How to become a celebrity

Daily writing — Day 1, Take 2

Short story: Be lucky, or work very hard.
Long story: Work very hard.
Photography by Ed Gregory

I have just gone through my entire Facebook friend list to harass them into checking out my new blog. Don’t worry, I only messaged people who I think would be interested in this blog (science writing, ish). And yes, I did send the Facebook invite thingy, but imagine what you would do when you see a random notification in your Facebook inbox “such and such has invited you to like the Page such and such”. Exactly. Ignore it.

I realized I have some celebrity friends. A self-employed businesswoman/blogger with 9,000 followers. A group of scientists whose home-brew journal has 14,000 subscribers. A writer with ~30,000 followers. A dancer with ~43,000 fans.

My husband looked at all of these zeros and asked: “How did you get to know so many famous people?”

And I answered: “I know them before they get famous.”


Watching my friends getting famous is the thing that makes me look so seemingly brave. I quit my job, my fancy PhD in Genetics label, and dive into the writing pool. I started to write full time. I built a science writing blog and promoted the heck out of it, working gazillions of hours. I’m not at all afraid of failures, they are sort of expected, a required part of success. I don’t mind waiting years for my platform to grow. Set aside the fact that it took me years to make this decision, I do look exceptionally brave.

That courage is of external origin, by watching my friends’ paths to success.

I knew most of them from grade school. At that time, they had none of that vibe that would make you say “Wow. you’re really good at that [whatever that is], you’ll become famous someday!” The writer with 30k followers was a normal eighth grader who had some interest in writing, but then so was I and another dozen students in our class. We graduated, went to high school, went to college, found each other on Facebook, liked each other’s wedding photos. For a long time she was a stay-at-home mom, posting mostly pictures of her kid, her dogs, and her house.

Then I started seeing posts about a book. Not the real book, just behind-the-scene cover design and what it takes to describe a scene in the ICU. Then a thank you to her husband for standing by her so she can proudly say she is a writer. Then the publishing day. Then the first nice comments from readers. More posts about writing and deadlines, staying up late typing up a storm. This book climbed up and into the best-seller list. I started seeing posts about the second book. After a year, when I went to her Facebook to invite her to like my page, she already had 30k followers. I wasn’t surprised. I saw her process: it started tiny, and she consistently watered it with hard work. It grew, like a tree. Others might only see the tree and wow at it, but I did have a glimpse on the little seedling and the regular elbow grease it took. It wasn’t magic.

I saw her process: it started tiny, and she consistently watered it with hard work. It grew, like a tree. Others might only see the tree and wow at it, but I did have a glimpse on the little seedling and the regular elbow grease it took. It wasn’t magic.

The same is true for the blogger and the scientists and the dancer. They started years ago (and often heard “Are you crazy?”). They worked hard. Their lists grew a bit by another tiny bit, but they didn’t give up. They failed and learned during the process. When an opportunity came, they were well prepared to catch it. That is what people call luck. I call it ready when the time comes.

I’m getting ready. That is why I don’t mind my puny list — our Facebook page passed 200 likes yesterday and I was very happy. My recent post took me a month to write, and got 42 reads, and that is okay. That is 42 more reads than I would have if I didn’t put it out there, if I didn’t do anything at all. It is a good start. Any start is better than no start.


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