Friday, March 4, 2011

Many the miles

I just updated my profile on LinkedIn awhile ago, and it still amuses me to think of all the odd articles I've done over the past year or so since I made this switch into a writing career. 

10 steps on how to settle your credit card debts. 

How to buy car insurance in Florida.

Memory foam mattresses.

Citrine crystals.

Is the boss a friend or foe?

These are but a few of the extremely varied topics that I've covered in articles I've written previously.

It's all very funny when I look back and think of it.

I'd really like to write a book about it some time. If I can find people who are willing to read such things, that is.

It is insane to think that I started out taking baby steps towards a career in writing by taking on a freelance job to write a bunch of 10 articles every month at a rate of only RM1.50 per article. Imagine that. Would you have done that?

But it's amazing how small decisions can add up to bigger things as time goes on. My freelance rates have soared since then, and I have landed a full time job as a journalist now.

I wonder what would have happened if I hadn't taken up that measly job of RM1.50 per article.

Would I still be slumped over my laptop on weekend nights monitoring data over a server gazillions of miles away? Having sudden calls interrupt my rest times on public holidays and have my day ruined because I would suddenly have to return to stare at mountains of SQL queries and database tables?

Not that a career in IT is bad. It's just different. And for the wrong person at the wrong place, it could be very well your worst nightmare.

I guess I should not forget to mention too, that I got this far not of my own doing.

God has been awfully gracious in so many ways, opening doors I never expected and closing the ones that I thought would be best. People often ask me why I hadn't applied to the major publication companies (eg: daily newspapers) for jobs and what made me take up a position in an obscure company. Initially, I fumbled for answers to that question. But I know now: it's because I get exposure there that I am certain I would not get at all if I'd worked, say, at The Star or The Edge (both of which I did apply to for jobs and nearly got too, I must say).

I guess we never really know what's best for ourselves. Which is probably why trusting God is emphasised so much in the Christian faith.

There were human factors that were part of my bold step into the treacherous path of career switching too.

First mention goes to my boyfriend Deric, who kickstarted the first leg of my journey when he offered me a part time job website where I found my RM1.50 per article job and a few others. It was also because of him that I landed an editorial internship position in late 2009. He wasn't my boyfriend yet at the time that some of those things happened, but I guess this was one of those areas that helped me realise what a great person he was. And that possibly why I'm glad to be in a relationship with him today.

Family (inclusive of parents and my sister Joanna) were also the key enablers who made it possible for me to take the leap into a new career. Way back in the days when I was still a student, they had encouraged me tons and heaps by reading the little poems or short stories that I read and taking the time to comment on them afterwards.

I especially am grateful to Pa for the comments he'd scribble along the margins of my printed out articles - his way of offering me detailed feedback.

They did have their scepticisms on whether a writing career would actually ever materialise for me, but I'm glad that they still supported me when I decided to go for it.

I remember my Mum critically examining my desire to write for money, and her questioning me whether I was ready for the scrutiny that would be done on my writing if I chose to work in this field. Although it was not a very nice thing to have to think about, I'm glad she asked because that helped me heaps in preparing myself mentally to face such situations with each and every one of the employers and editors that I have worked for.

Two of my friends from my uni days - Meng Yoe and Natalie Leow - also played a significant role in encouraging me to develop my writing further. At that time, I was just a Business/IT student studying accounting who didn't feel confident at all that I could do well in writing, although I really loved it. I felt inferior to the students in the Communications course, whom I felt were the real deal because they were actually formally taught about writing and knew what it was really all about.

But these two friends of mine, they read my poems and my first attempt at a short story, even though I felt really shy about it then. And they told me that according to the stuff they learnt in their classes, there was such a thing called intertextuality which meant that you didn't have to agonise over whether your writing ideas were 100% original or not.

Somehow, that gave me the impetus I needed to keep working at writing and if not for what they had said to me, I don't think I would've pursued writing further.

I have definitely not arrived yet, but these milestones of the past have taught me much about pursuing my dreams. I'm glad that I came all this way, and I hope that for all the people I meet, I'd be able to encourage as many as I can to go down the same road of chasing their passion as I have been through.

It's scary. It's exciting. And it makes for great stories afterwards.