My Own Voice: Not for Everyone, but Not for No One

Guy shouting in loudspeaker
My Own Voice. Basic Photo by Thirdman

Overcritical of My Writing

When I started taking poetry a bit more seriously, I first struggled with how my writing should look like. By default, I was looking at others’ work and comparing. My poetry felt very different, which I attributed to being inferior; which I no longer thing is the case. In my mind, there was an objective good, and I tried to apply that to something like writing, which in most of its essence, is subjective.

Although one may take inspiration from others to grow their art, what I ended up doing was taking out my voice. The question was no longer what do I want to say? but it became what do others want to hear? This question, at times, can be a useful critique while editing some works one may want to publish, but it was more harmful while writing, including the drafting stage. And it was basically impractical for me to think that way — writing is an activity I engage in for the sake of it, rather as a career or financial opportunity. So, how can I go about discovering my own voice?

Masking for Others

Perhaps before identifying the solution, one has to discover the root of the problem. In my case, I believe that a significant contribution of the problem lies in masking. Masking is a behaviour that a lot of us neurodivergent folk engage in to mask what we truly feel and instead portray it as something digestible to those around us. It is demanding and exhausting, but we have learned ways how to fit in because we are singled out and rejected for who we are.

Large mask in nature
Masking. Photo by Magda Ehlers

Ever since I was a child, I had learned to mould myself to what others expected of me. My learnt way of communication was primarily focused on what others deemed acceptable; thus, it is not incomprehensible that this translates to my writing.

Combined with the abundance of content, I fell into the trap of not listening to myself but trying to assimilate once again. To not be left out. To be one of the rest. Unfortunately, that is an unhappy state to be in for a while, I lost connection with my writing, even if I thought I should be proud of what I am writing.

Rediscovering my Own Voice

Taking a hiatus from publishing anything was very fruitful; in the instances where I wanted to write, I started writing for myself again. And I got to re-read some of my past work, and I fell in love again with writing as I saw my voice emerge once more in an ocean of words. In truth, I know that my first works are not masterpieces poetically, but emotionally they are raw and they are meaningful. So why should I feel negatively because they may not match up to the best writers out there? Why did I have to feel the need to move on from them and try to fit in?

In the past two years, I have focused mostly on writing and drafting pieces, rarely focusing on polishing a piece to perfection. I haven’t been at the state of wanting to consume my energy into refining something for the eyes of others. There’s a flaw in how I used to do that, and I need to find a new way. But in the meantime, I have rediscovered a way to express myself once more. I have become in tune with what my heart wants me to say, even if nobody else will listen.

Making Myself Heard

No voice is meant for everyone. In a world of billions of people, I cannot expect to be heard by masses, and that’s okay. Perhaps sometimes that is the battle with arts; we put so much time and effort into our works for them to be consumed so lightly by others that it almost feels meaningless. And perhaps I have come to terms with the fact that sometimes, my work is just going to be glanced over and that is it.

Hands on Typewriter
Getting Back to Writing. Photo by Min An

However, that is not an excuse to keep everything to myself. As I learnt from my recent Transformative experience of an Open Mic, there comes power in sharing. And under the right circumstances, if I am heard, I am also likely to be listened to. In reality, I have to let others decide if they want to listen – if they do and they love what I wrote, or if they were impacted, yes, that would bring me more satisfaction. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Running from rejection is not a good way to live.

I Belong Here, and so do You

The most painful thing we could do is to shut ourselves up. It can be draining and isolating to put your voice out there, only for it to dissipate in thin air as if you never were there. Yet, it is more destructive to not be heard because you do not try. It feels worse; despite being in control of not being heard, it does not kill away any insecurities.

I notice several parallels with my PTSD and the fact that trauma changed how I communicate and behave. It’s been a long journey in which I struggled to find my voice back. The scariest experiences were, that post-trauma, I shell myself — being in situations in which my mind has numerous thoughts but my body does not even attempt to communicate them, neither verbally nor non-verbally. You know the cliché that words are stuck in your throat? It wasn’t like that. It was more of a void where words were not even being created internally.

I don’t wanna ever fall back into that same mindset. I have been making an effort to make myself heard in many ways: this post; sharing my poetry; gaming livestreams and videos. And I wanna explore more avenues to mark my presence. At this point, I no longer not care if there is anyone out there that gets me. I deserve this space. I will own this space. I belong in this space. I belong in this world, and I will not be intimidated out of it.

Inside a Poet’s Mind: Too Sacred to Write About

Up to a few weeks ago, I used to say that whoever enters into my life must accept that I am a writer and will express myself in writing. That means I would write whatever I have to, no matter what is said about them. But with time and new experiences, beliefs change.

I’ve been seeing this guy for a month now, and it’s been quite great. And I like him so much, that what we have feels sacred. He is special to me, and I don’t want to do anything to fuck it up. That include being hesitant from writing about him, about us, because there is a lingering feeling of ‘wrongness’ to write about something so sacred.

The second of the ten commandments in the Catholic religion is “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain,” and that’s how I feel about this guy. I shouldn’t be revealing this thing I have with him to the world. I want to keep him to myself, and to not expose him to the world in the intimate way poetry does, because, he is the most intimate part of my life.

I never really felt like this with anyone before. Perhaps I don’t want any of my words to affect what we have now or in the future. But this blog post, as anonymous and secretive as it is, is my first step to writing about him in public, and I acknowledge that he could be reading this. And I know in the future, I’ll succumb to writing more deeply about him, and all the things he makes me feel. For now, he’ll be my secret to cherish.

Draft, Edit, Submit #04: Finding Inspiration in the Self

Draft, Edit, Submit #04. Finding Inspiration in the Self

April is celebrated as the National Poetry Month. As some poets do, I wanted to challenge myself in writing a poem a day.

Usually, I let poems come to me, and so I only write when an idea strikes me. However, this was different: I had to open a blank document and think on what I would have to write about. I also wanted to stick to one theme for the whole month. The purpose of poetry is often self-exploration or therapeutic, and hence I chose the theme of autism & self so that I get to know myself better in a creative way.

The first week was a breeze. I used day-to-day experiences, including ones that I experiences way too many times but never wrote about. As we approached the end of the month, I started to run out of innovative ideas, partly because it is hard to detach autism or the self from everything that happens in life. And in itself, this has been a revelation. I am who I am, all facets intertwined, and even the way I act in relationships and social situations is determined by my traits.

In the end, I managed to write more than thirty poems about being different and quirky and just being myself. In the process of writing, not only have I gotten to understand myself better, but I have gained a new perspective on my interpersonal relationships, as well as a deeper love for who I am. From an artistic perspective, I got to appreciate the value of ‘basic’ events and how we can create art from experiences that at face value, we might think of as mundane.

Overall, I am proud of my commitment and I’m extremely pleased with some of the poems I wrote. In fact, I already have a couple submitted. As for the rest, I’ll need to spend time to edit & rewrite, but they might make it into a chapbook or full-length someday.

Like what I post? Support me on Patreon or donate directly to my PayPal. For a list of my published works, take a look at Publications and consider getting a copy of my full-length collection, Welcome to the Sombre Days.

Draft, Edit, Submit #03: A Deluge of Drafts

For me, there’s a clear difference between when I work on drafting and editing. During drafting phase, especially for poetry, I don’t need strong ideas; I need strong emotions. My first drafts are often word vomit that I could coherently understand what I intend of showing. The editing phase is meant to make it stronger (or completely rewrite it), turning into an enjoyable piece.

It’s extremely rare for me to draft and edit a piece on the same day. I tend to undergo phases of either. Last year, I wrote so many drafts (I have over 200 loose drafts roaming on my hard drive, some are utterly scrap). Their purpose of writing was to get it out of my system, and even if they’re never published, they were necessary to write.

This month, I revisited plenty of those drafts, and well, some of them were nightmares (well underwritten). Others contained strong emotions that I was able to feel when reading months later, so I’ve been trying to polish them. There’s an oddity to it because my style and skills have changed, so merging older ideas with my current frame of not easy.

Having said that, it’s a pleasure reconnecting with some of my older work. As a writer, I am interested in hearing how others writers approach their works.

Book Round-Up: February 2019

During February, I read 4 books, which is a much lower number than January’s. However, I wanted to share two of these books (which were both just published this year) because they deserve your attention.

If My Body Could Speak” became one of my favourite poetry collections. I haven’t gotten around to posting the review yet, but, WOW, what a book! Speaking on personal experiences of anorexia, misogyny, sexual assault and coming out, Blythe Baird packs a lot of emotion in her words.

The Rosie Result” is a work of fiction, the third in the Don Tillman series. This book provided a very authentic and realistic experience of an autistic family, and it felt great to read something that was both fun and relatable. We often see autistic people portrayed through the lens of neurotypicals, and luckily, we are starting to get stories that explore different narratives.

Help me read books I love by donating on Ko-Fi or My current goal is to get Jericho Brown’s The Tradition and Logan February’s Mannequin in the Nude.

Publication Round-Up: February 2019

During February, I was meant to have over 10 poems published. However, a couple of literary magazines have delayed the release of their issue, thus, I’ll be published in them at a later date. The poems that I had published during February are all reprints from “Welcome to the Sombre Days

I’ve also continued to upload the audio for poetry every Friday on Anchor, where I read poems.

I want to thank all those supporting me in my journey, whether it’s in giving me feedback, helping me submit or simply encouraging me and letting me know that they liked my poems. Every small word is appreciated.

If you are looking at ways to support me, you could purchase a copy of Welcome to the Sombre Days, donate on Ko-Fi or, or simply message me kind words.

Draft, Edit, Submit #02: & On The Seventh Day, We Rest

Most of us writers have other commitments: family, occupation, education, etc. Because of this, we often end up using our ‘free time’ to work on our creative projects. Between drafting, editing and finding appropriate markets for each piece (or planning a goal, e.g. preparing a manuscript), we end up always having something to do. Unfortunately, we may keep on doing our utmost while forgetting to take a break.

Resting is essential. I’m not referring to the incubation period in which you let a poem or a story rest before you take a look at it. Yes, that’s important. But we also must rest and take care of ourselves as writers individuals. It’s not unheard of that writers experience frequent burnouts, so we should be aware and attempt to avoid exhausting ourselves.

I have been unwell for the past two weeks, and I was ‘forced’ to rest. Having an excuse to postpone working on university assignments, I felt tempted to use the time to edit some WIPs. When trying to do so, I met severe brain fog and headaches, and it ended up being counter-productive, so I banned myself from writing related activities for a couple of days.

The results? I recovered very quickly from my first illness (the second was an allergic reaction, so it wasn’t due to poor well-being) — I think that should always be the priority. Moreover, when I was feeling well, I was quite rejuvenated and came into the edit sessions with vibrant energy and a clear head.

The difference is that when I usually prescribe myself rest, I end up feeling guilty for losing time and not being as productive as I could be. I realise that this is a harmful attitude as writing can end up being exhaustive, and we need to take care of our minds — the source of creativity. Perhaps we should be making it a goal to take sufficient rest, to spend time enjoying leisure activities and feeling good about it. I’ve come across several writers who end up feeling guilty over taking rest — especially when we’re set to arbitrary goals about manuscripts and also feel the compulsory need to be active in online communities. In hindsight, we all know we could tone down our goals, so let’s make sure we have plenty of rest for our bodies and minds to thrive.

Support me by checking out my collection, Welcome to the Sombre Days.
I accept donations through Ko-Fi and

Book Round-Up: January 2019

According to Goodreads, I have read 12 books in January (a lot of them being chapbooks). I haven’t posted reviews to each of them [yet], but I regularly review most of what I read. Of the 12 books I read in January, the following are the ones I liked the most:

If you’d like me to review your book, contact me on with details.

If you want me to continue providing content, consider donating via Ko-Fi or, so that I can continue reading. 

Publication Round-Up: January 2019

Several literary magazines have been publishing my poetry on their online magazines. As these poems are (mostly) not available on this blog, I thought of doing a round-up and presenting links to all the poems that have been digitally published throughout January.

Moreover, I’ve been interviewed twice. You can read the features in the following links.

That’s it for the public posts that are not featured on my blog. As I’ve said in some previous posts, most of these publications offer no payment, and hence I’d appreciate any donations directed to Ko-Fi or, or support by purchasing a copy of my collection, Welcome to the Sombre Days.

Draft, Edit, Submit #01: Expanding Horizons

This series will be all about the ‘behind the scenes’ poet and updates about drafting, editing, submissions, and so on. For my first blog post in the Draft, Edit, Submit series, I wanted to discuss how I’m challenging myself to expand my horizons and provide different content beyond written poetry.

Posting poems online usually excludes them from the possibility of publication in most literary journals. Sucks, I know. I brainstormed on what content I could provide, and since I have the rights to the published poems, I’ll be recording myself reading them and posting them to my Anchor. To start of this project, I started off by reading Welcome to the Sombre Days, the titular poem from my collection.

If you’ve been following me on social media or have looked at my Publications page, you might’ve noticed that I’ve had a handful of poems published by several journals. Thus, I’m determined to have sufficient content to read to you. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities they’ve given me and many other talented writers.

Unfortunately, most of them are unable to afford paying contributors; we tend to publish our pieces simply to get our work out there. Thus, I set up a Ko-Fi page and a to accept donations from anyone who enjoys my content and is able to provide any support. I didn’t want to put any content behind a paywall, so I wanted financial support to be only optional.

I’m determined to pay back by working hard, striving to continuously improve and provide quality content both on this blog and in publications worldwide. Moreover, as an avid reader, I support authors by publishing reviews on this blog, as well as on Goodreads. In fact, I’ve had several authors contact me directly to review their books, which I think is exciting, and I’m hoping my reviews are helping their work getting more recognition.

At the end of the day, I’m grateful to be writing as much as I can. I’ve met wonderful writers already, and am happy to be part of the writing community. I hope you join in as I continue to write more blog posts. If you have any topics you’d like me to discuss, send your suggestions in the comments below.