Time and again

Ironically enough, it's become extremely hard to write anything that I feel is heartfelt and of significant worth nowadays. I've been feeling so ever since I made writing my official career path, I think.

Funny, isn't it, since you'd think that because you're devoting more time perfecting your craft, you should be better at it and everything should come so much more naturally than it did in the past?

But this is how it's been. Regrettably too, might I add.

I revisited the old, first proper blog I ever wrote, Veritas Project, recently. It surprised me just how differently I used to write. So uninhibited. So candid.

In some ways, I wish I was back at that place and time of my life, and that I had utilised those moments more fully to revel in the emotions of that season more, to write more wholeheartedly. Because now that I am where I'm at in life, here in my 30's, there's a great difference in the things I'd write and how I'd write them.

Yet, of course, I'm not discounting the value of experience and where it has gotten me. I write now through the lens of someone who has seen more, who realises what she is capable of, and who now knows so many more precious things about the world and the seasons and rhythms of life.

Time and again, though, I keep returning to this point of contemplation that I need to put forward a more genuine version of myself whenever I write. Particularly when I blog for a wider audience, like I do here.

The difficulty here lies in the fact that having been a journalist in the not-so-distant past, my writing disciplines have been shaped to habitually involve the practice of self censorship. We do it all the time in the newsroom, although the reasons for doing so may differ each time. The words we allow to escape our keyboard are filtered: tapered down in its depth of feeling, politically correct, shifted and sorted to take on a supposedly neutral form, appealing to the average reader. Which is, in reality, probably no one.

Here in Blogdom, everyone is writing nowadays to garner as much Likes as possible. Building a band of followers that will faithfully swallow whatever you put out for them, just because they feel like you know them. You are like them.

For that is what is being peddled. Writers putting on a front of being an expert and knowing something special. Teasing readers with minimal prose, abandoning the art of it all, and replacing it with GIFs, memes, haphazardly compiled lists of things that nobody needs but everybody identifies with and wants to know about. A place where words are money, so make as much as you can, with as little beauty infused into those sentences. Because, what is the point in poetry? It is unnecessary and underappreciated.

Then there are those writers' circles, those exclusive associations formed amongst writers on social media platforms. Where writers rant and rave about the perils of the realms of publishing and lament the naivety of rookies seeking their way into the fellowship. Spouting advice like, "If your writing is rejected by publishers, it's because it's worthless. Please move along".

I somehow cannot fit into this landscape.

As it is, I already have trouble believing that I am a writer, and even more so calling myself one. And all this… this massive community of successful people before me; corporations who make profits from the words crafted by others; the formality of it all; the formatting of pages, columns, fonts; the rigours of being part of the publishing process… all of this feels stifling to me.

I want to go back to that spot where simplicity and freedom of expression were. That quiet corner in the middle of nowhere that I could sit at for as long as I needed to, use as many paragraphs and pages as I wanted, and express precisely how I feel without fear of judgment or ruthless editing.

Where it was just me and you, my darling reader.

I still want to tell my story. But (and this may be hard to believe, coming from a person with a history like mine) I am having trouble finding the right words.

Journalling: Another year, another attempt

My new journal for 2017. Hopefully.

I stumbled across a Facebook post on my Feed today that piqued my interest. It was about Bullet Journalling. It’s the first time I’m hearing about it. Or well, rather, reading about it. 

I used to be an ardent journal writer back in my teen days, but since turning into a Boring Adult, I have failed time and again at resurrecting this deeply satisfying and extremely therapeutic habit. 

Part of the difficulty is being disciplined enough to write regularly so that whatever I jot down eventually forms a year long tale that makes sense. My journalling has reached a point of being so sporadic that it feels like it is useless to do so at all. 

Hopefully this Bullet Journalling thing will change that. 

And even if it doesn’t, I do so love making lists (and usually end up never being able to cross out much from them… sigh) so perhaps it will serve its purpose as some form of therapy. Which I do sort of need right now given that I feel a combination of depression + boredom + discontentment + aimlessness in my life. 

So here goes. 

Good thing is that the New Year has just begun, so it doesn’t feel so out of place to start this thing right here and now. Teehee. 

Well, I’ll report back later on if anything much comes out of it. Don’t want to have too high expectations. Toodloo!

Blog buster

Bloggers these days seem to have lots of important things to say. 

More often than not, they’re busy dishing out advice. 10 secrets to becoing a successful mompreneur. 20 things to do to make your professional life stand out. Why following a paleo diet will set your love life on fire. So on and so forth.

And when they’re not busy giving their expert opinion on something, they’re busy plastering product endorsements and reviews all over their site. 

All that writing mostly stemming from the motivation of either getting lots of views and/or clicks, or capturing the attention of advertisers who are looking for virtual product ambassadors and supporters. 

Where oh where are the bloggers out there who just blog for the sake of creativity or in the spirit of the arts? 

This deeply disheartens me, and has many a time made me feel like my blog posts were useless and futile. Because no one would read them. No one would notice.  That my voice wouldn’t matter. 

Thanks to some of the bad experiences I weathered as a former journo, I also began self censoring a lot of my blog posts in the past. Such a sad thing to do, because it has made my ability to be spontaneous about posts literally vanish. 

I wish I could go back to the days when I was in uni where I used to just blog without concern for what others would think or say or do. I need to return to that notion of freedom. 

But it’s hard. It’s become especially harder ever since I made a career out of writing. In some ways, it was as I feared: I’ve gotten writing down to a science when it comes to making money out of it. But when it comes to the form of writing that I truly love and crave (that being creative writing, namely), I have little to show for it. 

I am especially jealous and sore to note that a long time friend of mine who started out even later than I have in a writing career is actually closer to her dream now than I have ever been. 

So many times I have thought of closing down this blog. In fact, a lot of the themes I write about here aren’t new. I seem to go round in circles, revisiting the same old tunes and stories every few posts or so. 

Have I lost that little bit of magic? That penchant for just letting words take me wherever they will, not caring about what story might ensue? 

I feel I have. And honestly, I feel empty. Like I have nothing to offer. It’s frightening. 

I have more than a dozen articles to my name. Google searches turn up articles I have written in the past, some of which are, in my opinion, pretty decent. But none that I am really proud of. 

How do I keep the passion bit of the equation alive in my writing? That is something I continue to struggle with. 

I also tend to beat myself up (virtually, of course) over the fact that I have no nice images for my blog posts. As if images themselves were the main attraction. They do help, no doubt. But they aren’t necessary. They’re just another one of those impulses that I’m stuck with thanks to journalism. 

So what do I do now? Be as random as can be for my blog posts, I suppose. Till I find my true voice. Till clarity descends and the fog in my head lifts. 

Until the day the prose I write is golden, and it moves hearts the way I have always wished it would. 

Content and contentment

I was just talking to a church friend yesterday about blogging, and she was lamenting how most people nowadays tend to blog just so they can get attract advertisers and get sponsorship or freebies. I guess that’s what the blogosphere has become.

Not to mention even blog services themselves like this one here that have started to limit its free users from accessing source codes and tweaking themes to their own liking, then charging them before granting them the ability to do so. That’s just… mean. In my opinion, anyway.

In another conversation that I also had yesterday which was with my husband, we were talking about our blogging styles and saying that we were pretty similar in our approach. We both like to make our blog posts count and produce content we’re proud of, hence tend to blog less or until a brilliant idea strikes. This being opposed to the approach of most in the blogging community who tend to post really frequently, with some posts taking on the form of what my church friend had described.

Well, I suppose there isn’t harm in attempting to catch advertisers’ eyes and hoping to monetise your blog. Perhaps one day when I become a pauper (which may be pretty soon considering my income has less than halved now that I have turned into a Work At Home Mum) I will take on this approach too out of desperation.

But until then… I have mixed feelings about going down this route.

Having advertisers involved in the picture (however much in the background you think you’ve kept them) will undoubtedly affect your content because for everything someone else gives you in the world of business (read: funding of any form or function), it is NEVER for free or WITHOUT a agenda somewhere that’s meant to benefit themselves financially. I learned this way back in business school, where from day #1 it was drummed into our head that the heart of business is making profits.

I don’t know, perhaps it’s just me being picky based on my bad experiences as a journalist that’s got me thinking that everyone out there has evil intentions. But yeah, I’d much rather have control over my own content, thank you very much.

Even if it’s lousy content, at least I have creative license to present it however I please. And to blog as often or as infrequently as I like. After all, blogs were meant to be spaces on the Web for personal expression. It’s sad that we taint it so much with a desire to earn big bucks. Why not just limit such ambitions to .com sites?

I don’t really consider blogs where people are paid for writing content as truly blogs. They’re just websites. But that’s just me, I suppose.

This is probably because I remember a time back in my uni days where my friends and I used to connect through browsing each other’s blogs and leaving comments on the posts we read. As public as our writing was, it felt like a private community that was close knit.

It feels like nowadays hardly anyone reads blogs of those they know anymore. Unless, of course, it shows up on a social media news feed somewhere. Or some supporter of the blogger concerned goes and posts to promote the said blog and then it goes viral and then everybody around the world suddenly wants to know who the blogger behind that brilliant post is.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s not just advertisers that have ruined blogging, it’s also social media. In general, social networking sites have propagated  a culture of using stickers and emojis, sharing videos and accumulating Likes, and in the process, have started a snowball effect of original content becoming under appreciated.

I open up my Twitter feed nowadays and practically all I see are just tweets posted by corporations. This in exclusion of the sponsored posts. How come I can’t even see what my friends are posting anymore?

I don’t hate social media nor am I saying that making profits should be an activity banished from the minds of humankind, but I guess I’m just expressing my sadness at how much money making has clouded out the good things and the freedom of expression on the Web.

For me as a writer, it is especially disheartening because it feels like no one really wants to read anything anymore. They just want a list of funny things to laugh at, plastered all over the Internet on quirky sites with dubious names that can’t possibly offer you anything deep enough to leave you with something to think about long after you’re done browsing the pages on their site.

Memes. Animated GIFs. Short videos that are solely for entertainment and have no hidden meaning in their presentation or story plots. Photos haphazardly taken and uploaded a dozen a day without thought about composition or any attempt at all to convey a meaningful message. Just an unending page of pictures of holiday destinations, food, we-fies, selfies…

This is what we have become on the Internet today. A community of people with short attention spans, with no voice of our own, only a collection of Liked posts to our name and endless streams of self indulgent photos and videos.

Keyboard warriors who are more concerned in voicing out our dissenting opinions and virtually bashing to a pulp anyone online who dares disagree with our views.

It seems like no one is reading or listening anymore. It feels futile to write anything. This is the climate I find myself battling each time I write a blog post.

But then I ask myself, who and what am I writing a blog for?

Is it to be read, to have my thoughts understood by another complete stranger trawling the Web?

Or to find my voice, to practice and improve my writing in preparation for writing that One Great Novel someday?

Or, could it be that I just want to express myself adequately and often enough that I feel satisfied to have sufficiently emptied myself of all alarmingly burgeoning emotions or thoughts?

My blog hosting subscription renewal due date is coming up. So these are the thoughts bouncing about inside my head as a result. I’ll mostly probably be renewing it. Just that… I feel I need a better reason to keep blogging but am not finding it.

I realise so much of how I post on this blog has become influenced by whether I think the topic I have in mind is interesting to the general public. And whether I have a suitable image to accompany my draft because well, nobody wants to stare at a page full of text with not pictures these days.

Since when did such things cloud my judgment? I am disappointed with myself for becoming this way. Why should I tailor my blog to suit the needs of a random stranger who cares nothing about my life or knows zilch about the person that I am?

This is why I still struggle whenever I blog nowadays. In fact, it’s not just for the blog, but just whenever I write in general. The value of honing a private voice seems to have been drowned out by the need to perfect a socially acceptable public voice.

But some of the most brilliant written works have been what was written in secret. While confined in some quiet, hidden corner of the world where no intruders could disturb the concentration of a writer freely articulating what was in his or her heart.

I feel as though I used to know how to get to such places once upon a time. I want to find a way to get back there again.

And I guess that’s what this is all about. Writing the stuff that matters. The honest words that someday, someone can reflect upon and feel nourished to the very core of their souls.

That’s the kind of fuel I need to keep writing. And I’m discovering, to my dismay, that the Web isn’t quite the place to cultivate such precious things, unfortunately.

Destiny and other dangerous dilemmas in life

Okay, so I have a confession to make.

After growing up as a Christian and learning to hone a relationship with God, I actually feel quite disappointed. Here’s why.

Back in the days when I was a teen, I remember listening to tons of sermons about God’s will for me and how He has wonderful things in store for my life and that I will rise up to become an adult who will eventually do great things for Him.

I guess most of us who grew up in Christian circles would be familiar with these sorts of positive messages, which were usually accompanied by an exhortation to lead a life that’s pure and holy by always standing up for what we believe in; sharing our faith with others; abstaining from pre-marital sex, drugs and every common kind of evil which tempts a teen; and developing a close and personal relationship with Jesus.

Looking back at those times, I guess I can see what these preachers and spiritual leaders were trying to accomplish. They were sowing seeds of faith in the lives of us youth, giving us hope for our distant future and encouraging us to plod along in our spiritual walk by telling us that it will all be worth something in the end.

I believe those words did get me through many difficult seasons in my teenage days. Days when I struggled with believing that I was someone of value to God or when I felt all alone and unnoticed as I did my best to serve God and maintain that fine balance in life where I was adhering to His commandments for my life and at the same time, excelling in my studies.

But in some ways, the awesome promises put across by those speakers of my teenage days often make me question if I have really ever attained that abundant life in God that I’m supposed to have possessed now that I’m an adult.

Back then, they could successfully encourage us by asking us to look ahead and believe that there was a whole lot of exciting things in store for our lives. So much potential lay before us. Studies had not yet been completed, careers and life partners still unchosen, financial decisions that would tie us down for many years to come a distant concern.

Here, however, in my 30s, I have experienced all these things already.

I have earned my passage rites into the working world, changed jobs, worked out a career path that is agreeable to my personality and achievable based on my given abilities.

I have dated, been proposed to, married and now have a child on the way.

My husband and I have made multiple decisions about money, some of which will impact our lives for years to come. Loans to pay. Investments made in earnest, in the hopes that we will have enough to survive in the twilight years of our lives.

Now that I am at this juncture of my life, I feel that everything is undeniably so… ordinary. Relating with others has taught me that much that I experience is common to what others go through. I am not particularly outstanding, I just am here and have a certain lot in life which God has graciously afforded me.

But there is no great plan that unfolded before me. No conquest into unknown worlds or slaying of giants. No throngs of people asking Jesus to be their Lord and Saviour all because of my life.

And so, I feel a tad disappointed.

Perhaps also thankful in a way… since if I had that wilderness wandering, death defying, giant slaying life I’d probably not be living the quiet, peaceful way that I am today.

I would likely not be married. Maybe not even have a full time job and would be instead a pastor or the head of some obscure church ministry. I’d be travelling to remote places to reach out to a group of strangers that I was somehow convicted about and believed God wants me to preach the gospel to. I’d have potentially no savings, and a huge treasure stored up in heaven.

Or perhaps that’s just the stereotype Christian martyr lifestyle that we were all raised to believe. It could all have been just a misguided concept of what the ideal Christian ought to be doing with their life.

The reality might be that God intended for me to be exactly where I am in life right now and that this is the spectacular future that He has always planned for me to possess.

There’s no denying there have been plenty of miracles and blessings I’ve encountered along the way. No fireworks or explosions or mighty signs and wonders though. Just tiny sparks of meaning, that remind me at just the right time that there is a God who cares about me after all.

It’s a dilemma of sorts that I face here. Whether to just be content with my lot in life and to give it my best shot, or whether to refuse to believe that this is all that there is to it, and to strive endlessly for that elusive Christian greatness that could be out there for me. Or might not be.

Either option requires faith. So perhaps choosing either response may not be wrong.

What do you think?

Tiny corner

Image source: Homestation Magazine
Image source: Homestation Magazine

Perhaps I should add a visitor counter to this blog. Just so my suspicions can be confirmed by solid facts.

Most of the time, I get the feeling that this blog isn’t really read by much of anyone. Or maybe even no one at all. I don’t think many people even remember I have a blog. Well, I’m not about to go out of my way to make that fact known… again.

Anyway, it’s pretty much accurate to say that I don’t really write the kind of stuff that people like to read about.

Based on social media trends these days, I have been led to think that in general, most people  like to read about unusual stuff, sensational news and just any tidbit of information that gives them the lowdown on what everyone else is interested in. They are especially interested in the latter because they want to pick up on whatever that thing it is that is being highlighted just so that they can fit in with the rest of the crowd.

These are just my observations, which may or may not be an accurate view. Just saying.

By the way, I’m really sorry that I’m actually wasting your life by making you read this extremely pessimistic and useless post. It’s one of those nights where I don’t feel so brilliant and am almost convinced that the world has no real need for me.

Perhaps it’s just the way that I’m dealing with a tiny bout of anger that has been festering since earlier tonight.

What does anger have to do with self-defeating conversations like this one, you may wonder. Well, I’m not entirely sure I know how to answer you. All  know is that, based on past experiences, it seems to be the case that negative feelings tend to come in a package.

High chance is that you’ll end up with two, five, ten, for the price of one. Don’t say nobody warned you.

Well, just so you know, I often think about what I should blog about for this website of mine. In fact, lately I have been pondering this even more than usual. I guess I want to make it count for something. So that if ever anyone actually ventures out here, they will feel their lives enriched just because of something I had written.

That’s a hard thing to do though, because it’s difficult to figure out what exactly people need to read in order to feel enlightened or cheered up or wiser.

Plus, the question also comes to mind whether I should be blogging for the sake of creating people pleasing content. Or instead, whether I should just say my piece and just let it be…  regardless of the outcome.

Mess mania

Illustration: This mess is a place
Image source: This Mess is a Place

There is this ongoing mental list of things that I’d like to accomplish within my lifetime. The list keeps growing, and to be honest, I rarely get round to actually doing any of the items on that list.

Sometimes, when I want to describe how it feels like with all these cluttered thoughts littering the insides of my head, the word that comes to mind is “messy”. My thought life is a mess.

Perhaps you can blame it on the fact that most of us Gen Ys are easily distracted. I do admit that one of the reasons that I think of so many things to do and never really act on them is the fact that it is really easy for me to get sidetracked and end up focusing on something I hadn’t intended on actually doing in the first place than the original task I had in mind.

What I’m doing right now is a classic example. I’m writing a blog post when I should in fact be vacuuming the floor. At least that’s what I told myself I would aim to do before Deric and I left home to go over to my parent’s place for dinner tonight.

The other thing about this mental list of To-Dos that I store in my head is that I think very often I procrastinate getting down to getting them done because I have some irrational level of fear regarding those items.

For example, one constant item that has been on the list for years is “Write a book”. I’ve always wanted to publish a beautifully bound, hard copy of something that I’ve written. And if it can make money for me as well, even better.

But for some reason or another, I’ve always put it off. Ideas have come and gone, and I discard most of them because I think they’re lousy and I fear that absolutely NO ONE will ever be interested in them or would even want to read any further than the first sentence once they’ve laid eyes on my masterpiece.

So, mainly because these two reasons (endless distractions and ridiculous fears), my mind is a mess and my ambitions stay stuck, hanging in the balance.

I am now 30 years of age. I have probably already lived a third or half of my life span as it is. I really must find a better way of getting the items on my list done before the unexpected moment of death creeps up on me. I don’t really relish the thought of ending my life wrapped up in feelings of regret.

These are the thoughts that I am carrying with me today as I think about the week that is before me (Deric and I are on leave the whole of this week – a rarity, yet I have this uncanny tendency of being able to waste such time as this all too easily) and the fact that 2013 is very quickly reaching its conclusion.

Sometimes I wonder why God has made me so much of a dreamer. I feel it is one of my greatest follies.