Tag Archive: freelance writer


This is one of the most powerful questions ever put to me.

When I was attending a leadership course 11 years ago, this question was fired at me like bullets over a period of 6 months. “What are you committed to create?”

And by “committed”, they mean do whatever it takes.

So when I show up at a place, what am I committed to create here? Be it at a meeting at work, at home with my children, or a gathering of friends, am I committed to create fun? honesty and openness? peace and reconciliation? love and affection?

Friends are the family we choose

Friends are the family we choose

It’s a very empowering question.

If I’m not conscious of this, there is a chance I will let my mood dictate what I end up creating. And that can sometimes be destructive and hurtful to people around me.

Gandhi once said this, and wisely so..

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This is what I hear him saying: What do you want to see in this world? Commit to creating it. BE it.

This speaks to me, too, in the context of my work as a freelance travel writer, where things are often so uncertain. I always tell people that while I love my work, there are moments I don’t see beyond 6 months… and that’s very often!

It’s easy to sit back and accept that as part and parcel of a freelancer’s life. But I’ve learnt that being a freelance writer doesn’t mean you just write. You have to go out there and make connections, meet people, market yourself, and create opportunities and possibilities. You have to be a play-maker.

And that is creation. Making possible something that was not there before.

The freelance writer's life... more than just writing!

The freelance writer’s life… more than just writing!

Writing is also an act of creation. When I sit in front of my laptop, with a blank screen, what am I committed to create on this page? What can I bring into the world that was not there before? Is it awareness I am creating? or controversy or reconciliation through my words? What do my words make possible?

The sad thing is that I’m not always conscious of this power I have within me to make a difference. And it’s a power that swings both ways. Like a double-edged sword.

Imagine if you’re conscious of this at every moment… How would your world look different?

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“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. 
Impossible is not a fact. 
It’s an opinion. 
Impossible is not a declaration. 
It’s a dare. 
Impossible is potential. 
Impossible is temporary. 
Impossible is nothing.”

– Muhammad Ali –

 

Keep Your Eyes on the Mountain

When I left my Senior Producer job at Channel NewsAsia in February, I stepped out into a void. It wasn’t so much scary for me as it was liberating – because I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew I now had the freedom and space to create something from nothing. 

Looking back, I have taken several steps closer to what I see in my mind’s eye.

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I’m back to my first love – writing – and doing that about 50 per cent of the time. The other 50 per cent, I’ve spent producing for TV. I’ve also researched for and curated two small exhibitions for the National Heritage Board, as part of  Singapore Heritage Festival 2013.

I started the year making a resolution to see at least one new place every year.

In this past year alone, I’ve travelled to Tohoku, Chiang Mai, Melbourne, Yogyakarta, Semarang, Cebu, Cherating, Kota Tinggi, Myanmar, Bali… and in the next two months, I’ll be heading up to Japan to chase autumn leaves, to Krabi, and then maybe the Gili Islands. That makes 9.

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I’ve made two solo trips – to Melbourne and Ubud – both to attend writers festivals. And that has been the most powerful experience for me. I never thought I’d enjoy solo travel, but I realise I do!

Australian Festival of Travel Writing, Melbourne.

Australian Festival of Travel Writing, Melbourne.

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival 2013

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, Bali.

Solo travel allows me to slow down and go at my own pace, to reflect on things and listen to my own voice. I am beginning to know what I like, what I dislike, what makes me scared, what excites me, and to not judge that. It has made me more open to meeting new friends and making genuine connections with people – something that is harder when you’re travelling with someone.

I intend to do more of that – much more- in the coming year.

With Estelle & Kurt, Seminyak.

With Estelle & Kurt, Seminyak.

“If you are never alone, you cannot know yourself.” ~ Paulo Coelho

Neil Gaiman said something to this effect in a commencement speech he gave: If your dreams are a mountain, you start the journey by walking towards that mountain from a distance. Anything that takes you closer to the mountain, say ‘Yes’. Anything that takes you in the opposite direction, say ‘No’. Keep walking with your eyes fixed on that mountain.

When you get nearer and nearer, what you might have said ‘Yes’ to before will start to become ‘No’ now, because you’re that much closer to that mountain, and you see it so much more clearly. The journey is fluid, the decisions are fluid, it’s always evolving. But always, always, you keep your eyes fixed on the mountain.

I don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else but me. But in my life – with all its meanders – it makes absolute sense.

So as I wind down this work year, and start saying ‘No’ to assignments, I look back on 2013 with gratitude. I’ve been blessed with friends who have come into my life from nowhere to be pilgrims on the journey with me – if only for awhile. I’ve been blessed (beyond measure) with the strong support of my family, without whom I cannot do any of this. My guardian angels.

But having said that, 2013 was also a year I embarked on a process of letting go: Decluttering my life of things I do not need – extra baggage – and moving on lighter. That has made the journey more bearable and more pleasant. And that is crucial because I’m in it for the long haul.

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My dream is to travel and to keep traveling – for a whole lifetime – and to tell stories along the way. Stories that matter. I’ve been a writer, print journalist, radio DJ, TV producer… but if you ask me to sum up what I do for a living? I’d tell you I’m a storyteller.

Right now, I may not see clearly what 2014 holds, or even see beyond 6 months, but that’s the life of a free spirit. And so I keep on walking, staying true to myself. It may be a relatively straight path there or it may be a bit winding (I’ve always enjoyed the scenic route!).

But isn’t that the beauty of creating your own path?

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr.