Sometimes it’s better not to say what you want

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Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

I didn’t realise it at the time, but in hindsight, I was clearly being brainwashed.

It started innocently enough. After about four months of dating, my girlfriend sat me down and asked me to step up my text-messaging game. She wasn’t asking for much. The occasional “how’s your day going”. A “good morning” or a “sleep tight” now and then.

She was right. I was a lousy texter. But given that I was busy setting up a new business, a thousand little tasks competing for my attention, text messages often found themselves at the bottom of my list of priorities. …

The perils of verbosity.

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Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Everything was going fine. At least until I began to wonder whether “fine” was an interesting enough adjective to use in my very first sentence. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll go with smoothly instead.”

Great. Everything was going smoothly.

But as I continued typing, my fingers gliding across the smooth surface of my phone, I was stumped. I couldn’t think of a synonym to use… no, wait, I already said “use.” I couldn’t think of a synonym to employ for “smooth.” After a few moment’s thought, I mean a few moment’s cognition, I came up with “satiny.”

I was pleased with myself. Little did I know this was the beginning of the end. …


Are you even listening to yourself?

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Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

It’s conceivable that by the end of this article you’ll think that I’m overreacting. Maybe you’ll ask yourself, “What’s this guy’s problem? Why is he getting his panties in a bunch about a few harmless colloquialisms?”

It’s even possible that you’ll disagree with me as I explain why the following phrases should be forever banished from civil discourse. Allow me, dear reader, to assure you that you’ll be wrong.

These phrases are not merely redundant, they’re an affront to the basic principles of clarity, meaning and, quite frankly, decency, that we all hold dear. …

What’s your “I/You” ratio?

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Photo by Juri Gianfrancesco on Unsplash

If you’ve spent any time reading about how to write well, you’ll know how important it is to focus on your audience. Your readers are looking for life lessons and money-making secrets and ground-breaking diets that consist entirely of chocolate. What they don’t want is a story about how your ex never truly understood you (at least not unless you include some really juicy details).

On the other hand, you’ll also be aware of how essential it is to draw on your experience. You’re supposed to explain how the topic you’re writing about has impacted your life. You’re meant to describe how you’ve used your advice to overcome obstacles. …


Good writing is a con

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Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

You know that feeling when somebody hands you a communal birthday card, and you can’t figure out what to write?

I mean, you know what you’re supposed to write. You’re supposed to write, “Happy Birthday!” or “Many Happy Returns!” or “Wow! I can’t believe how old you are!”, but none of those is catchy or witty or memorable enough to represent your contribution to this card. So you stand there, scanning what everybody else has written, and holding up the card signing process.

This, more or less, is the exact predicament of the writer with writer’s block. It’s not that they can’t write. It’s that they can’t think of anything which does justice to the cleverness and originality that they wish was on the blank page in front of them. The ideas come in fragments, the analogies aren’t quite right, the jokes aren’t funny enough. …

Why do we want people who are wrong for us?

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As the dust (finally) settles on the 2020 election and the world breathes a collective sigh of relief, many of us find ourselves asking the same questions: “How could tens of millions of people have voted for Trump after seeing him in action for the past four years? Why wasn’t it a landslide against him? What was keeping his supporters so steadfastly by his side?”

The psychology which keeps these people coming back for more isn’t so different from the mindset that has kept many of us in relationships with the wrong people. Haven’t you ever been just as baffled by the way a friend clings to a guy or girl who treats them like crap? …


Should meditation be a habit?

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When I was a kid, I hated brushing my teeth. As far as my six-year-old self could tell, it was a boring, pointless, waste of time. And because there was nobody in the bathroom making sure I did it, I’d lie and say that I’d done it if anybody bothered to ask.

This strategy worked without a hitch until one summer when my grandmother came to visit from America. …

Dismissing Trump’s supporters as racist is way too simplistic

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Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

As I watch America wrestle with the task of un-electing an orange-tinted ball of insecurity and pettiness, I’m trying to figure out how to sum up my feelings in a way that does more than express frustration and/or despair. Try as I might, I don’t think I can do it directly. So let’s try an analogy or two.

A few years ago, I attended a lecture about alternative therapies. The doctor giving the talk spent a lot of time explaining that while many alternative therapies are no more effective than a placebo, many patients are convinced that they work miracles.

The medical community wanted to understand why this was, so they spent years trying to figure out what these practitioners were doing that doctors weren’t. …

AKA why I hate listicles

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Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash

The verdict is in. We love quotes, we love long-form writing, we love quotes sprinkled throughout long-form writing, and everything in between is trash. Got an idea you want to share in a couple of hundred words? Add eight-hundred more or gut it until it’s short enough to be crammed into a tweet. It’s clearly not pithy or in-depth enough to be worth our time as it is.

I strongly suspect that this mentality is behind the rise of the listicle. On the average top-five list, there will be two items, if you’re lucky, that are worth the pixels they’re darkening. …


Do you remember your first time?

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Louis CK has a bit about how quickly a delightful new thing can turn into the minimum we feel we’re entitled to. He’s on a plane, and the attendant announces over the tannoy that there’s free WiFi available on the flight. The guy next to him can’t get over how incredible it is. They’re 30,000 feet in the air, and they’re browsing the internet on their laptops. It’s magical. And they’re getting it for free!

Then, as if things were going a little too smoothly, the WiFi suddenly stops working. Another announcement comes over the tannoy apologising for the inconvenience. And the same guy, bearing in mind that he didn’t even know this technological marvel was possible until a few hours ago, responds with four words, “Well, this is bullshit”. …


Steve QJ

I mainly write about meditation, content creation and personal development. But don’t let that fool you.

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