indigo child. I didn’t need to torture myself or prevent myself from expressing genuine thoughts that were significant to me and others who experienced the same struggles. And the point of being an indigo child isn’t to give up or conform to the world, it’s to use your strong intuition, empathy, visionary mindset, and artistic abilities to help build a new world that puts fulfillment over greed, actualization over survival-of-the-fittest, and creativity over callousness. Though this presents a whole slew of seemingly unsurmountable challenges, indigo children are determined to push past harsh judgments from others in order to create something that no one had the foresight to envision. They aren’t in denial that the world is dying. They don’t expect to heal it or even be grand heroes, but rather, they want to pursue what they’re good at, refuse to participate in the rat-race for any longer than necessary, use their ingenuity to outsmart the powerful ones who seek to pit people against themselves, and build a beautiful life they love with the abilities they already have.

It's Time To Say Goodbye: Have I Given Up On Songwriting As Well?

Back in June, I discussed why I decided to give up on writing a sprawling literary masterpiece (you can read it on Medium). And now I’m here to talk about my aspiration of writing a song album and how my views of it have changed over the years.

I’ve always been a poet and I’ve played piano since the age of 5. However, I never considered merging my two passions - writing lyrical poetry and composing a melody for it - until I started becoming a huge fan of John Denver and Taylor Swift (who still are musical and lyrical influences to me today). I listened to these artists and thought I could write something very aligned with my own perspective and merge the styles of these two seemingly different (and oftentimes polar opposite) artists.

After downloading Spotify, I discovered dozens of artists that immediately clicked with me. I’m a very selective person when it comes to listening to music, and for reasons unknown, I could tell if I would end up being a huge fan of an artist or not and if an artist has the “it” factor (a very elusive combination of natural talent, a resonant message, spot-on musical arrangements that match the lyrics, and a melody that sticks with you). There wasn’t any in-betweens. Listening to more artists inspired me to write more and become a more versatile songwriter.

When I was in college, I wanted to write a song album. I even have a copy of 14 song lyrics I wrote in 2014, which was my very first attempt at writing a complete album (now that I looked over it, it wasn’t that great at all and could’ve been way better). I arranged guitar chords for those lyrics. I even got to record one song at a music studio (after setting aside a certain amount every week from my leftover lunch money). In retrospect, even when my dream of having a song album on iTunes never came to fruition, I learned how difficult putting together a full album would be if you’re not signed to a record label, especially when you’re a no-name artist who’s just starting out and has never performed live before.

Point being, the song album was a significant part of my aspirations (possibly competing for the number one spot, against my dream of writing a 1,000-page modern literary fiction novel).

But after I graduated from college, my dream of writing songs grew weaker, until I stopped doing it altogether (because of, you know, real world adult problems). I never stopped writing poetry, but the goal of writing an epic song album didn’t really excite me the way it did back in my college days.

I realize now that it might sound like I’m talking about giving up on songwriting and putting my childish dreams to rest for good.

But that’s not the case.

What I’ve given up on is the false hope of gaining thousands of followers. Of performing live. Of being the next Maggie Rogers. Of going viral. Of making millions of dollars from song album royalties alone. Of having my face in a magazine and having articles written about me. Of setting up a home recording studio and learning how to produce something that’s radio-worthy.

I still like to write lyrics. I still like to write songs. It’s an art form that I’m still passionate about. But I’ve given up on the ideas and expectations surrounding it.

I realize that I’m not a good singer. I’m not a good audio engineer. In fact, I don’t know anything about how to use audio recording equipment or how to make recordings sound like what’s on the radio (and those skills definitely can’t be acquired in a few months).

I do want to make an album this year. But it won’t be slick and polished like radio hits. It won’t have a huge marketing team behind it or a very press-worthy story to garner the attention of millions of people overnight. And that’s okay.

I want it to be something simple. Just my voice and one instrument. From my heart. Recorded on an iPhone. Something like “His Daughter” by Molly Kate Kestner.

All I want for myself is to immerse in a state of flow when I’m writing it. And fully experience the internal feeling of creative freedom and complete resonance that no external rewards can ever measure up to. I am doing it purely for personal enjoyment and even if it never gets past my bedroom, it’ll still be a worthwhile experience.

Songwriting is still a very significant part of me. It’s something that has a firm grip on my heart and can’t be easily gotten rid of. But I’ve grown and realized that all along, I love songwriting and not having a professional recording or a solid reputation doesn’t invalidate who I am as a creative individual. If I write songs, I am a songwriter. If I complete a song album after many hours of honing in on my skills to make these songs the very best they can be, I’m a genuine songwriter that has the power to it happen.

My songs may be shared. Or maybe they won’t. Both are okay. But getting it done and creating it in a way that best reflects who I am is all that matters.

If you’re going to do anything, make sure it’s purely for personal enjoyment, and you’ll undoubtedly find a way to make it happen.

That’s the mark of a true artist.

Five Things I've Learned from Failing My First Three Blogs

1. Blogs are not online diaries and shouldn't be treated as such. 

The earliest blogs, especially on blogspot/blogger and Wordpress.com, gave me the impression that a blog is just an online diary. When I started blogging, I treated my own blog like that just for a place to express my most genuine self without withholding any emotion. However, writing on a blog in this manner is not a good approach if you want to be be taken seriously and put yourself out there in the best light. 

2. Talent, passion, and acting upon your feelings will not get you very far. The key to growth is consistency, organization, and a solid work ethic.

A lot of writers and bloggers think that being passionate and stubborn in defending the worthiness of their dreams will make them successful and happy. This is why after experiencing such little growth on their blogs within weeks, most of them either quit or post less frequently until they abandon it for good. The most successful bloggers may not be the most artistic or imaginative or even passionate, but they experience growth because of a consistent posting schedule, persistence, and their ability to show up and do work, even when they don't "feel like it." 

3. When you are starting out, the blogosphere can have an overwhelming amount of information on what you should and shouldn't do, which can lead to burnout and indecisiveness. Focus first on creating content that you wish existed. 

The best strategies in the world and focusing solely on gaining followers will not help you if you don't have great content in the first place. You need to identify what you know best, why you want to write about those topics, and how to share it in a way that's relatable, relevant, and engaging. 

4. You need to focus on a few topics that you know a lot about and are naturally interested in because writing about too many topics will make you seem disorganized and flighty. 

Most blogs fail because they lack focus and clarity. Part of creating a cohesive personal brand is to make it clear that you are focused on writing about certain topics that you are an expert in. It's harder for you stick to a posting schedule and to retain an audience if you are scatterbrained and have ideas from all over the place.

5. Don't talk about your dreams or how great they are.

A lot of bloggers like talking about the great novel they're writing, their "brilliant" dreams, their potential for greatness, and their fantasies for rapid rise to success. The time that you spend talking about your dreams could be used for working on your projects. Don't promote your unfinished product before it's done or make any empty promises to yourself. Most people like talking about what they want but do very little to implement changes in a way that facilitates their plans.

Disillusionment with the Digital Self-Help World

It's no surprise that with the rise of the Internet, millennials aspire to create their own space for sharing their thoughts, opinions, and feelings on certain topics of interest to them. Whether it's through starting a blog, starting an online magazine, or simply posting on social media, many young people who are dissatisfied with merely consuming media have jumped on the self-help bandwagon where everyone shares advice on how to live a better life. How to change yourself. How to change the community. How to change the world. How to be the best version of yourself that you can possibly be and defy the status quo. And resist all conventional ideas that you were taught to believe in and never be afraid to go after your wildest dreams.

No wonder people are empowered by this and spend days online fantasizing about a grand lifestyle where you are in charge of your own life and don't have to earn the approval of certain gatekeepers or appease any type of authority figure at the expense of your spirit. 

I, too, have been enamored by this new world that my generation has created. The world in which people can create intricately designed vessels with streams of ideas flowing from the heart and spirit of the most genuine and nuanced self that most people fail to see. The world in which people can share their biggest aspirations and confide in each other in the form of a blog post that engages the reader and reveals the most brutally honest parts of us that we were all taught to hide out of fear and guilt.

But as time went on, I began to feel disillusioned by this so-called new world of dark confessions, naval-gazing essays of delusions of grandeur in the form of self-pity, and overly trite and formulaic lists about being happy (which always includes redundant pieces of advice such as gratitude, waking up early, being healthy, and doing what you love). I've been discouraged by how common my goal was with everyone else's (at least with everyone in the blogging world) and how difficult it is to carve a space for myself when all other spaces are occupied. Though many hold to the belief that success is abundant, I don't believe that there's enough "success" to go around, if all success really means is gaining a massive following, repeating what everyone else has already said, and watering down life to clickbait-y listicles.

Certain people will have more success than others. People who are attractive and take better photos will gain more followers than people who aren't photogenic and don't take photos. People who have sites with plenty of white space will have more visitors than people who design their sites with crazy, bold colors. 

The problem is, people think they're so special that they're the ones who are going to become the next popular blogger, but they'll soon be forgotten and lose readers who aren't fooled by their redundant formulas for happiness.

I don't aim to be a generic self-help, follow-your-dreams type of blogger, nor do I want to be associated with this trend. All I want to do is explore what interests me and write about ideas in a way that's true to me. People are so caught up with the idea of success and what they can gain from followers, and often lie to them and say they are special and will get out of whatever situation they're running from. And many bloggers don't take the time to evaluate themselves or seek out ways to present similar ideas in a manner that no one can replicate. Only people who are genuine creatives will write without expectations of any quantifiable results, and they won't end up like bloggers who spam followers on social media, pollute their sites with ads, and sell cheaply made and poorly-designed books with formulaic get-rich-quick schemes. 

Despite the high amount of competition and a lot of sameness (and clickbait) going around, I can't not blog because I enjoy it, plain and simple. Blogging helps me understand myself and how I think. I don't have a noble or lofty goal for it - I simply blog for personal enjoyment, and I'll continue to blog, regardless of what others are doing and regardless of external measures of success.

It's Time to Say Goodbye...

For the longest time, I've wanted to write an epic modern literary fiction novel. Some writers believe that only two types of people want to write novels - those who appreciate the craft and want to create good literature and those wannabes who think they can be the next rich and famous author of popular fiction. I thought of myself as a writer in the first category, since I wanted to create multi-dimensional and dynamic characters unlike any other character in literature along with a compelling storyline with subtle nuances and varied perspectives that grasp the complexity of human nature and their interactions with their darkest selves, others, spirituality, nature, art, and the rest of the world around them.

And indeed, I did complete a novel in school. However, I felt it wasn't good enough for publication and I needed more practice to refine my craft. And I thought that writing a second novel after graduating from college would be the perfect time to release something so profound yet written in a simple and engaging manner will shock, enlighten, and delight audiences who have entirely different interests yet all share in the same human experience. 

But that aspiration slowly turned into an addiction - subtle at first, yet it was eating away at me for days without end. I tried to force words to come out, but they never did. I wrestled with an identity crisis because I thought I was expected to write a great novel to make up for my lack of connections and lack of finding success in the "real" world, and I panicked at the thought that I would die without having ever produced a grand, epic masterpiece. I even ascribed my own moral superiority on the fact I have the potential of writing great modern literary fiction and do something more meaningful with my life than just eat, watch TV, pay bills, shop, and sleep. However, I knew deep down that I was far more interested in what others would see me as instead of the actual writing itself. I thought that writing a novel would save me from my feelings of unworthiness and give me a competitive edge in life. But the truth is, it won't.

Every time I walk into a bookstore, I leave empty-handed. I don't buy fictional books because I haven't found stories that interested me (plus, dropping $20 on a book that I'll only read once just wasn't practical). I started to get bored with fiction when I was in college and became more interested in blogging and poetry.

How can I expect others to care about my novel, if I don't care about others' novels? I haven't read any fiction at all for the past year simply because the books that "make it to the top" are pushed for one of two purposes - to entertain (gratify fleshly desires) or to indoctrinate. And a lot of obscure indie fiction books have plots that are either trite or pretentious with not much in between. 

It's sad to think that so many writers out there think they will produce the next great American novel (and don't get me started on the next great British novel), but many of them will reach the end of their lives, languishing in obscurity and all the feelings that come with it - despair, sickness, self-loathing, vengeance, and ill feelings towards others who belittled them. Some people claim that writing a novel does make them happy, but for me, it did not. All it did for me was brought out feelings of insecurity, jealousy, anger at the world as it is, and desperation for anything that would validate my existence. All unhealthy obsessions which lead me further away from what I actually did enjoy - types of writing that help me focus on the present reality, as opposed to writing that draws my attention towards the uncertainties of the future.

And now I've come to say goodbye to a lifelong dream of mine. The dream of writing an epic novel and all the accolades that could potentially come with it. The dream of writing a literary fiction masterpiece and all the external validations from strangers and acquaintances alike. And though I feel that a part of me just died, I know that this is the best decision. I know I'll be happier focusing on poetry, blogging, and songwriting instead of locking myself in a dark room writing thousands and thousands of words and having to start all over again draft after draft, knowing very well that novel writing won't pay for my health insurance, car insurance, or car maintenance, let alone food (but that's beside the point).  At least I know I'm being honest with myself and it's such a relief to have this off my back. No longer will I be attached to or infatuated with the idea of something. No longer will I beat myself over the head for not crossing the finish line faster than other writers. No longer will I constantly compare myself to others who have what I don't. Instead, I'll be more focused on what comes naturally to me and what helps me be more aware of the present. It's a good goodbye and with certainty, I can say that I am glad I have come to recognize it and put an end to false hopes.

This doesn't mean that I'm completely ruling out fiction writing though. It's just no longer going to be my number one priority in life. I don't need to pressure myself write an epic 1,000-page magnum opus before the age of 25 or assess the value of my self-worth based on how much greater a work is perceived in comparison to other works. I could write a simple, yet compelling and profound novella or even a collection of short stories. I could die having published one work of short fiction and still die happy. I've come to realize that in the grand scheme of things, nobody cares whether or not I write millions of words over the course of a lifetime or just a few hundred thousand - the most important thing is to get my work out there, instead of trying so hard to be perfect and not able to complete anything. An 8/10 that's complete is far better than an 11/10 that will never see the light of day.