Narcotics for writers

Guaranteed effective treatment for inflated egos

This is an artistic representation. Actual medication may be substantially larger. Photo by Danilo Alvesd on Unsplash

Have you ever had some online success and felt the irrepressible urge to let everyone around you know?

Perhaps you wrote an article that went viral, then felt compelled to immediately write another article explaining how you did it. Maybe you managed to clear your schedule and write every day for a month, and now believe the world needs to know about this amazing feeling you discovered called “discipline.” It’s even possible you made a lot of money online and feel the urge to recount in excruciating detail every twist and turn of how you won the digital content lottery.

Guaranteed to knock your chaussettes off!

A typical lonely Tuesday afternoon. Photo by M on Unsplash

Well bonjour! Are you perhaps learning French but feel a bit frustrated at the masculine and feminine nouns, antiquated verb tenses, and illogical conjugation? How about we give up all that and focus on something much more fun.

Idioms and expressions allow us to peer into the culture behind the languages we learn. For English speakers learning French, you’ll find some expressions are direct translations of one another, like “an eye for an eye” becomes “oeil pour oeil” or “better late than never” becomes “mieux vaut tard que jamais.

Others can easily be deduced, like “two birds one stone” is…

A short story

A demonstration of my formidable power. Photo by Khamkéo Vilaysing on Unsplash

One morning I woke from a short and uneasy slumber to find that I had turned into a crabby cantankerous curmudgeon. It took me time to realize, as I didn’t appear to display any external symptoms. The flabby body I’d painstakingly taken care of over the years laid clad in a classy overstretched t-shirt and clean-adjacent boxer shorts. My alarm had seemed a bit louder than usual and I did feel a violent twinge of murderous rage at the dog barking in the distance, but anyone would get irritated at loud noises in the morning, right?

Only when I tried…

And a bunch of other things I don’t have time to get into

My life as summarized by a neon sign. Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

You just don’t understand. I see things in a way that you can’t. But don’t worry, it’s not your fault. You’re still sleeping. People like me, we can get you woke.

When you look around at society, what do you see?

Shush, don’t answer, that was rhetorical. I am the one who answers.

You see a complex interweaving of diverse individuals thinking deep thoughts, living their lives, holding their own values, interacting with one another to form a rich, layered, majestic social tapestry that would take years to unravel, let alone comprehend.

In other words, you see nothing. Amateur.


An awesome tree

The internet abounds with advice on how to lead a better life. Which would be fine, if so much of it wasn’t exactly the same.

Most of these so-called “life hacks” were figured out years — if not decades — ago and have been written about ad nauseum by amateurs and professionals alike. Yet the same dozen titles keep popping up in my recommendations.

Could it be that maybe, just maybe, these well-meaning writers are actually craven money grabbers exploiting our insecurities and imperfections to rack in clicks and satisfy their gaping need for validation?

Because if that’s what it…

Statue of Tajikarao at Takachiho, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan

Our personalities change based on the language we speak.

Those interested in language and psychology are probably familiar with this phenomenon, but it’s often misunderstood to mean we become a completely different person.

Can I really be an outgoing hyper-social extrovert in English, but a timid home-dwelling introvert in Japanese? My personal experience tells me not really. It’s not so much that the essence of our being changes, but more like a spotlight is cast on us from a different angle.

To better explain what personality changes are brought on by language, let me take you through my personal experience…

The Takachiho gorge, Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan

Is a skill worth pursuing if you know you’re never going to be amazing at it?

A friend recently came to me with this question, and at the time I gave the generic answer: As long as it makes you happy. Do what you like, don’t do what you don’t like; a binary way of dismissing the vicissitudes of life.

Obviously things aren’t that simple. Even for me, the happiness I derive from some skills comes precisely from the feeling that I’m getting better at them. For example, I love singing, and I have fun every time I sing. …

Growing up, I really liked Japanese anime — a thought at which a sizeable group of people my age would already be snickering and rolling their eyes. That’s the way it is: I’ve always been a huge sci-fi fan, and anime was a form of storytelling that helped me get my fix; alongside books, movies and TV series.

At the time in place where I grew up, namely Europe circa early 2000s, there was a pretty heavy stigma against people who liked anime. …

The steps to the Haguro temple, Yamagata Prefecture, Japan

Blogs galore abound with stories of young people moving to the other side of the world to start a new life. However, many of those trips are just that: trips. A quick burst of adventure before embarking on a decades-long trek down the corporate road.

Then there are those who have something else in mind. Maybe they’ve started down a career path and thought, “Wait a minute, no way I’m doing this non-stop for forty years!” Maybe out of college they decided they couldn’t live without satisfying their curiosity for a far away culture. …

If you’re from continental Europe, this story will probably sound familiar.

A tourist comes up and tries to ask a question in your native language. Clearly, the extent of their knowledge is twelve words gleaned from an app, with absolutely no understanding of grammar or syntax. They compensate for ability with volume. Clearly, this conversation is doomed.

That is, until you piece together in your mind the remnants of Mrs. Thislebottom’s teachings and, with a confident smirk, reply, “Do you speak English?”

They sigh in relief. You explain the route to the nearest Starbucks and send them on their way…

Alex Steullet

Travel | Humor | Language | Society. Writing out of passion. Tokyo-based polyglot with a degree in human rights. Find me on Twitter and Instagram @alexstwrites.

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