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Thuy Doan
Thuy Doan

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The Blog, The Cake, and the Podcast: The Secret Ingredient to Fulfilling Self-Expression

A lot of things deter people from putting things out into the world:

  • It's not good enough.
  • Who cares what I have to say?
  • There are already resources/content like this out there.

Does any of that sound familiar?

I've been creating things for a while now. I’ve had a lifestyle blog, baked cakes, wrote copy and content, coded, given career-related talks in tech, and most recently released a podcast (also known as the most vulnerable and fulfilling content I have ever put out). I haven't always been proud, motivated, nor convinced of the value of my creations though.

But I am now. So how did I get here?

Chapter 2015: Dress Up, Chow Down

During this era, blogs were very popular. It was how I indulged my interest in fashion. I was enamored by it and ended up starting my own. I even got a logo done for it, as well as professional photography, and I’d work on it while at my day job when it was slow.

A young Asian woman sitting at a big cafe window drinking coffee, wearing a trench coat and blue capris and flats.

At the time, I was embarrassed to explain what I did for a living. I was a social media manager and it didn’t feel like my work was important or impressive enough. My day job motivation was quickly waning. I became irritable, got lost in the clout of receiving free things, and eventually stopped publish
ing on my blog and switched careers.

Chapter 2018: Cake, Cake, Cake

Outside of travel and dining, which are expensive hobbies, I had no day-to-day, simple pleasures. So I began baking as an attempt to find a hobby. At first, I made myself bake once every month. Eventually, though, that became something I didn’t have to mandate. I liked baking - even when I failed to make the thing!

Eventually, people wanted to buy my baked goods. I was apprehensive, though, because the last time I tried to monetize my hobby it didn’t go well. Thankfully, because of my blog experience, I knew the reason I was doing this couldn’t be primarily because of money or fame. I had to do it because I liked it and I needed to enjoy it even if no one was buying.

With that in mind, I began selling cakes, eventually doing my first bridal shower and creating my first original design (seen below, a two-tiered floral cake painted with buttercream).

Thuy Doan's first original cake design. Two tiered. Floral.

Chapter 2021: The Birth of a Candid Podcast

After the death of my parents, I became interested in the concept of legacy.

I wanted to create something that helped people based on my experiences. However, I was hesitant because who would listen? Was anything I had to say even valuable?

That is until a fellow developer told me that everyone has something to teach. Even if there is already content out there about what you have to say, you have a unique set of experiences, and that might resonate with someone more than other content.

Since then I proudly display my creative work on websites like Polywork, destigmatize mental health / difficult topics, and help early career developers grow and break into tech.

The Secret Ingredient

You see, that developer was my gateway to something I hadn’t thought was important until I was going through the most difficult period of my life, aside from the death of a loved one.

That thing is a community that shares a vision / experiences and uplifts one another.

What makes the work of a writer meaningful? How about a YouTuber, chef, or musician? It’s the people who have a shared experience of being positively affected by the work, who desire to connect with the creator about it, and who take that energy and pay it forward.

Creating with and for a community is what allows us to realize that our efforts are, in fact, valuable. It allows us to understand and be understood. But I was not doing that before.

I was just trying to excel alone.

If the secret ingredient is community, what can you do to find it?

Actionable Tips

  1. Start with finding out where people who share your interests congregate. For me, fellow BTS stans were on Twitter while my developer community was on Discord.
  2. When you find your community, think about the role you have in it: what you want out of it and what others want out of it. Aim to give that joy to each other. For example, I want to share my love of BTS and mental health. I want people to not feel alone.
  3. Lastly, if you’re having trouble finding your community, whether it’s because you have a niche interest or you don’t know where to start, try a social platform like Polywork. On social networks like Twitter, it can be hard to sift through existing communities. Polywork makes it easier to do that because you can self-identify with badges that reflect your interests (i.e. knitter) and then filter based on those interests.

Screenshot of Polywork's search for collaborators feature.

I think true and tangible self-expression, whether vocational, passionate, or lucrative, cannot be done in a vacuum. It is bi-directional. If you find and grow your community, on hard days it will be easier to a) remember the reason you create and b) appreciate the value that you and others bring to this small corner of the universe we call home. Happy creating! ✨

A reply on Twitter to Thuy Doan from someone named Max. The tweet says, "Purple heart emoji. Purple heart emoji. I honestly appreciate your vulnerability to sharing how you identified you were/are burnt out. It ain't easy, it ain't easy to overcome, but recognizing all the work you've done to move forward is helpful for anyone undergoing the same feelings. (I know it is helpful to me."

Originally posted in collaboration with Polywork on Polywork.

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