Keepin it real, since 1982.

As I approach the second anniversary of this blog, I’m ready to take it to the next level… but first I’d like to stop and recognize just how much I’ve actually learned from this experience. It’s been a bona fide journey of personal discovery!

It’s a bit surprising that I’m still writing, after all. How many projects in my life have I been as committed to, over such a period of time? Still, I’m not complaining, because this is slightly more interesting for those around me (from a social media perspective) than journaling to myself where no one will ever see it.

I enjoy the composition of pieces and the flow of pictures and text, and the flow of ideas and concepts and observations from post to post. I’m building something, but I can only place a single brick at a time. Maybe it will grow up to be a book, or a professional blog, or maybe it will be a delightful hobby forever – but whatever it is, I’ve learned an awful lot from doing this.

Here are my top five lessons!

1. Patience Pays Off

Patience with myself, patience with Vietnam, and patience with new experiences and cultures in general. I’m not a very patient person. In fact, despite my introverted ways, I’m not very good at moving my internal setting to ‘chill’ – I’ve got a lot of pointless, havoc-wreaking anxiety that makes me very impatient with myself, and by extension, sometimes those around me (although I try to be cool).

So remember, Ben: Deep breaths, and baby steps to the bathroom. Baby steps to the kitchen. Chill.

2. Write. Think. Edit. Think. Edit with a Machete. Think. Tweak. Publish.

It’s never the best the first time you get it down on the screen. Or the second time. In fact, sometimes I think that there’s really only one ABSOLUTELY KEY ingredient in creative thought, and that is the time and ability to mull something over. Mulling is important to me… but I can’t let my desire to mull cover for my other faults, such as my impatience or deplorable lack of self-confidence.

So, continue to edit with a big ole coconut machete, and eye first drafts with suspicion. Got it.

3. Take Pride in Your Work

I don’t always have a lot of self-confidence. There’s a lot to unbox, but let’s keep it simple, as you’re not my therapist and you definitely don’t want to be: there are over 7 billion people in the world, and we’re all basically impotent to prevent the spread of entropy and chaos in the universe, so why try? Our present atoms will someday be lost in the void, or perhaps if we’re lucky even turn into energy to create more matter, so what’s the point? At this point, we might not even make it off our own small planet before we self-destruct.

But the flip side is, you’re a conscious human being, and the neurons in your brain make up a singular, original formation, the likes of which the universe (this universe?) will never see again. In a very real way, you ARE a special snowflake, and even if we can’t stop the entropy or heat-death of the universe, we certainly won’t be around to see it (and, additionally, who’s to say that our current perception of reality is ‘correct’ anyway?) anyway, so we might as well forge ahead with what we have and do the best we can to make the world a more interesting and better place.

I am not a rocket scientist, but I’m a thinking, feeling entity, and that makes me (and you!) pretty damn special. Take pride in what you do for work, but also in what you do for fun. That’s the real fun.

4. Consistency and Identity

Starting a blog is strange at first. Your only guide to successful blog writing is the writing style of others writing on the internet – but it’s not good enough to be a knock-off, an author who can simply successfully parrot a style but with no voice of their own (although this type of humor can be fun to write, and even occasionally fun to read). You have to know where your lines are, and  who you are.

Eventually you will know how far you can go, who is reading you, and why they’re reading you, but your number one concern should still be that you’re presenting a consistent face. Many people read blogs because the blogger has personality that oozes all over the place. I’m not one of those, but I do know that I like to provide small insights, useful information, and introspective posts about Vietnamese food, culture, and traveling, and that helps guide me. My new project of mini-posts will do even more to streamline my ideas about several subjects.

On a similar note, it’s important that you not get caught up in comparisons between your blog and others that you admire covering the same topics. Like the song says, it’s easy to tell yourself/let other people tell you that you’re just derivative or that other people are doing it better or more eloquently or whatever than you. You have your own concerns – let those guide you and try not to make false comparisons that will cause you to stunt your growth or sabotage yourself.

5. Self-Promotion Matters, Whether I Like It or Not

Ok, so I haven’t exactly learned HOW to harness social media to my advantage, but I have definitely learned that it’s important, and that I need to get on that, before I become totally irrelevant. UGHHHHHHH FINE. I guess I’ll start getting on this. Don’t judge me. Unless you brought cake to share, then I don’t care.

What lessons have you learned from your hobbies? How have they helped you in your life?