more than just a clever name

Author: Claire Khoo

How I returned to writing on paper again

As a school girl in the 1990s, I used to keep a diligent record of my life in handwritten form, on a daily basis. By the late 1990s, computers and the Internet  arrived. Like everyone else, I migrated my love for pen-and-paper to the laptop. Eventually, in the early 2000s, I ‘grew up’, joined the blogging boom  and left my childhood pursuits behind.

Quite frankly, I never saw myself ever returning to my love for paper and its related paraphernalia. But it happened, and this was how it all started: about eight months ago, I stumbled upon Mike Rohde’s very awesome sketchnotes on his website . I was mesmerised at just how the handwritten scribbles and sketches just came together to make up cohesive, well-planned out artworks that actually aided the reading process. Just one photo here from Mr Rohde’s Instagram feed will give you a fair idea of what caught my eye:

Espresso 101 Class at @stonecreekcoffee Page 4

A photo posted by Mike Rohde (@rohdesign) on

I was hooked at first sight. As someone who frequently works with speakers and difficult, lengthy sets of documents, I wanted to be able to take notes like this because I felt that could go back to my notes over and over again, and never be bored of reading the same old thing.

Convinced that I could potentially be a ‘sketchnoter’ too, I ordered both of Rohde’s books from the Book Depository. Book Depository is awesome for difficult to find books like this and they are highly efficient. With free worldwide shipping, I received the goods in less than two weeks.


The books are gorgeous – and the handbook, especially, is perfect for those of us who do not have the privilege of attending Rohde’s workshops in person. Rohde convinces the reader that even if he cannot draw, as long as he can draw simple shapes and write legibly, he can start taking notes in a visual format, or, ‘sketchnoting’, as he calls it.

In the weeks that followed, I devoured Rohde’s book and I worked on every single exercise written in the Handbook.

This is a leaf from the Handbook, and one of my earliest attempts at preparing a visual dictionary based on cues provided by Rohde himself.

This is a leaf from the Handbook, and one of my earliest attempts at preparing a visual dictionary based on cues provided by Rohde himself.

Honestly, in all of my 36 years of life, I don’t think I’ve ever studied so hard on a single subject before, and there I was, pouring every attention into this new passion for visual note taking.

Eventually,  I summoned the courage to try out sketchnoting for real – first working on previously taken notes from older workshops.

One of my very first attempts at sketchnoting.

One of my very first attempts at sketchnoting.

Another early attempt at sketchnoting, this time based on notes taken during an in-house refresher course on media relations.

Another early attempt at sketchnoting, this time based on notes taken during an in-house refresher course on media relations.

Eventually, I moved on to bigger things: travel sketchnoting – because it came from the heart. Sharing here an image from my IG feed, my very first attempt at travel journaling with sketches :

A photo posted by Claire Khoo (@clairekhoo) on

And here’s another page:

A photo posted by Claire Khoo (@clairekhoo) on

In a nutshell, my return to the wonderful world of handwritten notes on lovely, non-acid paper was hastened by my discovery of Mike Rohde’s very clever way of taking notes with visual signals. And for this contribution to my well being and newfound passion for paper, art and watercolors (which I will talk about in many new posts), I am eternally grateful.

I update my Instagram on an almost daily basis now, exploring my passion for watercolors, urban sketching and travel journalling. Please do follow me @clairekhoo and drop me a note!  

How I lost my blog ( and why I’m happier than sad about it)

On 2 February 2016, I found out that my older blog, and the old blog posts  about my cancer journey which I had posted on the domain had all disappeared.

This is a short recount of how it happened: back in May 2015, my credit card got cloned. After my reports, my wonderful bank quickly sent me a new card with a new number. Alas, in the midst of updating many of my accounts, I also completely forgot about the auto-renewal web-hosting service this blog was on. Sometime in September, my blog hosting expired and in the frenzy of my very hectic final quarter of 2015, I ignored my personal email account for almost three months, and in that time, neglected the many reminder emails that my host provider had sent.

So, I learnt this the hard way, in the Internet world of blogging, if you don’t pay up, you lose your hard-built memories.  Further proof that nothing comes free in this world, not even your own hard earned, well documented memories.

Anyway, I’ve not actually lost everything. had always been on an auto-database backup process so I actually have all my pre-cancer memories, waiting for me to reload them to the Internet if I wanted to.

Unfortunately, I didn’t bother setting up the auto backup for, and so all the posts in the cancer-girl version of the blog, including the recounts of my diagnosis, my hair loss and getting all wigged up, going for chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy, my personal encounters with God – they’re gone.

Spot this: my face on a billboard!

The featured image in this post is a photo of myself on the billboard of a major insurance company – one of the crazier things I’ve done post cancer survival.

The good news, I suppose, is the fact that because I had neglected this blog for a good bulk of the entire year, I didn’t really lose much. Almost all of the posts that were written in were cancer-related stories, 90%  of which, I wrote back in early 2014 as I was going through the peak of my cancer treatment.

I have of course, tonnes of photos from the months of August 2013 – April 2014, technically enough for me to start an entire blog about cancer all over again. However, I now have insufficient memory of the emotionally driven soliloquy pieces I wrote and am therefore unable to reproduce those stories from scratch all over again.

I’d like to conveniently blame this on chemotherapy and the awesome side effect known as ‘chemo-brain’. 

I’m also not sure whether I want to go through the whole, ‘Woe be upon me I have cancer and I may die young’ phase of blogging ever again.

One of my friends told me, after I disclosed the painful discovery about the loss of my beautiful pink blog, that she actually appreciates the tales of cancer diagnosis which I had woven into the narrative of And I do recall that in that phase of my life, despite the drama I did manage to inspire and encourage many women with a chronic disease diagnosis to face their demons and fight their personal battles with much courage.

I suppose that maybe a good reason to rewrite some of the stories about how I got diagnosed, and how I eventually got well, and my current struggles as a one-breasted woman trying to make sense of this cruel world. Perhaps I should start a category in this blog called ‘Cancer Journey’ just to focus on that side of my amazingly drama-filled life.

For today, I’ll leave you with a photo that best epitomises my cancer victory. Here is a photo of myself taken on the last day of cancer treatment. You see how happy I am in this photo?

Victory over cancer!

My last active treatment day: I completed 16 cycles of chemotherapy, 1 mastectomy sans reconstruction, and 15 rounds of dose dense radiotherapy. What’s your excuse?

With the complete deletion of my old blogs, I guess maybe that big guy up there is trying to tell me something. I imagine Him saying something like this, ‘Woman, if you want to start afresh, you have to delete everything from your past, move on, and completely start afresh! Because, real life never stops!’ 

Yes, that last line was a cheesy attempt to make my featured image connect with this blog post. But it’s true! Because both blogs are now complete defunct, I have no choice. I have to reboot everything and start again. It might as well be divine intervention!

Hello world!

This is my first post in a very, very long time.

To start off, let me introduce you to my very adorable two sons.

The one on the left is Paul, who is six years old this year. The younger one is Mark, who just turned three in December. Almost everything in my life today revolves around these two rascals.

I’ll probably tell you about how awesome life is as their mother, one day. But for now, this will do.


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