rediscovering joy in solitude + current reads

I feel like the world entered 2021 with cautious (if a little beleaguered) hope. With more vaccines being developed and distributed around the world, a certain orange man on his way out, and businesses starting to rehire again, it seemed like things might be starting to pick up.

Then the 7 Jan Capitol Hill insurgence happened (seriously, what the actual fuck – the audacity and lawlessness and injustice is unbelievable) and we’re seeing a couple of Covid-19 cases in the local community again (after months of zero community cases) and it feels like 2021 is just 2020 part two. I had to take a break from the news for a bit and find my inner peace again.

And really, that’s the goal these days. Just inner peace. Trying not to let external things, events and people upset the balance. Keeping the optimism alive.

On a personal note, it’s been a good first week of the year for me. Projects lined up that I’m genuinely excited about, daily progress being made, new plans and collaborations with people, spending time with friends and family. I feel like I’m coming home to myself again, slowly but surely sliding back into equilibrium. Silence doesn’t feel daunting or empty; it just feels peaceful now, and my head is no longer preoccupied with anxious thoughts. There’s a quiet power that comes with being comfortable and happy in your own company, when you don’t feel like you’re lacking anything and you’ve got everything you need to keep you fulfilled, busy, and happy. I’m learning to enjoy that again.

Most notably, I’ve been getting a lot more reading and writing done. I’m currently working on four books (three novels and one book of poetry and prose. I know some of you want me to disclose more about my current works-in-progress, but I generally prefer not to divulge too much or make it public before I’m at least done with the first draft. I like my projects to belong completely to me until I at least have a semblance of a thing to show. So this is all I’ll share for now), and I’m reading three books concurrently (more on that in a bit), on top of juggling assignments, painting, working out, and dreaming up new scenes for my novels and new tales to tell.

So when people ask me what I’ve been up to and I say “keeping busy”, that’s the long answer.

Currently Reading:

  1. Magic for Liars, by Sarah Gailey
34594037. sy475

There’s murder, a school for teenage mages (think Hogwarts as an American high school), and a private investigator struggling to take on a task too big for her to handle. I do enjoy the voice and the premise, but I also wish the pace would pick up a bit. There’s a lot to uncover here, and so far (133 pages in), the protagonist has just been wrestling with her insecurity issues, rekindling her relationship with her estranged sister, and wandering around the school observing people. I’ll keep going, though, just to see if things build up.

2. By All the Saints and Stars, by my incredible friend and critique partner Meredith Crosbie

Image by: Meredith Crosbie

When Meredith first told Nicole (another fantastic writer and fellow Tolkien lover) and I that she was writing a book set in ancient Venice, I was immediately stoked. And it did not disappoint. I practically flew through the first four chapters in one sitting, and am consistently impressed by the world-building and characterisation. You guys, this book will definitely be on the shelves one day, and I’m so honoured to be one of the first few people to read it.

3. Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

28449207. sy475

I knowww. I started reading this book in 2019 and I’m still not done with it. Similarly, I took more than a year to finish King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, so the fact that I take ages to finish a book is in no way a testament to the quality of the book. Laini and Leigh are stellar writers – I just have terrible a attention span these days (again, I blame social media). But Strange the Dreamer is a hefty book, and there’s a lot of world-building involved so it takes a while to fully immerse in the book.

4. I’ve also been seeking out more poetry.

It’s funny – I never used to be into poetry very much, but maybe that was because I’d never really found poems that resonated with me. My last (cringe-inducing) attempt at poetry was when I was 17: I went everywhere with a black notebook and pen, and sat in dark corners scribbling away in it. I don’t dare to promise that the poems I’m attempting to write now are cringe-free, but I like to think they’re marginally less awful than the ones I wrote as a teenager.

Anyway, here are some much, much better poems others have written that I absolutely adore:

mary oliver
I met Marla back in 2016, when we sat on the same panel at a writers conference, and discovered what an amazing poet she is. Been trying to get my hands on her poetry anthologies but they seem to be out of stock everywhere 😦

Hope you’re having a good start to 2021 (and if not, that you hold faith that things WILL get better)!

Goodbye, 2020

Yes, I know time is a social construct and exists independently of humans, so the concept of New Year is just our way of creating some semblance of linearity so we can bring some order into the chaos etc., but I like the idea of beginning anew, moving inexorably from this moment to the next, and discovering what lies ahead. I like the idea of leaving the past behind us even as we hold close the lessons that hindsight brings us. I like the definitive delineation that the New Year offers, like chapter breaks that let us get up for a drink of water and some space to clear our minds. I like the clarity that the stillness brings after the relentless motion of the entire year.

The pocket of space between this year and the next is a time to breathe, reclaim ourselves, and plan our next step. To remind ourselves of how far we’ve come and how we each have the strength to go further. To smile. To dream. To grief. To hurt. To achieve. To discover. To love again.

So thank you, 2020. You’ve been strange, surreal, chaotic, intense, heartbreaking and beautiful all at once. Here’s to serendipitous discoveries, unwavering inner peace, and the courage to pursue what sets our souls on fire in 2021 as we make our way through the inherent chaos of life.

Is it too early for a year-in-review post?

So I deadass left this blog languishing for a whole year. *slow claps for self*

What can I say, 2020 has been a whirlwind of a year, with so many new experiences and encounters and invaluable lessons learned along the way. People came and left, connections sparked and died, and some old ones reignited. So many changes, so many emotions – they all came at breakneck speed, and sometimes I barely had time to take a moment to just sit and think (or maybe I did too much of that in the wrong way – I’m learning to catch myself when I start to overthink these days), or just take a breather.

Aside from the global catastrophes that I’m sure no one wants to be reminded of yet again (we’re still living our way through it, after all), on the personal front, 2020 came with extremities of laughter and tears, and I’m truly thankful for everything, the good and the bad.

This year, I experienced immense joy, little moments of sublime happiness that seem surreal now when I look back on them. Despite the physical lockdowns and restrictions, my soul had tasted a bit of freedom. This was the year I let go and let myself live – albeit just a little – instead of sticking to my usual austere routine. I opened up to people, much more than I ever allowed myself to, and strayed out of my comfort zone, my safe little bubble of one.

This year, I was also forced to look my insecurities in the figurative eye and contend with old wounds that I had left buried for so long I thought they no longer existed. (News flash: your subconscious doesn’t forget. Anything that is not worked through will come back to bite you in the ass twice as hard.)

This year, corny as it might sound, I learned a huge lesson in self-love. The importance of it. Why we need to be our own best friend, cheerleader, and even lover. How I want to be loved. How my soul needs to be cared for. How to listen to my own needs instead of constantly taking on other people’s problems and making sure they’re happy and appeased. How to set boundaries and not accept less than what I deserve. It really does all begin with the self. Only when we mend what is broken within us will we be able to love others the way they need to be loved. Only when we give ourselves the love and joy we seek can we in turn pour that love and joy into others, instead of expecting them to fill us up. Only when we know what we want will we not settle for less. (That’s a mouthful of alliteration, I apologise.)

I can’t say that I’m a hundred percent satisfied with all my decisions this year. There are many things I wish I had handled differently, better, with more grace and understanding. Being more honest and communicative about my thoughts/needs is also something I continue to struggle with, because of my inherent people-pleasing nature and knee-jerk response to brush off everything and act like they don’t affect me one bit. But I guess we all just have to live with the choices we made, the things we said or did.

Perhaps the key is to just keep moving forward. We already know what happened in the past and there’s nothing we can do to change it, so only the future holds the answer. And the only way to know what happens next is to live from this moment to the next, and the next after that.

I’ve been doing much better at living in the present these days. For the better part of the year, I’d been gripped by relentless anxiety and the desperate need for control, for things to turn out the way I want them to, not realising that nothing is ever in my control, and that there’s no point in trying to direct the course. These days, I’m water, steadily moving forward. Tackling the to-do list, getting started on new projects, hopping back on track with the goals and plans, focusing on the things within my control and tuning out the rest (or trying my best to).

That means more writing, less worrying. Doing more of the things that light up my soul and stressing less over external things/people/issues. It means retreating to my cave and working quietly while staying open to new experiences/people/opportunities that come knocking. It means not getting attached to any particular outcome, and letting both my head and my heart lead me forward, instead of getting carried away by either. It means listening to my intuition and seeing the red flags for what they are, but also keeping on the rose-tinted glasses that help me move through the world with a healthy dose of optimism and good faith. It means less talk, more action. Less expectation, more persistence and discipline.

It means sticking to the game plan in 2021. Rolling up the sleeves and getting back to work. Manifesting. Staying hopeful, excited, and grateful.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, to everyone who’s played a part in shaping 2020 for me. 2021. I’m ready for you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

PS. My new website is finally up! Have a peep and watch that space for more updates!

Happy 4th Anniversary, Muses!

The short story blog is now a wild toddler!

*blows dust off blog*

I know, I know. It’s been almost a full year since I last blogged. I don’t know how time passed so quickly, but this year has been … eventful, to say the least.

From forest fires to a certain deadly pandemic making its rounds around the world to the fight against racism to rising unemployment rate and global economic standstill (I could go on, but I’m already out of breath), there’s barely been time to sit down and properly lay down my thoughts this year.

It feels like everything’s been culminating in this whirlwind of a year, and I’ve been working double time to keep my spirits up and the hope alive. 2020 hasn’t been a complete washout of a year, though, and it’s not over yet so we still have time to make up for the past few months.

Anyway, this post was meant to be quick because I have a bunch of work to finish (more on that in an upcoming post, if I ever get around to it!) and the focus wasn’t supposed to be on 2020, but on THE MUSES BLOG! We turned four recently and surpassed 500 followers!

*throws confetti*

When I first proposed the idea of a short story blog to my wonderful co-founders, Meredith and Nicole, I didn’t expect it to be a whole undertaking on its own. I figured it would just be a safe space for us to explore and experiment with different genres, forms, voices, etc. We would follow our curiosity, write stories that we’d never expected ourselves to write, make friends with other writers along the way. Now we’ve developed a writing community, gained a social media following on Twitter and Instagram, and even had guest writers on board.

It’s been an amazing ride, and I shall save the sappy words for my fellow Muses in private. But thank you to all of you who have followed, supported, given us a shout-out, liked our posts, and continued to keep the flame alive. We can’t wait to see where the next four years take us! ❤️

Do we have hope or do we have expectations? (Yes, there’s a difference.)

Image result for hope is the thing with feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers.

So said Emily Dickinson in her beautiful, timeless poem.

Hope is great. Hope is fuel. Hope keeps us warm in a frigid wasteland where dreams go to die. Hope keeps us going even though everything before us seems bleak.

And when you’re a millennial writer trying to achieve your publishing dreams, pay the bills and accumulate some savings, have a social (and romantic) life, get enough sleep, take care of your body, and spend adequate quality time with your loved ones, hope is the only thing you can cling to in order not to drown.

A friend and I were having a chat recently where she voiced her very familiar anxieties.

“I wish we can at least have a glimpse of what the future holds, or at least have an inkling,” she said. “If we know there is a bit of reward there, we can still hold out and survive to see our fruits of labour. How do we know this is the right way we are going? What if in the end, everything was a fruitless attempt?”

Which is true. We can never know. Maybe life is just one big anxiety trip, and we’ll just have to live with that discomfort of not knowing or kill ourselves wondering about the outcome.

I think all we can hope for is that at the end of it all, we have lived a life we can be proud of. Instead of one where we are trapped in a dead-end job we don’t love and that doesn’t fill our soul, one where we went out and did the things we wanted and loved, things that made us grow in the direction we wanted to grow.

Hope is a double-edged sword.

There’s a danger in conflating hope with expectation.

Hope is the belief that you are headed towards something good. Expectation is the belief that your sacrifices entitle you to something good.

You feel like there is a huge gap between what you want and what you have, where you want to be and where you actually are, and that gap is what keeps you craning your neck for what’s on the other side, always dissatisfied with what you have and where you are.

I used to feel like after all the time and effort I’ve put in, after years of writing and honing my craft and studying the publishing industry, that I deserved to get what I want. To get multiple book deals, to be a successful author, to go on book tours and sit on author panels and have lines of readers at my book signing.

But just because we put in the effort doesn’t necessarily guarantee that we get our desired outcome. I expected to get what I want because I put in the effort, and it made me really miserable because I kept asking myself what i was doing wrong or not enough of.

That, according to British philosopher Alain de Botton, is the problem with meritocracy. Because we celebrate the belief that those who work hard and are good enough achieve success, we also believe that the reverse is true – that if we fail or aren’t successful, that must mean we aren’t good enough or didn’t work hard enough.

New York Times Op-Ed columnist David Brooks agrees. “The evil of meritocracy is that people who’ve achieved a little more than others are worth a little more than others,” he said in his TED talk.

Looking back, I was a pretty entitled little shit. I expected too much, and set myself up for massive disappointment as a result.

Hope is the light we need to turn on.

These days, I’m trying to focus on what I have instead of what I don’t, to find happiness where I am instead of expecting it to be round the corner, just out of my reach.

These days, I’m not aiming for happiness. Happiness is what we feel when we get what we want. It’s when we receive our paychecks, or when we score that promotion, that book deal, or tickets to the concert that sold out in minutes.

These days, I’m aiming for joy. Joy is when we feel gladness in our heart because we fully enjoy what we’re doing in the moment. Joy is when I discover a story after pursuing the thing that ignites my curiosity. Joy is when I’m so immersed in writing a scene I lose track of time. Joy is when I read a book that moves me to tears or makes me miss my stop. Joy is when I watch The Mummy for the eight millionth time and it still doesn’t disappoint (look, campy or not, it’s a fun cinematic adventure and justifiably a cult classic).

Sometimes we get so caught up chasing happiness that we lose sight of what brings us joy.

Hope and joy seem to go hand-in-hand. Because we have hope, we find joy. If we start trying to reach for happiness, we come to expect too much of what life can give us at any given moment.

Maybe it can be as simple as being present, doing more of the things that bring us joy and shutting out the voices that tell us we need more than that.

Maybe with hope, that’s how we can reclaim that piece of ourselves that has been worn down over the years by life and all its practicalities and demands.

Maybe hope is our steadfast friend, our only ally, one that will see us through till the end without, like Emily Dickinson said, asking a crumb of us.

There and Back Again: South Korea

Well, that was a trip that ended way too soon. Second time back in Korea and I expected to be a little less enchanted. Nope – there is still so much more to discover and fall in love with. From bustling Seoul to rustic Jeju, the quaint streets of Busan to Jeonju with its old-world charm, every part of South Korea had something unique to offer. It’s a country so rich in culture and history – albeit tumultuous – it’s not hard to see why the locals are so fiercely proud of their home.

I’ve only been back in Singapore for two days and already I’m missing Korea’s crisp, cool autumn air, the sight of maple and gingko leaves brightening up every street, immaculately dressed men and women, the distinct character of small towns and the crackling energy of bigger cities, and readily available clean, healthy Korean food (why is it so hard to find some kimbap or kelp around Singapore??).

Suffice to say, I’m missing Korea big time. For now, while I continue my hunt for kimbap (recommendations welcome!) or seriously consider making it myself, here’s a recap of the trip:

(Click on the arrows for more pictures!)

Can you tell that fall is my favourite season? What’s yours?

Ahhh, Jeju Island. I fell head over heels in love with it the first time round and the feeling hasn’t waned since. Situated at the southern tip of Korea, this island relies mostly on its tourism and agriculture industries. It is the polar opposite of metropolitan Seoul. The roads are long, narrow and winding, and shops close by 6pm in fall. Streetlights are sparse, and winds are strong. Waves crash against pitch-black basaltic rocks that make up the island after Hallasan, the island’s volcano became extinct after its last eruption in 1007 A.D. Eulalia grass grow tall along the roads and bend in the chilly sea breeze. Apple, pear, and tangerine trees are heavy with their autumn bounty. Mornings are frosty and tranquil, which makes a bowl of piping hot abalone porridge perfect for starting off the day.

Sunset in Jeju is a sight to behold. The light there is soft with the promise of tomorrow, and it makes you look forward to another day while being thankful for this one.

People who know how much I love the sea have told me I’d love Busan. And I did. I love this quaint little town by the coast, with its cultural village filled with street art and cute cafés, and even an ancient temple by the sea.

I can’t stop thinking about these two places. They are so surreal in their beauty, so timeless and serene, I could just stay there all autumn and drink in every sight and sound – the rustle of dry leaves, elderly couples on leisurely hikes, the way the sun filters through pine and maple leaves, turning them golden and amber, and this jolly monk singing English oldies along the hiking trail:

I loved Everland the first time I was there, and the second time did not disappoint. The gardens, the rides, the zoo, excited kids running everywhere, parents with their adorable babies, the souvenir shops… Everything I love about amusement parks, Everland has it. Plus, going in fall means there are some pretty spectacular views since Everland is situated on a mountain.

Myeongdong was a lively labyrinth of food carts and street stalls selling idol merchandise, apparel, souvenirs, and more – all juxtaposed against higher-end department stores, boutiques, and fancy cafés. We ate as we walked and tried to take street photos as surreptitiously as we could.

The highlight of our last day in Korea and a splendid finish to our trip: Changdeok Palace. Palaces have always enchanted me, and Changdeokgung’s beauty speaks for itself. I literally dreamed about this place the night after I returned, because it felt like there were so many stories to unearth there. It made me want to rewatch Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (which I raved about around this time two years ago) and write a story filled with palace politics, treason, betrayals, assassination, and romance … oh wait, I’M ALREADY WRITING ONE*.

*Speaking of which, I’m just four scenes away from the THE END. This trip has re-inspired me to work harder and faster on this manuscript, but while I’m excited to finish draft one at last, I also don’t want it to end because painful as it is to get the words out, the process of exploring a new world, premise, time and place is so much fun! 

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thank you and I hope this post has whetted your appetite for South Korea if you haven’t been there already. GO. Then come back and fangirl with me over its beauty and culture.

Now, before I head over to rewatch Scarlet Heart (any recommendations for other historical Korean dramas, preferably set in the Goryeo dynasty?), here are some souvenirs from the trip:

 

Till next time,

Joyce x

 

 

manuscript roundup + aesthetics

Ask any writer and she’ll probably tell you that she’s working on several projects at the moment, whether they’re still slow-brewing in the recesses of her mind or already splayed out in their messy 56782th-draft glory.

(Note: We’re not talking about the weirdos who devote themselves to one project at a time.)

The question, then, is which one we should work on. The one that keeps us up all night and creeps into our mind when we drift away, of course. But what if ALL those plot bunnies are simultaneously doing the can-can in your head?

can can dance

It’s the classic case of too many stories, too little time. I CAN’T WRITE FAST ENOUGH for all you ideas, so if you could just form an orderly queue that would be really helpful thanks.

Will you, dear readers, help me decide? Drop a comment, send a private note or text if you have strong opinions on which WiP I should focus on now, because they’re all calling out to me in my dreams.

 

NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND

Pitch: With the help of her long-lost childhood friend, Gemma has to piece together her fragmented memories of imaginary adventures in Neverland to find out what happened to her missing parents.

Genre: YA contemporary

Status: Complete (Draft 9), but final edits required (damn typos will one day be the death of me, I swear).

 

BEFORE I REMEMBER YOU

Pitch: In a world where memories can be deleted, stored, and exchanged, Isabel and Lucas visit the memory killer to erase their painful memories, only to find themselves starting to forget everything, including each other.

Genre: YA magical realism

Status: Draft 1, page 217 (abandoned in early 2017 and I’m revisiting it now, but Act 3 does not want to reveal itself to me).

 

LAND OF SAND AND SONG

Pitch: After her chieftain father is ousted by rebel clans over a magical spring, 17-year-old Desert Rose seeks revenge by assassinating the person instigating the rebellion: the corrupt Emperor Zhao, who will stop at nothing to possess the elixir of life from the spring.

Genre: YA fantasy

Status: Draft 1, page 117 (WHAT FUN. MUCH EXCITES).

 

BLOOD PROMISE

Pitch: After her brother is captured for stealing fruits from the mercenary Traders who serve the fairies, April allies with a long-lost fairy prince and sets out on a rescue mission … only to find herself caught in a brewing fairy civil war where humans and changelings alike serve as pawns in the game.

Genre: YA fantasy

Status: Draft 6 (abandoned for two and a half years – it’s a hot mess, subplots all over the place, characters popping up in the middle of the story, convoluted story line, etc.).

 

 

LOVE POTIONS AND OTHER MYTHS (WORKING TITLE)

Pitch: The town of Blissville has the highest proportion of happy couples in the country. Dragging along her two best friends, “realist, not a cynic” Ravenclaw-girl Ruby Lou goes to investigate … and traces the source of all that romantic bliss down to a bakery owned by Henry Lee, a diehard romantic Hufflepuff-boy, who might just be Cupid in disguise.

Genre: YA contemporary romance

Status: Brewing, bubbling, simmering

 

A WORLD APART

Pitch: Sylvia is born with a condition that turns her insides to glass. To obtain the cure, she needs to find one of her doppelgangers in a parallel universe. Enter Wes, a runaway prince from another dimension, who is trying to save his war-torn kingdom HAHAHA I CLEARLY HAVEN’T THOUGHT THIS ONE THROUGH.

Genre: YA fantasy

Status: Fetus

 

my babies.gif

 

Drama Review: Revolutionary Love

Bear with me, folks. I need to rave about this drama.

revolutionary love poster.png

Revolutionary Love (2017) is the story of a pampered good-for-nothing third-generation heir, Byun Hyuk* (played by Choi Siwon) who is cut off from his family after causing too much trouble (mostly through misunderstandings) and has to — gasp — work for a living. Through a nifty twist of Fate, he meets Baek Joon (Kang Sora), a girl trying to make ends meet with part-time jobs. As their worlds collide and he falls head over heels in love with her, he grows out of his sheltered, privileged existence to take charge of his life.

*The name Byun Hyuk means “revolution” in Korean, thus the title Revolutionary Love.

It sounds like a recycled plot, but there’s a lot to appreciate about this rendition that makes it seem completely original and addictive. Nine episodes in and I AM CRAZY IN LOVE WITH THIS SHOW.

revolutionary love siwon.gif

Hot male lead notwithstanding (Choi Siwon, you are such a bias wrecker. Stop being so beautiful. No – stop smiling like that. GO AWAY), this seemingly lighthearted rom-com actually has:

  1. Great main characters with complex backstoriesrevolutionary love 3
  2. A lovable cast of supporting characters
  3. Intricately woven plot and character entanglements
    Fateful meetings! Power play! Betrayals! Double agents!
  4. Intense conflict and a plot that unfurls at breakneck speed
  5. Uproarious moments that make you cry with laughter
  6. WTH dialogue that also make you snort with laughterrevolutionary love siwon 2
  7. Heartbreaking moments when you hurt together with the charactersrevolutionary love 14.gif
  8. Detestable villains
    So you don’t feel bad for seeing them ruined.
  9. Character transformation, i.e. well drawn-out character arcs
  10. Did I mention that Siwon also does FANTASTIC expressions?
    This goofball may have topped the list for the Most Handsome Faces of Kpop, but he’s not also called the king of derp for no reason:
  11. siwon whutsiwon derp 6siwon derp 3siwon derp 2siwon derp 8siwon whateversiwon derp 5siwon derp 1Still, he can turn on the charm when he wants to:
    revolutionary love 6revolutionary love 7

    revolutionary love 8

    His confessions (yes, repeated) get me all tingly!

     

  12. Fluffy moments and great chemistry between the leads
    revolutionary love 5revolutionary love 1revolutionary love 4
  13. And last but not least, a pretty, infectious soundtrack that puts you in a soppy, giddily happy mood


BRB, off to drama-land!

siwon fangirling spazzing

siwon excited 2

 

Not too late for New Year resolutions, is it?

Excuse me, but it’s 2018 already? What are we, speed-racing through life?? Wasn’t it just last month that we were out partying going to bed at 11pm on New Year’s Eve and resolving to make 2017 less of a complete waste than 2016?

siwon wtf

You and I both, Siwon.

(Note to self: make less abstract resolutions next time.)

((Have to say, though, 2017 was less of a complete waste than 2016 where the writing is concerned.))

Given that it’s only been a week into 2018, though, I think it’s not too late to get the resolutions out.

So you can all hold me accountable to the following:

WRITING:

  1. Complete at least the first draft of LAND OF SAND AND SONG
    … Even though I’m only at page 56 and already despairing at how sucky it is. I mean, I know a first draft is supposed to suck, but this has to be way beyond the regular limits of suckage.
    Still, I’ll have to trust that this will all work itself out, like it always had (speaking from experience here). I’ve got a plot outline, I’ve got my character dossiers, I’ve got my Three-Act Structure.

    dean winchester you got this.gif

    Thanks, Dean.

  2. Work NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND to perfection
    That means NOT letting it languish in a folder. NOT sitting on it when it comes to querying time. NOT getting discouraged by (more) rejection letters. NOT giving up on this story I still believe in and want to share with the world.
    It means deleting or rewriting any part that seems remotely out of place in the story, and making sure every word deserves its spot in the manuscript.
    It means discipline and laser focus.
    It means putting in the work.
    Like James Ellison said, write with your heart but rewrite with your head.
  3. Write at least 12 short stories in a year
    … Which shouldn’t be hard to do, given that I’ve committed to our short story blog. Having deadlines definitely holds you accountable.
    jensen ackles eye of the tiger
  4. Don’t suck the fun out of writing
    In 2016, I beat myself up a lot for not hitting word count, not completing even one novel, not writing enough in general. I ended up burnt out from pressuring myself to churn out words. But writing doesn’t work that way, not with self-flagellation and debilitating guilt. The words only flow when you give yourself space to breathe, to wonder, to explore, to create.
  5. Explore more with Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand
    This fun little project of running a short story blog with a few writer friends turned out to be so much more bad-ass, and I find myself constantly inspired by Meredith, Nicole, and Becky who are the most creative, passionate, and generous writing friends a girl can ask for.
    So this year, we’re planning to ramp things up. Watch that space for more features and, of course, fantastic tales from a steadily growing community of writers!

hobbit party.gif

LIFE:

  1. Focus on the good
    2017 was rock-bottom for me, especially where my mental health was concerned. And though I wouldn’t say it’s all peachy now, I can now recognise the bad days for what they are and grit my teeth through them. A lot of the times, these moods are like passing storm clouds. You just need to wait out the storm and then you can breathe easy again afterwards.
  2. Eat clean at least three days a week
    I won’t bore you with a breakdown of my diet, but suffice to say I have days where I feel guilty for eating that plate of oily fried eggs. I’m not crazy enough to go on a juice cleanse or some extreme pumpkin soup diet; all I aim to do is eat cleaner and exercise regularly (i.e. daily), which brings me to the next point
  3. Listen to my body
    You know how it is – when you’re young, you tend to think you’re physically invincible and you keep pushing your body to extremes. Or you beat yourself up for “slacking off” when you have to miss a workout because you’re sick or injured. This year, I’m going to try to serve my body better so that it can in turn serve me better.
  4. Give thanks daily
    We complain too much and give too little thanks to the small pleasures and fortunes of every day life. From now on, my mantra will be, “Hey, it could be a lot worse,” just to remind myself how good I actually have it.

And on that note, I am deeply thankful to each and every one of you readers – whether you just lurk (I see you!) or leave a comment or send me a private note. You inspire and move me more than you know, and your encouragement, support, and kindness are what keep me going.

To all the dream-chasers, thrill-seekers, adventurers, peace-lovers, word warriors, and the stubborn, hopeful dreamers, may your cup always be half-full, your heart open and warm, your feet taking you closer to where you want to be, and your soul deeply, deeply alive.

Happy New Year!

this cruel world was not made for a soul like you

shinee-jonghyun

The K-pop world was shook this week in the worst possible way, when popular boy group SHINee’s lead vocalist Kim Jonghyun killed himself via carbon monoxide poisoning.

The 27-year-old singer-songwriter had been depressed for ages and sought help repeatedly before eventually deciding to take his own life.

I wouldn’t consider myself a fan of the group in particular, but I do appreciate their contributions to K-pop and the entertainment industry. They were hilarious on Korea’s SNL, and their songs are super catchy. The boys always seem so humble and hardworking, and so friendly and kind to their fans. Their strong bond was also undeniable.

It’s heartbreaking to know that that someone who brought so much warmth and support to others had been in so much pain deep inside. Jonghyun had been an empathetic, deeply emotional soul who poured his heart out into his music. But in the end, the cry for help in his songs went unheard.

The worst thing is, this all could have been prevented. Depression can be cured, with patience, the right sort of counselling, proper medication and treatment, and lots of love and support.

Jonghyun was widely loved by friends, colleagues, and fans all over the world. He was loved by his mother, his sister, and his group-mates, who were like brothers to him. Everyone close to him was aware he was battling depression, but often we don’t realise just how bad it is. It’s not like a depressed person would go around telling everyone how miserable he is all the time, and especially not a celebrity who has to smile at cameras all the time.

As someone who has been through that downward spiral before, I know how dark it can be in the deepest recesses of our minds, how we can’t stop judging and berating ourselves, how absolutely tiring it is just to get through one more day, to put up a cheerful front in front of everyone but cry ourselves to sleep every night, how sometimes it seems easier to just sleep and shut out the world.

But Jonghyun couldn’t rest. He had group activities, solo activities, he had to travel, to perform, to train and practice, to keep producing music, and the pressure to remain at the top and meet everyone’s expectations must have been overwhelming.

If only he had held on for one more day. If only he knew just how many people loved him. If only he had found the right sort of help. If only someone was with him that day. If only the paramedics had arrived in time. If only he could have seen that pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel, he might realise that life could be beautiful even if it seemed bleak in that moment.

I know I did.

If he hadn’t gone through with the suicide mission, he might have woken up the next morning and received a phone call from a dear friend and eaten his favourite food and played his music. He might have realised that if he had killed himself the night before, he wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy all these little pleasures life could offer him.

If he had held on for one more day, he might not have made the decision to kill himself again. Sometimes, one day is all it takes to make a depressed person see the value of living again.

There are those who don’t understand a thing about depression who would say, “What’s he got to be depressed about? He’s rich and famous, with millions of adoring fans and a successful career.”

But with depression, it’s not about how much you have. It’s about how much you have to live for. And sometimes, in the moment when we get swept away by our emotions, we lose sight of that. 70 percent of those who commit suicide made the decision within the hour, which means the majority of suicides are committed in that moment when we are blinded by the fog of our toxic thoughts.

In the end, Jonghyun had given in to those thoughts. He thought himself lacking and worthless, when the world saw him talented and lovable.

jonghyun quote

Source: Koreaboo

(Also, to say that someone has “no right” feel sad is just about the most ignorant and cruel thing to say. Dismissing someone’s emotions based on what you perceive is the most effective way to make a depressed person feel even more trapped. Everyone is entitled to feel, to hurt, to fear and to cry. Everyone. Unless you live in everyone’s heads, you don’t get to judge who has the right to feel sad.)

I saw the pictures of the funeral procession, and the sight of Key breaking down in tears, Onew looking so broken as though he had lost his soul, Minho trying to comfort everyone when he was also grieving, Donghae’s longing stare even after the hearse had driven away, Taeyeon, Krystal, and Amber crying their eyes out, and Jonghyun’s mom and sister weak and pale and in abject pain made me cry harder than I expected to for someone I didn’t know personally.

These are the faces of the people left behind.

The only comfort they now have is that Jonghyun is no longer suffering from himself. And maybe the only thing left to do now is to heal. To bend to a new reality, and reshape their lives around his absence. To hold on for one more day.

jonghyun quote 2.PNG

If you’re in a dark place right now, know that this too shall pass. This moment that you are living in right now will only be as long as you allow it to be.

It is human to question your existence, to want to matter and to feel insignificant when you feel like you are not heard or appreciated. It is human to have questions that you don’t have the answers to, to fear that you don’t matter at all. But you are not alone in having to live out those questions — everyone battles the same kind of insecurity, neuroses, and fears. And with time you might arrive at the answers made just for you.

You will be sad and stressed and tired and completely sick of the world at times, but you will also experience joy and love and kindness. You will bear old scars and you will continue to suffer new ones. But you will also heal, and in doing so find your skin tougher, your sight clearer after crying.

You just need to hold on for one more day, to give life one more chance, and you might just be thankful that you did.

beautiful life quote.PNG

KimuTaku said it right in this classic Japanese drama, Beautiful Life.