I was supposed to meet my colleague for a cup of coffee. But she died before I could.Read More
Here'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.Read More
— Elizabeth Tai (@liztai) September 14, 2015
Okay, maybe I'm being overdramatic, but things are very blah in Malaysia right now. A thick blanket of choking ash from Indonesia has covered cities like Kuala Lumpur and Subang Jaya (where I live). The sky is literally grey and there is no fresh air at all. In fact, the pollution is at such unhealthy levels that school has been called off today (thank goodness. Wish we workers had the same privilege!).
And if that's not bad enough, there is a rally planned tomorrow with distinctly racist overtones. Ironically, it's on Malaysia Day, a day where we're supposed to celebrate my country's founding.
On the personal front, after just a few days of relatively good health, I get slammed by a cold, and then discovered yet another health problem that will probably take months to heal. I'm starting to feel the bite of my mortality and age more than usual, and it's leaving me cold.
In the midst of all this, my dreams seem very far away. How does one pursue one's dreams when there are so many fires to put out?
And I wonder how people like Michelle Cushatt do it. I mean, how do you pick yourself up after having to face cancer twice?
How do you continue speaking positively in people's lives day after day when you can't even figure out your own?
I had a conversation with a dear friend the other day about my many fears and she reminded me that I cannot wait for life to get perfect or even the way I want it to be before I embrace my calling.
We have to do what we can in the midst of the chaos and insanity. Write 50 words instead of 500. Read a paragraph instead of a chapter. Just a little bit will get us there.
Meanwhile, I'll take my eyes off the storm and focus on something higher than it all: That life is more than our ambitions and goals, that life is more mysterious than we think. That, although the way or destination isn't clear to me right now, I'm open to discover it bit by bit.
What do you do when you have a dream but haven't got life figured out?
Want to write a novel? Be a journalist? Be a freelance writer? Be a social media consultant? To do all this, you need to take a very important step: take that leap of faith.
Aubrey Andrus wrote a post I heart so much: The First Hurdle: Why Writers Should Stop Being Scared and Take the Leap of Faith. One particular paragraph really stood out for me:
Even the talented ones who are likely to be very successful as a freelancer prefer to dawdle and over-research what it takes to go out on their own. They dream instead of do. But your dreams will not come true until you step over that first hurdle. Take that first leap. Bust your excuses. Start taking action instead of thinking about it.
I was exactly like that! For years I dreamt about writing that novel. So, I read and read and read books about writing. I had shelves full of them. But did I do any actual writing? Nope. I realised I wanted to be as perfect and equipped as I can before I start anything. But you know what? You can never learn until you do the actual thing and make mistakes.
So, I started writing. In the beginning it was difficult to battle my perfectionist tendencies and not listen to my inner critic, but I managed it! I ended up writing a short story and submitting it to the MPH Alliance short story contest. I didn't win or anything, but boy it felt so good to finish a story!
After that, I became bolder and bolder. I ignored that inner critic monster and took a few leaps of faith. I submitted a poem to an anthology. (Didn't get in, but Sharon Bakar gave me awesome feedback.) Then I called up a publisher to find out if they were interested to publish a few children's stories I wrote a couple of years ago. The time it took for them to get back to me was tough for me, but in the end they came back with a yes! That was how the Trixie Koala series of children's books was born. The books are now published in paperback and ebook format.
Aubrey also wrote this: You must do the things you think you cannot do.
Moving to Australia. Getting published. Working as a digital content writer. These were the things I thought I could not ever do because they seemed too difficult, too impossible. But here I am, living my dreams at last because I dared to take the leap and dared to fail. And I did fail a few times. But rather than moan and dwell on it, I picked myself up and walked towards the next challenge. That's what I recently learned. It's not about doing the right things to succeed -- it's about knowing that you're going to be all right even if you fail.
Photo by LarryLens.