It’s never easy being a writer. Some days the words flow, and some days they don’t. Sometimes we know exactly how our stories will end, and sometimes when we write we wonder, “Where is this all going?”.
Recently, I got tagged to participate in a writing tour by Sofia from Papaya Pieces and Lani over at Life, the Universe and Lani, which involves answering four questions about the “writing process”. These questions certainly reminded me of the frustrations of being a writer.
What am I working on at the moment?
A few weeks ago, I started planning my first book about feeling culturally different as an Asian Australian and a creative person. I’ve also been busy with freelance writing assignments – mostly unpaid – on youth and human rights issues and this blog.
As writers, our patience is always tested. Countless times ideas hit us – when we’re standing on a packed train, when we’re in the shower – and we just can’t sit down then and put them into sentences. Sure, we can jot the ideas down quickly on paper so we won’t forget, but it’s always some time before we get the chance to make stories out of them.
Juggling a full time job alongside writing projects, finding time to write at my own leisure is hard. The best time for us to write is when our heads are clear and we’re settled in a comfortable spot. Crafting stories takes time: we need time to research, time to give our stories a certain “flow”, time to put our thoughts into coherent sentences us and others will understand.
And so writing takes a lot of planning and it comes with the challenge of being logical in the midst of creative chaos, pulling tangled emotions from the depths of us and weaving them in between organised words.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Multiculturalism and race are sensitive topics, topics which are usually discussed within academic and niche circles in Australia (think Alice Pung, Michelle Lee). This year I’ve been blogging about these issues from lifestyle angles in everyday language, breaking away from writing about what has already been said on being Asian Australian and culture.
I chose to do so to broaden the appeal and raise more awareness about these topics, and because I want to stretch myself as a writer. It was a struggle dropping academic lingo from my writing, writing in more informal tones. Wasn’t used to it. In this sense, being a writer is hard: taking our work in new directions, switching writing styles, is like learning another language.
Why do I write what I do?
As writers, we live in uncertainty all the time. Signing with a publisher and making a living from selling books doesn’t happen to all writers. A career in writing isn’t championed much in traditional Asian families like mine, and what I earn from the occasional paid freelance writing assignment only buys me a dinner or two. But above all, we fear we won’t have as much time as we like to write – and that’s hard to face when it’s a reality.
I write when I can because it makes me happy, and I write to share the beauty of cultural differences. Not for views or praise. Not to get published.
How does my writing process work?
Writing is something us writers do alone. There are days when we hide away from the world just to write. Writing alone is something we have to do to stay true to our craft and sometimes we have to put up with others judging us as anti-social because of this.
Each Saturday morning while still in bed and wrapped up in my blankets like a toasty cinnamon bun, I check out the week’s photo challenge on my phone. Then I rack my brains for a topic to write about that week: the photo challenge might inspire a topic or I’ll go with an idea I’ve been thinking for a while that fits the challenge. Come Saturday and Sunday night, I plan, write and edit my blog post. On Monday night, I touch-up photos to go along with the post and schedule them all to go up noon on Thursday (Melbourne time). I really don’t have much of a social life on the most social days of the week.
Not everyone likes reading as it takes effort to read. Maybe that’s why getting others to talk about our work isn’t easy. On top of this, time and time again we face writer’s block. And so we might think we’re not that good at writing. It’s important to remember that creativity – and creating with confidence – comes from within. As Kristan Hoffman says:
“The hardest part of being a writer…is not coming up with ideas, or hitting your word count, or breathing life into your characters. It’s trusting yourself. Believing in yourself. Being yourself, and being okay with that.”
Being a writer means being honest with our stories. Being prepared to work hard and settle for second-best. Writing, is a journey. What matters at the end of the day is getting dizzyingly lost in our words, finding passion to turn them into stories and plucking up the courage to share them for nothing in return. That’s when we feel alive.
Do you find writing or blogging hard?