Slow build

One of my posts, 2015: my year of writing, was a sort of call to arms. It was a way to try to get me to blog more, to write more and to basically take the leap – when the time was right – and hope for the best.

Unfortunately 2015 was not exactly as successful, in the writing sense, as I hoped. The regular gig was my writing for Together magazine and I sort of let the blog go, perhaps because I was running out of steam, and other things in my life were becoming more of a priority.

However, a couple of months ago I sort of came to the scary realisation that I can no longer pretend that I will be content doing the day job for the rest of my life, and if I don’t sort of get a move on, and have a crack at giving the writing a go, I might miss my chance, and I might regret it.

As I’ve spoken to people, read up on how to make the leap and heeded the pleas of my other half to not just quit without a plan, I imagine that a bit of a plan will help to make the transition a little less scary.

The plan is this: write more, save cash and quit job. I also have a deadline. And I’ve told as many people as possible of my plan so that I don’t chicken out of it (it’s very easy to do so when you work in a golden cage). Finally, it will be slow and I might not have any money for a long time. Eeek.

2016 has been pretty darn awesome – my editorial internship at Delayed Gratification, my Together gig, and some friends have asked me to write for them. Yes! Also, I volunteered for this year’s TEDxBrusselsWomen conference. I met a particularly mouthy and inspiring freelance journalist Rosie Spinks who gave me good advice on how to become a writer (basically: just write and keep at it). For the Tedx blog, I interviewed a really fantastic British engineer  – MBE at 30, energy manager at Starbucks, Asian, a woman, just yay! – and I wrote about how women should have more of a say in their health technology.

In other news: On the advice of Rolf Dobelli’s essay I’ve quit reading news websites and subscribed to The New Yorker instead – I feel like my English is improving with every sentence I read! Also, I interviewed my parents back in 2009 to learn more about their lives as youngsters and only just transcribing the interviews now. I really recommend interviewing your parents!

Till next time,

Gemma Rose

 

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Freedom to write

“I won’t put down my pen, I won’t lay down my camera, I won’t shut up and I won’t be blinkered or turn a deaf ear to what goes on in Malaysia and the world. And I urge all of you to do the same.”

– Jahabar Sadiq, editor of the now closed The Malaysian Insider

It was with great sadness to read the other day about the closure of The Malaysian Insider. It was a news portal that was independent, written in both Malay and English, informing the Malaysian public and the world of the realities of Malaysia.

The official line was that it was closing down because of lack of funds, which is true. But the reason why it was losing funding was because the Malaysian Government had put pressure on companies not to advertise with the organisation. The Government also blocked the site. The reasons for the pressure and block were due to the reporting on the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, a Malaysian state fund, which money from it has been allegedly embezzled. The Prime Minister Najib Razak is the head of its advisory board and was caught up in investigations as to how US$681m ended up in his bank account and where it came from. The Prime Minister has been cleared in Malaysia of any wrongdoing. Many investigators including the FBI, Swizerland, Hong Kong and Singapore are examining the misappropriation of 1MDB funds.

The Malaysian Insider reported that there was evidence of a criminal charge against the Prime Minister. Shortly after, its site was blocked. Three weeks later, it shut down.

I came across the editor’s obituary of the Malaysian Insider in the Guardian. The site had 59 staffers, representing 1 Malaysia in its true form: the Malay, Chinese and Indian peoples of Malaysia. “We were becoming too free,” he writes, “as the government side of the news became the object of derision and ridicule.” The press has become too free in Malaysia, thanks to the internet. But blocking and arrests “make people shut up,” and shut down, to borrow his sentiment.

Whether it is writing to uncover the truth, or to question convention, it is incredible how the pen, or the keyboard can upset Governments, fanatics and the status quo. But as Sadiq fears, we cannot be prisoners in our minds because of repression. He urges us not to put down the pen or shut down the laptop.

The photo below comes from The Malaysian Insider’s site. You see the 59 or so staffers smiling and vivacious, even though an organisation that is so dear to them comes to a close. The top of photo lies the caption in bold capital letters: Thank you Malaysia.

I hope that Malaysia, in return, thanks you.

 static-graphic_thankyoutmi_140316_tmi_heza-2

The driving force of fear

“Fear drives us to do many things in our lives. For me, the fear of losing a loved one, and all those terrifying thoughts of what it’s like to be left behind and feel alone, drove me to conceive and write this story.”

Cecilia Ahern, P.S I love you

I read this book recently on my holiday. Honestly, I’ve read better books but what encouraged (forced) me to keep reading was this first sentence of the note from the author. When I got back from holiday, I also decided to watch the film to see what all the fuss about and I have to say the book was far better (why do Americans overdo Ireland so much?), although the film’s saving grace is Lisa Kudrow.

The quote above resounds so much with me because I have a fear that drives me. A fear of being stuck in a routine, or a lifestyle that doesn’t suit me. I know that something isn’t right when I get a funny urge in my body, one where something inside just wants to leap out of me, take hold of me and shove me into the spotlight. But then my slow brain takes over – the thinker – and it just says, “Not yet.”

I am waiting for the day when the urge is so strong that my slow brain will say, “Now.”

2015: My year of writing

Now I know there is no value in sitting about wishing and hoping. If I’m daydreaming about something, it’s down to me to make it happen.

– Daisy Buchanan, ‘Lessons in life that online dating taught me’, The Guardian

2014 was the year of meeting more men. I wrote about it in my article ‘The art of conversation’ for Together magazine. I realised that if I wanted to meet the right person for me, I had to have a good idea about what I was looking for and then get out there and look for it. I learnt that my love life is in my hands.

It has been over two years since I started Living room philosophy. Thanks to the blog, I got the opportunity to write for Together magazine: my very own personal development column. Thanks to the magazine, I did my first interview: it was with Ratna Osman, from Sisters in Islam, an NGO fighting for equality and justice for muslim women in Malaysia. I will post the interview on the blog soon.

I am so thankful that my writing is gaining traction, although I admit I’d like to do more and I guess I am looking for that lucky break: the opportunity to write full-time on the topics that really interest me. The freedom to choose and still be able to make a decent living.

Earning a living is for me what makes writing as a career so scary. I hear a lot about how journalism doesn’t pay, it’s all about free content, and it’s best to find other lucrative channels to support your writing. Yet, I can’t help but feel that earning a living in the arts has always been tough and always will be. Plus, I hear that some people do earn a good living: a journalist recently told me that he’s faring very well. In Margaret Atwood’s book ‘Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing’, she accepted that when she started out in late 1950s Canada as a poet, she definitely wasn’t going to earn money. But she did.

For making the transition into writing, the most sensible advice I’ve read (and heard) is to start building it up slowly and then make the leap when I have the resources to. As the Guardian journalist George Monbiot says in his article about career advice, “Work hard, but don’t rush. Build your reputation slowly and steadily.” And he thinks specialisation, instead of what journalism school (and actually many schools) thinks is a trap, is actually the key to escaping the trap: “You can become the person editors think of when they need to cover a particular issue from a particular angle (that is to say your angle). They then respond to your worldview, rather than you having to respond to theirs.”

So 2015 is going to be my year of more writing: more blog posts and more published articles. And just like my love life, my career is in my hands.