still alive and writing

In case you were wondering, I haven’t been slacking all this time I’ve been MIA. Sure, the day job’s got me like

boo tired stoned

And some days like

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But I’ve been slowly but surely pulling myself out of that previous funk, and now every spare minute that I have outside of the day job is spent working on NEVERLAND or plotting LAND or WORLD or writing a new short story. When your time is in short supply, your productivity skyrockets.

Speaking of short stories, the Muses and I may have scaled down on the frequency of our posts (because life) but we have more head-space to work on our stories now.

The most recent one, Love in Free Verse, has just been posted, and I had so much fun with it. I’ve been back in my Eminem phase for the past week because of this clip from The Defiant Ones, a docu-series airing on HBO:

#LEGEND

Eminem’s life story is so inspiring. He not only went through the worst shit getting bullied as a kid (had no idea he had been so badly injured), going through the loss of a loved one, he also faced so many obstacles to make it as a rapper. But he stuck to his guns and persisted, sought opportunities everywhere, pushed for his dream, and was so hungry for it. It makes me ashamed of how I’m just sitting on my ass when he had tried that hard to earn his big break.

And he’s a brilliant lyricist; he’s got the whole rhythm and poetry genre nailed. I’ve been a fan of his since I was 14, when I first heard Mockingbird on the radio and proceeded to buy his album, Curtain Call, and I just can’t rave enough about how wildly talented he is. He can pack so many expressions, metaphors, alliterations, imagery, allegories, allusions and other literary devices into his songs he rarely ever repeats his lines (except for choruses).

Fun fact: did you know that he reads the dictionary so that he has all these words at his disposal when he write his rhymes?

This is how intimate he is with his art, how dedicated he is to his craft.

This is why he can rap freestyle off the top of his head and think up rhymes in seconds and set the world record for the most number of words in a song.

This is why Rolling Stone named him one of the Greatest of All Time, why Sir Elton John himself called him “a true poet of his time”, why even horror writer Stephen King and Barack Obama (as well as celebrities from Justin Timberlake to Rihanna to 50 Cent and Drake) are his fans.

Okay, I’ll stop now. But if you want to hear me rave some more, here’s an article I wrote on Eminem.

So tl;dr, inspired by the Rap God, I tried my hand at writing rap lyrics in this month’s short story. Amateur attempt, so please forgive the clumsy rhythm and perhaps cringe-worthy lyrics.

And in case you want more, here are some other stories I’ve written for the blog:

Worlds Apart

Leaving Neverland

We Were Meant to Save the World

Death Died of a Broken Heart

The Story Thieves

If you can, check out what the other Muses have written too! They continually blow me away with how creative and imaginative they are with their stories, and keep challenging me to bring my A game to the table. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I’m lucky to have found all of them.

If you’d like to share your stories on our blog, please feel free to get in touch with any one of us or drop us a note here! We would love to hear from you.

Till then, muse-chasers. I’ll be working on my dreams because Slim Shady inspired me to. ♥

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Quote: Eminem

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!

How to Lead an Inspired, Creative Life

Some days, creativity can feel like an elusive creature always ducking out of our reach. And some days, we are just too burned out by the daily grind to pursue any creative endeavour.

What is creativity anyway? The textbook definition is “the use of imagination or original ideas to create something”. But I see it as finding ideas from life itself, then weaving them into a bigger dream and making that a reality.

And that’s why creativity can seem like such an illusory, abstract thing. It’s hard to turn new, imaginative ideas into reality if you can’t notice them around you because you’re too busy or tired. Creativity is something that requires passion, devotion, and ample space to explore and ruminate.

[Related Article: 8 Simple Ways to Start the Day Right]

So if you’re looking for new ways to be inspired and break out of your rut, here are some ideas:

 

1. Change Your Scenery

You can’t come up with new ideas by sitting at the same spot every day. Get up and head somewhere different from your regular hangouts. Maybe try a new cafe in another neighbourhood, a different outfit (maybe swap your Little Black Dress for flared jeans), or take a different route home from work. You’d be surprised how a change of scenery can improve your state of mind!

 

2. Get Those Endorphins Pumping

Deadlines, reports, figures. Those things can drive a person insane – believe me, I understand. It is also soul-sucking and draining to do it every day.

If you feel like your creative well is drying out and you’re itching to get back into the groove, clear your head of all those numbers and Excel documents and get moving. Even brisk-walking around your office building can help you re-calibrate. Exercise also helps to sharpen our minds, improve our productivity, and get the creative juices flowing again!

 

3. Break Out of Your Routine

Creativity can’t thrive in an environment that is stagnant and routine. So try new things, gain new experiences, and expose yourself to new situations. Do something outside of the routine you know – be it trying a new workout or picking up a new hobby – and break your habits.

 

4. Fight For Your Space and Time

Creativity needs its own time and space. It’s tempting to just go home and binge-watch Girls or go out for drinks with friends, but if you get too swept up in these activities that don’t support your creative ventures your creativity suffers. While you do need some down-time once in a while, creation only happens when you get cracking. So clear your work space and start creating!

 

5. Be Curious

Creating something from scratch can seem daunting, but not if you start with the questions “Why?” and “What if?” and let these guide you down uncharted paths. Curiosity is what drives any creative process, so have fun, start asking questions, and you might discover answers you never expected.

 

6. Jot It Down

Bring a pen and notebook everywhere with you. They’re handy enough to whip out whenever a thought strikes you. You never know when inspiration for your next feature film or book might hit you, and you don’t want to lose that thought because you weren’t fast enough to capture it!

 

7. Vary Your Companions

If you only hang out with people similar to you, you’ll share similar ideas and outlook. To be introduced to new perspectives and new ways of thinking, invite new people into your life who are different from you and have differing opinions. From them you can learn and discover new things that will help you grow as a person.

 

8. Head Out and Explore 

While holing up somewhere to create is crucial to getting anything done, you also need to get out and immerse in things that inspire you and feed your artistic soul. Take a day trip to the museum or art gallery, watch a play or recital, or go for long walks somewhere you haven’t yet explored.

 

9.  Have No Fear!

Are you a perfectionist? Get over that! There is no room for that in creation – at least, not at the start, when you are just exploring every Shiny New Idea. The fear of failure is something that plagues many artists. But you need to give yourself permission to suck, make mistakes, before anything good comes out of the mess.

10. And Finally, Ignore the Naysayers

Artists are subject to all kinds of criticism, especially from those who don’t see the value or worth in what they’re doing. But birds in a cage think flying is an illness. Don’t let yourself get boxed in by what other people think, or what they believe to be true or “correct”. What’s the status quo? Who decides? You have the power to create the life you want to lead without worrying about what the norm is. Normal is over-rated anyway.

Are you feeling burned out? What are some of your ways to get back into the creative state of mind and recapture your elusive creative genius?

 

This story first appeared on ZALORA Community. For more stories like this, head on over there!

oh, the writing? it’s slow-going, but it’s going

In light of NaNoWriMo, here’s some writing motivation to get things started:

Despair has never achieved anything, and it never will. 

Dream, writerly friend. Dream. Imagine your stories, and your art, out in the world touching the hearts of countless— but do not expect the universe to bring these to you. Pair your hope with your courage, and you will make your dreams a reality.

 

Off to write! Have a good weekend, everyone :0)

petal happiness (and other Monday mood-lifters)

Monday started off a little wet, but thankfully I managed to get some swim time in. Nothing like a good long swim to put you in a terrific mood!

It’s been a busy start to the week so far, with a writing assignment I’m doing on the side, a novel I’m writing on the side (more on that later), and my regular full-time job. Plus, blogging. Still, I’m not complaining, because all these tasks require me to write. And I’m just doing what I love.

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LOOOOOVE! Happy happy Monday, everyone!

So, a quick recap of the weekend (hope yours was great!):

Saturday morning, I woke up to an email from a literary agent who had expressed interest in a manuscript I sent her previously (I think it was Blood Promise):

 

Dear Joyce,

Happy New Year! 

How is Neverland coming along…? If it is ready, may I request the manuscript? In the current market climate, I think it is the most saleable of the three.

Best,

Emmanuelle

 

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Squeeeee! I think I squealed out loud on the way to the bathroom as I checked my email. It was seven a.m. Still, it’s never too early for good news.

Now comes the not-so-good news.

It’s not ready yet. Neverland is still half-baked. In the works. (And other annoying cliches.) It’s going to take me at least a month before I dare to send it out to an agent, to get it perfect. AT LEAST a month.

But I’m afraid her interest in my manuscript would have waned by then and she decides she’s not going to want to look at it by the time I’m done.

So I’m going to pound this monster out at top speed, notwithstanding my other assignments and tasks.

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No time to wait for inspiration to strike. No time to wallow. No time to whine about writer’s block and complain about the mid-story goblin chewing up my story. (Yet, there’s still time for blogging. There is always time for blogging!)

Which explains why I spent the better part of my Saturday writing Neverland. After brunch with my dad, who had the weekend off (a rarity), I wrote.

My dad took evidence:

Why yes, I always look this gorgeous when I’m working. Thanks for noticing.

And here’s a piece of the result of my work:

I clocked in 3,500 words on my first day! Which, while has been done before (back in my Lambs For Dinner days), is rare. And you know how when you see good results upon embarking on something that you become more spurred on to keep it up?

So I did the math. To keep up this productive streak, I’ll write about 500 words on my lunch break, and another 1,500 after work, or just all 2,000 after work. An average of 2,000 words a day on weekdays, and an average of 3,000 on weekends, that would add up to 16,000 a week and *gasp* a full-length novel in less than 5 weeks!

Of course, give or take a few days, since it would be impossible to keep to this schedule everyday, what with Chinese New Year coming up (which means time for socialising) and what with the need to preserve my sanity (which means spending time with my family, reading, and ogling at pretty faces things).

Family
Reading
More reading
Pretty … okay, pretty faces.

I wanted to get the same amount of writing done on Sunday, too, but it’s not every day that my dad has a weekend off and we wanted to make good of it.

So after our brunch (yes, with my dad, there can only be brunch, not breakfast, because he likes – and needs – to sleep in), we rambled around town, ran errands, went shopping for flowers, then ran some more errands before finishing off with a simple but lovely dinner.

We didn’t get anything at the nursery because it’s still too early to buy the tangerine plant and everything would fall off the branches by the time Chinese New Year rolls around. But! We did get a little shutter-happy.

Shutter-happy and petal-happy!

Gotta love flowers. Such a mood-lifter!

(If you recall, When the Lilies Turn Orange, my first standalone novel I wrote when I was 18, was set in a nursery. I may or may not go back and rewrite it – hint hint – if I have the time. Which I don’t. At least, not now.)

Now for some lovely quotes to end this post:

Anne Lamott on writing:

Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong.

 

And Lovely Laini is inspiring once again:

I would guess that the major problem writers face when getting their novels finished is the doldrums. They lose their initial excitement and let this get the better of them. The most common question I get in emails is some form of: how do I get back into my story? How do I fall in love with it again? Well, this is my answer, these two methods. You could just slog it out as is, determined to finish at all costs, but the things is: if you are bored, your readers will be too. So don’t be bored! Ever! Shake your brain like a snow globe and make the glitter swirl. Yes, you will be picking glitter out of your brain for years to come, but it is worth it!

Brainstorm brainstorm brainglittersnowstorm!

Some writing advice by Eric Vance Walton:

It’s very easy to romanticize the writer’s life but most times it is far from glamorous and is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. To be a successful writer requires a mega dose of hard work, commitment, good networking skills, optimism, and also a healthy dose of luck. If you have the discipline to hone your craft writing can be equally as rewarding as it is difficult.

And finally:

(Wow, this post was supposed to be a quick one. Where did all that time go?)

And have a great week!