when existential angst seizes you on a Thursday night

WAIT.

It’s been more than A MONTH since I wrote my last blog post? Not just, I don’t know, two weeks?? Where did all that time go???

I honestly thought it’s only been at most three weeks since I last blogged. The past month, like all those before it, flew by with deadlines and events and the mad rush at work to clear my Inbox (when will I ever have zero unread mail?) and check things off the never-ending to-do list.

Every time I realise how quickly time has passed and how completely oblivious I have been about that, this suffocating sadness settles over me.

And along with it comes even more panic.

On top of worrying whether I’ve replied all the urgent emails and cleared everything flagged as top priority on my to-do list and accounted to all the relevant people, I also worry about all the time I’m wasting NOT doing the things I love or actually care about.

Sometimes, I don’t know if this anxiety and sadness (I won’t call it depression because it would discount what true depression sufferers are going through) is normal, if everyone my age feels the same way, as though we’re juggling multiple things in our lives and may lose our grasp on any one of them any second, or if things will get better as soon as I make the bold leap out of my current circumstance.

What if I’m just leaping into another big mistake?

What if this is as good as it gets, and I just need to grit my teeth and get through it?

What about all the other unexplored possibilities out there?

What am I giving up by staying in my comfort zone?

What if I sacrifice safety by venturing out?

Is there any guarantee at all for anything??

Okay, that just got way too heavy for the night. I’m not here to mope and moan again. This was supposed to be a quick update on the WIP, the short story blog, and other (frankly, nonexistent) life updates. I just got triggered by the time that has lapsed since my last post.

I’ll leave the trend-of-thought rambling for sessions with my therapist. For now, there’s always Rilke and his sagely advice

Okay, updates.

  1. On Neverland

On the writing front, I’m still working my way through draft six of NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND. It’s slow-going, especially for Act II, and I understand why some of the agents I queried pointed out the saggy middle. Because the middle IS saggy. I got bored reading it, which means my readers will too.

The question, now, is how to create more tension in Act II and keep the story plodding along. And I can’t move on until this is resolved. Hence, a brief stalemate.

2. On the short story blog

The four of us have decided to take down the pace a notch over at our short story blog. I explained it in this post, but basically we felt that one short story a month, on top of other posts every week, was too hectic given our respective commitments with our day jobs, family, our own WIPs, and everything else.

So instead of a weekly short story, we’ll be posting one fortnightly. Better a short story that we’ve spent time and effort on than one that we churn out for the sake of meeting deadlines, right?

3. On life

Well, what more is there to say? I’ve been cooped up in a bubble, ricocheting between work and writing, work and writing.

Thank goodness for steadfast friends who keep me sane and are unfailingly patient, ceaselessly encouraging, and immensely kind. (And you, dear reader, for being forgiving of my liberal use of adverbs).

A friend of mine said that we, as writers, need to feed our soul in order to create stories that in turn feed others’ souls. That we shouldn’t see the time we spend not writing as wasted, but as nourishment for when we do sit down and write.

Another friend told me that we shouldn’t see life as a race to the destination. Even if we have a goal in mind, the journey itself is worth paying attention to, and we need to live in every single moment that takes us to our destination eventually, even if that means watching YouTube videos or taking a day off just to roam around the city.

(Seriously, how are my friends so wise and in the know?!)

It reminded me of a quote from one of my favourite YA authors, Sarah Dessen:

sarah dessen the truth about forever.jpg

And of course, that Rilke quote about living the questions now so that we might one day, finally, live into the answer is a timeless source of comfort.

Looking back on 2016, I was sooo hung up on not having completed a manuscript. I kept feeling like I had wasted an entire year. And I put so much pressure on myself because I told myself I have big plans for my life and can’t afford to slacken.

But if I hadn’t spent my time reading those books, watching those dramas, pursuing those ideas, attending orchestra concerts on weekends, going through the necessary angst, or giving myself the time and space to do things outside of writing (i.e. living), I wouldn’t have come up with two new novel plots that get my heart racing and my fingers itching to write every time I think about them.

Sometimes, I think my gaze is so fixed on the finish line that my view becomes entirely blinkered and I ignore everything else around me. Still working on that.

I guess what I’m trying to say, after all this rambling is, I will learn to trust in the journey. I hope you will too, dear reader, and I hope you’ll find your forever in the moments you’re living right now.

steve jobs connect the dots.png

Bali Bound! (and struck by quarter-life crisis)

bali I’m off to Bali this Thursday! And given that it’s my first time there, as well as my insane love for the sea, you can be sure I’ll be flooding this spot with pictures after I get back.

This is a much-needed break from the routine I’ve gotten so used to. Working, writing, sleeping, swimming. I know I have the luxury to swim every morning, and time after work to write, something a lot of my peers don’t because they are so consumed with work. But I just feel like I’m … grazing. Going about my same old routine in the safety of my comfort zone. And lately I just feel trapped, going stir-crazy in the same spot, still not going anywhere two years after graduation. But then the thought of stepping out of what I know paralyses me with fear.

I know I’m not the only twenty-something who feels this way. Do you feel like there’s just so much you want to do, places to go, people to meet, but there are so many factors holding you back? Money, family, the conventional way to live. I’m supposed to get a job straight after graduation, get promoted within a few years, meet someone along the way, get married by 30, have two kids – all because that’s the “right” way to live. What if there are other options? I wouldn’t know what other options are out there because I haven’t really stepped out and LIVED.

A lot of people – especially those older than us – think that quarter-life crisis is laughable. The thought that we should suffer from that debilitating sense of aimlessness is ridiculous, because we’re only just starting out in the real world. But I think this is the point in our lives where we start panicking because we feel like we should have done so many things already, but haven’t achieved anything much. I’m nowhere near my goals, relationship or career wise, while people around me are getting married, having babies, and making the news.

What do you think, is this just me being greedy, wanting everything without daring to take the first step? Maybe this is the “loneliness loop” people talk about:

… it’s possible for us introverts to get stuck in a cycle of loneliness. This “loneliness loop” can happen because staying home alone is often our default. We might find it hard to muster up the energy to hang out with people, especially after a long day of work or classes.

Plus, we don’t like superficial socializing: “We desire and require deep connections and would rather be lonely alone than in a crowd,” Dembling writes in a Psychology Today blog post. “But realistically, those deep connections are not easy to find, and if we get caught short and our only choice is superficial socializing or nothing, we can get lonely.”

Anyway, this post is getting too depressing. On to better news. I’m charging through the last 50 pages or so of No Room in Neverland. Here’s where the words pour out and sweep you towards the end. It’s the most exhilarating part, and also the most all-consuming. The part where you live, breathe, and dream about the story, where it creeps into your veins and you become it and vice versa. Full speed till the end!

On a not-so-upbeat note, I received another rejection letter for Until Morning:

Dear Joyce,

Thank you for the email and interest in The [name redacted] Literary Agency. I’ve carefully reviewed your query and submission of UNTIL MORNING.

You are a very skilled writer, and I find your overall premise of this story to be quite interesting. With that said, I’m wanting to feel more connected to the characters of the shifting points of view (Lexi and Sam). And while I don’t want to know every detail in the first couple chapters, I want to have a pretty good grasp of what the story is about, so that as a reader, I’m fully there.

With that said, possibly another agent or agency will feel differently, and I wish you well on your search for the perfect home for this story!

All my best, Vicki

But while it is a rejection letter, I’m strangely glad to receive it. Beats receiving NO reply at all, at any rate. I’m this close to giving up on Until Morning. This is what I mean by being trapped. You try and try and try and try and try. And try again. But you’re just not going anywhere.

it takes courage to grow up

Illustration by Kris Di Giacomo

So yes, Bali. Bali is much needed.

Have a crisis-free week!