Journalling a habit

Book with the phrase It's about to get nostalgic in here
Keeping track of what’s happened to me is the current reason why I am journalling

Notables:

  • Got reassured by my boss that she loves the work I am putting out
    • Could be a bit more meticulous but part of it is the insane workload we all have – understanding boss is really awesome
  • Ontama curry from Hanamaru is delicious and cheap
  • NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO MANMARU CLOSED DOWN
  • Epic failing at writing my journal reflection this morning
  • Took a nap that almost lasted three hours

~~~~~

Ever since I started my new job, I have started listening to a lot more podcasts. As it is I am completely up to date with Welcome to Nightvale (CARLOS X CECIL 4EVA and knowing that Carlos’ actor Dylan Marron is also gay and a POC who IS as sweet outside of Nightvale as Carlos is a life goal), Our Fair City (OMG it has an end date but why), discovered the Orbiting Human Circus (Julian why you so adorbs) and have recently started listening to Productivity Alchemy and I already love it (thank you tenta!).

The Podcast habit was easy to start, because the new car has auto Bluetooth connection, so I just start it up when I get into the car. I have never been more glad to dump radio, and even if I have to drive my mom to church I now put on Spotify’s Top 40 list instead of Mix FM.

There have been other habits that I have tried and not quite succeeded though. Writing daily journal entries is one of them. This post is an example of how I’m structuring it.

The Notable section is a way for me to gather my thoughts and reflect on what has happened between the last time I wrote an entry and now. I have a tendency to oversleep, which cuts into the morning session, and by the evening I’m usually too exhausted.

I’m compensating by writing when I need some space to think at work, and by continuing the weekly habit I already had before this. It’s been almost two months since I started this journey, and while it is on its way to becoming a permanent habit, there are still enough times where I feel like I’m failing.

I can’t remember where I began the thought dump process, but I know that it required me to get over my tendency to listen to others and really just start examining my own habits. I needed to convince myself that it was alright to take 10 minutes to simply write whatever that came to mind, that it was fine to thought dump and not censor myself.

The hardest part has been to write to be forgotten, because I don’t want anyone else to read it. A pen and paper notebook, while romantic, is also impractical for this. I would rather write on the computer with the ability to edit; my fingers can keep up with the speed of my thoughts.

So what I have learnt?

I need a little structure

I was talking to Tenta about journalling and I realised that what put me off bullet journalling was the whole “oh you need to structure your day HERE IS LIMITED SPACE TO MAKE IT LOOK PRETTY WHILE GETTING SHIT DONE” and the whole productivity thing was not something I like.

The format of writing what was notable in the past few hours however, worked well to remind me of things that are memorable. They didn’t need to be things that are good, though I always want to start with that; I want to remember the happier moments and wins instead of the negative bits.

I also got myself a paper journal (thanks Rin!) that was more for those moments I didn’t want to whip out the Bluetooth keyboard and yet wanted to write. It has since been turned into an ideas book, with little snippets and practising of my penmanship.

Journalling is therapeutic

There’s plenty enough said online and in studies that highlight the benefits of journalling, but I would like to confess something it has made me realise; journalling allows me to put into words insights and ideas I have had for the longest time, but lacked the courage to say or admit. It is brutally honest, but only if I am with myself.

Writing, to me, is half an art, half a science. Perhaps the hardest part is to be gentle to yourself, especially when dealing with emotions.

Self-care is not selfish, and if it means you need to take time out to go pay your bills, have a mini mental vacation or treat yourself to a good meal, it will allow you to go back to work or whatever it is you need to do.

My habits have noticeable dip and high tendencies

Probably not going to happen to everyone, but I noticed this about myself. Journalling allowed me to record and somewhat track this. More importantly, it gave me the space to process the emotions that led or did not lead to the decision.

Another side benefit of journalling on the PC or via a service like Google Docs; it makes looking up more of the same that much easier.

Journalling has made me more empathic?

Still not too sure about this, but journalling has made me more sensitive to others. I’m learning to read between the lines with a finer sift, and there is less hesitation when it comes to reaching out. However all this extra writing on top of my current job writing has led to an unexpected (though unsurprising outcome):

I find it harder to craft stories

My brain can think up scenarios but rarely pursue it to fruition. I can attribute this somewhat to having just come out of an environment where EVERY MOMENT OF YOUR TIME MUST BE PRODUCTIVE AND YOU ARE COSTING US HOURS AND MINUTES but that is not the whole of it. The drive has been lost, and I want to find it again.

So… how was YOUR day?

Google Docs for writers

Inserting Links the lazy way in Google Docs. Gif from Tech Crunch
Inserting Links the lazy way in Google Docs. Gif from Tech Crunch

I love the Google Docs Office Suite. I rarely use the collaborative tools (that’s changing now thanks to Prose-ACK! and Pulp Toast) but I use Docs often to write my blog posts, edit scripts and write my novels. Last week, I found a very cool feature by accident that made my eyes almost pop their sockets. Today, I learnt of another time-saving feature that made me headdesk. And it is these two features, with Google Docs’ output to epub function, that makes me think that Google Docs might just be ready for epics of more than 50,000 words.

Insert link the lazy way
This is the feature you see in the gif above. Inserting a link is now much more intuitive and easier than ever. All you need to do is highlight, select “Insert Link” or press Ctrl + K, and the tool will immediately suggest links related to your highlight. I knew of the “insert link/research” feature as part of the research tools in Gdocs but did not use it until today (at the point of writing).

TechCrunch has a great article about this! And an old one too. ^^;

Automatic outlines!
I was proofing a fairly long contest Terms and Conditions document when I alt tabbed to another window. In doing so, my computer lagged and took my input keys to mean that I wanted to check my document’s outline. I didn’t, but it was a very cool way to see the content. Of course I had to apply it to my other projects, and it was here I discovered a tiny shortcoming.

Docs can detect outlines if you turn them into headers or bold them to make them stand out, but if you don’t and leave them as it is (aka Chapter 1, instead of Chapter 1), then it won’t detect them as outlines and will leave it as is. Still, fun!

Output to epub!
This was announced a few months ago and is the feature that made me giddy with delight. Epub is the most commonly used ebook format, and I actually used it to read Bloodschild (my current WIP novel) on my phone to get a feel of how it’d read on a mobile. I had to jump through a few hoops to get there (among them installing Calibre and tedious formatting) and so being able to output directly to epub makes my life easier.

Plus this also means I should be able to put Chap Fan on sale as an ebook, and so you can now take economy poetry with you!

Caveat: Now, I mentioned earlier that Docs may finally be ready for epics of more than 50,000 words. The reason I say this is because Docs has had difficulty in my experience, handling documents of over 51,000 words. Sometimes it’s the act of copy pasting from my Q10 to Google Docs it has problems with. Other times it’s me trying to add to the story that does it.

So can Docs handle a 100k word epic? We shall find out soon. And with that, good night (I should stop writing before I sleep, it’s bad for my schedule).

[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.

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.

Fear.

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.

Fear.

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”?

Why do I write, 2014 thoughts

Karcy had a very interesting question the other day. She asked on Facebook, why do the artists on her friends list create?

For me, the art of creation is what keeps me sane. Writing keeps me sane, keeps me alive, keeps me grounded, in a sense. Several years ago, after being out of a job for about 10 months, I began to work full time again. (My venture into freelance is something I’m still highly embarrassed about, mainly because it’s due to my own inadequacies, but that’s a topic for another day).

So when I started working again, I went into social media. It was what I was hired for, what my skillset then was good at. And in the business of it all, I neglected to write. As in write longform, stringing together words to make sentences to turn into essays. I began job-hopping. Then I finally ended up where I am working now, and still I didn’t write.

It took almost 18 months and the realisation I was slipping into depression before I began to take up the pen again. I could write, it seems during Nannowrimo, but I was afraid to write any other time. The sense of failure had resulted in fear, and I was truly afraid that I would fail again.

I tried all sorts of way to write. It wasn’t until this year, when I started submitting stories, that I really felt right about writing. It’s not an indulgent thing, to want to write because I want to. It’s not a matter of bragging about my skills. I’m not an imposter who’s lucky enough to string words together.

I write because I want to live.

And that’s all that matters.