Nobody reads this

It's just a hunch, but I'm almost pretty sure that none of the people I know in real life are actually reading my blog. Or even know that I have this one out there.

I could do the narcissistic thing of posting about it on social media like what most people might do. In fact, I had done so in the past. But then it feels so much like asking for markah kesian from the school teacher. I'd rather people stumble upon the blog than me having to stuff it in front of their face and make them feel obliged to comment or do anything about it.

But this isn't saying I don't appreciate you, my random reader. If even one person out there reads any of this and derives something positive out of it, at least I can feel that this is all worth it.

Anyway, whatever the case may be, I'm still committed to writing here and keeping this blog alive. For now. Unless and until something tells me to stop. That moment hasn't come yet.

Camp Nanowrimo 

Find out more here
Okay, so I decided on a whim to do this. Yes, this bum of a writer will finally take on a creative mini project. 

Great news is that you can set your own goals for Camp Nanowrimo, rather than the daunting word count require of the usual Nanowrimo held every November (which I had always failed to achieve on all the years I joined bleh). 

This time, I’m keeping it short and simple. So hopefully I’ll make it this time. 

My project has been christened as Imperfect: A creative project. I’ll share more when July arrives. Meanwhile, I’ll need to put some thought into planning this first. Stay tuned! 

Things that were, things that are

Image source: BBC

Received my first writing assignment today since delivering Jamie in April. Feels like ages ago since I’ve had to write for work. I wonder if I still know how to do it the way I used to. 

My sentiments about work and my career direction in general have been greatly altered since Jamie’s arrival. I’ve always said to Deric that I would consider quitting full time employment once we had children in the equation, but saying that in advance and being faced with the actual decision is two different things. 

I do not regret my decision, of course. It is something I have thought over many times and in my mind and heart, family always comes first (well technically, God comes first, but that goes without saying and I’m speaking of earthly commitments here). So here I am, finally living out what I have chewed on mentally for years. Giving up a regular career to focus more on being a better mother and wife. 

I’ve been told it’s hard to juggle between the two: working at home and tending to family affairs. Someone I know said it involves things like working at night since you can’t really get any work done when you’re alone with the kids and need to wait until your spouse comes to relieve you before you can get cracking at meeting your deadlines. Another tells me she sends her baby to the babysitter just so she can get things done during the daytime. 

I hope to do neither. 

But seeing how tough it is to get much of anything done with Jamie to care for, I wonder how I’ll actually accomplish this. I suppose I will find out soon. Well, I guess it helps that Deric has been supportive of all of this and hasn’t ever pressured me to find work. In fact, I think if I were to just decide to be a stay at home mum (aka SAHM) instead of a work at home mum (aka WAHM), he wouldn’t mind either. 

However, I see value in continuing to keep up my harga saham in the working world. That’s because you never know what the future will hold. What if Deric loses his job? Or has a pay cut? Or… Well, the possibilities are endless. 

So I’m going to give this WAHM thing a shot. I certainly hope it works out, because it has been so fulfilling to get paid to write all this while and I wouldn’t want to lose that ability. 

Writing itself isn’t a chore for me. In fact, it’s something I do willingly. It’s what you find me doing here anyway. 

Sew in love

I inherited my love for sewing and cooking from my mother and grandmother.
Source: Cherry Menlove

I have come to see that quite a lot of things that make up who we are were actually embedded deep into our souls very early on in our lives.

For instance, my love for cooking, sewing and all manner of homely habits undoubtedly was a result of the influences of both my Mum and grandmother.

Back in the days when I was a kid, I would often have the chance to see both of them at work in the kitchen. I hardly understood most of what they were doing, but I guess some of the mechanics of it did latch onto me and I sometimes find myself recalling now, many years later in life, some of the things they would do.

My sister and I were greatly blessed through the many delicious dishes we savoured thanks to my Mum and Mama’s skillful culinary abilities. Some of Mama’s dishes which I really loved were nasi kunyit and chicken curry, nasi dagang and rendang, and a sweet two layered kuih we referred to as Ban Tng (to this day, I don’t know anyone else who knows how to make this and can’t even find it in any stores).

My Mum had her own specialties too. I liked her renditions of spaghetti bolognese, chicken stew, and a nameless potato and chicken dish similar to the Nyonya pong teh.

I was also privileged to be the recipient of their various sewing projects. Mama would sew countless sets of pyjamas for both my sister and I. She did this for years, right up until the days of my teens. (In fact, my Mum recently informed me that Mama had actually even sewn baby clothes for me. I, of course, do not remember any of that.)

Somewhere along the line though, Mama eventually had to stop sewing pyjamas for us because it had gotten difficult for her to do fine needlework with her hands as she had lost sensitivity in her fingertips.

My Mum, too, in attempts to save money during the years of economic downturn, sewed dresses for me. Not only that, she went the extra mile and even made additional matching accessories to go along with the dresses such as a bag, hat or hairband. Perhaps some other spoilt child might have been ashamed to wear such simple clothes sewn by their own parent, but I loved them.

Over the years, my Mum also often took it upon herself to repair many of my clothes that suffered minor problems through wear and tear. This ranged from issues such as buttons falling off to holes in pants to stitches coming loose at odd places in the fabric.

Now, having been married myself, with our very own home to manage and a child on the way, I find myself drawn to these simple domestic activities even more than ever.

Homemade meals are among the proudest moments that my husband and I share (we often cook together in the kitchen).

And thanks to my generous sister’s gift to me for my wedding, I now own a sewing machine of my very own which I love very much. I only wish I had had one earlier in my life. I have dozens of unfinished sewing projects, but I do try to pick up on them whenever I can afford to.

All in all, I just love most things that are related to home, including mundane things like doing chores. I absolutely love it when the home is squeaky clean and the place smells of floor cleaners and every form of household cleaner you can think of.

To be honest, I can literally be at home all day and just feel tremendously happy. It is my refuge and place of peace and happiness.

And I owe all of these inclinations to the women who went before me in my family line.

Deric and I were told there’s a possibility that our baby is a girl. If that is true, I certainly hope I will be able to pass on this love for the domestic front to her as well. It’s getting rarer these days, and I’d hate to see it lost forever in our bloodline.

All the write things

typewriter
Image source: true/story lab

I’m having dinner here on my own tonight since Deric has headed off to my parent’s place to catch a game of English football on the telly with Pa.

I usually don’t tag along whenever he goes there for such reasons these days, since I figure some peace and quiet at home will do me some good. Plus, we both tend to head over there to have dinner with my parents (and my sis too) pretty often so I have a plenty of opportunities to spend time with them on most weeks, anyway.

So here I am, finally with some time on my hands to blog. It’s been a nagging thought at the back of my mind these few weeks, the fact that I haven’t been keeping up the blogging habit. I mean, I’m actually paying money now to keep this website alive, hence I really should make the most of it in order to get enough bang out of my buck.

But alas, you know how things are. Life tends to get in the way.

Most of the time, I’m busy dealing with what’s right in front of me (which is usually work, social obligations and other equally urgent commitments) that other whims and fancies such blogging tends to take a back seat.

Well, actually, you could say that about me and writing in general. By this I mean the type of writing that I would like to do for fun, and nothing else.

It’s kind of an ironic thing for someone like me to be saying this since I do actually write for a living. Every day I engage in some part of the writing process – be it fact gathering and research, interviewing and transcribing, writing a draft or making corrections to such a draft.

But trust me, writing for work versus doing it for pleasure feels really different.

When it comes to work, once you’ve been doing it for a couple of years or more, you kind of have it boiled down to certain tried and tested formulas.

Your favoured methods are typically safe and predictable, and you come to rely on them time and time again because you are certain that by following these certain number of steps you can be assured of arriving, at the end of it all, with some form of consistent writing output. 

But these sort of devices usually leave you with little room for creativity. It’s never quite as satisfying as, say, hashing out a short story or even penning down a poem. 

Writing for fun, on the other hand, allows you room for complete spontaneity. You can change your mind as you please, take whichever whimsical route of imagination strikes you as best, and craft characters, places and mystical objects of the universe at will. A blank page is a real treat; an invitation to flex your creative muscles and take a chance on the wild side.

While you’re at work, however, a similarly blank page is instead a cause for panic, especially when you’re due to show something concrete to your editor within the next 15 minutes. Panic will most certainly ensue, followed by a frantic hammering at the keyboard, just so a few dozens of paragraphs culminate quickly on the screen before you.

Never mind whether they make sense or not. They will, eventually, when you feel the final few seconds of the clock ticking, and the walls and ceiling seem to start closing in on you. When you hear that familiar stern voice calling out your name from across the hall, and your pounding heart urges you to hurry up and finish the deed before it decides to permanently stop circulating blood supply to your body and you inadvertently have your very life taken from you.

I hope you can see by now, my dear readers, the distinct differences between the two.

For us writers, more often than not, writing the things we love won’t pay the bills. Hence, we inevitably have to make  a sacrifice: we give up the right to choose what we write in exchange for money.

Typically, this profit motive involves supplying a form of writing that someone else out there wants, but cannot generate for themselves because, God bless their poor souls, they cannot write to save their own lives.

Reports, speeches, advertising copy, scripts, letters… these are the sort of things we have to resort to just so we can get enough bucks transferred into our bank accounts.

But deep inside the heart of every writer whose love for the craft goes beyond finding a means by which to survive there is a soul that yearns to pen beautiful prose…

Words that will make people laugh, cry or energise them in such a way that they decide to act nobly for the good of humankind. Profound sentences that inspire and challenge, which will be continually remembered across the sands of time. Poignant tales of wonder, adventure and mystery.

It is in the hope of earning the time and liberty to write such things that we keep pushing on. We endure the mundane, in hopes that someday we will discover that diamond in the rough. The treasure that will make us rich enough to set us free from the shackles of deadlines, debts and desolation.

We write to live. We live to write.

Sense and censorship

I find it harder and harder to face up to my inner thoughts and emotions whenever I sit down to blog these days. It’s not the first time I’ve said it, and it probably won’t be the last.

I think back to the days when I first began blogging, way back when I was a student. I can’t recall exactly when I started being serious about blogging, but I gather it was around my second year of university.

Looking back now, I honestly don’t remember a huge chunk of what I had written, but some recurring topics do come to mind as I reflect on that season of my life.

Loneliness. Angst. Melancholic contemplations. Poetry. Elusive posts which sketch the stories of unrequited love (for which I took great pains in order to disguise the identity of the object of my affection, lest he should read any of my posts and discover, to his horror, that a moody, broody girl like me had indeed fallen hard for him).

If there was such a thing as serial blogging, perhaps I would fit the category. Aside from my regular blog which I’d faithfully fill with frequent posts, I also set up several other blogs. Some were for specific purposes (like the one I set up just for a Nanowrimo novel that I was working on) while others were just to vent (I once had an anonymous blog where I wrote to my heart’s content about several injustices in my life).

I even created one to write about things I learned on the job while I was a programmer. It was partly to serve as a public reminder of the knowledge I had gained, but I had also hoped that others might benefit from my efforts.

What a haphazard and somewhat crazy time it was then. I wrote as I pleased, with no qualms about choice of topics or words (within the limits of decency and the confines of my Christian faith, of course).

But now… how I hesitate to put words to the screen. Or even to paper. What has happened? I feel ashamed to be a writer by profession, yet be unable to write sincerely and without the feeling of being restrained.

It’s not even because I desire to broach sensitive or even controversial topics. In fact, being the peacemaker that I am, I would rather not, as I would prefer to dwell on common threads instead of points for discord.

It is just simply the fact that I keep somewhat self-censoring what I want to say. Sometimes for fear of being labelled boring. Or due to worries that I may be misunderstood or judged for my opinions and feelings.

In so doing, I am slowly finding that I have shackled myself. Whatever ounce of creativity I had has vanished into a self-inflicted dungeon of despair.

Sometimes I blame it on my career. In the pursuit of the facts and figures that a good journalistic article requires, I get the notion that I have forgotten how to daydream, how to whip up ridiculous yet intriguing fiction from the depths of my imagination.

I feel shallow as a writer now. Like I’ve lost my soul. The very essence and heartbeat that I believe is necessary to write good prose.

To be honest, I am somewhat disappointed. While I do a job that I love every day, I find that I have allowed my writing output to be dictated by deadlines and KPIs.

I started wanting… dreaming of writing from the heart with the ambition of entertaining and, if I’m lucky enough, even inspiring a reader or two. But have I deviated from that course?

There are so many battles to be fought out there and many have clamoured for my attention. As they say, the pen is mightier than the sword, so surely that brands us writers as warriors of some sort.

But what am i fighting for? Must I even engage in wars of any sort? Can I not just find a cosy little corner and tuck myself away there to write as I please?

These are things that keep me silent when I could be speaking. Awake when I should be sleeping.

I want to say things that matter, words that are worth their weight in gold, that have the power to turn hearts of stone to flesh and bring life where death had before resided. And so I hesitate and wait for that immaculate moment where words in my head string together into neat, little sentences and clear purpose bleeds into the rhymes and metaphors that I craft.

And in my foolishness, I let the stories I could be writing lie abandoned and wasted while time marches on without any promise of second chances.

I still wrestle with these things. I hope someday there will come a resolution.