Working on new things

It’s been nearly a month since there’s any new content posted and I feel obligated to provide an update of sort.

I have recently got myself into a new habit of waking up at 5.15am in the morning to go for a 30 minutes run around my neighbourhood. It has been going on for the past three weeks now and there are multiple reasons. One, I promised myself that I need to be healthy and reduce my stress level. And since I do enjoy running, it’s the best kind of exercise for me. Second, my working hours, especially that of the evening, is unpredictable given my recent change to a new project. And usually by then, I will be too exhausted to exercise. So, a morning run is the best.

I have also signed up for a short Udemy course on Creative Writing and is currently undergoing the lessons.

Next, I also decided to do commercial writing. And no, no money involved just yet. What I meant is that I write for companies, using my technical skills and experience. It’s also a good place for me to start if I need to do writing as a career.

Finally, I’m still working on my novel; still trying to work out the kinks of the first chapter. And I’ll be honest. I’m having a writers block of sort because I recently find myself not feeling passionate about this particular storyline set in the Intertwined Fate universe. Initially I started the project because I felt like I need to do a slightly bigger fiction project before I go to the next level. I’ve tried writing space opera a few years ago and my skills then didn’t allow me to do a good job. That’s why I would be stupid for me to attempt it again.

The sci-fi LGBT-themed short story I wrote previously for the Intertwined Fate universe was a good starting point. You can read the first chapter here. That story was small enough and manageable for me. Furthermore, I felt the passion for it and enjoyed writing it. Now, it’s just really hard for me to find that passion back.

Writing longhand with pen and paper

How many of you write your content using pen and paper before actually getting it onto other platforms for publishing?

If you do write using pen and paper, it’s great and would love to hear your thoughts about it.

For most of us, we’d probably write on computers. I write predominantly on computers too. It’s just a much more powerful tool, more convenient, and probably could write much faster.

However, due to the nature of my work, technology burnout is inevitable. For several days during this week, I couldn’t bring myself to use a computer or even my phone to write anything. Yet, there’s a book that need writing.

This was how the decision to reintroduce pen and paper into my writing life came about. I got a lecture pad and a black ballpoint pen. Then I got down to writing.

The experience was definitely painful at first because it’s been a while since I wrote longhand using pen and paper. After finding my handwriting in a total mess and my hand aching badly, I decided to use the pen correctly and even went to google for the right way to hold the pen or pencil for that matter. Then it was time to put it into practice.

I would say there were definitely some good and bad that came out of this process.

For me, it has been therapeutic. The chance to get away from technology is just great for my mental health.

Further more, I could focus better on my writing because there’s no internet involved. No Netflix. No music. No internet browser. If you put your technological devices out of reach, you have no choice but focus on the act of writing and the story you want to tell.

The second advantage come in the form of deliberate writing. Because writing on paper meant it’s nearly impossible to change what you wrote. Unless you want to leave behind lines after lines of strikethroughs or whiteouts, every word you want to put down on paper have to be the right word. This slows down your writing and forces you to think. This has the added advantage of allowing you to identify if there’s loopholes or problems with your content. This is especially helpful for me as a pantser because I won’t run astray with my writing and create plot holes.

The third advantage was that it’s just more natural. You can do whatever you want. Scribble along the margin of the page. Skip lines. Doodle. The freedom meant you could explore your ideas and thoughts in a more natural and faster way rather than having to conform to what the computer and software forces you to do.

The fourth advantage is the permanence of the content. Unless your notebook or lecture pad end up getting soak, caught fire or the pieces of paper blown away by the wind, you can always trust that your content won’t go away. That’s unlike when you are using a computer to write. Machine can fail. Storage devices, including cloud storage, can fail or corrupt your data.

But not everything is all so shiny and great.

The biggest disadvantage with using pen and paper is the speed of writing. Your arms and hands don’t move as fast when you have to draw out the arches and lines associated with latin characters whereas with a computer, a key press means a letter. Because of that, I find it much harder to get into the flow.

The second disadvantage is you can’t edit the content like you could on the computer. Every word that you write on paper is permanently set in stone, so to speak. If you want to change something, you have to strike out what you wrote or use whiteouts. And if you are like me who makes quite a lot of mistakes when writing, you will find that your paper may end up becoming a complete mess and hard to comprehend.

As for portability, it doesn’t concern me. I always bring a backpack when I go to work and I could just shove the lecture pad in it. And when it comes to publishing, well, since I’m writing a novel, it would be much later in the writing process that I have to type them all out. With that, I’d probably do my editing concurrently. So I get to kill two birds with one stone.

Now, I won’t say every writer should write longhand using pen and paper. For most people, it would be very tedious and tiring. So if you prefer to write using your computer, then by all means do that. At the end of the day, the most important thing is getting your content out for your audience to consume and encourage them to come back for more. But if you find that your computer is getting in the way of you doing your work, then maybe it’s time to go old-school.

Your passion is not as clear cut

In non-asian context, there’s always this talk of finding your own passion. When you find it, you will never work a single day of your life.

And in asian context, chances are, your parents, relatives or friends will just say, “Find a job that give you stability, high pay and prestige. Fuck your passion.”

What if you are asian and received western education?

It turns out, in both asian and non-asian societies, parents behave mostly the same, which lead to their kids doing stuff they don’t like. And Gary Vaynerchuk does a better job of explaining it in this video.

So… what is passion?

Now, for me, I was lucky. My parents didn’t expect me to be anything. They just want me to have a better life than them and be happy. Then the day came when I was inspired to be a game programmer when I was about fifteen years old. With that inspiration, I pushed myself to do my best for my studies and make my way to a polytechnic where I get myself exposed to the world of information technology. Then I graduated with a final year specialisation in game development.

But I didn’t go that route because I found that the game industry in Singapore wasn’t as established as it is today and the reality of video game industry meant I didn’t want to risk burning out on the very medium I rely on for relaxation.

So I went with general software development. Before I know it, five years passed. Now I realised I couldn’t be bother with the latest technology. I no longer want to spend time learning about messaging queues like Kafka, latest trends in microservices, what’s new with Spring Framework, etc. And when I watched Apple’s WWDC 2019, as much as I’m happy with the state of Augmented Reality and what Apple is doing to help developers on that front, I find myself having zero desire to do it.

I would say these five years of work in the real world exposed quite a lot of things for me. It made me think about what I truly enjoy.

I like science.

I like technology.

I love reading fiction.

I love writing, science fiction in particular. It was all to express myself.

I love building structures and routines for myself.

I love playing video games.

And now my question becomes: what can I do for a living that allow me to apply some, if not all of the above, so that work doesn’t feel like work? As of right now, even I accepted the counteroffer from my company and continued to work there, I know my heart and mind is now all on crafting my next science fiction novel, which is moving along nicely at eight thousand words.

For those who are still attempting to find your passion, please don’t rush. I know you must feel like you are running out of time. But really, if you are in your twenties, you got the time on your side. If you are inspired to do something, go do it as much as practicality allows. That way you have the chance to decide if that’s something you want to do for a considerable amount of time. Otherwise, you will never know. By the time you hit your thirties, you’d probably identify things that you know you can do without feeling like shit.

I’m glad that I got the chance to identify all the things I enjoy after attempting to do something that I thought I might enjoy. I will probably need a career coach to advice on where to go next.

Quick announcement

I’m currently working on a new writing project. All I can say is, it will be a novel. And as much as I hate making a commitment as to when I will be done with it and then disappointing people, I have to make myself accountable. Therefore, I hope I can finish the novel before the end of the year.

The next thing on my list would be the actual incorporation of a company. My friends and I have already finalised the name, the amount of shares, gotten our office address, and endorsed the company. It’s now in the final step of making payment for the registration and waiting for approval by the authorities. As for what we will be doing, we’ve got some ideas but the main one we have right now is to build a software-based platform for consumers.

The final thing would be me trying to manage my time when it comes my full-time job. From what I understand about my new job scope, I suspect, I wouldn’t have much time for anything else and it’s a scary prospect. However, there are bills to be paid, life to live and food to eat. So it will end up at the centre of my attention most of the time. Unless, well, someone is kind enough to support me financially as I get my company up and running and writing done.

In light of this, I am already considering cancelling my Netflix subscription. I’ve got another paid-tv subscription which I will terminate once I’m done with Games of Thrones Season 8. This way, I can put a roadblock on my entertainment needs. If I do need rest and entertainment, there’s always video games to play and books to read. And those are more beneficial to me than mindlessly watching videos and shows because they do get my brain moving.