Theoresia Rumthe co-authors the poetry book Tempat Paling Liar di Muka Bumi (The Wildest Place on Earth, 2017) with her partner, Weslly Johannes. Theo was born in Ambon and currently lives in Bandung, writing and facilitating workshops on poetry making and public speaking. She is also one of the initiators of Molucca Project, an effort to bring some good vibes about her home town in Maluku (Molucca).
How do you give birth to poetry?
Theo: Poetry is born out of the most mundane things inside of me. If you asked me how the process looks like: I love to observe. I love to observe the smallest things around me, for instance the green grass, the dried leaves with their textures when I stepped on them, a droplet of water from the tree trunks that falls on my skin, raindrops crawling on the window, the glimmer of lights from the car’s headlights when it’s dark, and the eyelids of a lover. I love to observe these things closely, slowly. Once I observed them, I connect them to the feelings inside of me. The next step is to pour them on into a piece of paper.
How does ‘the wildest place on earth’ look like?
Theo: The ‘wildest place on earth’, in my opinion, is inside our head. There’s a limitless world in there. If I need to give meanings to the word ‘wild’, then I would perceive it as an ‘adventure of feelings’—of how courageous we are in exploring each and every feeling inside of us, whatever those feelings are, bravely. When I thought of the word ‘wild’, I have this memory when I was twelve or thirteen: I sneaked out of the house only to watch midnight-movie in the cinema, without asking permission to my parents. (laugh)
What kind of ‘wildness’ runs inside of you?
Theo: I like things that hit me first. Whether they are sentences that come first, or feelings that come for the first time. I do not like to edit them. Something ‘raw’ is usually way more honest. This is the reason why I never edited my poetry, except when it comes to choice of words. Something that is more ‘raw’, more ‘matter-of-factly’, more ‘honest’ has its own wildness. And that resides inside of me.
How do we find poetry?
Theo: I believe that inspiration can nudge whomever it visits. The problem is, who would be sensitive towards that, and who would not. When you get nudged and you’re indifferent, inspiration will find someone else. So, if you’d like to find poetry around you, there’s only one key: don’t be indifferent.
Poetry is not always about words. We can see this from the way the Universe create poetry; could be from the rainbow, the colours of sundown, the breeze that caresses your face, salty sea that sticks to your skin, the traces of sand on the sole of your feet.
How does your birth place influence your works and the way you see the world?
Theo: Ambon, my birth place, significantly influences my works, the way I see the world, and my creative process. My Mother and Father had introduced me to ‘the stage’ when I was young. I grew up with two sisters, and we love singing since early childhood. Not only singing, but also reading poetry, and we’re quite friendly with the stage since we’re playing amateurish drama and theatre. My Mother and Father also introduced us to books. I remembered that I already composed my first short story when I was a teenager, although it remained unfinished until today.
The exotic natural landscape of Ambon also gives a stimulus for me, who grew up there, to create. I don’t know, but I feel as if the ocean is not only blue, but there’s a richer gradation of colours. And the mountains are not always green. They can have hues of salted egg. There, I learned to see all possibilities in the midst of all impossibilities.
How do you stay true to your art, to the creative force inside of you?
Theo: Do you create poetry everyday? If this question is posed to me right now, then the answer is yes—because I am preparing my next poetry book. But, sometimes, for a long time, I don’t create poetry.
What’s important for me is to give birth to creative works, and this should be done every single day. If I don’t make poetry, I write for my blog. If I don’t write for my blog, I write whatever sentences that come to mind in a small notebook I carry around, or in my mobile phone’s note page. If I am negligent about this, I feel anxious and restless.
I choose to stay true to the art and creativity inside of me. I think it’s simply about making your choices. My ‘fire’ won’t go far from art and creativity. To live and to choose to lit your fire consciously and fully, I look at it as an achievement in life. The most important thing from lighting your fire is to do it wholeheartedly, instead of doing it only to look ‘cool’.
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Most of the times, I found myself saying the things I didn’t want to say, agreeing to things I disagree with, or getting caught in a situation I didn’t want to be in–simply because I wanted to please others. Simply because I was afraid of saying these things out loud:
1. I don’t know
I used to feel ashamed of saying this. I felt incompetent. I felt stupid. I didn’t know where exactly I got the idea that I couldn’t simply say these words bluntly. Maybe at school, when I learned that most of the teachers wouldn’t accept those words kindly.
Either it was a marketing term, a new band, a song, a movie title, or a breaking news… I used to pretend as if I knew everything. But it was tiring, really. And I just realised that it was actually pretty stupid to pretend as if I knew everything. Because it’s impossible for us to know everything.
Not knowing about something is okay. These days, I say I don’t know when I don’t know about something. I am surprised to know that most people are okay with that.
2. I can’t afford it now
It used to be a sensitive subject. Something you would avoid of discussing. Probably because most of the times, we linked our success based on the things we can afford. Wasn’t it the case? When I was a kid, I saw how the adults around me measured each other’s successes based on how many things they can afford.
It was almost like a taboo to say: I can’t afford it. Or that I can’t afford it now.
When a friend asked me out to an expensive restaurant, or went on a luxury trip somewhere, I used to feel as if I have to find a way to afford it. That I have to work for it. To make it happen.
It could be that I withdrew my savings. Took the money from another account that I had allocated for something more important. Spent the money anyway and braced myself for a week of only eating instant noodles. Or I would find a kind of lie to avoid the invitation altogether.
Was it shameful to say that we can’t afford something at a particular moment in life?
One time when I was still in university, my group of friends were planning to go to an expensive cafe. And one of them responded to that, light and loud: “I can’t join you, guys. I’m broke for the week!”
We all laughed. We understood. We didn’t perceive her as if she was less than before. We’ve all been there.
Sometimes, it’s not that we’re broke. Sometimes we’re saving money for something else. Sometimes, we have more expenses to cover on particular moments. Sometimes, we ran out of lies and excuses.
So, these days, I take it upon myself to be honest and straightforward with it: “I can’t afford it now. Maybe some other time?”
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3. I’ll have to pass
I used to think that I need to be a good ‘follower‘ to be accepted. That I have to say yes even if I want to say no. I repeatedly found myself in a situation I didn’t want to be in, simply because I have no courage to say no, to turn down an invitation, or to just simply say, “Sorry, I’ll have to pass this time.”
In the old days, this would mean finding myself being really sleepy and tired, couldn’t wait to go home and curl up in bed; but forcing to laugh, dance, and make jokes with a bunch of friends or colleagues until midnight.
I used to think that if I wasn’t there, if I wasn’t present in each and every moment, I would lose my friends. Or they might enjoy the night without me and stop inviting me altogether. I was afraid that they would look down on me, or talk about me behind my back.
My insecurities made me suffer.
But I’ve had enough of that. If suffering is an option–like what Murakami said–then I would say: “Sorry, I’ll have to pass.”
4. Actually, I have a different opinion
I learned that it was safe to be similar, and it was dangerous to be different. The best way is to be like everyone else, doing what everyone else is doing, following the majority and trying hard to be a part of it.
This was unnatural. Differences exist in life. We are all different in many different ways. What is it that makes us afraid of being different? Are we afraid of rejection? Of triggering conflicts? Of hurting others? Of hurting ourselves?
How did it get to us? Who taught us that we’re not allowed to be different, and to embrace our differences?
I used to go for the easy way: agreeing with everything everyone is saying. Just to be on the ‘safe’ side. But it only got me trapped in a more difficult situation: because how is it possible that you agree to everything, that you agree with everyone?
At some point in our lives, we need to know where we stand. So I start learning to disagree. And to voice my disagreement better. To accept that we can agree to disagree. To feel comfortable of having my own opinion. To speak up. Sometimes, it starts with a tentative stutter: “Actually, I have a different opinion…”
5. I don’t want that.This is what I want
I was raised to accept whatever comes my way.
This is actually a good thing, to some extent. The other extent is when I thought I have to accept anything that comes my way; even if I don’t want it. This includes wearing clothes I didn’t like to allowing disrespectful behaviour towards me.
At a certain point, it became unhealthy.
There were times in life when I didn’t even know about what I really want, because I thought I should want the things other people want. I used to feel as if I was not grateful enough to say that I didn’t want something; or if I wanted something else.
I learned to be assertive. To say the things I want and the things I do not want. I tried with the simplest things: “I want to eat pasta today.” Or, “I don’t want to go to that event because I don’t find it interesting.”
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I am still amazed at how liberating it is.
I realised that I used to hold grudges to certain people in my life, because I felt as if I have to do the things I didn’t want to do, only to please them. Then I pitied myself, saying: why am I the only one who need to make the sacrifice? I ended up hating these people, or blaming them for the way they ‘make my life miserable’, for the way they ‘make me feel this way’.
Only lately I realised that this scenario happened only in my mind. The other person might not really know about this. They are not mind-readers. They didn’t know how I actually feel because I was too afraid to tell them about what I really want.
What about you?
Do you have some things you were afraid to say as well? Why do you think you were afraid of saying these things? Did you manage to overcome your fear of saying those words out loud? How do you think saying these words make you feel better connected with who you really are?
Traveling alone? Going solo on a trip of a lifetime? I know how challenging it could be, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to end up alone throughout your journey–if you don’t want to.
TRAVELING ALONE DOESN’T MAKE YOU A LONELY TRAVELER.
It was a hot, cloudy and humid afternoon in the mid of 2012. At around 1 pm, the beach of El Nido in the Philippines was deserted. The colourful boats were floating sleepily, swayed by the occasional waves.
Most tourists were out for island-hopping; or hiding from the scorching sun in one of the many bars and restaurants around town. There was really nothing much to do at this hour. Electricity was cut off from 6 am to 2 pm, forcing everyone to get out of their stuffy rooms.
“Don’t you feel lonely traveling alone?” asked Lani, a Filipino mother of two who sat beside me by the beach.
This was the next question she asked—right after she learned that I was in El Nido by myself.
Maria and Klein, Lani’s giggly children, were the ones who found me first by the hammock. They said hello after spending some time curiously eyeing my DSLR. I signalled them to come closer and showed them how to take pictures with the camera. Once they got a hang of it, they ran around the beach capturing the sky, the ocean, the sand, as well as themselves.
Lani joined us a moment later, bringing over a plate of pink cold coconut jelly she made. She was there to enjoy her military husband’s day off with the kids.
“Even I still feel lonely here at times,” Lani said. “I moved here following my husband. Originally, I came from Nara—my family and friends were still there.”
I looked at Lani in disbelief. “What a coincidence, Lani! Two days from now, I am planning to go to Nara. But I still haven’t found out how to get there.”
“Really? You’re going to Nara?” Lani’s face lit up. And her voice caught a cheerful tone that wasn’t fully there before. “Hold on! Don’t worry. I’ll call a few friends!”
And just like that, Lani left me with a plate of pink cold coconut jelly. She was busy punching her mobile phone’s keypads and talked loudly and rapidly in Tagalog. Her hand is moving comically. She made several other phone calls afterwards. A few minutes later, she came to me with a big grin on her face.
“All is taken care of! You’ll go with a small bus to Nara. They’ll pick you up right here at 7 in the morning. Then you’ll switch to another bus at the terminal. The bus driver who picks you up here will hand you over to the next bus driver. Then they’ll get you off by a small path leading to the beach. There will be a motorcycle there already, waiting to get you to the beach resort you want to go to.”
I was impressed. And touched. I didn’t expect that everything could be arranged so instantaneously. I thanked Lani many times.
On the day of my departure to Nara, all went smoothly—just the way Lani had planned.
The bus drivers recognised me as Lani’s ‘foreign friend’ and always tried to make friendly conversations. On my way to Nara, Lani called the bus driver to check up on me. Even when I had arrived, Lani was still sent me text messages to see if I was doing okay, if I liked the resort, or if I needed more help.
I almost giggled, but then I was swept by a gush of love and affection towards her.
Lani acted like a mother: anxious when having to part with a daughter who needs to travel far for the first time.
That was when I got reminded of Lani’s question a few days before, by the beach:
Don’t you feel lonely traveling alone?
But with people like Lani on my journeys, how is it even possible for me to feel lonely?
TRAVELING ALONE ISN’T ALWAYS EASY. BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE DIFFICULT, EITHER.
Solo traveling is not forever light and easy.
I have to admit that there are loads of other challenges (apart from ‘being lonely’) need to be addressed when you’re traveling alone.
budget issue – it can be more expensive when you have to rent a car or a boat by yourself, while when you’re traveling with a group, you can easily share the costs.
quota issue – some activities, i.e. island-hopping, snorkelling, cooking class, etc. sometimes require a minimum quota of 3-4 people.
safety issue – when you’re going out late at night or finding yourself in a ‘tricky’ situation, you feel safer when you’re not alone.
social issue – sometimes you simply want to eat with someone, connect, have a chat or a nice conversation over drinks.
However, lately I started to recognise the most comfortable arrangements for me when traveling alone.
For instance, when I’m traveling alone, I would choose to stay in a hostel rather than in a hotel. Even if I have extra money, I would still prefer to splurge on a private room in a hostel rather than in a budget hotel. Or else, I would rent a room in a local’s house—preferably, with the owner living there.
In Kyiv, for instance, I stayed at a hostel in an artsy stretch of Andriyivsky.
When I got there in the morning, a lady with a blonde hair gave me a warm welcome at the entrance. Her name was Katya. “If you have rested well, this evening just come down to the common room,” she said. “We can go club-hopping together if you like dancing!”
Oh, I really love dancing!
One of the challenges I need to face when traveling alone is going to a dance club by myself late at night. For safety reasons, this particular activity does feel more comfortable to be experienced with at least another friend—except if the club is quite near to the place where I stay; or if I have recognised the surrounding areas really well.
That evening, when I came down to the common room, I didn’t only meet Katya. I also made friends with Fransisco—a Brazilian who traveled around Europe and stayed at different hostels because he wanted to open up a hostel, and his roommate, Francois—a French guy who resides in the UK. There were also a bunch of Russian guys and girls who didn’t speak English fluently—but fortunately, they never gave up in communicating and sharing their stories.
Together, we wandered around the streets of Kyiv at night: laughing, singing, dancing, and sharing taxis to move from one dance club to another—before ending up at a small restaurant, sipping chicken soup at 4 am.
In Mumbai, India, I met Tej.
I knew him through one of those sites that aims to connect travellers.
Since I was in Mumbai for a business trip, I stayed in a hotel not far from the city centre. It’s a nice business hotel, but I still don’t know how to connect with other travellers in a hotel. As I was still keen to discover the city with a local and see Mumbai through a local’s perspective, I was happy when Tej generously made an offer to pick me up at my hotel, and show me the city.
That afternoon, Tej took me for a walk around Coolaba market—helping me to bargain, choosing saris, as well as carrying a bag of story books I bought impulsively. In the evening, he took me to Bandra—an area that is well known for its lines of fancy homes and apartments that belong to Bollywood celebrities.
“Look!” said Tej, pointing to a house with many people crowding in front of it. “That’s Shahrukh Khan’s house. It’s usual for people to have a picnic in front of it. And that one, over there, that’s Karisma Kapoor’s apartment.”
Lani, Katya, Francois, Fransisco, the entertaining Russian guys and girls, and Tej: they were the reasons why I never felt lonely when I was traveling alone.
TRAVELING ALONE? HERE ARE SOME TIPS ON HOW NOT TO BE (AND FEEL) ALONE:
Find a free accommodation, free tour, or a local friend to explore the city with at Couchsurfing.com
Through this site, you can find people from all around the world who open up their houses for you to stay in, for free. Choose a host that has been verified and received a lot of good reviews from other travellers. You can also search for various traveler’s meet-ups or joining a free tour around town that is often being offered by fellow site members.
Living in a traveler’s hostel is the most comfortable way to meet with other travellers—especially with those who are also traveling alone. Through this site, you can find a hostel with the most suitable location and price for your needs. You can also read reviews about these hostels as well as interesting activities they are hosting for travellers. Having a credit card will be really handy to do bookings through this site.
Stay with a local and experience living with a local family via Airbnb.com
Compared to staying in a hotel, renting a room in a local’s house or apartment can be an option. It will be better if the host is living there with you. You can get a lot of interesting insights about the local’s favourite places to visit, or even get invited to spend time with your host and his friends! Your credit card will be very useful to confirm your bookings.
Meet like-minded friends in the city you’re traveling to by attending meet-up events via MeetUp.com
When you have a particular interest: cooking, dancing, language exchange, developing websites… it’s always nice to bump into a group of people who share the same enthusiasm towards these things. Finding meet-up events in the city you’re traveling to is a convenient way to get connected with people who share the same passion. You can also ask these people about secret venues/hidden gems in the city, based on your specific interests.
Traveling alone means having the opportunity to make more new friends along the way!
Finding your passion can be such a confusing feat. But the thing is, if you’re truly passionate about something, chances are: you’re already doing it.
There were times when I tried to ‘find’ my passion. And on some occasions, I might have told one of you to ‘find’ yours. I was wrong. And I’m sorry.
The thing is, ‘finding’ my passion had been a struggle. I love doing many different things, and learning many different things that I came to love. I love reading, and writing, and making arts. I love cooking, and dancing, and writing tiny proses. I love teaching, and traveling, and taking pictures. Recently, I took up water-colouring, brush-lettering, and knitting.
Maybe, we don’t find our passion. Maybe, we are already doing it.
Here’s the thing: if we are truly passionate about something, we’ll be doing it; despite.
Because we are so passionate about it, despite our busy schedule–still, we do it. Because we’re so passionate about it, despite not getting the approval from our loved ones–still, we do it. Because we’re so passionate about it, despite being extra tired after two days of working overtime–still, we do it. Because we’re so passionate about it, despite being badly heart-broken–still, we do it.
Maybe passion is not something you’d like to do, nor something you would steal time for, sacrifice your sleep for, or spend money and energy on. Maybe passion is something you have always been doing, every single day, despite all odds.
You’ve stolen some time for it. You’ve sacrificed your sleep for it. You’ve spent some money and energy on it.
For me, this means reading and sharing.
I don’t always make time for the rest. For the rest, like cooking or traveling, or even writing, I can be too busy, too tired, or too demotivated. I like doing them, but I can find many excuses not to. I enjoy doing them, but sometimes they can be too demanding.
Reading about something and sharing what I have read/learned in many different ways (either through a picture, a conversation, a text, a video, an audio recording, a WhatsApp message)–these are the things I have always done every single day. These are the things I make time for.
What are the things you’ve made time for, despite? Your passion might have been staring back at you right there all along.
Quit-your-job-and-travel-the-world could be the latest epitome of success for the millennials. But do you really have to quit your job to travel?
My first traveling experience, as an adult, was to Bandung, a city 185 kilometres away from my hometown. It was supposed to be a trip with a friend, but the friend cancelled at the last minute.
I was traveling with a group.
When we visited a museum, the group were flocking the first room we entered. It was packed.
Being short, I could not see anything. So I ran to the emptiest room.
The group started the tour from the front of the museum to the back, following the guide and the timeline of history. I decided to start from the back of the museum to the front (time is an illusion anyway).
That was when I knew I would never be a good tour-group member.
The rest of my traveling journeys only happened because of work. There were company outings abroad and business meetings. I extended some for a well-deserved vacation alone.
At some point, back home, I started missing the feeling of being in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by strangers.
From my desk at work, in the sleepy afternoons, I stalked Val’s and Elys’ blogs. I read each post with devotion. I want to be like them.
I want to be adventurous.
I want to meet guys abroad and go for a walk with them by the beach. I want to stroke a stray cat. I want to volunteer and exchange my optimism with a roof over my head. I want to connect with people. I want to befriend strangers. I want to read in an unfamiliar setting. I want to be melancholic in a faraway land.
So, I started to travel and paid for it by myself. I liked it. I spend most of my money to travel, then work more to save some more, to travel more. And so it goes.
I didn’t quit my job to travel. I quit my job to have more flexibility in doing the things I have always wanted to do: writing, teaching, working on creative projects with friends.
It’s just that once and a while, I travel.
I used to write about my traveling journeys diligently: taking pictures with my DSLR, documenting everything, and publishing it in the blog a few weeks after I got back.
I thought this was why I travel.
One day, I got an opportunity to travel around the archipelago for work. On the road, I lost my external hard-disk. It was where I kept all the notes and pictures I took during the journey. It was where I kept all the notes and pictures I took during all of my journeys, ever.
I have no pictures to prove where I’ve been. I cannot post those colourful images I’ve filtered and edited. There would be no likes or comments. I won’t be able to use any pictures for anything anymore.
I was surprised to find out that I only sulked about this for 2 hours. Then I let go.
I keep traveling. Since then, I don’t even bother to take my DSLR with me. I don’t even bother if I didn’t post anything about my traveling journeys afterwards.
I travel simply because I feel a tug at my heartstrings to go somewhere. I have no valid reason as to why I travel or why I choose a certain place to travel to.
I just follow the tug.
My friend once asked me if he should quit his job to travel.
I asked him: “If you are not allowed to show or tell anyone, ever, about your traveling journeys, would you still want to quit your job to travel?”
He looked at me for a second, and shrugged. “Well, came to think about it, probably not.”
Everywhere, really. But then, you would have thrown some popcorns my way. To avoid that from happening (not that I mind; because actually I do love popcorns), I’ve gathered 30 blogpost ideas for you to play with. They might come in handy when you’ve already got a certain topic, theme, or story you’d like to write for your blog, but found yourself stuck and couldn’t move forward.
When reading the 30 blogpost ideas below, change [The Topic] with whatever theme, topic, or story you have in mind. See which ideas spark an inspiration in you, and can be executed right away. Depending on the idea & the prompt questions following it, you might want to make your theme, topic or story either more general or more specific.
But, never again should you be running out of ideas, or not knowing what to write!
BLOGPOST IDEA #1.
Tell a story about how you got interested in [The Topic] for the first time.
How did you hear about it? Why does it spark your interest or curiosity? What did you feel/think when you came to know, hear, or get close to [The Topic] for the first time? What kind of situation were you in when you get in touch with [The Topic] for the first time?
BLOGPOST IDEA #2.
List down some of your favourite quotes, advice, or messages about [The Topic] and why these quotes resonate with you.
We love good quotes. It’s short and concise. It’s shareable. It’s quick to read and easy to digest. It’s straightforward. So, do you have some favourite quotes, advice, or messages about [The Topic] you’re about to write? You can compile them all into a blogpost and turn each quote into eye-pleasing visuals using free design app.
If you’re aiming for a longer & more elaborate blogpost, ask yourself why each quote resonates with you. Why did you find those quotes particularly relevant to you in the past (or in the present)? Did you experience something that makes you feel so ‘close’ to some particular quotes? Did some quotes remind you of someone?
BLOGPOST IDEA #3.
Create a recommended reading list containing some books you have found truly useful about [The Topic].
If you’re an avid reader, this will be an enjoyable feast! You can simply create your recommended list of books related to [The Topic]. You can also pick 1-2 memorable quotes/lines from each book; and for a longer post, write about the major lessons you’ve learned from each book; or how each one impact you and your views about [The Topic].
BLOGPOST IDEA #4.
Interview some people who are interested in [The Topic] or related to [The Topic] in some ways. Collect their stories as a round-up or as a blog series.
It’s always nice to get connected to those who share the same passion with us. In one and other way, it makes us feel less alone in the world. It makes us feel like we’re a part of a bigger community. Listening to what different people have to say about a similar topic, theme, or issue will enrich us. It will help us understand the many facets, layers, and experiences other people are having.
Experience is the greatest teacher. And we can also learn from other people’s experiences. Get in touch with some people related to [The Topic]. Of course, it’s good if they are industry leaders, popular, or influential, but don’t let this stop you. It doesn’t matter that much who these people are.
They can simply be a bunch of nice and fun people to talk to about [The Topic], and they will definitely have a story to tell. Each story is interesting in its own way. So, have fun and interview your friends, your online friends, another blogger blogging on [The Topic], people who are working in jobs related to [The Topic], your parents…
You can write a blogpost from this interview and feature the person you’ve interviewed. Or, if you like this approach too much, you can also create a blog series—in which, from time to time, you’ll feature an interview with a certain someone about [The Topic].
BLOGPOST IDEA #5.
Post an update, a forecast, a trend, or a thought about where you think [The Topic] is heading in the upcoming year.
If you like desk research, this could be the way to go. Find out what other people say about the trends/forecasts related to [The Topic], and then weigh in your own opinion. Do you think [The Topic] is really heading into that certain direction? Why? Have you been experiencing any indication of things heading that way? Have you also tried/experienced the latest updates/trends they are suggesting? Do you like it? What do you think about it?
BLOGPOST IDEA #6.
What are some of your personal/professional concerns related to [The Topic]? Why?
It’s interesting to ask yourself about the things that make you scared, angry, sad, concerned, ashamed, embarrassed, or uncomfortable. These things can say a lot about us; and a lot can also be said about [The Topic] if we’re looking at it through those feelings.
Is there something that make you feel angry, sad, scared, concerned, ashamed, embarrassed, or uncomfortable about [The Topic]? Why do you experience those feelings, and why does a particular thing about [The Topic] make you feel this way? Have you yourself experienced the feeling, or have someone you know experienced it? Do you have any idea on why these uncomfortable things related to [The Topic] happen?
BLOGPOST IDEA #7.
What should people do to be able to enjoy [The Topic] more?
Think of people who are interested in [The Topic], but found some parts of [The Topic] hard, annoying, challenging, difficult, or draining. Do you have any tips, ideas, or experiences on what they can do to enjoy [The Topic] more? Do you know something that can make [The Topic] feels easier, lighter, or friendlier?
BLOGPOST IDEA #8.
Why should people pay more attention to [The Topic]?
What do you think is really important about [The Topic]? Are there some fundamental things people should know about? What were some of the things you wished you knew about [The Topic] at the first place? Can you tell people about the bigger impact of [The Topic]? What about seeing [The Topic] with a bird-eye view: is there anything important related to [The Topic] globally, nationally, locally?
BLOGPOST IDEA #9.
You might not know everything there is to know, but you know for sure these 3 things about [The Topic].
Either because you’ve experienced it first-hand, or because you’ve been in touch with [The Topic] for some time, let people know 3 things you know for sure about [The Topic]. You can also share a more elaborate explanation about your journey/thinking process that has helped you come to this conclusion. Of course, you can list down 5 or 7 things you know about [The Topic]; but 3 is a good number to start. It’s not too intimidating to think about 3 things you know for sure about [The Topic].
BLOGPOST IDEA #10.
What are the 3 less-known things about [The Topic]?
Maybe you’ve heard everyone talking about [The Topic] in a similar fashion. Or there are a lot of resources on the Internet about a certain aspect of [The Topic]. But, do you think there are other sides/aspects of [The Topic] people rarely talk/discuss about? What are they?
BLOGPOST IDEA #11.
What do you find most fun, interesting, exciting, or enjoyable about [The Topic]?
It’s more or less self-explanatory. Ask yourself about what makes you interested in [The Topic]. What do you find exciting about [The Topic]? How do you enjoy experiencing/knowing [The Topic] so far? What about [The Topic] that makes you smile, happy, energetic, and optimistic? Which part about [The Topic] that makes you passionate about it?
BLOGPOST IDEA #12.
List down some of your favourite moments related to [The Topic].
Do you remember a particular day or some particular moments when you were experiencing [The Topic] and how the memories of that day have stayed with you ever since? Can you remember many of these days, moments, or memories?
BLOGPOST IDEA #13.
If you can look at [The Topic] critically, what would you criticise about some aspects of [The Topic]?
Is there any part of [The Topic] you disagree with? Has someone wrote about something related to [The Topic] and you are not on the same shoes about it? Has there been any criticisms out there about [The Topic]? What do people say? Is there any criticism that you can relate with? Or maybe you understand why they criticise [The Topic] in a certain way? Try to write about it.
BLOGPOST IDEA #14.
List down some of your favourite products/services related to The Topic.
I’m always happy to advertise great products/services for free, and I’m forever thankful for the products/services that have served me well. One thing you can do is to list down some of your favourite products/services related to [The Topic]. Tell people why you love that particular products/services, and how the product/services have helped you. Why do you think the readers should try this product/services?
BLOGPOST IDEA #15.
Review a certain product/service related to [The Topic].
Is there a new product/service in the market related to [The Topic]? Do you think you can find out more about it and try it; then review it? Is it as good as the promise it has to offer? Do you find it useful or helpful? Is the product/service friendly enough? Do you think the price is fair for such performance? Would you recommend it to everyone? Would you recommend it only to a particular type of people? Why?
BLOGPOST IDEA #16.
Tell people why they do not have to worry too much about [The Topic].
We’re all worried about something at some point in our lives. It’s only natural. What are the pain-points in [The Topic] that most people are worried about? What if someone come to you worrying about a certain aspect about [The Topic] and your duty is to console, comfort, and convince them: that they don’t have to worry too much about it because it’s not going to be that bad?
BLOGPOST IDEA #17.
What are some misconceptions people might have about [The Topic]?
Are there some myths, hoax, or popular beliefs about [The Topic]? Has there been any popular misconceptions about [The Topic] taken seriously by others? What are these misconceptions? Why are they not true? What’s the truth to be told about [The Topic]?
BLOGPOST IDEA #18.
Tell a story of someone you’ve always looked up to related to [The Topic].
Isn’t it nice to talk to someone who has always been an inspiration to you? Someone you respect, someone you look up to, someone you have always wanted to come to for advice? When it comes to [The Topic], who is this person you look up to? Can you reach out to him/her and find out more about their story related to [The Topic]? Either it’s an email conversation, a phone call, or an invitation for a cup of coffee, your interaction with this person about [The Topic] can actually turn into a blogpost.
BLOGPOST IDEA #19.
List down 3 most-frequent questions people tend to ask about [The Topic] and try to answer them.
This blogpost came from one of the most-frequent questions I got about blogging and writing in general: where do you get your ideas from? Another one: how do you get paid to write? When it comes to [The Topic], what are some of the most-frequent questions people tend to ask you about? Or, if you don’t get such questions, imagine yourself as someone particularly new to [The Topic]. What kind of questions would you ask? Try to answer these questions.
BLOGPOST IDEA #20.
Tell some inconvenient experience you’ve ever had about [The Topic].
Truth is, the world is not all about cupcakes and unicorns. There are times when things go wrong. We get hurt or disappointed, we shoot high and then we fail. Do you have any inconvenient experience about [The Topic] so far, something that happened to you and probably changed the way you look at [The Topic] since then? What happened, and how the experience changed your outlook, attitude, or approach about [The Topic]?
BLOGPOST IDEA #21.
Create a list of some of your favourite blogs/websites related to [The Topic].
Another quick-whip for your blogpost: go find some blogs/websites related to [The Topic] and curate your most favourite ones. This is a great opportunity for you to find great blogs/websites you might want to bookmark yourself, and also a good chance for you to get connected with those who share your passion.
You can also email them, thank them for having a great blog/website, and let them know that you’ve included them in your blogpost. We love being appreciated, so let’s pay it forward and appreciate others, too!
BLOGPOST IDEA #22.
Share a recommendation/advice on how people can be better at/in mastering, experiencing, approaching or relating to [The Topic].
Don’t worry. You don’t have to be an expert in [The Topic] to do this. You can always take up your own experience and look back to the time when you’re still new to [The Topic]. Since then, you’ve improved; no matter how little. What have you done to improve? Did you read something, did you meet someone, did you learn a certain aspect of [The Topic]?
Write a list of some of the things/activities you’d like to do related to [The Topic].
Some people called this a bucket list. I always find making bucket lists exciting. It’s like we’re writing down our dreams, our wishes, all the things we want to know, do, have, achieve, or experience. Suddenly, you see how you wish to grow.
Now, you can also create a bucket list of things you’d like to do or experience related to [The Topic]. It could be lessons to learn, people to meet, places to visit, things to acquire… it could be an achievement, or even a feeling. Whatever it is, try to write them down, and also explain why you’d like to do or experience these things. How would it make you feel? Have you always dreamed about it? Why doing/experiencing this is important/exciting to you?
BLOGPOST IDEA #24.
Share a story about how [The Topic] is different now than it was 2, 5, 10, or 20 years ago.
This is about old vs new, past vs present, was vs is. What has changed today about [The Topic]? Does it change for the better, or the worse? How were things in the old days, in the previous years? What do you like about [The Topic] now? What do you like about [The Topic] back then? Which one do you like best: the new or the old?Why?
BLOGPOST IDEA #25.
Create a tutorial related to [The Topic].
In a nutshell, teach someone about [The Topic]. Teach what you know, in a linear fashion. Make it easy to follow, like a step-by-step guide. All of us can teach someone about something. Do it through your blogpost. A knowledge shared, no matter how small, will multiply. And isn’t it nice to pass along something we know, that might be useful for others?
BLOGPOST IDEA #26.
Create a 7-day experiment/challenge related to [The Topic].
If you are not afraid of commitment and would love to produce more blogposts of the same topic, this could be an option. Challenge yourself for a 7-day experiment/challenge related to [The Topic] and blog about it. You don’t have to limit yourself by blogging about the results. You can also blog about the process, the journey, or the struggle: even the failure (yes, completely okay!).
If 7-day is too strenuous, make it a 7-week challenge, where you’ll blog about the experiment/challenge once a week for 7 weeks. I’m thinking of a 7-week blogging challenge to adopt this year; will let you know when I take it up!
BLOGPOST IDEA #27.
Do you know some courses, events, or workshops out there related to [The Topic]?
One way to keep improving ourselves is to keep learning and to stay curious. What about [The Topic]? Where can we learn more about it? Are there courses, events, workshops that people can attend? Are there communities of people interested in [The Topic] in your area? Are there weekly or monthly activities related to [The Topic]? You can be the one finding these out and share it with your readers. Who knows, one might attract your attention, too!
BLOGPOST IDEA #28.
What should people expect when they start immersing/exposing themselves in/to [The Topic]?
Imagine someone who’s new to [The Topic]. Let them know what to expect when they’ve immersed themselves in [The Topic], when they are no longer a beginner. Anything they need to know, or to prepare? Would they lose weight, lose money, lose time, risk their jobs, face challenges, got into troubles, be exhausted? Or maybe they would feel better, lighter, happier, more confident? Tell them based on your experience, or based on your conversations with other people related to [The Topic].
BLOGPOST IDEA #29.
What are the worst mistakes you’ve ever made related to [The Topic]?
Oh, we sure do learn a lot from our mistakes! But sharing your mistake for others to learn about it could be the next step. Have you made any mistakes related to [The Topic]? Sure, it’s nothing you’re proud about, but maybe it’s useful to share it, helping others not to make the same mistakes if possible. What have you learned from these mistakes? How would you avoid making the same mistakes in the future?
BLOGPOST IDEA #30.
What can [The Topic] teach us about living life?
What has [The Topic] teach you about living life? Can you think of an analogy? If [The Topic] is life, how should one go about it? Are there situations related to [The Topic] that is quite similar with a situation one could face in life?
>> Now, which idea would your turn into a blogpost?
The place I like best in the world is the kitchen.
With this heart-robbing sentence, so begins the story of a young woman, Mikage Sakurai, as she’s dealing with love and loss while trying to find her place in the world.
After more than 10 years, the novel Kitchen by Japanese author Banana Yoshimoto is still one of my all-time personal favourite. I couldn’t remember how often have I taken this book out from the shelf and read it again cover to cover, I could almost remember most of the words by heart. The pages have started to yellow and worn out to the point that I started to think of getting myself another copy—just in case.
A SOVIET KITCHEN, MELON, & COGNAC.
That evening, we had just wrapped up our dinner in a local establishment in Kyiv, well-known for its varenyky; akind of Ukrainian dumpling. I enjoyed mine with gusto (mushroom-filled and served with sour cream) while Ieugenia and Kyryl told me some stories about their childhood as they remember it, when Ukraine was still a part of the Soviet Union.
It was drizzling outside when we stepped out, just as Kyryl had predicted in the afternoon. He had sniffed the air earlier as we were walking around Andriyivskyy—dubbed as Kyiv’s most charming street, and exclaimed: “It’s going to rain later on!”
He was right.
We huddled together in front of the establishment, thinking of what to do next. We didn’t feel like going out, but we were still eager to converse some more. So Kyryl said, “Let’s go to Ieugenia’s place, then. We can just hang out there. This way, you can also see the typical Soviet flat!”
The drizzle turned into a pouring rain, so Kyryl stopped a taxi. I sat at the back with Ieugenia, and off we went to ‘a typical Soviet flat’. According to the couple, old apartment buildings in Ukraine built during the Soviet era have identical rooms. “All the furnitures, the desk, the chairs, the bed, the stove, the layout, everything is identical!” said Kyryl with much amusement as we climbed the stairs to Ieugenia’s flat.
When Ieugenia opened the front door, I gasped at the view of ‘a typical Soviet flat’ and gasped some more as she gave me a short tour. I felt like I had just transported back to my childhood home in the ’80s. All the furnitures and the electronic appliances were the ones I recognised by heart from the times when I was still too short to touch the kitchen counter!
The tube television, the radio, the stove, the cupboard, the washing machine… I kept on pointing at them and laughed nostalgically: “I had one exactly like this when I was little! And this! And this!”
We spent the evening sitting in ‘a typical Soviet kitchen‘ that looked exactly like the kitchen in my childhood home where I could find my mother frying egg with margarine. The similarity was so striking, even to the table cloth.
Kyryl served cognac and cut some melons (“This is not something Ukrainian, to eat melons with cognac,” he laughed. “But this is the only thing we have lying around. And the melon is really good! So sweet!”). We sat there for hours, talking, while the government’s radio was playing some songs on the background.
The tint of its static sound reminded me of the days when I was 8 and found the short wave (SW) switch on my parent’s old radio. That day, all of a sudden, my room was filled with foreign languages: a different kind of strange sounds I didn’t truly comprehend. They came all the way from faraway places: Australia, Britain, Germany, China…
I listened to these radio broadcasts ceremoniously, as if it was my one-way ticket to get transported to another world: a magical one.
I was a kid who found the SW broadcast to be way more interesting than television. I sprawled myself on the floor, one ear glued to the speaker, listening to foreign people reading news in foreign languages from faraway countries. My mother was the one who told me that it was, indeed, just a news broadcast.
However, to me as a little girl, it was a promise. A promise that there was another kind of world out there, a world I felt so close and so attached to, as magical as those foreign voices wafted around my bedroom.
TRAVELING THE KITCHENS.
When I came to think about it, the SW radio broadcast was probably the first impulse I had as a little girl to dream about traveling. And when it comes to the kitchen, as a little girl I spent most of my time in it, watching my parents cook.
I squatted near the oil stove when my mother cooked a huge pan of chicken soto (clear herbal broth with turmeric and herbs) for the New Year, and enthusiastically took the small duty of brushing egg yolk on top of about-to-be-baked kaasstengels (Dutch-Indonesian cookie) as if it was a great responsibility. I hovered around my grandmother as she cooked instant noodle inside a dented pot (the bottom was blackened after years of use) for my grandfather. I adored the smell of the kitchen as my father made scrambled eggs with stinky beans and sweet soy sauce.
Later in life, as I traveled around either for business or pleasure, I found myself ‘adopted’ by a kitchen, again and again. It was in the kitchen that I could experience those moments when I was still technically a stranger, but didn’t really feel or being treated like one.
A Filipino lady who lived in Kuala Lumpur took me to her kitchen and taught me how to cook chicken with potato, tomato, onion and cream.
In the remote island of Sawendui in Papua, I squatted in front of the communal outdoor kitchen, along with the dogs and a cat, while the village women cooked rice, mussels, and shrimp the men had just caught a few minutes earlier. In a transmigration village in Pontianak, I let my eyes got teary from the smoke as the village women cooked rice, vegetables, sambal (Indonesian hot relish) and salted fish over a wooden stove. They were chatting and laughing as they cooked, the sounds of pots and pans and plates as they bumped into one another were simply musical.
I loitered around Ian Curley from Conviction Kitchen in Jakarta as he prepared beef tartare and leek salads, and sat right in front the kitchen during breakfast in Blixen, an artsy brasserie in Spitalfields, London, watching the Chef manned the kitchen staff in awe: reading orders aloud, giving instructions on what to prepare next, and inspecting each plate before it was served to the customers.
I assisted the making of ricotta dessert with honey, orange, and cinnamon for Christmas lunch in Albiate, Italy, shredding the zests of the fresh-picked oranges while the family’s black cat, Pepe, slept soundly under the kitchen table; then hovered over Elena (an Italian girl who speaks Mandarin) in another kitchen next door as she made red wine risotto. I borrowed the kitchen a few days after a visit to the Esselunga (supermarket) to make sambal goreng ati (liver, potato, and shrimp cooked in spicy coconut milk) for the family.
I spent a day smelling of coconut milk and garlic in a spacious kitchen in Amsterdam to make gado-gado (Indonesian vegetable salad with peanut sauce), rendang (slow-cooked meat in spicy coconut milk), tofu and eggplant gulai (Indonesian curry-like sauce), as well as mojito cheesecake for a New Year’s Eve dinner party.
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW SOMEONE, SPEND TIME WITH THEM IN THE KITCHEN.
There’s always something magical and meditative about spending some time in the kitchen: either it’s for cooking dinner, preparing breakfast, baking cakes, brewing coffee, or simply watching someone getting busy around the kitchen counter.
The living room is too polite, the bedroom is too intimate, the terrace is too open, the bathroom is too weird, but when someone took you to their kitchen, you’ve somehow been taken in. You’ve crossed the line between a guest and a good friend.
It is in the kitchen that stories were being poured out over pans and pots and kettles and bowls; just like in the old days when women cooked together for a festivity and whispered their hearts’ secrets as they washed vegetables, peeled garlic and onions, boiled chicken broth, marinated fish in salt and tamarind, and scrubbed their turmeric-stained fingers with cucumber and key lime.
It is mostly in the kitchen, around the dining table or over a kitchen counter, a life-changing news was brought out to the open. It is in the kitchen, that family members who do not see or talk to one another as often as they like bumped into one another as they’re about to grab something from the refrigerator.
Because in the kitchen, even in such circumstances when nobody was talking, the silence itself tell a story. Just like the faint sound of the soup in a pan, discreetly boiling over small fire.
I will have countless ones, in my heart or in reality. Or in my travels. Alone, with a crowd of people, with one other person—in all the many places I will live. I know that there will be so many more. [Banana Yoshimoto]
I didn’t expect this one to be such a long article (5,000+ words, so you better really want to know about this to read it!). So, in late December, I got some email questions from the blog’s readers, asking me on what to do if they want to get paid to write.
I was thinking if I could also write about it in the blog, for everyone to read. So, I did.
This is my elaborate reply to those emails. You want to get paid to write? This is what I can sum up from my experience.
Build Your Writing Muscle + Mentality
1. Stick to a habit of writing practice.
If you’d like to get paid to write, understand that you need to let go of writing solely as an art. It has now also become a job, an occupation, a commitment. We are not allowed to use bad mood (or for writers maybe ‘good mood’) or writer’s block as an excuse not to write. Not wanting to write is not an excuse not to write. If you’d like to get paid to write, start by building a muscle and mentality for it; to start approaching writing the way you would approach any job: with an amount of determination, dedication, commitment, and passion.
With that being said, commit yourself to a block of time every single day, to do you writing practice. Writing practice is not journaling, although journaling is better than not writing at all. What I meant by writing practice here is having at least 15 minutes a day to improve your writing skills. Do you have any difficulties when it comes to writing non-fiction? Do you think you’re weak in grammar? Do you think you need to know more about how to describe a place?
Then set up a time to practice writing (not reading!) about it, improving your skills every single day. Is there a certain kind of writing job you’d like to have? Do you want to write an e-book? A culinary review? A magazine article? A viral content on user-generated content websites? Then start writing about them. Make them a part of your writing practice.
I have always wanted to learn writing about food-related essays, so I started practicing and came up with these two: about instant noodles and coffee.
2. Read & learn more of what you want to can write.
I have more than 30+ books about writing on my Kindle, and probably around 50+ more in my computer; or lying around on the shelf next to my working desk. When I find an article I love on the Internet, I bookmark and save it and read it again, and again, trying to find out what makes this article so captivating. I study the way the writer structure the whole piece, and try to emulate it; only to find out how it might work.
At this point in time, when attention-span is getting shorter, writing short for the Internet could be something you’d like to learn more about. On the other hand, there are still great long essays and in-depth articles out there on the web, so writing long for the Internet could also be something you’re interested in. No matter what it is you’re interested in, learn more, and read more.
Do not limit yourself in learning only about what you want to write. Whenever you can, also learn more about the things you can write. If you want to get paid to write, having an ability to write an article, an e-book, a novel, an essay, a sales page, a short story, a wedding vow, and a 7-minute YouTube video script would give you a better competitive advantage than a writer who can only write a short story.
Can you get paid only from writing a short story? Of course, you can.
Can you get more job opportunities if you can write an article, an e-book, an essay, a sales page, a short story, a wedding vow, and a 7-minute YouTube video script? Of course, you can.
So do we really have to learn about what we can write instead of just learning about what we want to write? I would say that the answer is really up to you.
However, when I first started out, I did not limit myself to a certain kind of writing. I wanted to learn and experience many kinds of writing, as much as possible. Later on in life, when we’ve made a name of ourselves, we might finally have the luxury to say that we only want to choose a certain kind of writing or accept a certain writing job. When first starting out, though, I’d like to keep myself open.
Moreover, how do I know what I really want if I haven’t had the chance to see what’s available out there, right?
If you’re thinking about getting paid to write because you’d like to have the freedom of working from anywhere in the world, find out the recent trends for content creation on the Internet, and hone your skills to respond to that. Check out some sites like Trendwatching, Mashable (Creative), or CoSchedule blog for some sparks of inspiration about what kind of writing jobs might be needed, and how we can prepare ourselves for a writing job that might not yet exist (but soon, will).
3. Get a (healthy) reality check.
How do you know if you have written something good, or something bad?
From my previous experience, getting feedback from families and friends IS NOT the right way to go. Either they’d tell the things they thought you’d like to hear; or on the contrary, tell something that hurt your feelings, friends or families are just not the right person to give an honest and objective feedback (I still love my friends and families, though!).
The first time I learned about writing short stories, I joined a local writer’s group called Kemudian.com, where we could publish our work and get stars, comments and feedback from other writers.
From this group, I learned that writing ‘beautifully’ is not enough. When you’re writing a short story, readers are craving for plots, for action, for something that would propel the story forward. I got all these feedback and try to improve myself based on some comments or loopholes other writers found in my story. Joining a writer’s group gives me the opportunity of being vulnerable, by sending out my unfinished work to the world: to be judged.
For me, it was really a good exercise to expose my writings to be judged. When you get paid to write and get commissioned works, like it or not, you’ll receive judgements (in many forms) from your clients on the work you’ve done. And trust me, they are not always kind. Thus, if you want to get paid to write, you need to have a thick skin to not take critics personally, and just get yourself used to it.
This is why joining a writer’s group is something I would recommend. However, please bear in mind these 2 things before joining any writer’s group:
1) DO NOT TAKE CRITICISM PERSONALLY. Just because your writing is bad, doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. If your writing is bad, find ways to improve it. If someone said your character is weak, find some ideas on how to make it stronger. If someone said your first paragraph is boring, find some resources on how to make an attention-grabbing first paragraph. A criticism is not an attack on you as a person, nor as a writer. Learn how to see critics objectively. Learn how to separate your work from yourself, or else you’ll be doomed for many heartaches along the way.
2) ONLY TAKE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM AND IGNORE THE HATERS. Some people criticised because they care, while some others are being critical simply because they do not care. Learn to know the difference. Ignore hate comments, and concentrate only on constructive criticism directly related to your work. Protect your energy from negative vibes.
How to find a writer’s group for you?
Find a group by searching it online, if possible, find a specific group for the kind of writings you’d like to submit (poetry group, short story, etc.)
Ask other fellow writers for any recommendation of an existing writer’s group in your area
If there is none, create one. You can gather 3-4 writers, exchange works via email, and give comments and feedback once a week.
4. Trust yourself and be a confident writer.
This could be the hardest thing to do. How do you tell people how to trust? I don’t really know how a non (or less) confident writer could build confidence. I think it’s something you need to work on personally.
If you’re not confident about your writings or about yourself as a writer, try to ask yourself when, or in which situation these doubts started to bubble up. Was it something someone told you many years ago, when you were a teenager? Was it that time when your parents told you that being a writer could not sustain you? Was it that time when you submitted your work to a magazine and got rejected?
The thing is, to get paid to write, you need to offer your skills to those who would pay you to do the things you love: to write. How would you get someone to work with you and pay you to write, if you do not believe in yourself? If you do not believe that you cando it? If you do not believe that you are good enough to get paid for what you wrote?
This is also a title of a book by Austin Kleon that happens to be one of my favourite non-fiction books of all time. And if you haven’t read it, I would strongly suggest you to get it and start reading.
To build your name and portfolio as a writer, this is what you need to do: showcase your write-ups, as frequently as you can. Either posting articles on your personal blog, writing for user-generated content websites, a thoughtful Facebook note, a witty Twitter update, a thought-provoking LinkedIn post, an informative Instagram caption… whatever that may be, show your work!
If your friend is consistently posting a love poem every Friday evening for a year, you would think of that friend as ‘the love poet’. So, share and show your work, frequently, consistently, and confidently! Showing your work is also a way for you to get feedback, but most of all, it’s a way for you to just show up to work and to stop trying to be perfect.
If you do not show your work, nobody would know about it. If you keep your work only for yourself, nobody would get a chance to see it. To get paid to write, you need to show your work.
2. Build your portfolio.
The next thing you would need is a portfolio. Think of it as a catalogue for your potential clients. Samples of write-ups in your blog, articles you’ve published in user-generated content websites, or viral reviews you’ve made somewhere else on the Internet… all these could be included in your portfolio.
However, most clients would ask whether you’ve been working with some other clients before; or not. Basically, they would want to know if you’ve gotten paid to write before. If you haven’t, they would think: 1) you’re not good enough, nobody wants to work with you; 2) you’re new and inexperienced.
So another good way to build a portfolio is by offering your services pro bono (or for a very friendly price) to a client.
Would you like to have a portfolio on writing about restaurants and culinary? Shoot out an email to as many restaurants as you can, and offer them a pro bono service to be included in your portfolio later on. Either it’s writing an article about their restaurants for a magazine, improving the copy of their website, editing some of their promotion materials… do some works related to the services you’ll be offering your future clients.
Take up 2-3 restaurants that received your offer, start working, and build your portfolio. Do not forget to state clearly that you would need this project to be included in your portfolio, and that the restaurant’s name or logo would be appearing as a client of yours in your website (if any) or in your promotion materials. Make sure they agree on this.
Another way to build your portfolio is to contact non-profit organisations in your area, and ask them whether they need a hand for any writing-related project. Building your portfolio while doing good and volunteering your skills would be a meaningful work!
Keep your work samples in one folder, and if possible, upload it online to a document-sharing app. The next time a client ask about your previous works, you can send them an email with links to your work samples!
Even if it’s an unpaid work, you are building your portfolio here, so make sure that you’re doing a really good work! You’ll be using these works as samples of how good you are. It’s your showcase. And these non-paying (or low-paying) clients are your first few clients! Make sure they appreciate your work (and craving for more!).
If your pro bono client is happy with your work, ask for a testimonial. Ask for permission to use the testimonial in your website, or in any other promotion materials you have.
3. Take part in relevant communities & networking events.
If you’d like to write novels, attend networking events where you can meet with other novel writers, novel readers, and novel publishers. If you’d like to write for fashion brands, join their communities, attend their events, get to know the people in the industry, get to know the agencies they are working with. Surround yourself with these people: with your future competitors, future clients, future middlemen, future assistants, future consumers.
Once you’re there, what should you do?
Absorb as much knowledge as you can, find out any information or contacts you would need, get to know the latest trend and updates in the industry. Those who listen learn more than those who talk. Use this opportunity to learn the industry dynamics.
But, above all, be a good listener, and be helpful.
I would also like to say be entertaining, but not all of us are blessed with a skill to entertain others. So, be a good listener. It is entertaining to have a good listener in the crowd. Find out ways on how you can help others. Someone needs to get in touch with someone you know? Get them introduced. Someone needs advice on where to go this weekend? Someone needs to know where the restroom is?
Be helpful. You’ll never know when these random faces and names would come to your assistance, but they would, someday. Someday, they would.
4. Find a mentor and be their ‘intern’.
I learned everything I need to know about writing business letters and documents from my ex-boss. He is my mentor when it comes to business writing.
As a former investigative journalist turned a communications consultant, he would sit with me for hours, correcting my grammar, style, structure, as well as selection of words. He would ask me about my thinking process, about why I choose to write a certain thing following a certain flow, about what will happen if this paragraph is erased, about why the writing is not as witty as it should be.
From writing a pitch email to a full-fleshed proposal, from a report’s summary to a press release, I learned through him: by reading what he wrote, by listening to what he said, by improving through his criticisms, by exposing myself to voluntarily writing more documents. Only by doing this, I get more opportunity to be mentored: thus more opportunity to accelerate my growth!
At the time I was working there a few years ago, my boss’ professional fee would be something around US$1,200-1,700, per hour. When I volunteered myself to write more business documents, I got more time to be mentored, and I did not have to pay anything (on the contrary, he paid me my salary!).
They say you are the average of the 5 people you’re closest to. If you want to get paid to write, make sure that one of those people is your mentor.
How to find a mentor if you’re not working for one?
Find a writer you respect, someone you would want to ‘intern with’. Try to get in touch with the writer, either by attending events where he/she speaks, commenting on his/her blog posts, or writing an email complimenting his/her writings. Try to do this for some time, probably 1-2 months, before asking for any opportunity to be mentored. It is necessary to build a relationship and get the ‘potential mentor’ to notice you, and get warm to you. It is very opportunistic if the very first time you contact him/her is only when you’d like to get mentored.
If you have quite a decent amount of money you can spend to pay your mentor, feel free to ask his/her rate to become your writing mentor. I do believe in a healthy exchange of energy. Paying your mentor would not only show how much your respect his/her time and credibility, it would also make you feel more serious and committed in doing this mentorship.
If you do not have the money to pay a mentor (or if your mentor’s fee is just way too high than what you can afford to offer), offer your time and skills. Tell your mentor about some of your work experience and skills, and offer your help in assisting him/her in any writing projects he/she might have at the moment.
By working under their guidance and supervision, you can actually learn faster. You’re not only learning about the craft of writing itself, but you will also learn about how to approach writing as a daily job. Most of the times, if you perform good enough, your mentor could also be the one recommending you to take job offers he/she couldn’t handle.
5. Go out and teach what you know.
Knowledge is multiplied when shared. So, if you have time, go out and teach what you know about writing. I love teaching; because the more I teach, the more I know about what I didn’t know before. Teaching is another way of learning, of improving ourselves, of transferring our mind into someone else’s mind. It’s an interesting process. As you teach, you’ll learn a few skills you’ll need to deal with a client: empathy, patience, persuasion skills, and energy management.
How do you put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t even know how to start writing? How can you explain things step by step, slowly, in a way that can be easily digested and understood? How would you keep them excited about learning more, about knowing more, about keep learning instead of giving up? How is it possible for you to stay positive and supportive after trying to explain the same thing over and over again, something you would deem ‘so easy’ but turn out to be ‘really difficult’ for others?
Thinking about taking a course in handling difficult clients? Try teaching a bunch of elementary school students.
Find Work + Keep It
1. Decide on your starting price.
You’ll need to set-up a fee for your write-ups, because it’s time for you to get a job and get paid for it. How much? It depends on how you value your work, but to get close to being objective, ask some of your ‘free clients‘ :”If you have the budget and could pay me for what I did, how much money would you feel comfortable to spend on it?”
Then build your fee based on the answer.
When you’ve built your portfolio and have had some satisfied clients, you could always raise your fee accordingly.
2. Browse for jobs and commissioned works.
Now that you want to get paid to write, start looking for jobs and commissioned works. How? There are 2 ways to do this.
First, you can find many sites offering writing jobs online, only by typing the keyword on search engines. Although it’s quite comfortable to find commissioned work this way, the downside is this: you are competing with many writers. Some with many stars and reviews, and have worked for 50+ online clients before. If you’re just starting out, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by this. However, try signing up to this service to find a potential client in your area who might need your writing service.
The second way is more traditional, but I actually prefer this one. There’s a reason why you go to community or networking events and build relationships with those in your line of work. There’s a reason why you need to be a good listener and be helpful to them. Now, it’s time to tell them that you have ‘just finished a project’ and have the capacity to take up some writing jobs. Do they know anyone who might need help in writing a copy, a blogpost, an article, an e-book?
I found this to be more effective than fishing jobs online, at least based on my experience. This is also one of the reasons why Build Your Name + Portfolio is in Step 2, something you should be doing before even trying to find commissioned works.
The thing is this: if you have built your name and portfolio well, the chance is you would have had some offers to do commissioned work already!
3. Accept the job!
I don’t really like to write about that. It’s not my kind of thing. It’s not paying as much as I hope it would. It’s a boring job. It’s not as prestigious. It’s just a small project. If you’re thinking this way and about to turn down an offer on a writing job, ask yourself this question: at this stage, can I afford to turn down this offer?
Now that writing is a job, or a source of decent income, or something that will put some food on the dining table, would you have the luxury to only receive commissioned works you like? Or would you do the commissioned works you have the capacity and capability to do?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. It’s a choice, and you are free to decide for yourself.
My background is a communications consultant. I worked mostly with big brands and corporations before, so it would only natural that when I quit my consulting job and started offering my service as a writer, I got a big chunk of commissioned works related to writing business documents.
Would I choose to work on something else? Of course. Give me scripts for wedding videos, human-interest article, personal essay or e-book writing, even popular reports. Do I accept the ‘business document’ job? Yes.
Because I know I have the capacity and the capability of doing it. Because I can get a decent income from this work while traveling. Because I want to help them to get this work done. Because I want to keep practicing and sharpening my skills in writing business documents. Because it’s a job and I’m grateful for getting it.
How long would I keep doing this? As long as necessary. As long as I am not cramped with 100+ requests to write a wedding video script; to the point that I cannot take any offers for writing business documents. As long as I still want to have some traveling funds in my savings account.
The truth is this: no matter how passionate you are about what you do, when it becomes a job, at one point or another, you’ll just have to deal with things you’re not so comfortable with. I think this is where we got it wrong when it comes to the term do what you love, and we imagine this perfect day when we can only do the things we want to do. But what about seeing it this way: it is exactly because you REALLY LOVE what you do, you CAN put up with some uncomfortable things along the way, and DO IT anyway.
If you love it that much, you won’t just quit when things get hard.
4. Get to know your middlemen (or women).
Some of my commissioned works came not from the client directly, but from the client’s agents, partners, or even the client’s friends. Most of the works came in through referrals. It was someone-suggesting-me-to-someone-else situation. I found this to be the most convenient way of getting commissioned work.
If you want to get paid to write, get to know your middlemen. These are the people who can actually hand over some works to you. They might not be the client, but they have access to your potential clients. And they may need your service.
For instance, agencies (communication, advertising, content production) could be your middlemen if you’re thinking about writing for big brands. So get to know them. When you bump into any writing-related information they would find interesting, inform them about it.
Is there a new trend in website copywriting? Is there a new project about writing a novel via Twitter? Is there a groundbreaking formula to write sales pages that convert? Share this information with them. Let them start seeing you as an expert, as someone who is always updated to the latest trend, as someone who cares, as someone they would call whenever they have job opportunities.
How do you know who are your middlemen? By joining related communities and attending networking events. That’s why we need to do this as we’re building our name and portfolio.
5. Reach out + collaborate.
When you want to get paid to write, you can’t just write and be happy with that. You also need to sell your services.
Like it or not, you need to market yourself, promote your services, and close the deal with a client for a commissioned work.
I think most of us writers (including myself) are not that comfortable with selling. Most probably because we’ve been exposed to ‘hard selling’: the pushy, make-you-feel-guilty-and-annoyed type of thing. When we’re thinking about selling, we’re thinking about THAT kind of selling.
But let’s put it this way. You’re out there about to buy a new laptop. With so many options available, you really don’t know which one to buy. There are so many options with the budget you have, and many different specs. Which one to choose?
How many of you would feel grateful to have a helpful, informative, and genuine sales person trying to help you find the best laptop for you? How many of you would appreciate it when he said, “Oh, you want to use it for designing stuff? This is the best for design works because it has this and that and that… and it is actually voted the friendliest laptop for designers in this magazine…”
How many of you would appreciate THAT instead of a sales person who just shrugs; and without listening to what you really need in a laptop, insists on offering you laptop A: the most expensive in the store?
If you’re a helpful, informative, and genuine sales person, would you still feel bad about selling?
Or if we change the word selling into ‘helping’, would you be more comfortable in offering your services? If, instead of thinking what-can-I-sell-today, we think how-I-can-help-out-today, would you see selling in a better light?
When you’re about to reach out to a client offering your services, ask yourself first: what is the one thing I know I can really help him with?
Send this email. It is actually a sales email.
If you’re still not comfortable with this (or if at some point you want to reach more new clients), collaborate. Find a friend or a colleague who is really good in selling. Someone you’d like to talk to all day. Someone who is really good with people. Then, collaborate with him. Ask him if he would sell your services and get a commission for every deal being made.
We’re always stronger together, aren’t we?
6. Your ideal job and where to find them.
So, you’ve always wanted to write food-related articles for food-related clients?
Now that you’ve had enough commissioned works to sustain yourself, and you have made a name for yourself out there, start offering your specific service for a specific client during the weekends (or when you’re not busy working on other commissioned works).
Create an offer on some writing services you can do for restaurants; or for those who want to make recipe books; or to improve the copy of a restaurant’s websites. Show off your portfolio in this subject. Offer a competitive starting price or a discount to get more of your ‘ideal clients’ at this stage. Test the waters. See if you can get enough work from this niche alone in 3-6 months.
The day you get more ideal jobs than you could handle is the day when you can turn down jobs you do not really like; or the day when you can hand over those jobs to someone else. Maybe it’s time for you to branch out and hire other writers to work for you!
The idea here is to get paid to pursue your ideal job. If you have the luxury of starting out with enough savings; so you could exclusively pursue your ideal job, then you’re lucky! If you don’t, like most of us might be, work on other writing jobs while pursuing your ideal jobs.
7. Strive to be a kind person.
More than striving to be a good writer, strive to be a good person. Be kind. This is how you’ll keep the job. Always give more than you can take, always be a helping hand whenever you can, always hand in your best work, always show up in your best mood possible.
This is the thing: when someone gives you commissioned works, they don’t necessarily hire your services. They hire you. YOU are the reason why they give this job to you, and not to someone else. To be honest, we are not that unique. There are many people out there who can write business documents or wedding video scripts. There are many writers out there who can do what we do. A client chooses you because they want to work with you: as a writer, and as a person.
In reality, the more clients you work with, you’d probably experience more of the hard times. Maybe the clients are not satisfied with your work, maybe they are not treating you well, maybe the two of you are just not a match-made-in-heaven for this project, maybe they find someone who can perform the same work for a better price, maybe you’re feeling stuck working on this project and you wanted to drop it off…
Whatever it might be, when you have a hard time making decisions, when you have to turn down a deal, to send THAT scary email, to make THAT uncomfortable phone call, ask yourself: “If I am kind, what would I do in this situation?”
And just know: that in the long run, being kindwins over being right.
Do you have a friend who’d like to get paid to write? If you think this post would help them, feel free to share it! I am also crafting a writer’s retreat program this year with Lucedale.co on how to build your niche as a commissioned writer. If you’re interested, drop me an email here.