Once More with Feeling

Of all the resurrected blogs in all the towns in all the world, you’re reading mine again in 2017. Let’s have another go, once more with feeling!

Yes, I am back to using this WordPress blog again. How many sites have I erected and ditched so far? Too many to count and I can already feel the eye roll my friends are doing right now. Look, the Internet is a huge place, so there really is no limit where I decide to sow my creative seeds. However, rest assured, I am definitely aiming to stay at this website address for a much longer period. Forever, in fact, because I decided a free website is a much better deal than a fancy paid web domain.

About three years ago, I made a big splash by getting my own personal domain called atikahwrites.com. In the “goodbye” post written in this blog back then, I mentioned that the reason I wanted my own personal domain is because I couldn’t stand the limitations of a free WordPress site. I wanted to change the fonts, the colours and the entire layout to suit my style. Also, I won’t lie, having your own personal domain looks pretty nifty and at the time, I was just starting my freelance writing career. I thought a polished website would be appealing to clients. I was young, eager and ready.

Sufficed to say, having my own personal domain was the worst idea. I now have a stack of business cards with a defunct website address.

For a perfectionist such as myself, the ability to do a million things to one particular thing means having the website on “work in progress” mode ad infinitum. I constantly made changes to the site simply because I could. I was perpetually looking for a better layout theme, scrolling through forums for tips and tricks, and downloading new plugins that I barely used. It drove me nuts! Funny what seemed to be a “perk” at first became a nuisance. I learned that I need limitations because I need something to rein me in and “good” can be even better than “perfect”.

Ironically, in trying to have the perfect site for my writings, I didn’t write as much I thought I would. Firstly, I didn’t know exactly what to write about. Blogs no longer serve as a daily or even weekly platform to share your thoughts and ideas—social media can do that just fine with a ready audience. At the same time, because I was on a perfectionist streak, I was heavily scrutinising my writings, which in turn led me to writing nothing at all or having no sense of consistent style or direction. It was a mess and I was so frustrated, that when the site finally went offline, I didn’t even save any of the posts. Of course now, sans the frustration, I regret not saving some of them because I still put effort on those posts. Oh well, I won’t lose sleep over it.

Also, maintaining the upkeep of the website, even just ensuring that it was running, took so much effort that it was exhausting. If I ever decide to get another personal web domain again, it will be from a user-friendly service rather than building something from scratch. At the end of the day, it’s the content that matters, rather than the wrapping outside of it.

So, what have I been up to?

Three years have gone by and it’s fascinating to read my past posts because I feel like they were written by a different person. I was definitely a more optimistic but also insecure because I haven’t done a lot of things that I wanted to do yet. I made future plans and vague promises because I was throwing my hook out there in hopes to catch any opportunity. It wasn’t exactly the best move, if I’m being honest here, but I don’t consider it as a mistake. Misguided, sure, but aren’t you supposed to take risks in your 20s?

Below are some of the things you have missed in three years:

Postgraduate Blues

 

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A very prominent and constant part of this blog in 2014 was my utter failure to study overseas, specifically Durham University. In fact, I’ve been such a poster child for that failure that people still have an apologetic look whenever they talk about somebody else furthering their studies abroad to me. Guys, it’s okay, I’m fine. The year 2015 saw me finally burying that dream because I realised that having my foot in my dream school’s door is not even half of the battle in gaining my Masters. And so, on August 2015, I enrolled in University of Malaya for my Masters of Arts in English Literature and have been dealing with postgraduate blues ever since. There is no truer statement than that as two years later, I’m still in the process of completing my thesis. I’ve been enjoying my classes, mingling with other like-minded folks and just being a student again! However, writing a thesis is a whole different ballgame by itself. If you like to have a glimpse of this current battle of mine, you can check out my thesis log.

Published Author

 

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Yes, in 2015, I finally achieved something that I’ve always wanted since I was a kid: I became a full-fledged published author! This is definitely one of the highlights of these three absent years from this blog because I got to finally tick off something from my bucket list and opened up to an avenue of new experiences! My short story, “Beloved”, was published in Hungry in Ipoh, a Fixi Novo short story anthology that revolves around the city of Ipoh. It’s a coming-of-age story about a baker named Adrian struggling to keep the family business alive while pining for a new love. Ironically, I’ve never actually been to Ipoh prior to writing this story but since then, I’ve been to Ipoh twice! First, for the launch of Hungry in Ipoh and a few months later, I was invited to be a panelist for a monthly literary event by an NGO called Sharpened Word. Turns out, I kind of love being a panelist? I think I just like listening to myself talk! But in all honesty, I felt floored that I was invited because I was so fresh out of the print while the rest were established authors with a few titles under their name.

2016 had been a quiet year for me, on the writing fiction front. However, I hope that turns around in 2017 soon! I’m just going to tease you for now but I definitely have some news about this later.

Becoming a Freelancer

 

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Even before 2015, I was already doing freelance writing projects on the side but it was that year where I decided to take a crazy leap of faith and do it full-time. I left a steady paycheck for the unknown and it was massive risk, bigger than I initially expected. I tried to make the transition as painless and smooth as possible but the thing that I learned about freelancing is that sometimes things go unexpected ways. In the past more than two years, it has been a wild roller coaster ride. There are ups and downs: I’ve sat through meetings in Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur but I was also once rejected for a freelance position because the client felt I was overqualified for the part. I’ve translated a children’s book, interviewed doctors, and even became a glorified typist which lasted for a day (I’m a writer, not a faithful transcriber). I’ve written a ton of articles, most without my byline. In a way, I became bolder, approaching prospective clients and projects with no qualms. Just getting the job done. At the same time, after almost three years, I’ve developed a sense of wariness because it can be frustrating and even the most careful plans could fall apart. I’m also a little tired of this song and dance of uncertainty that comes with the territory. You know it’s time to hang up your laurels when you catch yourself fantasising about working in a cubicle! I don’t think I’ll ever stop freelancing but I’m slowly weaning off from doing it full-time.

Part of the reason why I am reviving this site again, complete with all the older posts, is because it reminds me of the reason why I chose the path I had taken. The creative endeavours, the return to academia and even the free fall into an unconventional career — they all represent parts of what I wanted to do back when I was 24. And I followed that instinct and didn’t look back. I have shed some of that youthful optimism and hesitations in return for experience and several scars along the way. But just like the difference between a free WordPress site and a fancy personal domain website, sometimes you can’t buy your way up. That just because you spend some money, doesn’t mean you can overcome the necessity of experience. You have to respect the process of becoming.

Reading past posts, I would shake my head at my naivety but also somewhat touched at the sincerity of my hopes and dreams.

So, here I am, holding onto some of that youthful earnestness with a sense of certainty that can only come with age. The other part of the reason why I’m reviving this site is because I need a space that feels both personal and public, a place where I can voice out my ideas and plans. This site will not be updated regularly because I realise that the pressure of a regular schedule can kill off or even prematurely push out undeveloped ideas. Instead, I’ll treat this as a headquarter of sorts for different types of my writings — such as personal musings like traditional blog posts, poems, short stories, articles and even upcoming projects that I’m planning.

If you’ve been here before, thanks for sticking by me. If you’re new, welcome to this site for the first time.

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