How I Break Free From My Mental Clutter

My brain loves working on overdrive. Unfortunately, a lot of what I think about is junk. I am constantly struggling to break free from my mental clutter.

To make matters worse, I get so drained out from organising my thoughts that it often leaves very little room in the day to do some actual writing. As sad as this sound, I tend to think more than I act.

I’ve always wondered how other writers do it. How do they stay up so late working on their laptops or notepads, writing out their masterpieces?

The turning point

I tried it out recently and it was tiring. I wrote a fictional story that had been in my mind since I woke up that one morning. I usually don’t do this. I usually brush aside my imagination and concentrate on client work or things that have deadlines.

One of the reasons I decided to break free and write fiction anyway was thanks to the writer’s season I attended here in Brunei. Not only did I attend, I also spoke – FOR THE FIRST TIME. Talk about unlocking achievements. I had vowed to myself late last year that I would address this fear of public speaking. I didn’t do a fantastic job, but the handful of people who turned up gave me positive feedback. It was a good start.

During the session, I listened to three other writers tell their stories. I listened to how their writing journey started and carries on. I noticed how the key to getting things published is to “JUST WRITE”.

One of the speakers at the event was also an author of multiple books. He spoke about how he aspires to convert all his ideas and all the stories people share with him into short stories or e-books. He was on a roll; having written so many books already, and he wasn’t about to stop.

mental clutterAfter the event, my mind started working on overdrive again. Here I was, not doing much with my writing career. I should be more like that writer. It’s not like I couldn’t do it or didn’t have the resources to do it. But the technicalities of getting things done started cluttering my mind yet again. Back to square one.

Just as I was about to sleep that night, my phone buzzed. It was a message from a gentleman I was speaking to at the time. We started telling each other stories about our lives, and he gave me some advice on how to solve my issues from a more matured, experienced perspective.

The conversation went on for a while. I finally knocked out a few hours later.

And then it happened…

In the morning when I woke up, the story unraveled itself in my mind. I thought of the story based on everything that happened the day before. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Again, thinking it was mental clutter.

I went on with my day.

After lunch, I sat in front of the laptop. I wanted to get some work done.

Lo and behold. Three hours later, I had 5,000 words. It had nothing to do with the initial task I wanted to finish. It was the story idea from that morning. Just like that.

I felt tired after all that writing. If I had to do that every day, I probably have to eat much more and sleep even more. Too much brain juice, too little energy.

Turning garbage into gold

I also realised something else amidst experience that rush of words that flowed from my brain to the page. It hit me that sometimes what I think is clutter – my nonsense imagination – can turn into great stories if I just exercised a little bit of creativity. I was always worried that what I thought was mental clutter was a waste of energy. Now I know that it’s actually just hard work to get what you want done – and sorting out the clutter to turn garbage into gold is not easy.

I’m just going to have to re-organise my thoughts; some experiences may seem trivial but to a writer who doesn’t get out much, I have to make use of whatever it is I can get my hands on. No more throwing away everything. I have to make everything work and come full circle for me.

I thank my lucky stars I even wrote “Escape From The Whirlwinds“.

Running out of ideas on what to write? Download my 179 WRITING PROMPT FOR FREELANCE WRITERS e-book today.

Why I Chose To Become A Freelance Writer

I never had a job as a writer. I worked in the advertising field, design industry, marketing sector, research field, and even in oil and gas – and none of the aforementioned jobs had a “writer” position tagged to it.

Yet somehow, I was always writing. I was writing briefs, codes, press releases, articles, reports – you name it. And my writing was complimented often.

I did do a lot of writing on the side. Since I was young, I juggled working with school newsletters, music zines, and even co-founded a lifestyle magazine. I wrote articles for some blogs, contributed posts to some columns and even helped a few clients with their books.

freelance writerI had the liberty of choice. I was lucky enough to choose between writing as a passion or writing as a career.

I decided to choose both.

And then I had the daunting task of making another decision – full time or freelance.

Again, being very greedy, I chose both.

The tag of “freelance writer”, however stuck with me. I don’t have a “9 to 5” job as a writer. Nobody calls me “their writer”. I don’t work for one specific person. Unless you consider me my own boss.

And that’s just the way I like it.

If you’re new to writing, and asking yourself the same questions I asked, here are some other reasons I chose the freelance route instead. If it’s something you think you can follow, then do so. Either way, you should have a better idea of your answers by the end of this article.

I prefer working alone

I suppose due to my rather introvert nature, working in an office surrounded by people is not really my cup of tea. I love productive discussions and teamwork, but I’m definitely not for the side dishes they serve up – office politics and unreasonable clients that I don’t have the liberty to shout “OFF WITH HIS HEAD!” at, for instance. Thankfully, I did not have to experience a lot of this when I did have full-time jobs, but just the thought of having to face them is intimidating.

Having said that, I should point out that winning battles as a one-(wo)man army is tough. Even as a freelance writer, I still need help from people. When such situations arise, I outsource marketing and admin work to virtual assistants.

I get bored and complacent very easily

I’ve always been blessed with a rather comfortable life. Over time, I have realised that this is not necessarily good for me. It makes me lazy. Plus, I get bored easily. Mundane tasks as a dead-end 9-to-5 isn’t my thing.

So how do I kill these two birds with one stone? By becoming a freelance writer where I would have no choice but to toil to make ends meet. I can also choose which topics and clients I want to work on, taking in new projects and trying out new niches from time to time to avoid getting sucked into boredom.

I don’t know where I want to live

I’m in my late 20s as I write this and I still haven’t found that one city that I love to bits and want to settle down in. I travel from here to there like a nomad. Being a freelancer helps with this, for as long as I have decent internet connection, I can still work from wherever I am. I’m location independent.

If you’re not comfortable working in a cubicle, test out to see if the couch is more suitable for you. I do like the pressure at work, deadlines looming and the fear of reporting to someone else from time to time, which is why I balance my writing career with some projects that have more stringent deadlines and critical-thinking tasks.

Find your balance. Freelancing may not necessarily be the thing for you. You may prefer to choose to work for a magazine, newspaper, or even a creative agency on a full-time basis. Test out your waters and swim away when you figure out what’s comfortable for you.

All the best!

3 Content Marketing Tips I Learnt From My Mum

And here I was thinking that I had the art of content marketing all figured out.

My mother, who turns 67 years old tomorrow (27th of March), decided a few years ago that she would trade in her laptop which she couldn’t get a hang of, for an iPad. The decision was supported by the family as not only would the iPad allow her to play games, she could also carry it in her purse and use it whenever she would sit in our shop instead of going crazy from boredom.

She quickly got a grip of the handy little gadget. Soon after, my sister and I received a notification for a friend request on Facebook – and trust me, not many children can accept the fact that their parents are on Facebook, but we were pretty okay about it. My mother’s Facebook page eventually became talk of the town as she regularly posted witty images and inspirational quotes for everyone to read.

When I moved back to Brunei in late 2014, I started analysing my mother’s Facebook timeline in-depth. I noticed how she would spend minutes frowning at her iPad in full concentration. I never understood it until I started peeking over her shoulder to realise that she was constantly looking for content on Google so she would have stuff to post on her timeline.

And then it dawned upon me…

My mother was curating content!

She had multiple images saved on her iPad’s gallery for specific occasions – birthdays, holidays – all ready to be posted. And she wouldn’t leave it at that. Each image had to be different in case she felt like posting multiple images of the same occasion within a day. To top it off, she must’ve really exhausted Google’s image search as everyone would be greeted with a birthday image that would be unique from someone else – no two people got the same birthday image!

Lesson learnt: Stay unique – be resourceful and stand out from everyone else!

gift-birthdayOne day, she asked me if I could teach her to “like” pages that published quotes so she could share more inspirational and motivational things on her timeline. Now see, my mother is no tech-geek – the fact that she figured out how to use her iPad is a big deal for a woman who still uses a Nokia (and we’re not talking about the smartphone versions here). I’m sure a lot of you will relate to the fact that it’s not easy to teach your parents something – we’re tuned to things being the other way around and we don’t usually have that much patience as they once did (at least I don’t!).

I eventually showed her different pages she could follow. Things however, didn’t end there. She wanted me to teach her how to create collages for each person’s birthday. I tried but she couldn’t catch up and I gave up soon after. My mother, however, was determined to learn. She still can’t make collages, but she does me the favour of looking for pictures and text and all I have to do is just put them together for her.

Lesson Learnt: Stay fresh – keep learning and trying out new things!

Thing is, there’s actually a downside to all this information she’s reading and sharing – she’s not exactly practicing a lot of what she preaches. She reads recipes and watches inspiring videos, yet she still seems perturbed and unwilling to step out of her comfort zone. Then again, it’s not that easy to motivate an elderly lady who has seen and done it all already. Plus, she isn’t keeping too well these days. I just wish, as a daughter, that my mother would use the information she has and help her boost her enthusiasm a little.

Lesson Learnt: Stay relevant – make use of the information you receive!

I honestly never for the life of me would’ve thought that, of all people, it would be my very own mother who would give such a meaningful insight into the world of content marketing. While my dad has taught me a lot about business, I guess mothers know what you need best.

Thanks, ma! And happy birthday!

3 Marketing Lessons 2014 Taught Me

And so another year has come and zoomed past us.

The year was a fruitful one for me. A lot of major changes happened, the highlight being me quitting my full-time job to return back to Brunei to be with my parents and to concentrate on my writing.

How was that worked out for me, you ask?

Brilliant, really.

Sure, it’s taken me some time to settle down and find my sweet-spot to be a little more productive. I have to juggle between managing my house, helping my dad with his business, writing, and of course, keeping sane with things I love like reading and watching movies. I don’t actually feel like I’ve been very productive, evident by the lack of blog posts and e-books, plus not updating portfolio items up on my Pinterest, but I can’t complain too much, for the past couple of months have been a roller-coaster journey filled with so much learning.

Some of the other things that I have to do here is to also to manage two social media accounts – one for my family business here in Brunei, and one for my freelance career. This, on the other hand, hasn’t been a fantastic ride. Still, many lessons were gathered although I’m still hitting dead-ends with posts that don’t work out. I’ve been trying to work out simple solutions to get more customer feedback and I’m taking baby steps to get to where I want our business to be. Will I ever get there? I don’t know but I’m here to try. Social media marketing per se is not my forte, but content marketing is and after all, what are social media posts – loads of content!

To wrap up this fantastic year, I’d like to share with you some of the key marketing lessons learned in 2014, not only through personal experiences, but also via intense discussions with valued clients.

#1 – Content Dominates The World

You’ve heard it before – content is king, content is king, content is king.

Not anymore.

Now, content simply dominates the world. A marketer who doesn’t know the importance of content is not doing a very good job – whether it’s copy for advertisements, updates for social media, or articles for blogs. These days, content has progressed to videos, slideshows, images, eBooks, and the list goes on.

content-marketingI’ve been talking to several like-minded individuals who see the importance of content, and it’s amazing how most of them are not even in the content industry. They look for freelancers like me to help them manage the content of their eBooks and blogs, simply because they know that it literally helps to get the “word” out on their products and services. Plus, content development is easy on the pockets for both the seller and the end-user, too (see image).

Do I see the content phenomenon rising? Yes. However, there is a bone that I have to pick and that’s with low-quality content providers. I’ve read several eBooks where I’ve found myself cringing at the mere fact that the spacing between a comma and a word is off, or the formatting of the book is rather childlike. And don’t get me started on the grammar. I’m no Shakespeare or Stephen King so my English has seen its down days too, but there are just some English grammar basics that everyone needs to know and the lack of significance given to these little details will eventually see the eBook industry crashing. Readers will eventually get fed up of seeing rushed-out books being published just because Amazon and other self-publishing tools have made it so easy to do so.

The message I’m trying to bring across is to provide content to the best of your ability, using your expert knowledge and ensuring the relevancy of your posts to your target audience. Get some help if you think there are some knowledge gaps you need to fill.

#2 – Don’t Chase The Likes

Every business has its competition. I too “spy” on my competitors for my family business and find out what is it that they’re doing so well in this extremely saturated marketplace that we deal in.

But I’ve realized one thing that I simply refuse to follow.

While our Facebook page currently has about 700+ likes only (at the time of writing this), our competitors have gone past thousands, and some even have tens of thousands of fans on their page. My immediate reaction when I first noticed this was downright jealousy. How did they achieve this when our business has been around longer than theirs?

Clearly we jumped on the social media bandwagon a little too late.

After a few weeks of managing the Facebook page, aggressively posting promotions and contests and buying Facebook advertisements to boost the page and the posts, I realized that this wasn’t something I wanted to do in the long run. Yes, after all there are really only so many people you can reach organically, yet I didn’t want to have tens of thousands of people following us if more than half of them aren’t even in the same country or from our target market. What’s the point in that?

Today, out of the 700+ people on our page, I am pretty sure that at least half have seen or heard about our business from outside the walls of Facebook. Others are family and friends who are kind enough to support our business virtually, while the rest are potential customers who I see liking our statuses and asking questions. Will they end up coming down to our stores to purchase some curtains or carpets? Time will tell.

So I’ve decided to take things in stride. Although, our business can afford spending hundreds of dollars buying likes, we’re not going to do that just yet. We seek individuals who actually want our products to click on our page and follow us, even if it looks like we don’t have a strong following in numbers if compared to our competitors.

#3 – Just Keep Swimming

In the words of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) from Finding Nemo – just keep swimming.

It’s hard to stay afloat in the sea of advertising clutter. So many messages are crowding the marketplace, trying to reach the right shores and you have to work hard to keep swimming or your ideas will drown very quickly.

I’ve been rather bad with keeping this one up in 2014, especially with my freelance business. I clearly need to churn out more blog posts, more client work, and even more free-writing to keep myself afloat. With my other commitments, I’ve been doing my best to keep at it and continue to slowly reach a pedestal that’s one step above the one that I’m currently on.

Here’s how I plan to continue refreshing myself in 2015:

  • Continue my “free-write-500-days-a-word” habit – with this I aim to expand my writing style, vocabulary, creativity, and imagination and free all the unnecessary thoughts that keep clogging my mind up from doing constructive writing
  • Find a more automated system to prepare and schedule blog posts, social media posts (template editorial calendars just don’t cut it for me right now!)

There are clearly so many alternatives to explore marketing techniques in 2015 and I’m sure a ton of experts have already listed out their two-cents. The lessons I’ve learned from 2014 have taught me to continue maintaining my focus on the bigger picture and use the right tools to get me to where I want, and here’s hoping that 2015 will indeed see to that.

And I wish the same for you.

Did you learn any marketing secrets in 2014? You could tell the world, or you could just tell me. Leave a comment.

Manisha Dhalani: An Introduction

Welcome to my website!

As it states in the header above, I’m a freelance content manager. What it doesn’t say is that my purpose is to serve clients who are looking to engage someone with the ability to curate, create and correct content with the intention of increasing their brand’s awareness.

But I’m not writing this to tell you about my service offerings (you can go to the Services page for that), let me first recap to who I am and how I arrived to the point of this writing.


My life, like many others, is filled with stories that sometimes connect with each other and sometimes don’t – random, much. I was raised in Brunei for the first seventeen years of my life, after which I arrived in Singapore, excited to fulfill my dreams of becoming a journalist. That didn’t happen. Instead, taking a Diploma in Mass Communication resulted in me being even more confused as to what I really wanted to do in life.

I’ve juggled many professions. My father, a businessman, inspired me to become an entrepreneur at the sheer age of 10 by selling stickers to my classmates. It then took another turn when I realised I was capable of running a newsletter after I proposed and later edited one for my school. In Singapore, I co-founded and edited another two magazines whilst holding several full-time jobs and running side-businesses on a freelance basis. Long story short, throughout my life I have had so many experiences that it is very evident that I am indeed a Jill-of-all-trades.

Being Content

Eventually, it dawned upon me that I had to start focusing on where I wanted my life to go. I stumbled upon several content marketers and the rest, as they say, is history. I finally found the one thing that I wasn’t only good at, but was also passionate about. Plus, it helped me balance my love for too many things and I can now narrow it down to researching, writing and editing – all whilst wearing an entrepreneurial hat since I now run my own freelance business, full-time.

Overall, I am grateful for all the lessons I have learned, and for the ones I am yet to encounter. I must, however, point out that I’m not one to jump the gun and admit that I’m a lover of mistakes for all that they have thought me. It’s a love-hate relationship, really, as I’m only human, bound to make the same mistakes over again and curse myself for doing so.

Still, thanks to all the experiences I go through, you will find that my writing has evolving patterns. While my personal writing can go from light-hearted to tackling serious issues, my professional writing can vary from topics like relationships to consultancy services such as graphic design all the way up to oil and gas. In a gist, I am capable of using the knowledge I have, infusing it with the message you want to communicate, conducting further research, writing and then editing your content. I try to look at it from a 360-degree point of view, as much as possible.

So Much More To Offer

Aside from viewing my writings for columns and work for clients, if you follow my Facebook page and subscribe to my blog (see right sidebar), I will, in time to come, provide you with even more insights into how my lessons can benefit your business.


As a start, I’m offering FREE access to a case study I wrote about a business of mine that started and failed for a limited time. This guidebook is perfect for blog shop owners and online product sellers. It is my aim that, by downloading and going through this resource, you will be able to learn from my past mistakes and identify existing gaps, if any, in your endeavours and possibly attend to them before it’s too late. Do let me know if you do find it beneficial.

I thank you for taking your time to visit this website and to read this introductory post.

Do look forward to regular portfolio updates and future blog posts and books about how you can progress better in your personal and professional lives.

Till then, cheers!