Monday, February 3, 2014

4 Lessons Learned from Writing: Dedicated to storytellers out there

Stumbling into writing has, perhaps, been the most eye-opening part of my journey thus far. With multiple unfinished notebooks at home and several folders packed full of incomplete projects, it is comforting to know that I have, at the very least, maintained a blog for several months and contributed to an online publication or two. Yes, my writing portfolio is short and sweet, but it has definitely revealed some pertinent life lessons that will hopefully transcend towards the larger society. So here goes, the top four lessons I've learned from the sheer act of writing.

1. Everyone has a story to tell. Throughout my "writing career", I have been blessed to join the editorial team of some publications. Aside from the joy of managing a magazine or a site, editors often contribute their own writing, scout for other writers and photographers, as well as strive to create a conducive environment for writers, photographers, readers, and themselves. A natural loudmouth, I have almost always had something to say, whether it is about my friend's love lives or the recent U.S. government shutdown. Yes, I love to babble and more often than not, these words find themselves on the page, being published onto a page or an online platform. As well as being a chatterbox, I am a loyal lover of stories. The best part of life, as I knew it as a child, was to listen to tales, both fictitious and real, about people's experiences and lives. A fairytale or two did not hurt, but I really invested my vulnerability in believing that many untrue stories were true.
             With time and age, it truly dawned on me that the human experience can be both diverse, yet similar, at the same time. For instance, most of my friends go to college. Despite having to endure an average of four years of education, we go through different experiences. Some work whilst at school, while others are more invested in volunteering. Some enroll themselves in study exchange programs, while others travel for an internship and the rest stay put. When we come together, we have distinct stories to share.
             I guess, by fully realizing that everyone's story is different, one could see the opportunity in sharing these stories for personal satisfaction, as well as to help those in need. However, the challenge, I believe, is in appreciating and cherishing our own stories. To truly believe that you story is worth telling is an obstacle that most of us face (and believe me, it took me awhile to really understand that my stories are worth sharing).

Look out the window!
I promise you that inspiration will come. 
2. Language and grammar transcends your story. As a teenager, I remember reading Shakespeare and thinking that he had bad English. I wondered why such awful use of language would lead to great popularity. Of course, I was too ignorant to note that he was using old English and that he lived in a totally different time than I did. Anyways, as long as you've got a story to tell that you believe is worth sharing, you are set to go. There are and will be people around you to help you out, whether it is a professor, the language center, or a friend. And, after spending some time in the anthropology department, believe me when I say that there are people who would be psyched to tell your story of your time living in Indonesia or studying in some obscure place or discovering "Western culture".

3. Who cares if anyone listens. Much like a chef who relies on his/her guests, many writers believe that readers are required to make writing worthwhile. This blog has been up since April 2013, though that is not a very long time, it has garnered more than eighty articles. For the past six months, I did not hear a peep from anyone other than my mom and English teacher. It really felt like talking to a wall. At times, I even thought about ending the whole thing and retiring it to a list of "Been there, done that".  By some miracle, about a month ago, I started getting responses from different people, ranging from friends to total strangers. Though the comments swung between positive and negative, it was fantastic to hear what people thought. Finally, I am no longer talking to a wall.
             Sometimes, before we even reach a decision to write and value our stories as worthy of telling, we stop ourselves from going further. We think that no one would listen, that it would become online pollution or sound pollution: empty, useless, and even annoying. When I post new articles on facebook, I always feel self-aware. Clearly, I am spamming people's facebook newsfeed with my random pieces. But, sometimes you just have to pull through and be satisfied with whatever is out there. Believe me, readers will come and go, but the satisfaction of writing and telling stories won't.

4. Telling stories = Open doors. Today's society, it seems, value diversity in experience more so than previous societies. With the advent of blogs, more and more people are openly writing about their lives for the public to see. Nevertheless, multiple online publications are still struggling to find contributors. Getting your story published can be as simple as a click of a button. From my experience, it was far more difficult to convince myself that my story was worth telling, than to get it published.
             I've learned that by putting yourself and your tale out there, you get to meet and interact with new people, individuals who may have the perfect job for you or who may be able to offer useful advise. I guess, the same goes for other online opportunities, such as starting a YouTube channel or building a significant presence on Instagram or Twitter. Many have achieved financial success from expressing themselves and telling their stories.

Another thing that I've learned from writing: People can be pervs.
Two of the top three most read are of sex.

During my time writing this piece, I realized that it is definitely much, much harder to realize the worth of our story than it is to actually reveal it and publish it. Once you are set to go with your tale, you are able to try your hand in writing for online publications or starting your own blog. And who knows, if you enjoy the experience then you can always continue on and build your presence. If not, then you can stop and look for other activities.

I have provided some links below of publications who are currently looking for contributors. These are websites, who are ready to accommodate your ambitions.
IndonesiaMengglobal.com - a website that specializes in Indonesians who are/have/would like to study/work/live abroad. This site churns out articles regularly and is always open to new contributors. IM also welcomes articles in English and Bahasa Indonesia, as well as provides forums for various interests. Contribute here: http://indonesiamengglobal.com/how-to-contribute/

The-Re-View.org - is an exciting new website that is growing each and every day. It offers a wide array of articles, especially ones that are analytical and critical. Definitely, a breath of fresh air for both readers and writers out there. Submit here: http://the-re-view.org/submission-guidelines/

Poachedmag.com - a well-established website primarily targeted towards young Singaporeans, Poachedmag provides awesome articles that cover various topics. Though the communication can be slow, Poachedmag is definitely worth the wait. For more info, click: http://poachedmag.com/about/

SLCspeaks.com - one of the only online publications at Sarah Lawrence College, SLCspeaks is definitely tailored to those who are interested, are attending, and have graduated from SLC. For those Gryphons out there, SLCspeaks always welcomes articles regarding the college. Contact them here: http://slcspeaks.com/contact-us/

Good luck and as always feel free to leave a comment below if you would like more tips and tricks on finding your voice, writing, and getting published!


*Author owns the rights to all of the images used above

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