All this watching is keeping me from doing.

Photo by Luke Southern on Unsplash

Dance cardio, roller skating, coffee brewing — these are some of the hobbies that I dabbled in to keep myself afloat in 2020. In retrospect, I can see how these hobbies came and went like seasons, each with laughably short lifespans — but in the moment, each pastime captivated me like a hot new love interest.

In October, my Instagram feed overflowed with quad skaters. I compulsively checked skate shops for restocks and stayed up past midnight watching YouTube tutorials. Whenever I could find a spare moment, I’d be in the parking garage downstairs, wobbling, rolling, gliding in my baby…

Writing is an art — and so is giving writing feedback.

Original Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash / Edited by JoAnna Schindler

“I’m a bad writer.”

As a writing counselor at a top university, I’d start my sessions by asking clients about their relationship with writing. My clients were high-achieving students, so you’d expect them to have more confidence. However, the vast majority of my clients made this same self-deprecating claim.

“What makes you say that?” I’d ask.

They’d respond with variations of the same answer: “My teacher told me that I was a bad writer.” Third grade for some; high school for others. Remarks like these, especially from teachers, can stick. Often they give birth to deep insecurities that prevent us…

Traveling has expanded my worldview — but so has quarantining.

Photo courtesy of the author

Like many others — quarantined indoors while the summer sun shines outside — I’ve mourned the people lost, jobs terminated, goals postponed, and trips cancelled. And, like many others, I’ve reminisced about past travels and dreamt up future travels, finding ways to be anywhere but here, now, in this Black Mirror episode we’re all living in.

But then, I asked myself: What is it about traveling, really, that I find so enriching and worthwhile? How much of it depends on physical transportation, and how much of it is in the mind and spirit? …

I didn’t consider myself an Asian American writer until someone called me one.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

I walked side by side with my classmate, who I’ll call Nick, through the valley of brick buildings at the center of campus. We’d just discovered that we were the co-winners of a major creative writing prize, judged by a panel of professors.

I could tell that the co part bothered Nick.

As we traversed the campus, he babbled his way through justifications for the judges’ decision to split the prize (to appease himself, it seemed). I’d made the mistake of telling him that one of our professors urged me to submit my novella manuscript just hours before the deadline…

Taking action beyond shares and retweets.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Can you remember a time when so many people around you, from every professional, social, familial circle in your life, engaged in a conversation about race, all at once?

I can’t. Granted, I’m only in my mid-twenties. Within these twenty-five years, I’ve heard a staggering number of stories that sound a lot like George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s and Ahmaud Arbery’s. I’m sure you have, too. But I haven’t seen a collective response like this. Millions around the world are speaking up. …

How unemployment led me to redefine career success.

I sat across from a senior technology executive at my company. He was one of those chill executives, the type to wear jeans and chat with interns by the coffee machine. His casual posture told me to relax. My sweaty palms clearly didn’t get the memo.

My boss had arranged this meet and greet. I’d just started my job as a software product manager a few months prior. A few months before that, I barely knew what a product manager did. In fact, I was still figuring that out. …

My mixedness fascinates and frustrates people — including me.

Graphic by the author

In first grade, my teacher asked the class to make a heritage box. My mom and I found a shoe box and glued the Japanese, German, and American flags to the outside; we filled it with dolls, a tape recording of a folk tune, photographs. “This is my heritage,” I told my classmates on presentation day. But I didn’t really understand what these things symbolized, these things that were supposedly mine.

Even at age six, I knew that my identity could not fit into a box.

“To each side that disowns us, we represent everything the other does not have.”

Oral storytelling is in our nature.

Photo by Etienne Boulanger on Unsplash

We all recognize that romantic image of The Writer — like Colin Firth in Love Actually, sitting at a typewriter in a secluded cottage with a stunning lakeside view. The keyword here is secluded: the writer retreats from society, away from the distractions of day to day life. No technology. No noise. No people.

Portrayals like these have taught us that writing is a solitary act. You see this perspective in the countless Medium articles that instruct you to turn off your phones before uncapping your pen. …

I coached college students in writing for three years. Here’s what I observed.

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

For three years, I provided writing counseling services to undergraduates at a highly ranked university, including humanities students, pre-med hopefuls, future lawyers, athletes, and beyond. From literature papers to med school applications, I reviewed anything with words.

The program that I worked for targeted students from underrepresented and/or underserved communities. Often my students came from high schools that offered suboptimal learning environments: limited funding, overcrowded classrooms, overworked and demotivated teachers, no AP or honors curricula.

“I suck at writing.” I can’t tell you how many students would announce this at the beginning of our sessions, like they wanted to beat…

A closer look at the language we use to craft our personal brands.

Photo by Felicia Buitenwerf on Unsplash

In college, I took an Asian American studies class, focused on the civil rights movement of the sixties and seventies. Our final assignment asked us to interview someone from a previous generation to capture an oral history. I interviewed my mom, a third-generation Japanese American. It was the first time we’d ever discussed identity.

I learned so much about my mom during that interview — my grandparents’ stories, my mother’s early childhood, and her relationship with her heritage. There’s one detail that I still think about, years later. “I don’t usually identify myself by what I am,” my mom said…

JoAnna Schindler

Writer & technology professional, based in Los Angeles | I also write at

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