It all started with the daily 30-minute silent reading programme that took place before the morning assembly during my primary-school days (remember USSR, short for Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading?). While some of my classmates would fidget and count down to the end of the reading period, I’d get lost in whatever book I was reading, wholly immersed in the colourful world of fiction. My early interest in reading led to my love of composition writing – it allowed me to dream up my own characters and storylines. Since then, I haven’t stopped.
Not only have I learned a great deal about myself throughout my years of writing, I’ve also discovered some lessons that can teach us a thing or two about life:
You cannot please everyone
When I saw my first thumbs-down on one of my blog posts, I was surprised at how much it hurt. Never mind that it garnered a few Likes; that single negative sign stuck out like a, erm, sore thumb, and it felt like a gigantic stamp of disapproval, telling me at least one person thought my writing sucked. But after days of beating myself up, I realised how silly my reaction had been. How someone thinks is beyond my control. After all, we are all entitled to our own opinion – we see what we want to see, and we hear what we want to hear. Getting obsessed with the need to please everyone will drive us mad, so just let it go.
Be careful with your words
A good writer injects her own voice into her writing, and at the same time presents the facts and creates an objective space open to the reader’s own interpretation. But especially when it comes to opinion pieces, we can get too personal to the point of forgetting there are two sides to a story, and end up unintentionally hurting someone with the message we’re putting across. The key is to never underestimate the power or the words we write – or say – and to always, always practice empathy and compassion.
The only way to get through is to keep on moving …
I’ve encountered the infamous Writer’s Block more times than I care to admit. So often, I’d stare at a blank Word Document for as long as an hour before I could get down to writing – usually driven by last-minute panic. In truth, Writer’s Block is but a phantom phenomenon, and the only way to get past it is to keep on writing. Whenever we meet an obstacle, it doesn’t matter whether we skip past it or take a different route altogether as long as we don’t stop moving.
… but sometimes, you need to take a break
There’s a difference between never giving up and over-pushing our limits. When I feel utterly uninspired or brain-fried, I’d close the document and work on something else that doesn’t require me to string words together. We all have deadlines to meet and commitments to fulfil, but it’s important to take a breather every now and then to refresh and regroup – not to mention, it will also help preserve our sanity.
You will make mistakes, and it will be okay
My writing isn’t fantastic. When I was writing for magazines, my former editors would tell me to rewrite my articles because they were simply crap. But if there’s one personal trait I’m proud of, it’s that I never repeat my mistakes. Even though the fear that my writing isn’t good enough will always be at the back of my mind, I know my making mistakes will only help improve my writing.
Be open and honest
Some of my favourite pieces are those I wrote from the heart; pouring out my emotions through writing feels incredibly liberating. My least favourite ones? Those that, for some reason, force me to write in the voice of someone I’m not. Feeling like you can’t even recognise yourself anymore is possibly one of the most soul-killing experiences ever, so never let anyone or any circumstance take away who you are and what you believe in.
About The Author: A founder of Material World, Tan Lili has previously worked in magazines The Singapore Women’s Weekly and Cosmopolitan Singapore, as well as herworld.com (now herworldplus.com, the online counterpart of Her World). She is now a freelance writer who works on this website full-time. Lili hopes to travel the world, work with wild animals, and discover more awesome Twilight fan-fiction. Follow her on Twitter @TanLiliTweets.