Pursue your dreams: How Danny Choo and James Sturm pursued theirs

Market Day by James SturmHere’s the unglamorous side of journalism and fiction writing: You need to meet deadlines. All the time. Or else. Sure I pursue my dreams through my work, but it’s a lot of hard work most of the time.

I once wrote an article (Passion for Japanese Culture) about Danny Choo a “full-time otaku” who pursued his dreams until he is living it.

Danny was very systematic in pursuing his dream, taking up Japanese classes and even working in a sushi restaurant to immerse himself in his passion – Japanese pop culture. Everyone should read his article about Pursuing Your Passion, by the way. It’ll teach you a few things about how to pursue your dreams.

Don’t be afraid of failure. Also, practice!

I also interviewed James Sturm, an American graphic novelist I interviewed in 2011. (Read my article: Getting to know cartoonist James Sturm.)

He established a college for cartoonists called Center for Cartoon Studies. He has a no-holds-barred approach to his art and did not think much about failing etc. He told me, “Better to fail than to take a bad job somewhere and suffer.”

His advice: If you want to be a cartoonist – draw!

What these two folks have taught me is that if you want to do something, let’s say write, just do it. And do it with discipline and determination. Being artistic is not a fuzzy feeling you get. Being an artist means hard work, dedication and being able to learn from your mistakes.

So if you want to pursue your dreams, start working on your art, project or business and work hard at perfecting it. Set aside time each day to hone your skills. Read books and blogs related to your passion. Learn and connect with fellow passion pursuers.

Good luck!

This post was originally published on Dec 13, 2010. This is a revised version.

Star Trek Enterprise: Last Full Measure review

Still going through a “nostalgic for all things Star Trek Enterprise” phase, so have been reading one Enterprise novel after another.

Story: Set in the third season of the series, we see the crew grappling with a near-impossible mission: Find and stop the perpetrators of a devastating attack on Earth which killed 7 million people.

We see Archer putting aside his idealistic view of the universe and using less-than-ethical ways to achieve his mission. We also see how the MACOs, the elite military unit which joined the ship in the third season, first interacted with the crew. It wasn’t easy for both sides.

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Don’t listen to that inner critic!

You suck! So says the inner critic. – credit: Ambro

Everyone has it. That little voice inside them that tells them that they’re no good. That they better not even try at all because their efforts will be fruitless. When I interviewed Margaret Stohl a few months ago, she told me how she once went on a writing tour with many “wise writers”. She asked them, “At what point did you stop saying that you’re a bad writer?”

They responded: “We’ll tell you when that happens.”

“Everyone I know feels the hater. No one is immune,” she said to me.

Yes, I can tell you right away that despite having written professionally since I was 18 or 19 (I started stringing for The Star and was a freelance copywriter while I was in college), that “hater” is still whispering things to me. It’s always telling me to stop trying. To just give up and forget about this “writing thing”.

Yes, everybody has an inner critic. The difference is whether you give it power to paralyse you.

For many years I gave my inner hater too much power. I listened to it. I agreed with it. It took a personal crisis to shake me out of my stupor. And I found myself asking myself, “Why the hell am I listening to it, really?”

I told the inner critic, “Thanks for your input. But I am going ahead anyway.”

And I begin to find my wings again. I dared to dream once more.

So, just tell your inner critic to shut it. You’re going to benefit from it, trust me.

Photo credit: Ambro

This post was originally published in Jan 22, 2012. Due to floods of comment spam I’m republishing some of my old posts rather than delete a comment at a time. Old is gold as they say!

Weekend Inspiration

I was drawn to singer Audrey Assad because she sang “prayer songs”. She dared sing about how life can be hard, and that it can break you … but yet God is there. It’s rare to find a Christian artiste willing to confess that she doesn’t have all the answers through song.

Today’s theme is about being authentic. When you create art. And when you’re having a bad day. Have a blessed weekend :)

Creating authentic art

[ A Fractured and Beautiful Faith ] I can go on and on about how the mass media Christian creative world – music, writing, even art – is dominated by the need to portray a perfect, idealised version of our world which doesn’t exist. Audrey Assad fought against that, daring to sing about real life, yet also reminding us that God is also there for us.

[ What you write about doesn’t matter ] by Jeff Goins. Sometimes we worry too much about what people think about us. Authentic writing is writing with your voice, your worldview.

A better life

[ The Day I Gave Up ] An honest, moving post by Bo Stern … ever had days where you tell God that you’re not brave enough? Good enough? You’re a mess?


October goals: Finish that novel!

I’m making a bold declaration for October, aren’t I?

Where did September go? I’m absolutely gobsmacked. I’m pretty pleased for what I have achieved for the month:

  • Spent more time with my folks! Yay! And each time I did it, that little nagging voice at the back of my head said: “But you’ve got to [a productivity goals]. I acknowledged it and went ahead, and each time I had a great time. I’m amazed, however, at the tinge of guilt I felt for not doing something to work towards my productivity goals!
  • I created a mailing list for my blog! You can subscribe by filling out your details on the right hand corner of the page.
  • Eat high-quality breakfasts. That, for me, would be Paleo-ish meals like the yummy beef soup at one of my favourite Thai restaurants or a slab of grilled salmon. Yesterday, I decided to indulge myself by eating a scone, a bit of bread and half a cake. I felt so horrible throughout the day and had the worst case of brain fog ever! I could barely concentrate at work. One moment of pleasure is not worth a whole day of wellness, everyone!
  • Gentle exercises. With the thick haze blanketing most of South East Asia, I couldn’t really enjoy my daily walks around the neighbourhood. But I did it anyway. I can’t wait to hop back into the pool in October! Haze permitting, of course.
  • Took time to pamper myself. That meant a stay at Viva Hotel KL so that I could go for repeated rounds of the Popular Book Sale. With Books at RM5 (US1.15) each, I was in book heaven. There’s nothing I enjoy more than book shopping, and with prices so low, I didn’t feel guilty. Too guilty, anyway!

I have no idea whether my spiritual goals was a win or not, but I half-heartedly joined an online bible study group. I managed to read half of Acts before, er, getting sidetracked. But I’m now incorporating “silence” in my morning routine where I take time to pray for the people in my lives.

A little disappointed, however, that I didn’t achieve my 5000 words-a-week goal for my novel, but my blog writing has increased ten fold! I’m not sure if that’s a good thing (Robin Hobb famously said that writers should stop blogging when there’s work to do), but I enjoyed myself so much!

But perhaps I’m being too hard on myself. It’s hard to concentrate on finishing a major project like a novel while being slammed by a cold and then bronchitis, and then trying to regain your health at the same time.

Oh yeah, I’m much better now, but I notice that if I go off my wellness plan my health takes a hit again.

So, in October I will be more focused on:

  • Writing 5000 words per week of my novel.
  • Upping my exercise from gentle to mildly challenging: The pool, here I come!
  • Finish my to-be-read pile. I’ve bought nearly 30 books from the sale. And I have just as much needed to be read from my library. I’m aiming to finish at least our books from my stockpile in October.
  • Spend time with friends and family as always.
  • Read a chapter of the bible a day.
  • Start my mornings in Silence, focusing on a verse and then praying for people in my life.
  • Continue having awesome breakfasts.
  • Finish interview questions for my blogging pals, and for other interviewees.
  • Finish at least three unfinished projects.

Am linking to:

Clear-The-List-4-Button-You can link up to Food, Booze & BaggageEsther from Local Adventurer, Lindsay from Lindsay Does Languages, and Shannon from Eurolinguiste to join!

Are Malaysian writers promoting a culture of mediocrity?

Fixi books

One of my favourite writers has a rather controversial philosophy about being a writer:

You are a writer. So start acting like one. – Jeff Goins

His approach has rankled some people because they believe it takes more to be a writer than just believing that you’re one and just writing.

Yesterday, an article in The Star caused a stir in a Malaysian Facebook writing community. The writer made some heavy claims about the local writing scene, among them:

  • “…there seems to be a tendency for Malaysian writers to be more attracted to the “writer’s life” than to actually writing. They want the “fame” and the “glamour” without the effort.”
  • “They are quick to consider themselves having “arrived” with the publication of a couple of short stories, or a volume of poetry. Getting published is the prize.”
  • “This culture of celebrating mediocrity, of self-congratulation is tasteless and embarrassing.”

I had a knee-jerk reaction on my first read of the article, maybe because I know the organiser and the people involved in the event. However, I think Daphne does have many valid points, especially about the way the festival is structured.

Still, I would like to point out that her concerns about writers chasing glory and fame – these are ‘problems’ that exist outside Malaysia too. Yes, even established literary scenes in Britain and the United States!

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5 Questions to ask yourself before you say yes

Busy womanI was having coffee with my friend the other day when I told him that I have this burning desire to sign up for figure-drawing classes.

He took one look me and said: “Don’t take up anything before running it by me first!”

It’s actually a good idea. He had recently seen me stressed out of my mind trying to juggle work, studies, and banking and legal matters. It would seem that I need someone else to tell me that a new project or hobby is the last thing I needed!

Being an ENFP, I have a tendency to hop from one shiny project to another. I  often end up frazzled, over-busy, exhausted and burned out.

My relationships suffered too.

The other day, my mom complained that she hardly sees me anymore. Our occasional breakfasts and morning walks was sacrificed to the altar of my studies.

This was no way to live.

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Weekend Inspiration


How was your week? If it’s been tough, I’ve got a treat for you. Time to kick back, relax, and read these inspiring posts.

The writing life

[ How I Became a More Productive Writer by Doing This One, Simple Thing ] by Carol Tice. Yup, it’s really as simple as she says it is!

[ How Amazon saved my life ] We live in such a fantastic age, where we can get our work out via technology. How this author found hope in that very system.

Better living

[ How simplicity saved my life ] Can minimalism really turn your life around? You betcha.

Change the world by telling your story

Train station

I was 10 when I realised that I loved stories. To read about them. To watch them. But most of all, to tell them. I made my first attempts at story creation on lined exercise books; I drew comics of a dream life I would have when I became an adult.

At first, I wrote stories to entertain myself. But when I was 18, I stumbled on the writings of Catherine Marshall and Phillip Yancey.  I was captivated by the power of their words to encourage, educate and effect change in me.

And I remember saying to myself: “I want to write like them.”

Over the years, it became clear that this was the calling of my heart: To write words that will encourage people and change the world.

It felt too immense for me.

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