Writing For Real People

Here’s a thought that occurred to me sometime last year, but has always been a strange thought that I’ve never thought to share:

“Remember to write for real people”.

It seems a little strange, does it? Well, it’s true.

Every single piece of writing is a piece of communication that’s directed towards a real person and should be created with that in mind.

If it seems a little bit too commonsensical to you, then let me give you a bit more context that’s tied to this situation: The fact that I’m writing this blog post to serve you, a real person.

As far as I know, you’re not a robot (unless I’m mistaken!), and neither are you just a number on WordPress – you are a real living human being with your own goals, hopes and dreams, and you have limited time and energy.

As a reader of this blog, you could continue to read this blog, comment on it, and share it with others, which would be great for me as a writer and supremely encouraging – and as the writer who wants to build an audience, I would like you to read it, share it with your friends, and come back.

In other words… What you see here needs to be worth that time and energy!

But now, let’s step away from blog posts for a minute and generalize.

If you’re writing a school essay, you’re writing it for a teacher who is going to give you a good grade if they think that it’s well-reasoned or impressive; that is his or her job!

If you’re writing a story, you’re writing it for someone who wants to be entertained and to have something to talk about with their friends!

What this all means is that every single piece of writing that you ever create will be directed towards a real person!

That’s why when you write a school essay for a teacher, writing grammatically is a must, and writing logically is a plus!

It’s why we think about the order in which you present words, why punctuation matters, and why we care that your writing is well-researched and contains both facts as well as good reasoning!

That’s why when you write a story, you think about whether the premise is entertaining, the pacing is great, and whether the audience is suited for and connect with it!

When we write, we must consider the reader and what they want!

That is the absolute fundamental of good writing, and that’s where things like ‘show and do not tell’ and ‘use good grammar’ come into play – because these are respectively important for helping readers to not get caught up in word salad and to not be confused simply because they don’t understand the meaning that you’re trying to convey!

Of course, this sometimes can seem difficult to implement, and you might make the (valid!) argument that people may not even know what they want, what we think that people want does not actually align with what they do want, and what we personally want isn’t always something that can be compromised because we have our own thoughts, preferences, and things that we personally prefer to share and not.

I feel that there are certainly many things that as humans we share in wanting, though – the need to receive good and valuable information efficiently, the need (or the want?) to be entertained by what we read, the need to feel a sense of human connection with the author or a sense of relatability to the piece.

To understand these things, I believe that lifelong learning by looking at the world and immersing oneself within it is crucial – I believe all good writing comes from learning about people and from reading books extensively over time, learning about the world, and coming to observe things in such a way that we better understand them over time. 🙂

On my part, I’ll always be grateful for the people who are here, knowing that they are real people with real thoughts, wishes, and dreams; I think that I could have supported some of these dreams a little better during the time that I’ve had before, but hope that somehow or another, that will carry forward in this blog.

Please share this if you find it valuable, and I look forward to writing much more in the future!

The Last Day (Of CNY)

First off, the fourth part of heartbeat(); is out, featuring two gymbro twins from Stanford (I tried my hardest to generate some, yet these were the best I could make 😭).

Second of all, it’s the last day to say that it’s the new year, and the fireworks are coloring the sky minute by minute, a last hurrah for a jam-packed year – children are screaming in the distance, watching in delight as the explosions move along minute by minute; I think it’s the single New Year in which I’ve seen the largest number of different fireworks displays but also the first new year in which I haven’t actually gone out to take one of those super grainy low resolution fireworks videos…

So here, have one generated with AI 🙂

Since it’s the very last day that I can meaningfully reflect on 2022… I’m incredibly grateful for 2022.

It was the year that I hung out a ton with family (and found deep meaning in that), elected Anwar Ibrahim, learned how to control my time, met and got to know in person one of the most illustrious people of my entire generation, (Ian Ang, I’m talking about you – I don’t know if you’re going to read this one day, but perhaps you will!) the year that a whole process of transformation took place.

It was the year of a painful breakup, but it was the year that I learned how to stop caring so much about what other people think and to focus more on my own journey forward; I learned how to play the cello, saxophone, clarinet, steel tongue drum, flute, the Guqin, started taking lessons in Korean and in cello – it was the year that I stopped feeling the need to push forward out of any sense of need whatsoever – yet, it showed me that many more things are possible than what I could imagine, opening me up fully to the sense that there were many things that I had yet to see and leading me down a pathway of creativity that I would never have even thought possible not by some divine edict or anything like that, but rather through small accidents and intelligent process united with one another.

If there’s something inspirational from my life story, maybe it’s just that I ended up turning 30 without turning disillusioned – or even that I turned 30, turned disillusioned, and somehow had all of that go in reverse somehow because the universe decided that life was too short for me to see it as meaningless in any way, to spend my time comparing myself to the highlight reels of others, or to revel temporarily in successes that are ultimately meaningless in comparison to the small joys of spending time with friends and doing things that you consider are cool.

Since you’re reading this at the moment, I guess that whatever your reason, you somehow care about my journey – Thank you deeply for that, and if you’ve wanted to speak for a while but haven’t heard me reach out for a while, sorry for that – I am not always the best at catching up. In any case, I hope that wherever you are, fellow spirit, that you’ve had a beautiful new year that seems to have ended just as quickly as it has begun.

May the year ahead bring us all many new challenges, even greater opportunities, the resolve to take them, and the fortune to return to another year with even brighter eyes, looking forward even more to the future 🙂

Happy new year everyone, and happy Thaipusam to all who celebrate!

On getting replaced by a robot

There’s lots to talk about in the world of AI nowadays now that ChatGPT’s entered the chat (sorry, couldn’t resist!), which has opened up a whole conversation about whether all our jobs are going to get taken, replaced, khallas’d, finished.

The research of Daron Acemoglu from MIT showcases that in the past (read: 1990 to 2007), each additional robot in the manufacturing industry replaced about 3.3 workers on average. Yes, this is a thing, but at the same time though, I abide by the maxim that past results are not an indicator of future returns; just because that was true in the past, it may not be true in the future; manufacturing as an industry has radically changed, but that doesn’t mean that the changes of the future will be the same as the ones of the past.

Also, what’s potentially at risk of being automated is certainly much more than just manufacturing as an industry so uh…

Well. I’ll write a bit more about jobs that I think can be automated in a later post, but for now…

I mean personally, I do think it would be funny if I got replaced by this kid…

…But I just don’t think that it’s going to happen any time soon, at least not in my line of work as a teacher and a writer.

I’d like to think that it’s not because I’m in denial (though I could be!) but rather it’s because I’ve actually used many different kinds of AI technologies pretty extensively and have a sense of what they can do.

In the former case, I’ve started to actually teach students about using AI to draft and structure their points, and in turn to make use of the little all-too-human cognitive connections in their head to see how they can improve from and learn with AI, and in the latter case, I’ve come to realize that there are many things that I realize that, as a creative person, I want to add a lot into the works that I create in order to make them beautiful and to level up.

It might seem odd for me to say this, especially since I’ve literally created an online course about ChatGPT, but I don’t think that AI is really here to replace us in most cases, but rather an incredibly powerful tool that’s here to help us level up as humans.

That said, I do believe that there is a chance that AI will level up from its current form and free itself from the limitations that characterize its performance; what I say now will probably come to bite me again when or if technology does catch up and outdoes me on every conceivable front, though I’ll probably want to write about that again on another day.

For now though, I broadly agree with Sam Altman that it would take an incredible feat of human arrogance to imagine that AI could not intellectually surpass us one day (See: 5:24), but also recognize the truth in what he’s said about how it will automate repetitive tasks and yield a reality where (and I’m going beyond what he’s said a little bit here) the most significant part of each job is our ability to maintain an emotional connection with another person.

It’s interesting to think about these things, and I look forward to writing more 🙂

P.S. I’ll be speaking as a panelist for the “How AI Technology Will Disrupt Business” session at “BIZ Gear UP! 2023”, organized by the FinLit Media Group, parent company of the YouTube channel Mr Money TV, in collaboration with NextUp Asia, the Malaysia’s largest Facebook group dedicated to entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurs and Startups in Malaysia.

If you’re free on the 24th of February and you happen to be in KL, make sure to get a ticket and stop by!

Discipline and Freedom.

When you are younger, it’s often harder to see how the moments that we experience and the key decisions that we make can lead to a larger picture – to see the full picture of things which, as I think about it now, is often also hard to see even as an adult with the benefit of time and experience.

Amid the dizzying complexity of this strange picture, there is one thing that I’ve come to realize for sure, though – and that is that discipline is a wonderful thing.

Every day that I live on this planet, I’m reminded that discipline is a wonderful thing – it’s one of those things that maybe a child might hate at the outset of life, but like many other things, it’s something that’s both crucial, essential, and desirable in the service of a higher purpose.

I remember many days in the past, for example, when I would hate on discipline, thinking that I simply wanted ‘to be free’ to do whatever it was that I wished.

I mean, it sounds cool, doesn’t it?

Wake up, watch TV, play some video games, eat some snacks, and maybe fall asleep again at no particularly set-in-stone time of the day…

The ‘freedom’ to do nothing, to move how you want, to go where you want, to do what you want at a given moment.

For a long time, this appealed to me a ton, and I can’t deny that even now, there are some days when I just feel like doing nothing in particular (even though they are a lot rarer nowadays).

Nowadays though, I think I probably wouldn’t call that anything close to freedom.

First of all, if it really is ‘freedom’, it’s a rather trivial sort of freedom, isn’t it?

Is it the freedom to go places? No it’s not – you need the energy, money, and the decision within you to do that. Is it the freedom to fall in love deeply with someone and feel the light change around you as if you’ve begun to touch the rays of radiant sun for the first time in your life? No it’s not to do something meaningful, to chart a course of which you can be proud, to fulfill your desires and greatest dreams from the comfort of your home?

There are many things in life that are too large for any individual burst of energy, whim, and flight of fancy to tackle – whether that’s playing the piano, running a business, writing a book, creating content, it’s all the same; there is precious little in the world that a person can do if they don’t put their heart and their soul into seeking out a process that is going to bring them to where they want to go.

To receive energy and earn a living, you need to create something meaningful or serve someone well – discipline.

To maintain a relationship with your friends and the people you love? That’s discipline again, in some ways.

To play the piano like Rachmaninoff or the cello like Yo-Yo Ma, to dance as the swan does or to embody Yuzuru Hanyu? You probably know already, especially considering all those tales about how child prodigies start early, push themselves for hours a day, and then only level up to become truly incredible at what they do!

For all you know, perhaps I’ve just become one of those silly, boring adults that I used to look at as I wondered why they would do the same things all day and go after process. Who knows?

In any case, my beliefs now are very different from the ones that I held when I was much younger – because for the me of the now, discipline isn’t the opposite of freedom; far from it!

Rather, discipline itself is freedom… and with that, I’ll rest 🙂

The new site design!

I’m SUPER happy with the design of this website, which I created with the help of an incredible new friend (who lives in Bangladesh; thanks Imran!) – There’s also a fun story behind this that I couldn’t make up even if I had wanted to.

You might notice that the design of this website looks kind of similar to that of Austin Kleon’s website, and that’s no coincidence – I thought that the site looked fire, which is why I decided to implement the way that it looked.

Is it ironic that I’m ‘stealing’ a design from a guy who became famous for writing the book “Steal Like An Artist”?

I mean, I do have a physical copy of that in my bedroom, so on one note, perhaps I paid the tuition fee for entry, and on the second note, perhaps I’m one of those rare people who’s actually following the man’s sage advice and indeed, stealing like an artist while adding little flourishes here and there as I build my next steps.

Also, Chapter 3 of heartbeat(); is out – go have a read!


A while ago, I started writing on WattPad, and that’s something that I’ll want to do in the days ahead as I get more into the momentum of writing!
I present to you… heartbeat();, a little series that I’ve decided to create about AI and machine learning and their philosophical and social implications in the world; it follows the tale of Dr. Eva Chen, a researcher at the organization FutureMind (inspired by OpenAI, tbh)

I’m very excited for this project and for you to share it with me as we move along on this journey!

Check it out here 🙂 (There are some hiccups with links on my blog posts for now and you may need to copy and paste):


Writing, Wix, and a few other things.

I’m finally here after a long bit of run-around and going left and right and ending up nowhere in particular, which is kind of a perfect metaphor for the authorial journey I’ve come and gone about for for the longest time – but finally we’re here!

It’s been a bit of suffering to get here to this particular theme, sifting through the freelancer sands that are Fiverr and navigating through the dystopia that is Wix, but I’m glad that I’ve finally arrived at something that looks a little bit more pretty than what I had before right there.

I hope to share a lot more about writing here, both my own as well as ways to make it good/better; thanks for joining me on this journey, and you’ll see lots more of me here soon!