It’s fair to say that writing has been an interest of mine, almost as soon as I started reading. The first business I set up was a publishing business which got shut down by the landlords, my parents, when they found me running it out of the spare room age eight. I was rather proud of the books I’d written, illustrated then bound and sold to my friends in school for fifty cents each. My parents, on the other hand, made me return all the money I’d made. I was crushed.
I continued reading and writing stories for fun and journalling. As I got older I started to blog online then more seriously learn about writing as a craft.
I joined many writing groups over the last ten years and even ran a few of my own. Some were accountability groups where we’d set our own writing goals and help each other to reach them. A few were peer groups where we’d share our writing for constructive feedback and encouragement. There were more formal groups I joined where we were given writing prompts or lessons on how to write to help inspire our stories and creative expression. There were groups where we’d meet just to write together. Most were in person but more recently I’ve joined virtual groups. I’ve also worked one-on-one with writing coaches and attended writing workshops, talks and festivals locally as well as overseas.
The most recent groups I joined were for writers who want more support with their writing goals. What I like about these groups is that the accountability is consistent, personalised and positive. I get regular prompts to think about my writing goals and share my challenges, wins and questions but also receive thoughtful feedback and encouragement.
Getting Clear on What Works
Right now what I need most is accountability but in an atmosphere that is kind and supportive rather than harsh and competitive. I thrive when given gentle and encouraging support and do not respond well to criticism or strong pressure. If a goal feels too hard or out of reach, I give up or may not even try. If I’m not stretching myself enough or there isn’t any real accountability, I fade off and don’t tend to engage much.
In these groups, I’m in the minority who really engages. I don’t see many others posting or joining events or they start than fall off very quickly after joining. But I’ve never quite been put off by that. It would be easy for me to look for more engaged or bigger groups and wish somehow that the energy of the group would carry me away to more productivity or greater results. As if there is safety or affirmation in sheer numbers.
Maybe because I run groups and classes, I know how much it takes to organise them and respect the time and the effort invested by the facilitators. If they are committed to engaging with me, I reciprocate as much as I can. In smaller groups, I appreciate the opportunity for more personal support and attention.
Honing your craft as a writer is like trying to get fit. Working with a writing coach or being a part of a writing group is like hiring a personal trainer or being a part of a group that is exercising together. It’s really up to you to show up and move your own flesh, muscles and bones. Though trainers can guide and encourage you, you’re the one that has to do the activity. Likewise, when writing, I still have to show up and join the events or do the actual writing. I have to wrestle with my own resistance and make a decision to choose to engage with the groups and support on offer.
I found that when I do though, it doesn’t take much for me to get returns on my investment. It’s not long before I’m feeling in the flow again and closer to reaching my creative aspirations and honing my craft as a writer.
I learnt from working with a writing coach that starting small is helpful. Whenever I’m stuck I just start with a goal of writing for ten minutes once or twice a week, depending on what feels doable. Then I expand that to ten minutes for five days a week and then maybe one day I’ll write for a little longer like an hour. With small doable steps, I’m able to build momentum for my writing and before long I’m meeting my bigger goals of writing articles. It’s not exactly a linear process as sometimes life just gets in the way and I miss a few days here and there. But if that’s the case, I don’t berate myself and I just start again, when and where I can. When I do reach my goals, being a part of a positive and supportive community means that I am encouraged to reward myself and celebrate my achievements.
My approach to writing has developed from years of joining writing groups, talks, classes, working with writing coaches and reading books about writing. There are so many more aspects to writing for me to learn and a ways to go for me to reach my writing goals and aspirations, which are also constantly evolving. I’m happy to have had articles I’ve submitted accepted for publication on a few online sites. I’ve also consistently written articles on my website, created a meditation guide, completed a 10,000-word novella and self-published a short story with the Singapore Writers Group. It feels like I’m slowly making my way toward the goal I have of writing a book, though I’m not really attached to that right now and enjoying where I am in the process of writing and learning about writing.
It’s More than Writing
Recently at the Singapore Writers Festival, I attended a workshop where my group created a modern folktale set in Singapore involving a transgender Rohingya woman whose lover reincarnated as a Personal Mobility Device, learnt about devotional Tamil poetry and new literary works written in patois, creole and Singlish. Seriously, any language also can nowsadays.
I also enjoyed the indigenous speakers and performers who were heart-centred and gracious. This year’s festival made it a point to include diverse voices and give space to those who had traditionally been in less privileged positions. There were dance, spoken word and music performances by people of colour, a variety of sexual and gender orientations and groups of migrants, some of whom were domestic helpers and construction workers.
I met writers, speakers and performers who inspired me by their individual expression, thoughts, knowledge and passion. I didn’t write as much as I wanted to this last week as a result but what I gained from attending the festival was so enriching and made me feel freer to express myself and find my own author voice.
Another aspect is reflecting on why I want to write which helps to motivate me. I want to write as I find it fulfilling to express myself in this way and develop the craft of writing. Along with that, by sharing about my struggles and difficulties and how I’ve been blessed to learn how to navigate them and get help, I hope to bring comfort to others in their suffering and isolation and share with them the knowledge and insight that was given to me.
What motivates me most is inner meaning, so when the work I put in is going toward something that is meaningful for me, it’s easier for me to overcome any challenges along the way. If I feel that something is purposeful, it helps me to commit and make the effort to take action, regardless of the discomfort.
Coaching and community are a large part of my life and have been for some time because they help me work toward my goals and keep me accountable. Also, setting doable goals for myself and getting kind and positive encouragement. It’s always effective for me to start small then gradually aim for bigger goals. Each goal, no matter how small, feels good to achieve and helps me feel encouraged to reach the next one. Each time the returns are also much bigger than I think they will be.
I didn’t know that joining the Singapore Writers Group on Meetup would end up with me self-publishing a short story that was part of an anthology that we launched at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. I also did not expect that working with writing coaches and joining membership sites would help me develop a regular writing practice and write more articles. Those ten minutes very quickly built up to thousands of words then full articles and hopefully one day, a book too. And along the way, I’m enjoying a balanced combination of right effort, rest and reward in my everyday life.
Maybe I can just do it lah. And so can you.
What motivates you and helps you stay on course with your goals and dreams? What gets in the way?
What kind of support have you found effective and what support is not effective for you?
If you wish, you may like to share your answers in the comments below.