Keep calm and write on

It’s my 5th anniversary writing on this blog. And I want to confess something… I started out this year wanting to give up on it. Suddenly everything felt meaningless, and empty, and I wasn’t sure what I was doing anymore.

I guess I had a low start to the year.

Year end was busy no doubt, and the first few days of 2016 was occupied with adjusting to primary school – both Vera and the entire household.

We’re still adjusting, of course. But a part of me is asking the question, what next?

Then I read Emily Freeman’s post. And the original purpose of my starting this blog came flowing back to me.

Following that, I also read this:

Often we want to be able to see into the future. We say, “How will next year be for me? Where will I be five or ten years from now? There are no answers to these questions. Mostly we have just enough light to see the next step: what we have to do in the coming hour, or the following day. The art of living is to enjoy what we can see and not complain about what remains in the dark. When we are able to take the next step with the trust that we will have enough light for the step that follows, we can walk through life with joy and be surprised at how far we go. – Henri Nouwen

I started out wanting to connect with fellow parents, and to just journal joy.

As I experienced challenges of my own, I shared and wrote about them, in ways that also helped me to work out some of those difficulties. (Writing makes it all clearer, doesn’t it?)

I also enjoyed writing about the little everyday lessons that hit me in the midst of the mess.

This blog has played such a big part of my family life and my personal growth. Reading back some of my old posts make me smile or sometimes cry.

The one on re-discovering my middle boy.

The one on the little things.

When Vera showed me a child’s ability to love.

So as I look up and peer into the horizon, I can’t see more than the first one or two footsteps ahead of me.

But maybe that’s okay. That’s enough for me. The rest is faith and trust and obedience.

If you find yourself at this point too, take courage, take joy, and leave fear at the doorstep.

This year, I choose to cultivate myself, my loves, and my family.

I choose to keep writing, even when those words seem elusive.

I choose to press on, even if I can only see the next step.

horizon

On photography and writing

A good photograph anchors the story you’re telling, and helps to give it weight.

I’ve never been more aware of the relationship between photos and words than I am now, as a writer, a mum, and an amateur (read iphone) photographer.

Photography is one of the skills that bloggers or writers tend to pick up while doing our art. In the past year or so, I think I’ve grown more attuned to aesthetics, placement of subjects and the space around them, and the networking of colours.

And obviously the kids make naturally awesome subjects to practise on.

God knows how much I covet a DSLR…For the record, I haven’t found the courage or time to pick up a DSLR. I heard it’s a route that one will travel and not turn back on. Plus lugging the kids around is weight enough for me, and so I’ve been content just playing around with my iphone.

I’ve also found that apps make cool toys. I’ve started falling for picfx, which is the app I used to edit Vera and dad’s hadouken moment. And of course instagram, which almost everybody is on these days. I think apps like these satisfy our need for beauty, as well as  community, as exemplified by the avid usage of #hashtags. And perhaps a bit of narcissism, since we all get to prettify ourselves and earn likes for the most adorable pictures of our children. But I try not to think so much, and just enjoy the process. Anyway the cute/fun/funny/lovey pictures will be more for us to reminisce and savour in old age, no?

But I digress. (See what apps do to me?) I wanted to talk about the relationship between photography and writing.

For me, my photos are often the main starting point of a blog post. Like the picture of Vera and her granny walking in the park. Or the lovey-dovey one with dad and daughter holding hands. Or dreams by a window. They give me the spark of inspiration with which I need to start a post and the focus so that I don’t digress.

Sometimes, like the hadouken example above, the photo IS the post. On all other occasions, they embellish a post and help bring out the essence of the story.

I love taking shots of the kids outdoors and at play. It’s where they’re in their zone, and where I can feel comfortable running about in shorts and doing silly things like experimenting with angles, focus, lighting and so on. I also secretly love the green and blue backgrounds that come with those shots. Where there is sunlight highlighting the subject, all the better.

Here are some of my recent favourites, all instagrammed or picfx-ed.

JJ’s selfie, all joy at being able to hold the iphone and seeing himself on the screen.

a joyful boy

Happy boy at the top of the slide. Photo taken literally through a hole in the floor.

shining happy boy

Another variation of the hole-in-the-floor shot.

Just chillin’ (also the cover pic on my facebook page)

Defying gravity.

defying gravity

Like I said, I’m amateur-ish and there’s still lots to learn. Here are some of my inspirations: 6 tips for better instagram photos, scissorspaperstone for her photos of crafty and yummy things, and photographers like Project Alicia and Steph Tan.

I harbour a hope that one day I’ll make that leap into the DSLR world, and never look back, except to perhaps laugh at my own naivety at thinking the iphone was ever enough for me. (But hey it’s all about my own growth and development, so no judgment calls are being made here.)

If I may say so myself, I think I’ve grown in writing and photography in the past few months. I feel as if one passion feeds the other, and creates a giant snowball.

What do you love about photography and/or writing? Do you own a DSLR and why or why not?

Writer, in progress

So the old saying goes ‘Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration’.

Well what about writing? To me, it should be 50-50; half inspiration, half hard work. I’m not undermining the fact that writing is hard work. I’m just trying to say that inspiration doesn’t just drop from the sky, and that if we are truly inspired, it shouldn’t take a whole lot of striving to write from that place of abundance.

Some days, I feel I sweat at the computer desk more than I should. At those times, I can press on and keep going, but no matter how hard I squeeze, the words at most come out at dripping speed. So I usually get up and go for a walk, spend time with the kiddos, or just get some household chore done.

And then an idea strikes me. And I try to drop whatever I was distracting myself with, and write. (That’s where the phone or iPad usually comes in handy, as with a trusty notebook.)

But where do the ideas come from?

From where do words surface and bubble up into full form?

I like to think that it comes from above. By that, I mean from our creator God.

Then it comes from life itself. From personal experiences and events that combine to form an explosive mix of adrenaline, emotion, and a desire to spread the word. Something, some thought, someone, somewhere has to trigger that writer’s response in us. (Just as this post was triggered by a sudden urge to write about writing.)

Sometimes, I find inspiration in the most mundane things. Like a leaf falling from a tree, or an old man sitting with a cigarette in hand, or something innocent my little girl said.

But regardless of where you find your inspiration, I thought I’d share a little of what I know about writing:

Write from passion – Just as “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks“, so it is with writing. If it’s something that you feel strongly for / against, your writing will reflect that enthusiasm and passion, and that will help you connect with your readers.

Write what you know – Whatever life experiences you’ve been through, you are the expert of that experience. No one else has gone through the exact same experience as you and came through it the exact same way. So long as you have drawn one or two lessons from it, share about them, and let your readers take home something.

Find your anchor – Sometimes I use pictures as an anchor to my story, like the one about the grandies. It really helps to add focus. Try asking yourself that gazillion dollar question “what do you really want to say?“, and just wait for the lights to bling on. Oh yes, a great title helps too.

Draw on experts – We can never know it all. Read up on the topic you’ve chosen to write about. Google it, read what others have said, draw from experts’ opinions or books. I sometimes link to other blog posts, but only if the entire post is relevant and if it serves to add greater dimension to the topic.

Big picture, small details– Let’s say you are reviewing a play. By all means share the colourful moments with us, but remember to zoom out and give us the bird’s eye view. It will help us see why you chose to write about it, and what it means to you.

Be ruthless – Anything that doesn’t add value to your story? Cut it. In general, short paragraphs work better than long ones. Same with sentences. And yes, edit your work. I never publish a draft that I haven’t re-looked at and edited; there are always typos and grammatical errors to be weeded out, and there’s always a word that can be replaced with something better.

Keep writing, keep improving – One of the reasons why I started a blog was to improve my writing. This brings me back to the title I chose, ‘Writer, in progress’ – because I’m always learning, always wanting to improve. Let’s all try to be sponges, so that we can absorb the good stuff from the many good writers/bloggers out there. And yes, may God grant us more inspiration too!

Do you have any writing tips to share?

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