This is not a normal writing topic for me, but I feel compelled to share this story since I’ve become a yogurt-making evangelist.

See, my household eats yogurt with fruit every single day for breakfast — other than coffee, it’s pretty much the only ritual food or beverage in my life. And because of that, I’d usually spend about 30 USD a month on buying the stuff. It’s not astronomically expensive, but it’s basically two Netflix subscriptions a month for a good gut microbiome, so I was open to change.

One evening in February, a microbiologist friend in Boston mentioned…


The metacognitive notetaking app that brought me out of a slump

Around November of 2020, I hit a low-point in productivity. I was planning a second novel (that I’ll hopefully publish) and trying to keep up with my other passions while working a full-time job; however, once I was “off” from teleworking, I just felt — blah. It was hard to keep my creative self energized because every day felt like Groundhog Day. My environment never changed, save for the occasional trip to a grocery store.

But in 2021, my productivity suddenly skyrocketed to new heights. Not only did I…


Two tricks to elevate your spoken Japanese

When on a trip to Japan, I visited the small town of Karuizawa, an hour’s ride from Tokyo. While I had a great time there, I remember encountering difficulties finding my way back to the station. I had wandered well off the beaten path into a beautiful wooded suburb and my phone battery had died. On the street was a stranger, a middle-aged man sweeping leaves beneath a gate. It was contextually obvious that he lived there and since Karuizawa is not a very large town, I figured he’d know how to get…


For novelists with an architect’s mind and a gardener’s soul.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska — Own Work

In 2019, I decided to embark on a journey I’d fantasized over for years: writing a novel. It was an aspiration of mine since high school, and one that I’d planned for and studied over the following decade— watching vlogs and reading books on how to construct plots, pace stories, edit, revise, and so on. But one February morning when I was barricaded in my New Jersey townhouse by a mountain of snow, I decided to act on my dream. …


Explanations and reflections from a former Smoky Mountain local

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina — Own Work

Over the years, I’ve brought many friends back to the county where I grew up. These people came from a variety of backgrounds — different regions, countries, native languages, ethnicities— but one consistent thread between the experiences has been their surprise at the local dialect.

See, I’m originally from a region of the United States known as the Great Smoky Mountains. It comprises the highlands of southern Appalachia, split between western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. The mountains are, in a word: beautiful, a nature lover's wonderland. Millions of people flock…


And when it’s okay to use them in your works of fiction.

Image by Kaito Kikuchi — Own Work

Spoiler warnings: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Avatar: The Last Airbender, A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Bright

In 2017, Netflix released the feature-length film Bright to a response that I could only describe as a siege of boos and rotten tomatoes. IndieWire film critic David Ehrlich opened his review by labeling Bright as the “worst movie of 2017.” …


It’s common knowledge that textbooks are useful for giving you a foundation in a second language, but following their directions to a tee will make you sound like a robot. As someone who has taught ESL on the side, I’ve definitely cringed at textbooks’ weird grammatical structures that native speakers never use (e.g., “with whom am I speaking?”). Likewise, I’ve had native Mandarin-speaking friends gently correct my Chinese many times over. This is just one of the many challenges of tackling a new language.

Luckily for Chinese learners, there are some easy practices you can adopt to instantly make your…


A few tips for those self-studying the language.

I decided to learn Japanese for the same reason many people study a new language: a relationship. My partner is Japanese, and while he and his family speak English fluently, I felt like I should learn their native language. The decision didn’t seem too farfetched for me. I’m one-hundred-percent a language nerd and already knew how to speak Mandarin Chinese, which shares its characters with Japanese. “How hard could it be?” I naively wondered as I purchased a textbook.

The answer was: very. After memorizing the two syllabaries, I was confronted with…


How do you call your partner or friends?

Image by Kaito Kikuchi — Own Work

I recently watched a video from YouTubers Rachel and Jun that discussed the use of pet names for your significant other in Japanese. Rachel, who is American, discussed how common it is to hear terms of endearment in the United States, while Jun said that in Japanese, there are no words like “sweety,” “honey,” “baby,” “boo,” etcetera; instead, affection is often communicated implicitly or through modifications of a person’s name.

This made me think about nicknames broadly, both in my native language of English and the two languages I have recently studied…


Growing up, I never saw my parents fight. Not even once. There were a couple of times they’d grumble and growl at one another, but that was usually because it was past Mom’s bedtime or Dad was hungry. And until I reached adulthood, I thought their relationship was entirely typical.

That was until I started dating.

It was then when I was introduced to a wide spectrum of communication styles and behaviors, some of which were entirely alien to me. I remember the first time an ex and I fought, I felt shellshocked. In a situation where someone was suddenly…

Blake Anderson

San Diego-based writer. Interested in urban planning, languages, cultures, travel, history, and fiction.

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