Small Blessings

Recently one of my friends asked me how I stayed motivated, beyond the usual drive of routine and necessity (aka I need cash to survive).

Before that, I had another friend asked me how I stayed kind.

I remember babbling on, but I think what helps is being grateful.

I take comfort from small blessings, from the little things that happened throughout the day. I am also learning to let go of “what other people might think about me feeling this way” which is far harder than it sounds.

I make it a point to say “Thank you” to almost everyone I meet (the habit of saying “I’m sorry” when something bad happens is the opposite and is something I’m trying to break).

Shugo the White Seal with a pair of sunglasses on his face
Seeking joy in the little things, like Shugo on top of my head

I find joy in smiling every day. Wearing a mask because of my allergies makes this even easier, because no one can see you smile like a crazy person when the appropriate thought flashes by,

These are all surface habits though. Small things. But they help me make sense of the day, of the moment, of the pain.

Once I became aware and grateful for the little things, it became a habit. And habits are second nature; you will usually find yourself doing things over and over again by routine or by trigger. And they build on each other.

I found an unexpected benefit in this habit. It made me reexamine my own behaviour, my own biases and friendships. The latter is especially important, as I have a tendency to defend my friends blindly.

I am a hoarder. This translates to both physical possessions and intangible ties. There’s a good chance that unless I need to use/contact often, I will forget some things exist. But I’m trying.

Trying to keep alive the friendships that mean a lot to me. To pull away from the things and people that drain me. To find time for myself and genuinely reflect.

Having someone who plays the devil’s advocate and makes me feel uncomfortable in terms of my thinking is an unexpected blessing.

I’m learning, slowly but surely, to let go. To be in this reality and this moment. And the practicalities associated with it.

Like buying a house. Moving out of my comfort zone. Pushing my words out to be published. Making earning money a priority and not think about it as a dirty thing.

I’m still trying.

[NaoReviews] Made in Malaysia


Title: Made in Malaysia: Stories of Hometown Heroes and Hidden Gems
Author: Alexandra Wong
Price: Generally around RM32.90
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
TL;DR: Take a moment to breathe and smile.

Disclaimer: I know the author personally but she did not ask me to write this review.

The thing about picking up non-fiction Malaysian books is that I often have very little faith in their content. I am also uncomfortable with the vast majority of them, if only because they seem to be mainly feel good or deliberately inflammatory.

So I was a little jaded, perhaps, when Made in Malaysia reached my hands. And as it turned out, this was what I needed.

From tales of getting lost and finding friendly faces, to talks with a train driver to a magical Sarawak visit, Alex imbues her stories with curiosity and wonder. You’ll probably find yourself giggling and laughing as you read them.

What really struck me though, was the quiet dignity and respect she treats her interviewees with.

There’s Lipu, the Lady of the Longhouse who inspires. There’s impromptu interviews with bus ticket collectors and taxi drivers, who exhibit their own quiet pride in their occupation. Then there’s the one about the railway driver, Azmi who gives her one of the best pieces of advice to have in life.

And there’s the one called “She’s all heart.”

This is the story that touched me the most. That still moves me to tears even after all this while.

It is, in my opinion, the most important story in the book.

Not just because I believe in organ donation.

Not just because I think Dr Lela’s story should be told.

But because the way Alex tells Dr Lela’s story pays tribute to the grieving families who choose to donate their loved ones’ body so someone else could live. They are not nameless corpses who may have passed on in accidents, but human beings who were loved, adored, and cared while they were alive.

And thanks to their donations, other families can continue to enjoy the same.

You could, I suppose, read most of her stories online (a large majority of the stories in this book WAS taken from her Navel Gazer column).

I think though, that it would be better to buy the book. As a reminder of what being a human and perhaps secondarily, a Malaysian, is all about.

Who knows? You might discover your own Hometown Hero.

[Event] MPH Writer’s Circle: Get Published!

So, last week I attended the MPH Writer’s Circle (held on a weekend for once!) at Nu Sentral. The topic was fairly interesting, but I went there mainly because they apparently had a pitching session, which I did not join in the end. Everyone on the panel were published authors, with different backgrounds and specialities.

They were, in no particular order:

  • Oon Yeoh – Senior Consulting Editor of MPH Group Publishing
  • Marina Mustafa – Cookbook author
  • Jojo Struys – Health book author and guided relaxation advocate
  • Khaw Choon Ean aka Teoh Choon Ean – novelist and illustrator, former gymnast and coach
  • Anuar Shah – Fixi Novelist, property lawyer and speaker
  • Umie Nadzimah – Bestselling author (Dia Isteri Luar Biasa, Cinta Paling Agung, & Kerana Terpaksa Aku Relakan which have been turned into TV Dramas)

  • Information provided by MPH’s FB page when I asked nicely, heh

For most part, I kind of expected the questions and responses they would give. What I did not expect was the brutal honesty. Some takeaways:

  1. Science Fiction doesn’t sell in Malaysia
    Sad, but honest. There’s not much of a market for sci-fi in Malaysia. Same with fantasy. If you’re a Malaysian English writer in these genres, chances are you’d never be able to sell, if only because we already have international authors in the market. You may have a chance with the Malay market, but for English, best to go overseas first.

  2. Just do it!
    Have an idea? Pitch it to the publishers. If you’re writing non-fiction at least. Anuar’s 40 Questions to ask your lawyer before purchasing a residential property was pitched at a general book event like the one I attended, and he was asked to write it. People like Umie started writing and building their audiences slowly on places like Karyaseni (think Wattpad but specific to a publisher) before getting picked up.

  3. Most surprising thing learnt about publishing?
    That the money they make is tiny (yes, this is something I’ve heard as well). Which leads to my next point:

  4. Don’t expect to make (much) money as a writer in Malaysia
    All of them are still holding day jobs. This is where I say it’s half and half. You CAN make money writing (copywriting ahoy!) but don’t expect it to be like the States where you can make money writing books full time. Most people everywhere don’t anyway. ^^l

  5. Books are good to advertise your skills
    From what I understood, writing a book both sort of paints you as an expert in the Malaysian market. In terms of writing language, local non-fiction English books do well, but for fiction the Malay market is more lucrative. Most, like Anuar, use their written books to support their main businesses.

And that’s about it. For me, it was both depressing and yet reassuring to hear about the issues in publishing. I was glad I went though, met up with a few other writers. Now back to the grindstone for me!

Here’s my tweets from last week, in one handy reply for you.

Don’t break character

Warning: attention whoring inside.

Don’t break character
You’ve got a lot of heart
Is this real or just a dream?
Rise up like the sun
Labour till the work is done

I feel like a fraud sometimes.

From writing to working to everything else.

I sometimes feel like I’m a fraud. That I got to this age, to this life, to this place, all through luck. Makes sense for me to think so, when you consider that at 5 years old, I doubted I could reach 21 years old, much less thirty.

I still remember that moment. Lying on my back. Remembering fragments of a conversation earlier about someone having a birthday party or turning 21. Not sure which. But thinking vaguely to myself, that wow, it’d be incredible if I reached that same age. And thirty? That would be a miracle.

And at 31 in a few weeks, I’m surprised I’m still alive. Still here to type these words, though I’m not sure who will read this. I apologise for the pessimism, but as a woman, I can and will claim the monthly hormonal imbalances.

It doesn’t change the thoughts I’ve been having though, but merely allows me to open and vulnerable.

Because it takes a lot to write such thoughts. To laying out your heart.

But this is the safest way I know of confronting who I am. And to try to figure out who I want to be.

Don’t break character
You’ve got sooooo much heart
Is this real or just a dream?
Oh Rise up like the sun
And labour till the work is done

My work is not done. I am not done, not by a long mile. For now, Over rock and chain, over sunset plain. Over trap and snare. Tis time to be acquainted with my old tools again.

Freezing with fear

So many thoughts, so many ideas.

Been reading so many books and sites about writing and summarising and selling that my thoughts are a constant book marketing narrative now. I think in synopsis, in bylines, in taglines, in short sentences that are designed to intrigue, designed to sell, designed to make people give me money, that when I sit in front of the screen, my mind goes blank.

Deadlines, I need a deadline. One that comes from outside rather than within. I have ideas, I have stories, no, I have the glimpses of a story, but when I sit down and write, I find many reasons to procrastinate. It is not fear that holds me, I think, or is it? I’ve lived with fear for so long, I find the physical version of fear and horror to be a splash of cold water.


It is possible for this insidious, sinister thing to come into your heart, into your mind, into your brain, and lodge itself there. It hides itself well, masquerading as love, as caution, as concern, but know it thus by its name.


We humans are fearful creatures. We have to be, it is something that we have to develop in order to survive. So many years. So many generations. So many ways for fear to weave itself into our psyche, to corrupt everything we touch, to hide our own weaknesses and blinkers.

How did we come to this state?

No, that is not something I will answer. You need only to see the history of humanity as it is written to see that everything is motivated by fear. Not love, because love does not require us to move, to do more than simply accept and return that love, but fear moves us forward. It is ingrained so deeply into our psyche, that we build walls around us to love and only move forward when we fear losing that love.

Fear motivates most of us. The question is, will fear stop us from taking a breath and saying, “I am here. I can do this. This is what I want, more than the safety of my life, and the ones I do not want to disappoint”?