Some chicken soup for the creative soul is brewing…

I know. It’s been more than a couple of weeks, and I did promise I’d blog at least fortnightly, if not weekly. But in between a back sprain and nonstop events for work, it’s only now that I managed to squeeze in some blogging time.

It’s been two week of aches and pains (which means I have to do everything slightly slower now so I don’t aggravate my back – this is torturous for someone who typically walks at 6.5km/h), and with all the work piling up in the office, I’ve been completely overwhelmed. Well okay, I got to attend a movie premier and a couple of makeup launches which weren’t quite so bad but man, the day job just doesn’t quit (pun intended)!
View this post on Instagram

#friyay #tgifridays #onassignment

A post shared by Joyce Chua (@thewritesofpassage) on

I’ve only been able to snatch a few moments here and there to work on the manuscript , but at least I’ve got some inkling of where it’s going. I’m at page 186 now so things are gaining speed, as they should. If only I can devote the time to write! As it is, I’m still trying to catch up on work and finish up a report (UGH, Excel. UGH, number-crunching)
Still, the plus side of my job is that I get to write about the things I like, such as:
insta 3
insta 2
insta 1
So there’s that, at least.
Also, I’m preparing to launch a series of interviews with creative types called Create Your Life.
The name for the interview series came about from the quote above. We’ve got a lot of storytellers in our midst – writers, artists, songwriters, musicians, and people who champion the arts – who have a lot to share about their own creative processes, inspirations and hangups. And as a writer myself, I am fascinated with how others find their stories. How they carve out a path for themselves as they venture into the unknown. How they satisfy their imagination and curiosity. How they overcome all the odds to make their dreams a reality.
View this post on Instagram

#qotd for the dream chasers @yuyanpeng

A post shared by Joyce Chua (@thewritesofpassage) on

I think this is one of the main reasons why I like Eddie so much. Not just because he’s a pretty face – there are many pretty faces around, but what makes me relate to Eddie on another level is because he is someone who is incredibly passionate about acting. He’s not just a celebrity – he’s an artist. He revels in the process of delving into his characters’ psyches, experiencing the world from their shoes, and presenting it on the screen. To him, the process of understanding and portraying his characters is what brings meaning to his job. He gets to experience life from various points of view. To him, the outcome (box office success, awards, etc) doesn’t matters as much as the process.
As writers, we aim to do the same. We want to view life through different lenses, from different perspectives, and create characters that readers can relate to, root for, and find solidarity in.
And sometimes, when it seems like the manuscript is never going to be done, or that I will never be able to find the time I need to finish it or devote more of myself to my craft, I turn to Eddie-isms, his quotes on fighting for your dreams. He’s suffered setbacks before in his career (he even considered quitting before), but through sheer grit and hard work, the willingness to take risks and to devote himself entirely to his one true passion, he has now made a name for himself and is able to do what he loves for a living.
Here are some that I return to every time I feel stranded on the same spot:
The places you’ve been, the things you’ve seen, will shape your life. If you get stuck along the way, never let yourself remain stuck. Tell yourself this is what you have to go through now so that you will come to cherish the fruits of your labour even more.
Some dreams start off very far away from us. But the more you strive to achieve them, the closer you get to them.
Stay grateful for everything you have experienced and you will find the road to your dreams a lot easier to endure.
This is the reason why I’m doing the Create Your Life series. It’s to understand other artists’ journeys towards their dreams, their struggles, their fears, what drives them, what defeats them (temporarily). Hopefully it will awaken the dreamer in the rest of us and inspire us to make something good out of our one wild and precious life 🙂
Joyce x
[Psst! You may like to read more quotes here: Writing Inspiration for the Week]

So that’s it. I’ve just told my editor I’m not staying.

My friends think I’m stupid for doing that, since it’s my first job and they think I should suck it up and stick it out.

I did agonise about leaving for weeks, wondering if I should really take up my editor’s offer to extend my contract for three more months before deciding. It’s not a bad job, and the hours are forgiving (10am to 7pm, which gives me time to swim in the morning). My editor isn’t an unreasonable boss, either, just occasionally frustrated when I make the same mistakes.

But the environment is, dare I say it, sterile, and the workload heavy and never-ending. I barely have time for water cooler breaks, much less lunch. If I take time out to eat, I’d never be able to finish my work on time and I’d have to stay on longer in the office. I don’t want to be one of those people who stay in the office the entire day and go home just to sleep. Even if it’s my first job and I need to pay my dues, this is not how I want to live. I’m in my twenties!

My dad told me to ask myself what I really REALLY want. To be happy at a job, or to to do well at a job but come home tired and stressed out every day. He asked me if I head to work with a sense of dread every day, and I realise that the good mood I start out with at the start of the day (I hum, I prance, and I just made myself sound like an idiot) is slowly but surely chipped away at by the end of the day.

Some days, just when I feel like I am in control of my work and can actually do this, I’m tossed a new assignment that I have no idea how to tackle. And with concurrent assignments I feel like I can’t keep track of everything that needs to be done or covered; there’s always something I forget or miss out, and that’s the case for every assignment I’ve had so far. There’s only so many mistakes you can make before you majorly piss someone off, and I know no matter how hard I try I will make more mistakes because I can’t multitask THAT well.

Anyway, the bottomline is, I don’t know what I want yet in terms of a full-time career (well, I do, but the one I have in mind isn’t practical – according to my dad, it’s just a HOBBY), but I know what I don’t want. I’m not a journalist, never have been – I’m not curious, I don’t probe, I’m not meticulous, I couldn’t care less about details. I just like to write. I don’t know where my love for writing (fiction) will take me, but I know that journalism is not something I want to do for long. It’ll only be a matter of time before I leave.

On an unrelated note, it’s been raining non-stop since 1am last night, which means it’s been raining for 12 hours straight. I’ve been waiting since 8am to go for a swim, which means I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR FIVE WHOLE HOURS. I am soooo restless it’s killing me! I tried pacing, I tried lifting weights, I tried dancing (or in my case, just jiggling about like an idiot), but nothing seems to work. I NEED TO SWIM. This need is gnawing away at my insides; I feel so trapped. Yes, I’m crazy, but this shouldn’t come as news to you.

I’m trying to write (at page 234 of FIFTEEN MINUTES now), but I just get so distracted. If only I could swim.

I could get used to this

It’s my third day as an intern at Cosmopolitan Singapore, and I’ve pretty much figured out my daily routine.

5.30am: Wake up
6am: Travel to the swimming complex
6.30am: Swim
7.30am: Travel home
8am: Prepare to go to work
8.30am: Set off for the office
9am – 6pm: Work
6.30pm: Reach home
7pm: Dinner
10pm: Lights out

I know. It’s the control freak in me. I need routine, I need structure, I need control. That feeling of letting go and cutting yourself some slack? Freaks me out. As long as I have a standard daily schedule, which involves (most importantly) my morning swim, I’m a happy girl ready to take on whatever faces me at work.

And work. Here we are, at last, one foot in the industry I’ve wanted to be a part of since I was 17 and was advised to start thinking about my future. And Cosmopolitan is one of my favourite magazines – along with Glamour and CLEO – so where better to work than here?

Day One of my internship was almost crushingly dull, since I was just expected to read past issues of the magazine as well as the Cosmo blog to familiarise myself with the writing style. But since I’m a regular reader of the magazine and the blog, I found myself re-reading old articles. Which was fine, I suppose, since I can’t expect much of my first day. I’d just been building up all this anticipation in me. There are two other interns – W, who’s been around for three weeks, and S, who started a day before me – as well as a new beauty writer C, who started a day before me too. Good thing I’m not the only newbie around because in this environment full of smart and beautiful go-getting women, it can seem a little daunting at times.

Day Two got better, since I was tasked to write the Cosmo Weekend Guide, a weekly section on the Cosmo blog that recommends places to eat, drink and play for the weekend. I was given a quick tutorial on editorials, advertorials and advertisements, too, and gained access to the interns’ shared email, which I studied to understand the sort of events Cosmo gets invited to and the products she has access to and is asked to write about. There are hair product launches, wine and food tastings, Kenzo perfume testings, clothe-sourcings (for the fashion interns – sadly, I can’t go along since I’m an editorial intern), and on and on. The fashion interns are out every afternoon to go sourcing for clothings that fit a theme the fashion editor sets. Then they come back (with bags and bags of borrowed clothings) and review the clothings, look for images of celebrities wearing a certain trend.

Since Cosmo’s office is shared with other Singapore Press Holdings magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, CLEO, Shape, and the like, I get to experience not just what it’s like in Cosmo, but also these other magazines. Yeah, no earth-shattering revelations, since everyone’s just busy at work in their cubby-holes, but I can hear the conversations amongst Harper’s Bazaar writers (HB is right next to Cosmo), and boy are they an energetic bunch.

Tomorrow, I have to attend a hair product launch at Swissotel the Stamford at 10am, in place of the editorial assistant. I know this industry isn’t all glitz and glamour – I mean, sure, they get beauty product samples and go for tastings and meet pretty people occasionally, but some of them work long hours and are always rushing everywhere for this event and that and sometimes have to eat lunch at their desks – but this is what I’ve always wanted (apart, of course, from being a full-time author) and this is what I signed up for, so I’d just like to say: this is the start of something good.

In other news, I’ve met up with my editor, Geraldine, who’s going to work with me on my manuscript LAMBS FOR DINNER all the way till publication in December. It’s planned to hit the shelves in January next year, if all goes well. I’ll post more details about it as we go along! And a big thank you to those who’ve messaged me regarding this! I appreciate your support. Basically, for now, what might change is the title, since Geraldine thought the link between the story and the title is a little tenuous. I just need to clean up my manuscript and submit the draft by the end of this month, then send it to Straits Times Press for further editing. Given my packed schedule now, though, with driving lessons and the tuition lessons I’m giving on weekends, I can only squeeze in pockets of time for editing while I’m on the bus home or to and from the pool. Still, I can’t complain. This is everything I’ve ever wanted.

Yesterday and today morning, I went for my morning swim earlier than I’ve ever been. I used to swim at 8am, but because of work I have to swim earlier (I don’t like swimming in the evenings because the water’s too warm for comfort and because the pool is packed). And between 6.30am and 7.30am, that’s when day breaks. I start out when the stars are still hanging in the sky, and I can still see the full moon and Venus, the morning star, and Mercury, steady and constant – and by the time I’m done with my 40 laps, the sky is a gentle shade of pink and orange. The air is cool and crisp, and it’s simple beautiful moments like these that make me so thankful I can enjoy all this.

Like I said, give me my morning swim and I’m a happy girl.

It’s taken me a while, but I have finally figured out what I want most in terms of a career.

Well, okay, maybe not the ultimate MOST. My dream job is still a full-time novelist, but if I can’t have that then the next best job is a magazine columnist.

It was something I’ve considered since junior college, but right then it was still a dream I didn’t dare to expand on. Besides, I was too hellbent on writing fiction for a living. Yeah, I was living in a world of my own then. But with graduation looming and the pressure to FIND A JOB ALREADY, I’ve had to consider other options. A lot of those I could care a lot less about. It seems I’m either obsessed with something or I can’t give a shit. Probably not the best attitude to have, but it is what it is.

But this is what I really want. A magazine columnist at CLEO, or Cosmopolitan. Attending events, reviewing beauty products, keeping up with fashion trends, networking, and then writing about them. Having a life, and writing about it.

It’s still kinda rose-tinted at the moment. I know the job and industry aren’t all glitz and glam, but I do know that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get a foot in the doorway. And then whatever else it takes to secure the job. THE job. The one I’ve set my sight on, after a long time of consideration and procrastination.

To say that I screwed up my internship interview last Friday is probably an understatement. I felt like such a socially inept, fumbling CHILD, even though my interviewer was only two years older than me. Her businesslike manner only made me even more nervous. I felt like a desperate, grovelling kid wanting in on the In Crowd in high school. Not cool.

Just let me get this. It’s all I ever want.

After a day of working at the designer department of Robinsons (Centrepoint), I’ve decided to quit.

I’m not spoilt (unlike what my dad said). It’s just, I can’t do it, all right? I can’t stand standing for seven hours straight, doing absolutely nothing apart from arranging clothes and steam-ironing them (and that’s the only cool bit, learning how to use a steam-iron for the first time) and behaving so ingratiatingly to the uppity customers who expect the world just because they are able to pay a couple of hundreds for a dress. Um, no thank you. I don’t have to serve you, sweetheart, so I didn’t. I just hung about between the racks, making sure the clothes were arranged from the smallest to the largest size, and occasionally text-messaging even though that wasn’t allowed. I’m not gunning for the Employee of the Year, anyway, so.

Right, so once again, I’m jobless. It wouldn’t be such a problem if my story (short or novel-length) proposals worked out. But as it is, they haven’t. So right now, I’m unemployed and broke. Okay, not broke, since I still have my allowance and savings… Wait, did that just make me sound a teensy bit spoilt? Nah.

The weather’s quite a bummer. I mean, I LOVE RAIN, don’t get me wrong. It’s one of Nature’s true beauty, but I can only appreciate it after I’ve gone for my swim. I need to swim!!!! I need to feel the cool water on my skin, hear my regulated breathing, feel the thumping of my heart muffled under the water. I am aching for it, aching to swim.

I had a crying fit again on Friday night. Just thinking about, you know, our purpose on this earth. It’s all so meaningless it’s enough to depress anyone. Because if you think about it, why exactly are we here? Maybe we don’t really have a purpose. Maybe we have as much reason to be on this earth as ants do, or birds. Them birds that go around looking for food and staying away from predators and keeping competitors at bay. Maybe we think we have a reason to be alive – to leave behind a legacy, perhaps, or make the world a better place – but our lives, like everything else, are transient. We stay on this earth for, say, 80 or so years (maybe less?) and then die, just like everything else. Whatever legacy we leave behind – however great – will be forgotten or our achievements will have their importance diminished. For all that we’ve done, the next generation will probably come along and screw everything up again. We always think we’re really smart and just because we’re the most evolved, we must lead more meaningful lives than, say, baboons or flamingoes, but do we really? So what if we earn more money? Or can count? Or own a boat and know how to steer it? In death, all are equal, after all. In death, we’re all reduced to our vessels, stripped of our secrets, possessions, and worldly connections. What does everything matter? And then it made me sad how detached I was, and how I could actually understand why perfectly sane people went crazy just stewing in their own heads.

There. Don’t you feel depressed already?

It’s always in the middle of the night that I think about stuff like this. Nighttime always makes me so emotional – not to mention hopelessly cynical. I cried so hard I had to sit up for half an hour to unblock my nose.

It must be PMS…

Lately, I’ve been revisiting my childhood by re-reading the books I read then. I’m re-reading The Doomspell by Cliff McNish, The Prophecy of the Stones by Flavia Bujor (she’s French, and only fifteen when she published her book *sighs in envy*), and Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbotson. See? All children’s books. But they’re really good: rich in plot with believable, formidable villains and protagonists you just can’t help rooting for.

For anyone who loves fantasy stories, you should try The Doomspell. It’s the first book of a trilogy, and I SO wanna buy the whole series. I remember I was so hooked onto it the first time I read it when I was 11, that I hid under my bed and immersed myself in it for the entire afternoon. And I remember I read Island of the Aunts when I was 13, by recommendation of Stacy. Ahh, good times.

I have about an hour more before I have to get ready for work. So the interview went well yesterday, to my chagrin. You know, the interview for my admin job with SMRT. But on the bright side (yes, I am surprised there is one), that place is near Bishan MRT, which is rather near the swimming pool. So at least I’ll be able to go swimming after work. Well, a glimmer of hope is better than nothing, right?

Later. xx