In Which I Am Tagged (Because I Am Writerly)

But since “writerly” is not a word, everything is moot.

I honestly don’t consider myself a writer writer. Yeah, I make a bit of money off freelance work, but it’s not like I’m known for my writing.

When I think of “writer”, I think of people who are recognized for the craft. So, I’m not a writer. I think.

But then Bea tagged me with this Writer Tag thing, and I am obliged because I like her.

I will therefore endeavor to answer as best as I can.

The Writer Tag

1. What type of writing do you do?

I am a content factory, mostly. However, I am extremely proud of the fact that I am now a writer with a byline, albeit for an online magazine. I write for LxEdit and you can see my name on the articles and stuff. For someone who’s worked as a ghost-writer/content mill for years, this is super cool.

Quick note: thank you Bea for helping me land this job. I owe you.

2. What genres and/or topics do you write about?

I would really love to write about books, music, and movies, but nobody will pay me to. I write about beauty/lifestyle/fashion mostly (for the aforementioned LxEdit). This is a fact, even though I am shit at fashion and my lifestyle revolves around Netflix and wine.

I also write about investments, student loans, and a bunch of other stuff I can’t/don’t give a fuck about.

3. How long have you been writing?

I started writing stories when I was in Grade 2, I think, but I’m not sure. It all seems so far away now, because me is old lady.

I remember selling short stories in Grade 3(?). My classmates would place their orders (like “horror story about a sentient plant” etc) and I’d get cracking. My classmates were not very intelligent, so they would gladly pay for my shit stories.

4. Are you published?

Yes, sort of. Online now, but I used to write for a local news digest. That counts, right? I am also published in reputable journals, probably. I say probably because I have several papers that are supposed to be published but no one ever confirmed with me.

These questions are difficult.

5. What was the first story you ever wrote?

Not sure, but I do remember the novel I tried to write. It was about this boy who got sucked into his missing uncle’s book. I know, I know. In hindsight it sounds like Neverending Story but I swear to the Mongolian Sky God that I didn’t steal the story. I didn’t even realize the similarity until much later.

6. Why do you write?

I honestly don’t know. As with many of the things I do (like teaching), I think it’s narcissism that fuels me.

7. How do you find time to write?

I have a schedule for the freelance work. It’s not that difficult, though I have to juggle school, work, and freelance writing.

(Wait, let me just say I now realize how remarkable this is given how lazy I am. Yay me.)

8. When and where are the best times to write?

I really can’t say, because I write when I feel like writing. I am, as I’ve said, a shit writer. I can force myself occasionally, but if I want work I can be proud of I have to wait for the words to come, like some sort of Indian musician waiting for hours for inspiration. (Asian Studies reference; you have to be one of us to get it.)

However, I can tell you that it’s awesome to write once the words come rushing in. Can’t stop the signal.

9. Favorite food/drinks while writing?

If I’m writing for work stuff, I binge on coffee. If I’m writing my personal shit, I like doing it while sloshed.

10. Your writing playlist?

If I have to concentrate while writing (like for research work), I have to listen to stuff without lyrics. Joe Satriani is super handy for this.

If I want to boost my spirits I go for my tried and tested battle music: the Rurouni Kenshin OST.

When I used to write fiction, I’d try to listen to a lot of stuff that would serve as background music for the story I was writing. I remember listening to a lot of Liz Phair while writing this not-quite-love-story that will never see the light of day because it sucks.

11. What do family/friends/loved ones think of you writing?

This is tricky. Parents/teachers/friends mostly compliment my writing, but I feel like I’ve never really delivered on the “potential” they could all see.

12. Parts of writing you enjoy the most?

Whenever I don’t suck.

13. Parts of writing you find challenging?

Fiction I find most challenging. Everything else is relatively easy.

14. What do you use to write with and on?

I like writing on paper, but I do like Pages.

15. How do you overcome writers block?

I don’t really think about it. Do I have writer’s block? Maybe I have permanent writer’s block.

16. How do you motivate yourself to write?

I don’t really. I’ve given up on “motivating” myself because I’m more stubborn than another thing that is stubborn.

17. Authors who inspire you as a writer?

Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl got me thinking about writing fiction again. The feeling was short-lived.

18. Books that inspire you as a writer?

See #17.

19. Best advice you’ve gotten as a writer?

“Keep writing”.

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Writing in Notebooks with Pens

When I was younger, I was the kind of kid who got a kick out of new school supplies. The first day of school was always difficult, mostly because I couldn’t bear to write on my new notebooks. I would end up tearing pages out before the day was through, because my handwriting looked like an unfortunate blot on my otherwise beautiful and spotless notebooks.

I’ve never actually gotten over this little habit of mine. New notebooks still get my heart racing. I confess to stroking fresh and pristine pages. When I finally started working, I decided that I could now afford to buy notebooks whether it was the start of classes or not, and I went on a weird notebook buying spree.

I had cheap notebooks, expensive ones, fat ones, thin ones. I had this one notebook that I was particularly fond of. I got it from Anonymous, a store that prides itself in being the brand that isn’t a brand. It folded up years ago. The notebook had steel covers (not real real steel, I suppose, because it wasn’t too heavy, but still steel-ish), and I remember I never actually wrote anything significant in it.

It sat inside my drawer for years, as did most of my impulse notebook buys. I just like notebooks, but I never know what to write in them.

So it’s been quite a pleasant shock to me that just last year, I finally figured it out. I CAN WRITE WHATEVER I WANT. I can fill my notebooks with the most inane of drivel and it would be okay. It’s my notebook, after all. With this newfound freedom I started writing and writing and writing. Things I couldn’t blog about found their way into this tiny notebook I kept inside my bag and with me at all times.

The pages reveal my initial notebook apprehensions. At first I had this idea that the notebook would be my daily to-do diary. This is because as much as I love digital organisers, I still find writing things down the best way to keep my brain uncluttered. The first page of my pocket notebook actually is a literal to-do list. This goes on for the next few pages, then paragraphs of me moaning about some shit or other start appearing every so often. Soon enough I’ve given up on the to-doing and I’m using the notebook solely as a repository of all my nonsense shit (things that are important only to me, or perhaps too personal to share).

Congratulations, I’ve got a journal.

I had to get a separate planner eventually, and it helps that Moleskine has some of the most wonderful notebooks ever made. I write in it daily, not just about the work I ought to do (or will put off), but about a variety of things that I try to keep in mind. At present it’s got shopping lists and weight loss tips and personal reminders not be anxious about crap.

Sample entry: “annoyed = okay; anxious/worried/frightened = no”. It’s personal shorthand. I understand it and that’s the most important thing. This also means I’m still in the habit of talking to myself, although it’s less obvious and embarrassing now.

Now I’ve brought this habit to the workplace. I currently have a notebook that contains every bit and piece that happens at work daily, so I never lose track of anything. So far my work notebook contains my findings, things to do, items to keep track of, and wonderful glimpses into my mental state, thanks to random margin notes like “so bored”.

And so even as I map a way to work and write and blog and do stupid shit on computers and smartphones and tablets, I’m rediscovering the beauty of writing things down. I think it would be one of the greatest tragedies of human civilisation for us to forget what it feels like to scratch words on paper, transferring onto wood pulp the rawest possible emotions and our very minds and souls laid bare. Not because words reveal them, but because the very manner by which we write, that very act, reveals far more than the words we scratch out. Let’s see a computer try that.