One Small Voice: Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh

Published on 26 April 2017

Singaporean author SUDHIR THOMAS VADAKETH pushes boundaries with creative non-fiction.

By Melanie Lee

I have been writing since I was very young, entering essay competitions since primary school. I was always writing a lot, and my first job was writing for The Economist Group. However, after seven years with them, I left to become a full-time author in 2013.

I wanted to explore writing in more creative ways. All this while, I had been writing either academically or journalistically, and right now, I’m veering towards creative non-fiction, something I started with my first book, Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore, and am continuing with my current work-in-progress, From Kerala to Shaolin, a travelogue-cum-social commentary on China and India. I’ve been travelling for research and working on this book for the past four years. I hope to finish it by the end of this year.

My writing routine is like this: sleep by 9pm, write from 5.30am to 11.30am, and then spend the rest of the day reading, exercising or meeting up with people.

With journalism, the writing mode is very transparent, logical and comprehensive. However, with creative non-fiction, I’m trying to push the boundaries. I don’t have to follow the script so tightly. I can add suspense, be more playful with the dialogue and weave in colourful metaphors. The reader is following me on a journey with my observations. There’s much less of trying to editorialise or push a particular point of view.

In general, I feel there’s a long way to go when it comes to local writing (including my own work as well). When there’s a lack of rootedness or sense of belonging, it becomes quite difficult to engage in storytelling. Our national narrative seems to be narrower compared to other diverse, pluralistic societies. My sense is that because of that, the space for expression is also somewhat limited.

The most encouraging comment I received was feedback from an essay I had written in 2012 titled The End of Identity, which was a critique of Singapore’s national identity. A few readers told me that I managed to articulate a lot of things they were feeling but couldn’t put into words. That was very encouraging and it made me think: if my writing could help some people make sense of the world around them, then that’s a good calling. I should just dedicate my life to that.

Words of Wisdom

Tips for aspiring writers

– Write as much as possible, in as many platforms as possible.

– Constantly seek feedback.

– Seek inspiration from many places — read as widely as possible and constantly record what’s around you by taking photos or notes.

– There’s no need to crystallise your voice too early in your evolution as a writer. It’s perfectly okay for your writing voice to change and keep changing.

– Find the right balance of writing in your “little hole” and gaining exposure from the world outside.

Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh is the author of Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore (2012) as well as the co-author of Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus (2014). He has written for a variety of publications, including The Economist, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), The Straits Times and Yahoo! News. To find out more about his work, visit

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