The sad state of affairs … and how art can save us

make-art-be-kind
It’s been a sobering two days since the US presidential elections, and I’ve had some time to sort out my jumbled thoughts and calm my frayed nerves somewhat.
Like I’ve told my writing sisters – Nicole, Meredith, and Becky, all of whom are beside themselves over the results – I am incredibly saddened by the turn of events.
This isn’t about Republican or Democrat, Leftist or Rightist, Liberal or Conservative leanings. This isn’t about partisanship or even gender (at least, not entirely).
It’s about the injustice and pure atrocity of it all – that a sexual predator, conman, and self-entitled schmuck who has done nothing but spread messages of hate and divisiveness and even unapologetically encouraged violence done unto his protesters could even have the chance to step into the White House and fill the seat meant for the most powerful person in the world. Am I the only one who finds it insulting to Mr Obama that such a man is his successor? 
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My sentiments exactly, sir.

It’s about the fact that an immensely qualified and experienced, passionate and driven woman like Hillary Clinton had been scorned in favour of a chest-thumping zealot with no political experience, who doesn’t fact-check or prepare for a debate, and has consistently belittled and derided and even threatened his political opponent. The fact that she has dedicated a huge part of her life to public service means nothing because EMAILS (never mind that the other candidate had admitted publicly that he had groped women before because that’s trivial compared to those emails, right?).
Months of following this circus show has brought us to this disappointing finale. But for the American people, this is their reality and it will be their reality for the next four years. I am just a spectator.
But then again, I am not. Because I – and many other non-Americans – are global citizens. We are all human. And we can all relate to the ideals and values that were being championed and upheld during this election. While Trump’s campaign was fuelled by hate and bigotry and often pure ignorance, Hillary’s rhetoric on unity and love never once faltered throughout the entire election season.
And you can tell that Hillary really does believe in a more inclusive nation that has space for everyone who isn’t just a straight white male. The cynical ones would probably point out the irony of her speaking about equality when she has lived in her ivory tower all her life as a privileged Yale-educated white woman. But she didn’t break this glass ceiling now, did she?
But I believe that someday that glass ceiling will be shattered, if not by Hillary, then by someone else just as qualified and passionate and dedicated as her.
michelle-obama-on-women
I’ve exhausted myself ranting to anyone who will listen about why a Trump presidency is a sign of all the toxic things that are about to come. Hillary was robbed, by no less than an inexperienced, hateful, shit-stirring buffoon. She deserved so much more than this – all the irrational hate and prejudice – and I still believe that she deserves to be America’s first female president in her lifetime.
It was heartbreaking watching her concession speech. That was a picture of a woman who had invested everything into the cause she believed in, and who had come SO close to achieving it not just for herself but for women all around the world, a picture of a woman whose dream was shattered and who was trying to compose herself and behave with class and poise even until the end when she left the stage.
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Nonetheless, she has fought hard. She fought hard for minorities, and she fought hard for women. She fought for those who were afraid their parents would get deported, and for intelligent, hardworking women who just want fair opportunities in life.
And I believe she will keep fighting. Because she’s Hillary Rodham Clinton. If she could put up with an angry chauvinistic sexist constantly interrupting her while she was trying to make a point without wanting to rip his face off, then she has the mettle, patience, and resilience to weather through a setback as monumental as this.
Say what you will about her past scandals, blow the email business out of proportion if you must, but you can’t deny that she is a trailblazer in her own right. She has inspired many women and people from minority groups everywhere to strive for the dreams they want to achieve.  
 
So take heart. This fight against misogyny and racism and homophobia, this fight for love and tolerance and compassion, is far from over. If anything, it is just beginning and I think Hillary gave us a pretty amazing head-start. 
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I ache for the millions of women who had invested their hopes and dreams in her and stood alongside her to fight for a better future. But despite all the violence and hate I’ve seen over the past few months – enough to make me lose faith in the world – I am grateful for all the love, acceptance, and compassion my American friends have demonstrated.
And in these tumultuous, confusing times, art – the expression of the self, the envisioning of a world that we want to live in – is more important than ever.
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Art has always been a channel to represent under-represented minorities, a means to call out day-to-day injustices, and a mirror that reflects the society and realities that we live in. But it is in times of uncertainty and despair that art becomes an even more powerful medium: a mouthpiece to speak up against tyranny, a sword that we continually sharpen and wield to slay the demons of bigotry and hate, and also a balm that heals the ravaged hearts and restores the battered spirits of those on the front line every day.
So for those who opted for love over hate, stay strong, take your time to grieve, but then dust off your shoulders and rise even higher than before. Make good art, let your voices be heard. We writers have the power to change the world, one story at a time. It is not a lofty ideal; it is our mission.
Love always,
Joyce xx
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The Value of Dreams in a Numbers-Driven World

A friend and I caught up over coffee the other day, where we talked about how jaded we were doing work that wasn’t what we fully believed in or what fuelled our actual dreams, and how our creative efforts were being overshadowed by the demand for tangible returns.

Basically, in the corporate world everything comes down to profits. Revenue. Sales. Site traffic. Everything quantifiable in numbers, in other words. But what if you’re someone creating things that can’t or shouldn’t be quantified with numbers, how then do you measure success or worth?

Sometimes it seems like you just can’t win. That art will always come secondary to profits. What good is an ad or campaign if it’s not going to generate sales? What’s the point of an article if it doesn’t resonate with X number of people and they’re not sharing it on social media? We’re told that dreams are worthless until they can be realised, that our art is only as valuable as the amount of money it can be traded for. We start to internalise this yardstick and whip it out when deciding if what we’re creating is good enough.

And I think that’s the reason people give up on their creative dreams. Nobody sees the value in what they produce, so they think it’s pointless to pursue it.

But really:

It’s such a waste when people give up on their creative dreams because they think their dreams have no place in their environment or society they live in. My dad, for instance, gave up on art school because he thought it was more important to seek gainful employment to help the family. Till this day, he wonders how things might have worked out differently if he had studied design communication like he wanted to.

There is always a place for our art. For more art. And there are people out there who might actually need it, or at least enjoy it. I think as artists (I’m defining this word here as anyone with dreams of creation), we tend to forget that. We think that being in a numbers-driven world what we can offer is of little or no value, or that what we do will always be under-appreciated.

But as long as there is one person out there who believes in your art and your creation and your dreams, then it is your duty to keep producing work to sustain not just them but also – and more importantly – yourself.

This post by Laini Taylor bears re-sharing. Seriously, read it. It will change your life.

We artists are needy! We need constant reminders to keep fighting the good fight. It’s why most artists I know have motivational messages stuck all over their computer screens or walls

This is what’s on my wall.
Or occasionally turn to books like

And

To reignite that spark in themselves.

 

Sometimes, I think it might be easier if I were an analytical, logical ENTJ. But then I think, Nah, I wouldn’t give up my penchant to dream or any part of my creative life just so things would be easier. Being an INFP may be more complex, but it is also very rewarding.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the need for numbers and weekly reports. They are the most straightforward way to assess the merit of a project, or track the performance and growth of a channel.

But the world also needs artists. People who dream. People who create. It’s the only way humanity can move forward. Sounds grandiose, but I do believe artists, innovators, creators and dreamers are the ones who ask the “right” questions. Not “how much”, but “what if” and “why”.

So if you’re asking those questions and constantly thinking of new ways to tell your stories – be it in a novel, a poem, a song, a dance, a painting, a photo, an ad, whatever – just remember that the world needs your stories, and you owe it to yourself to make your voice heard.

And if you think no one out there appreciates or cares about your art, for what it’s worth there’s always me, rooting for all the artists dreaming big and fighting to leave their fingerprints on the world.
So go forth and unleash your art, and guard it with your life!

Monday link salad!

A post full of random stuff today:

Funny fashion memes. Anna Wintour meets Mean Girls, anyone? Also:

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Strange things people found in walls. Money and shoes, I get (sort of), but fingernail clippings and hair?

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This old post from ex literary agent (now author), Nathan Bransford that offers a really useful tip for figuring out your novel: creating one-sentence, one-paragraph, and two-paragraph pitches.

A query is basically a two paragraph pitch with some query-related detail. But sometimes you’ll want to use a one sentence pitch (for a bio, if you’re into that whole brevity thing), or a one paragraph pitch (for briefly describing in real life conversation when you don’t want someone’s eyes to glaze over).

My feeling: get it all out of the way at once. Save yourself the headache and come up with a one sentence, one paragraph, and two paragraph pitch before you even start to query. Then: practice and memorize your pitches. You never know when you’re going to need them.

Speaking from experience, it really does help to have a pitch ready even before you plunge into the novel. You get a clearer sense of where your story is going, what the conflict is, and what the stakes are. You also get to pare down your character to his/her most basic trait, the one that defines her and her actions, and the one that you as a writer set out to change by the end of the story.

I should have done that for Neverland. (Actually, I should have done that for all my novels.) Maybe then I wouldn’t have gotten stuck.

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Also, I’ve started blogging for work.

One of the plus points of working for an online fashion retailer is that I get to fangirl over fashion trends and celebrity styles unabashedly in the name of work and write about them. Is this the marrying of two loves?

I’ve written quite a number of these articles so far, but the team is selective about what goes on the blog, and when. Here is one article I wrote about “must-have tops“.

Of course, they’re not really must-haves — people just write that to get you to read the article ;0)

 

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Blood Promise, otherwise known as The Manuscript That Will Not Yield, is in the midst of some radical changes right now. I intend to rip out the awful saggy middle and whip it into something that will put Victoria’s Secret models to shame …

Okay, that’s quite a mean feat. I mean, it’ll be really hard to top this:

Favourite VS angel ever, Doutzen Kroes.

 

But it’s okay. Because I HAVE A PLAN NOW. So let’s do this.

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In the meantime, I will heed this advice.

And this:

 

And keep happy with these:

from allthingsshabbyandbeautiful.tumblr.com

Peter Pan quote

 

Oh, stop. What are you trying to do to me?!

by Gelrev Ongbico

 

The view from the pier yesterday

 

Also, I’m really loving D&E’s new album. Aside from When You Cry, which I shared in an earlier post, this song, Teenage Queen, is another favourite. So catchy and upbeat!

 

And on that note, have a great week, everyone! :0)

monday happy things!

So, a few things:

 

1. Singapore is in bloom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Said it before, and I’ll say it again. The world is more beautiful with flowers in it.

 

 

2. On a whim, Dad and I visited the zoo on his birthday last Saturday. Pictures will come … soon enough. But first, this:

 

Saturdays – this polar bear is doing it right.

 

3. I am thisclose to giving up on Neverland.

 

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I know, I know. Yet another story that didn’t make it. (To be fair, I might have given up on Until Morning – then called Mint – but I went back to complete it eventually.)

 

But I’ve tried to hold on for as long as I can – 198 pages, in fact – but I can’t ignore the voice that’s telling me this is all wrong – the story is told wrongly, the characters are weak, the conflict falls flat, there’s no heart in the story anymore, and it’s futile to press on for the sake of pressing on.

 

 

I hate quitting in the middle of a story. I feel like a failure, like oh there she goes again, unable to see things through and giving up halfway. But I know that the more I drag this on, the worse the story is going to get, and at some point I won’t be able to return to the place where the story fell apart because I’ve lost sight of it.

 

 

 

So maybe I’m not going to divorce myself from Neverland completely, but I’m definitely taking a break from it. Problem is, I tried getting started on Indigo Tides, and my brain just got equally blocked.

 

 

 

 

Over at Writers Helping Writers, they pointed out three signs you should take a break from your novel, and I ticked every one of them:

… here’s the best thing about these often sad experiences. They really aren’t failures. They’re just stepping stones. As Samuel Beckett said: Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

If you feel you’re writing a dead-end story, take a moment to evaluate your future with it. More likely than not, you’re going to keep on writing, edit your way to a fabulous book, and end your relationship with this story on a victorious note. But if it doesn’t quite work out that way—if you realize you need to move on—don’t count it as a failure. Close the file on your computer, take stock of what you’ve learned, and move on to write your next masterpiece.

 

Rachel Coker over at Go Teen Writers offers equally upbeat advice.

 

But then YA writer Malinda Lo, advises against giving up during the drafting stage:

I think the main thing that causes discouragement during the drafting stage is the idea that writing a novel is an exciting, fun-filled, joyful experience full of blissful, genius inspiration and creativity. Any writer who sits down expecting this experience is going to be thoroughly disappointed and will probably want to give up.

For years and years I struggled with discouragement because those moments of genius came so few and far between. I’d have fabulous ideas and launch right into writing novels, and a few chapters in I’d come to a screeching halt when all the fun seemed to get sucked right out of the story. I’d struggle with continuing for a little while, but soon I’d give up.

In retrospect, I know why I gave up. Those story ideas weren’t exciting enough. The characters weren’t interesting enough. And I expected writing to be fun, because it used to be fun.

I know exactly when writing ceased being 100% fun and games for me: when I decided that I wanted to get published.

In my case, this is how I learned how to not get so discouraged that I wanted to give up:

I chose to write a story that I’d wanted to write forever: a retelling of Cinderella.

When I encountered things in life that forced me to stop writing for awhile, I tried to not beat myself up about not writing.

When I felt ready to write again, I picked up from where I’d left off.

I stopped expecting writing to be 100% fun and games.

I didn’t give myself a deadline; I let myself take my time.

I didn’t start other projects when things got difficult.

I didn’t allow myself to think about getting published while writing the first draft. I wrote the story for me.

 

Yes, maybe some distance will help. Neverland, I will be back! (I promise.)

 

Meanwhile, if you’re experiencing a brain fart like I am right now, here’s something to chase the writer’s blues away.

 

Also, Mondays may be the busiest day of the week, but there’s always time for a little happy:

 

 

 

 

Super Junior M is back! And Donghae is in glasses!

 

 

Oh, Park Bom!

 

Remember when Stefan was the Ripper?

 

 

A very liberating quote
 

A very empowering quote

 

Have a great week, everyone! :0)

mid-week moodlifters!

So it’s been more than a week since my splat moment by the pool. Apparently, I landed right on my coccyx (that’s tailbone in layman terms), and a little to the right, so I’m working from home for the entire month. On the plus side, I get to belt out songs like this –

And this –

while I work.

Downside: the lack of company. Skype and Whatsapp and Facebook messaging are just not the same as talking to your colleagues face-to-face or watching the bustle of activity in the office.

And of course, the pain.

The healing is slow going, but stretching and swimming help loads. Thank goodness for swimming. I don’t know what I’d do if I weren’t able to swim. I can’t fold over the way I used to be able to, but, you know, baby steps.

This is probably the reason for the strange bout of wanderlust I’m experiencing right now. I mean, look!

Bagan, Myanmar
Broome, Australia
Santorini, Greece
Oh, Jeju! How I miss you.

Reason to ogle at swoon over appreciate pretty things? I think so. Hence:

 

by Bae Ha Jin
by Chantel Young

Reason for some happy things? Yes to that, too.

Thank goodness for mood-lifters like these! Happy mid-week, everyone! :0)

Monday (much needed) moodlifters!

I hope this isn’t too much to ask of you, March, but please be kind to me!

Some much needed mood-lifters for today after the fall I had in the morning by the pool (fell on my ass and hit my head and now I’m walking like an old lady):

Here’s some pretty:

by Yoshinori Kobayashi

And some funny:

Oh, RDJ!
Which Olsen is this? Ha, she’s adorable!

And finally, some lovely:

Ugh, awful start to the week (and the month). But this will NOT dampen my spirits. I will heal! I am Wolverine! (Wolverina?)

Hope your week is going better than mine! :0)

Valentine’s Day lovelies

Too many links and pictures to share this Monday! But first, a recap of the weekend.*

*Which is probably just a nicer way of saying, “Here’s some photo-dumping and inane rambling.” But there you go.

Saturday was spent writing.

 

And writing.

 

And more writing.

 

By Sunday, I was ready to break out of the house. After our usual brunch, my dad and I went strolling around town and booked a trip to Taiwan in late March. Yay, travel!

I really believe that it doesn’t matter where you go or what you do that matters, but the company you keep. My dad and I don’t go to special places often, or eat or live extravagantly, but I always have a good time with him, even when we’re just rambling around town, taking photos.

Because the tour agency was in Chinatown, we ended up walking around the area. (Yes, again. It’s funny, but from architecture to shops to people, there seems to be endless things to discover no matter how many times we visit that place.)

 

 

 

 

 

And because I am irrationally obsessed with flowers, I went a little shutter-crazy here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s that for the weekend. And now, link salad!

1. Being a writer is a lot more like sitting alone with your computer, ploughing through the suck of your own doing, sending out query letters and hoping and wishing and praying for someone to love your story. Sometimes, reality falls short of our expectations. But thank goodness for critique partners, awesome writers who write beautiful books, and green tea!

2. This infographic shows the million and one things you’re doing wrong with your script, which can also be applied to any story you’re writing.

3. By the way, I never realised how snarky Disney characters were until this post! For instance,

 

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Check out the article for more!

 

3. And since it’s Valentine’s Day week, here’s a slew of Valentine’s Day-related stuff that made me laugh out loud.

 

Something for the LOTR fans:

 

And something for singles who have plans to avoid Valentine’s Day (and the obnoxiously lovey couple or ten that are bound to appear on every other street):

 

Some grumpiness to counter those overheard love confessions and sightings of couples in matching outfits?

 

Just so we’re clear, I’m not anti-Valentine’s Day. It’s just funny how so many snarky memes have sprung up because of some holiday that now means overpriced flowers and Valentine’s Day lingerie (because, of course, Valentine’s Day is important enough to have special lingerie dedicated to it) and couple’s dining promotions more than anything else.

Speaking of love, what do you love? I’m going to list 5 things I love, and I’d love to hear your list of 5 things you love! It’s too cliched – and not to mention maudlin – to write a post on the 5 people I love, so let’s keep it light, shall we? (Of course, if you want to mention the people you love, by all means confess away.)

Go like this:

I love:

1. Lovely prose

From Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

 

From Lock and Key, by Sarah Dessen

 

From Wonder Show, by Hannah Barnaby



2. Happy babies

 

3. Pretty faces

 


4. Whimsical art

 

by Kathy Hare

 

The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry



5. Beautiful nooks and crannies in the world

Mykonos, Greece

 

Pretty lilac!

 

Atlantis Bookstore, Santorini, Greece

 

Tellaro, Italy

 

Do share your loves (and toss me a link to your list)! Pass it on, too, so more people can know about love-ly (geddit?) mood-lifters!

Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to just be about people or, more specifically, your other half. It can also be about the FEELING of being in love with someone or something, being passionate about someone or something. The feeling, not the thing. Share the things you love, and EVERYONE can be in love every day of the year, not just on Valentine’s Day.

Wow. This has been too much sappiness for one post. Think I’ll stop now, before I start vomiting rainbows and unicorns.

Unicorn Vomiting a Rainbow by TheIckyMan on Deviant Art

 

Have a lovely week! (Okay, okay. I’ll stop with the love puns now.)