Advice for Non-Native English Writers Just Starting Out

Everyone has to do the jobs they don’t like so that they can do what they truly love.

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Last month, Zean Vo, the editor of TheFace Magazine Vietnam reached out to me and asked if I would like to give an interview on my writing journey.

I have followed Zean’s work for a while after she stumbled upon my book and we connected last year. So it didn’t take me long to say yes to Zean’s invitation, especially since it would give me an opportunity to connect with Vietnamese audiences.

Her team sent me a set of questions and turned my answers into a beautifully written story. I must admit that it’s a bit strange to read about myself in third-person, though I definitely enjoyed the experience.

I’ve translated it into English to share with you all. I hope it’ll be inspiring to any non-native English writer just starting out.

Ellen Nguyen: A Vietnamese Writer Building Her Career in the UK

Moving abroad to study and then less than 10 years later, Ellen Nguyen has affirmed her position as a content writer with readers from all over the world. At the age of 26, the young woman has many articles featured on major media websites and has recently published a book in English.

Those who regularly follow Ellen Nguyen on social networks will probably think she is a full-time writer, and will also be surprised to know that her main job is in Digital marketing at a large bank in London while having graduated with a bachelor’s degree in… Psychology.

Passion for writing in her blood.

“Writing is my left-hand interest but it’s my main passion. Although I say it is ‘left hand’, for me, it’s a skill that can be applied in many different jobs,” Ellen explained about her versatility.

Not only freelance writing and self-publishing a book, but she also founded and managed a website called, which was originally her personal blog but has now become a community for other writers to share their psychological issues and personal development stories.

Ellen said she had been writing since primary school and had fictional stories posted in Vietnamese forums. When she went to study in the UK, she completely switched to writing in English, and the more she pursued it, the more she found writing fascinating. “I must have a passion for it already in my blood. I write because I like to write, even when no one reads my articles,” she laughed.

Writing became such a basic need of Ellen herself that if she did not write for a while, she would feel something was missing. She felt the urge to write without thinking much about how to attract readers. “Every time I open myself up through writing, I feel excited, fall in love with life more, and realize why I have a passion for writing. That’s when I return to the most basic values ​​of writing,” Ellen said.

Ellen’s writing often explores the topics of psychology, which, according to her, are the core things in life that anyone can relate to. That helps her touch the hearts of more people, while it is also relevant to the bachelor’s degree she obtained.

Although writing is only considered “left-hand”, the name Ellen Nguyen now appears regularly in international websites such as Medium, Thought Catalog, Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan,… She reveals that this “left-hand” job brings a relatively good income of up to 3,000 USD/month. Her daily writing skills have also improved, to the point where she is now confident in her ability to turn a simple idea into a popular article.

Unlike the artsy image that the public often thinks of a writer, Ellen Nguyen believes that a professional writer should never rely on inspiration. “When you seriously pursue this career, you also have to work seriously like working in an office. You make plans, you prepare, you start working, that’s all.” Ellen said, in the past, she often waited for inspiration before writing, resulting in slow progress and low efficiency. “Now I have a list of ideas and I just need to choose a topic to write, so I can improve my skills and tackle big projects.”

Writing highlights.

After many years of writing, Ellen still remembers her feeling of pride when her article was first published at the Huffington Post UK and she received a personal reply from Arianna Huffington to her email. It was the last summer of her second year at university — after the email exchange, she got an internship there for a week.

It was a tremendous motivation for Ellen to develop her writing career. It was not easy, especially when writing in a language different from her mother tongue. When she first embarked on this journey and saw her name on big websites, she was extremely proud. Now, although she is used to that, Ellen confesses she still feels emotional when she receives emails from readers or catches someone sharing her articles on social networks. “Sometimes I find it difficult to believe in these achievements because I do not speak English as my first language, nor have formal training in literature or writing. I feel very proud and grateful,” she shared.

Recently, Ellen’s writing took a big step further when her articles appeared on the homepage of Medium. She revealed that she is making regular money from the site by writing articles every day. “Through writing consistently, I can express myself better. I can write faster and produce higher quality articles, making me feel like I am on a new level”, Ellen proudly said.

A turning point in Ellen’s writing career is the publication of her first book at the end of 2019, Love yourself enough to let them go, a collection of short articles about break-up and self-love. Although the articles were not new, when holding the physical book and touching the pages, Ellen calls it a feeling especially hard to describe. “Many people read my books and left comments and I don’t know who they are, yet they let me step into a corner of their soul.”

Not stopping at personal projects, Ellen Nguyen recently collaborated with a close friend to produce a Podcast series for Contemporary Women, which is a place to discuss issues that modern women care about. She shared that it was an effort to get closer to the Vietnamese audiences, given that her articles so far are all written in English.

For Ellen, writing gives her the joy of being free to be herself, connecting with people all over the world, and especially of knowing that her words have touched someone’s heart.

However, writing is not always full of sunshine and rainbows. One of the big challenges, according to Ellen, is keeping up with changing social trends and learning to adapt quickly. It will also be difficult if the writer lacks dynamism. “No one just sits and writes and makes money. I have to learn a lot of different skills such as sales, design, branding,… It’s no different from a private business,” she said frankly.

In response to the concerns of many young people about whether a writer can live well with the profession, Ellen says that a writing career is a long way that people who choose that path need to use their creativity to create different sources of income while learning to be patient. “Everyone has to do the jobs they don’t like so that they can do what they truly love — no one can get everything right away. So try to enjoy your every step, make it fun and meaningful, keep learning, believe in yourself, don’t give up,” she said.

Written by

Writer, author, content creator. Editor of Tingly Mind, empowering life and relationship advice for women. Check me out:

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