Writing Journey

How To End A Bad Year

We’re almost a month short of 2020 and I’m sure that not all of us have had a great year. I, for one, underwent a few challenging seasons—from the betrayal of the people I trusted to the questioning of my self worth, approximately six months of 2019 wasn’t the best. In fact, there were times when I wondered if things could actually get better—was there hope of a brighter new year? Was there actually a light at the end of the tunnel? So if you have had a rough year, you’re not alone. And let’s be honest—after what we’ve gone through—stepping into the new year feeling hopeful… is easier said than done.

Personally, I refuse to see my 2019 as a failure. Despite the deep waters and dark valleys, I did learn and grow from all the negative experiences. But as I entered the third quarter of the year, I was afraid in believing in a better 2020. I didn’t want to hope only to be disappointed again. I found myself asking, what if… it doesn’t get better? What if… the monsters get stronger? What if… it is all downhill from here? And that is when I realised—every year in my life isn’t meant to be the best year ever. Every year in my life is simply a chapter of my story—a story that will have both joyful and heartbreaking moments. And when I look at 2019 from this perspective, I uncovered my missing hope.

I found my hope in 2020—not as a greater year than 2019 but as a year that will advance my story. Frankly, I’ll never know what’s in-stored for me in the new year—2020 might be just as tempestuous, or perhaps there will be rainbows. But alike the adventures I had embarked on in 2018 and the storms that I overcame in 2019, the coming year will speak for itself. It is a new chapter with its own plot that will eventually become a part of my lifelong story.

So, how do you end an unfortunate 2019 with hope? Embrace it. Accept that 2019 has passed—a chapter that is about to close—and look forward to the next page where you’ll be entering a new stage of your life. And whatever 2020 has for you, remember that it is but another chapter of many more to come. After all, your life isn’t defined by a single chapter but your journey from one to the other.

Writing Journey

The Reality Of Fiction

Last Thursday was the 1st year publication anniversary of The Slave Prince. It marked the sixth year of my relationship with Thom. And… looking back at Thom’s life, I realised that some stories will never truly be over.

Prior to the publication of the book, I wrote a ‘farewell’ letter to Thom. Though I knew our relationship had ended, it wasn’t really goodbye. Thom will always be there—somewhere, out there—even while I work with other characters. After all, our history together has shaped my present—there is no way that he could ever disappear from my life.

Funnily enough, I’m not sentimental with all of my characters. It is only the ones I’ve known for years who tend to linger on. And, as I embark on a newer adventure with Robb and Myra—of which their tale might go on for far longer than I had previously envision—I have an inkling that they too will join Thom when it’s all over. Which… makes me glad—thankful they are here to stay even when the work is done.

Truthfully, writing isn’t always fun. And my relationship with my characters is one of the factors that make writing their stories meaningful—it is they who make the experience memorable. Because, let’s be honest… I’ve spent more time with these fictional people than with the friends of my reality. They—Thad, Thom, and Robb—have molded my life just as much as I have molded theirs. They have helped me to understand myself better—to grow in trying seasons—carrying parts of me in their personas. Despite their different stories and identities, I trust them to bear the unfiltered and tangible version of me. Despite their fictional disposition, they are real.

‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’

Ask any author and I’m sure they can name a character that is far more real than reality itself. These characters break the barriers of imagination—the reason why Thom’s story feels like a personal experience, why I sometimes find Robb to be annoying, and why Thad will never be forgotten. But… it doesn’t stop there. At the end of my own story, I hope that these people wouldn’t merely be a part of me—that they wouldn’t die with their creator but will live in you.

I hope their lives will be an encouragement in your difficult times. I hope their stories will be a light in your darkness moments. I hope they linger on because they have become a part of you—as real as they can be… in what we call ‘this reality’.

Original Works

The Above [12 Genre Months]

“Do not, I repeat, do not do it again,” my mother chastised.

I had yet again provoked her with my disobedience. And though my actions were intentional, it wasn’t because I relished in my mother’s ire. It was simply because she had never given me a reason to stop. After all, I was curious—often wondering why not. Why was I forbidden from the surface? What danger did the beyond present that warranted punishment? What happened—a century before my birth—that forced us to live underground?

“Do you hear me?” my mother asked. Her anger had abated but she remained exasperated—a vexed disposition I could undo with a false promise.

“Yes,” I said. “I won’t do it again.”

My mother handed me a pair of yellow garden gloves. “You are to weed the garden. And if I hear any complain of truancy, you’ll be weeding the garden for the rest of your life.”

“Yes, mother.”

It was pointless to argue and more so futile to ask about the surface. My mother refused to disclose a single detail. Our subterranean society had kept the secrets of our past locked away, and only a chosen few were allowed to unearth the truth. So perhaps, my mother herself didn’t know what was in the above. Perhaps, she was merely repeating what her mother had said to her.

With the large garden gloves—appeasing my mother once more—I headed to the garden. From our small dome-shaped abode, I exited into a narrow tunnel that led to a fork in the path. Having memorised the passages—impossible to navigate if one is a foreigner with no guide—I took a right at the junction, then descended toward another split, where I turned left toward a seemingly never-ending hollow. When I finally came upon the end, there was a thick metal door. Turning the heavy handle, I entered yet another dome.

The dome, of 360 feet tall and wide, was called the garden. My mother was the chief caretaker of the only green space in our realm—the only place where one could gaze upon a palette of bright shades other than stale brown. It homed a variety of flora, sprouting from a carpet of deep green grass that spread across the floor and up the concave wall. It was paradise. It was also the meeting site for my expedition team—oh, if only my mother knew.

“Got caught again, I see,” my fellow weed-puller greeted.

“There’s always a next time,” I replied. “Did you learn anything new?”

Zee was the son of a chosen—his father frequented the above. Whenever his father returned, there would be new samples, ovules for the garden, and a journal full of notes.

“Nothing except that it remains inhabitable,” Zee said.

We had known that the world beyond was inhabitable for the past five years—the reports proved that we could ascend and start a new life. Alas, our people chose to remain. It was a strange decision—in spite of a reason to create a better life, there was no intention to move. Those un-chosen were still prohibited from venturing to the above—the claims of danger lodged into the minds of our people despite the lack of records to prove them true.

“I’ll try again tomorrow,” I stated. “Want to come along?”

“No,” Zee replied. He usually sat out of a mission if he had a valid excuse. But that day, he didn’t have one. He simply said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

“What? Why?” Not him too, I thought. Zee had been with me from the start. He was always excited to try and try again. So why the sudden change of heart?

“Just,” Zee said.

“Just?” I asked in disbelief. Zee was the third member on our team to abandon our cause. What reason could he have for giving up a better future—to live in a place full of possibilities, free from this mundanity? “Just is not a good reason,” I said. “Aren’t you tired of this aimless life?”

“I’m tired of trying,” Zee said. “Maybe, one day, we’ll be chosen. Then we’ll see the above without getting in trouble.”

“You want to keep waiting? What if you’re never chosen?”

“Then I guess I’ll just make do.” Zee shrugged.

“What is that suppose to mean? You’re willing to live here for the rest of your life? We already know what lies above us. We know it is worth the risk,” I reasoned.

Zee shook his head. “You can keep trying but I’m done.” He didn’t wait for me to respond, stalking toward a colossal tree of which its very seed came from the land we were banned from even glimpsing.

“Zee,” I called out. “You can’t just give up.”

Zee turned a deaf ear. Alike the two before him, he had relented. But at what cost? Was our search for purpose a meaningless pursuit? Was it justified to let go—to never gaze upon the hues of the sunrise and the awe-inspiring oceans? Would I lose hope too?

No, I will try again tomorrow as I said I would. If I had to spend my days weeding the garden, I would. If I was the only one left believing, then so be it. I had no plans of outgrowing my faith because the above held a promise the present could never offer—the above held a future.


12 Genre Months © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

(Click HERE for the list of stories in this writing challenge.)

Writing Journey

How Do You NOT Give Up?

How do you keep going without burning out? How do you stay inspired during dry spells? Where does your determination come from? Have you ever thought of giving up? How do you not give up?

Familiar questions–questions you might have asked, received, or pondered upon. And, important questions too, especially when it comes to our dreams and passions. We all know success comes from not giving up. But sometimes… well…

So, how do we not give up? Personally, I…

#1 Don’t Focus On The Negative

Constructive criticism is great for improving my skill, but outright negative comments aren’t. Comments that are hurtful and mean have the ability to destroy my hopes and dreams. And, because I can’t tell people what they can and cannot say, the only thing I can do is ignore them–turning away from those negative words and focusing on the encouraging ones instead.

Focusing on the positive helps to keep the wheels turning. I often find myself returning to positive words whenever I doubt my abilities and strengths. I would read an old comment or book review and my day would be instantly brightened. Words are powerful. The ones we choose to listen to dictates our path. So don’t focus on the negative. Start focusing on the positive instead.

#2 Set Achievable Goals

‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,’ that’s what they always say. But not all of my dreams have to scare me. Not all of my goals have to be star-high. I need achievable goals too. They sharpen my skills and take me one step closer to my bigger dreams. If all I’m focusing on is the end and not the path before me, I might just trip and never get back up again.

What are achievable goals? They’re not what I plan to achieve in my lifetime. Achievable goals are the books I plan to write before 2020, the number of chin-ups I aim to complete by the end of the year, and the amount of savings in my bank account for my next big trip. They’re small–far from scary–but they bring me closer to my dreams, one step at a time.

#3 Make & Execute Plans

To get somewhere, I need a plan. Setting achievable goals is part of making a plan, but it doesn’t complete the equation. I need to execute my plans too. Perhaps this is one of the most challenging parts when it comes to chasing my dreams. Execution requires me to be disciplined, diligent, and persistent. But sometimes, I’m just too lazy. So how do I counteract this laziness? I choose to do it anyway.

I’ll be honest, some of my blog posts are written at the very last minute–this one included. Despite having an idea on what I intend to write, I just don’t feel like doing it. But instead of calling in sick–giving a lame excuse as to why I missed this week’s post–I do it anyway. I carve out time to write. And by doing so, I don’t give myself any excuses–I stay disciplined and on track all the time.

#4 Celebrate Every Milestone

It’s easy to overlook small accomplishments at the desire to accomplish greater things. But if all I focused on was what I could’ve achieved, instead of what I’ve already achieved, I’m not motivating myself. Contrary, I’m discrediting my efforts for the what if’s and could have’s. And instead of acknowledging my hard work, I’m putting myself down.

I am my own biggest critic. And what I say to myself matters–my own words are as powerful, if not more, than the words of others. So it’s important to give myself credit where credit is due. I may not be able to say I’ve finished the race, but I can celebrate the journey. It is the little accomplishments that will keep me going–the little accomplishments that make the end worth pursuing.

#5 Know My Reason

I’ve written about this before–perhaps one too many times–and I’ll reiterate. Knowing why I write is the key to never giving up. I can religiously practice the four points above, but if I don’t know why I write, I won’t get far. This applies to all areas of my life too–areas where dreams and goals are present. If there’s no reason as to why I’m doing what I’m doing, what I’m doing will merely become a hobby. And as you know, hobbies are ever changing.

So, why do you do what you do? What is your reason? If you want to know my reason, I wrote a post solely about it here. I can guarantee you, that if you have a strong reason for your dreams, you will never give up. In fact, it becomes almost impossible–giving up is no longer an option.

If you’re on the brink of giving up, don’t lose hope just yet. There’s a way to stay motivated, driven, and passionate. You may have gone off the road, but getting back on track isn’t impossible. Remember, your dreams are worth chasing. They’re achievable. So don’t stop believing in them. And don’t ever stop believing in yourself.

Writing Journey

What To Do When No One Believes In You

Have you ever felt like the world has abandoned you?

The sudden isolation – a wave of nothingness – in a sea of hopes and dreams. Where you – a fragile yet polished porcelain – are about to tip over the edge of reality. You’re seemingly alone, and not a soul stands beside you. Those pillars of support, you’ve once leaned on, now crumble into non-existence.

What do you do?

Your dreams are in question – you’ve invested your heart and soul, yet no one seems to believe in you… anymore. Those who once cheered you on, now mum in your latest feats. Yes, you know you should believe in yourself. You know your passion will keep you going. But alone is not how you wish to continue. Alone is scary. Alone is where you fight your demons, face the dragons, and slay the beasts, without aid – without a trusted companion. You will not die in your battles, no. But you will have to make more strikes, draw more arrows, and crash in sheer exhaustion.

Where are they – the ones who’d go on this quest with you?

They are there. They have lifted their blades once, and they will lift them again for you. But not today. Because today, it’s your turn – to charge alongside another warrior in their own quest. Today is your turn to be a moral support, to cheer and raise your voices, and to stand by someone who needs your help. Today, you’re part of the infantry. Tomorrow, you lead the battle.

Often times, we’re caught in our own ambitions that our passion becomes our only focus. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Your dreams are important, and you should always go after them. But when our sight is centred on just us, our peripheral is blurred. And when we don’t see others standing in the centre with us, we start to feel alone.

In reality, we’re not alone. In reality, there are others lingering in our peripheral – chasing their own dreams. By taking our eyes off ourselves, we’ll begin to see those around us. We’ll begin to see how they’re always there for us. And we’ll begin to realise they need us too.

What do you do when no one seemingly believes in you? You believe in others.

Call it reverse psychology, or whatever you want, but the subject isn’t the other person – the subject is us. We don’t need to convince others to believe in us, because they already do. But by actively believing in others, we’re no longer alone. And don’t worry, we don’t have to give up our own pursuits to be a support. We can still run after the stars while we pace with others.

Personally, I endeavour to support those around me as best as I can. Writing this post is, somewhat, a give back to all those lovely comments I’ve received. Though I may not be able to always support financially, I’ll use my words as reinforcements. Because, as you and I both know, a little goes a long way on this road of dreams. And as much as we don’t want to walk alone, so do others.

So, let’s be a sturdy pillar to those around us. Let’s put our faith in someone’s crazy aspiration. And let’s embark this arduous journey as a team. It isn’t impossible to achieve greatness alone, but together… we make it easier.

Original Works

Dark Skies

darkskies

The rain fell like the bursting of a dam. There was no rhythm to the heavy drops, but there was thunder to the unsynchronized falling of rain. The windows in my room vibrated softly as the strong wind pushed against them. And that made me wince.

I never liked heavy rains. They scared me. The clouds always stayed dark after a heavy downfall, and unlike a drizzle in the afternoon, the sun never came up immediately.

There is just this feeling of uncertainty and worry when it came to heavy rains. You have to be homebound and if you are on the road, you can barely see. If you are walking with an umbrella, you know you are in a battle to stay dry as the wind sends your only protection scrunching.

Nobody would dance in such a rain. No one would leave the windows open for the wind. Not a single person would leave their house, and plans were better off cancelled.

I say all these as I have experienced them. But unfortunately, this heavy rain might be my last. It fitted the feelings I have right now; the cold, foreboding, and unstable situation that rested on my shoulders. Not once have I related so well to the weather than right now.

The dark sky, almost like the night sky, was the epitome of fear. Don’t believe me? Lie on your bed, look out your window, and don’t fall asleep. Watch the trees fight the wind, hear the wind chimes clash in loud cries, and feel the cold seeping into your skin. Are you afraid now?

I’m sure we all have experienced fear before. Fear alike the heavy rain, but much more real. These experiences are never easy to forget.

I, myself, remember my first encounter with fear. I was seven. I was at the swimming pool and my float was too big for me. Slipping through the hole and sinking, while my ears muffled the world around me, was a strange and scary feeling. I remember the cold water, the crushing in my chest, and my desperate fight to survive. I remember not dying, but fear still won. I never swam again.

Another encounter I had with fear was my final exam in university. I studied all I could but when the paper sat right in front of me, my mind went blank. The cold examination room, the loud ticking of the clock, and the words my mind could not wrap around, made me scared. I did not fail, but fear still won. I’m constantly struggling to believe in myself and I don’t know why.

Thinking back, my university encounter was not even up to par with my most recent one. A couple of years ago, I lost my job and I struggled to find a new one. Everyone shut their doors and there was not even a window to peep through. The sight of my bills terrified me, the sound of rejection resonated within me, and the nights where the chills of reality greeted me, made me want to run and hide under my bed. I was like a child, afraid of the bogeyman that was out to get me. Thankfully I did not go bankrupt, but fear still won. I have never been more worried about my future since then.

Honestly, after I got through that mess, I thought I had seen all the faces of fear. Of course I was wrong. I was wrong not because I’ve not experienced them all, but because I don’t know the fear I was about to face.

When it came, it hit me so hard that my hands shook, my insides bubbled, and my head started to spin. Was I afraid of death or was I afraid of uncertainty? What was my fear? I never had the answers.

Today, I laid in my bed staring at the rain. Chills ran down my spine as the beeping of the monitor grew louder and louder. I was hoping for the rain to stop, and for the dark sky to clear up, but it looked like it would not do so anytime soon. I was hoping for a glimpse of a rainbow, or a hint of hope, but the world was refusing to calm my soul.

I was not ready for what I had to face. I was scared, fearful, terrified, and paralyzed. Where was my courage? I wondered silently.

Briefly pulling my eyes away from the madness outside, I turned to stare at the ceiling. I found my eyes fixated on the ceiling light; the light that was so… stable. There was no flicker when the clouds thundered, and it kept my darkened room lit.

It was then that I realized something. There was a way to beat fear… and that, was hope. You don’t need a sign to have hope, you just need to believe there is hope. Even in the darkest places, there would be light. The strong stable glare of warmth is not shaken by the cold winds and tremors.

Hope was a powerful weapon, one that could defeat the daggers of fear. And for once in my life, I actually tried to let hope breathe. I did not have much of a choice anyway, as my future was uncertain. But with a little hope, I know I stand a chance, however small it was.

It’s true, they say, fear cripples. I have been crippled in different areas of my life unable to truly live it. And now, I’m about to go through an operation where my chance of survival is the same as my chance of death. But even so, I have decided not to let fear rob my last conscious thought.

When my doctor finally came in to see me, I took one last look at the world outside my window. This time, I was full of hope to see the clear blue skies again.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

This short story is self explanatory and the question it raises is simple. Are you living in fear? Was there an event or a situation that has crippled you? If so, it’s time to let a little hope breathe.

No matter what you are afraid of, rejection, disappointment, loss, hardships, and even death, remember that hope is always there. You just have to see it and acknowledge its presence. Finding the light in darkness is not easy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Sometimes it takes faith, other times it takes courage, but believing there is hope changes the way you look at things. When you see things in a different light, it’s no longer the end of the world.

I know this story is pretty simple, without strange analogies like my previous ones, but I hope it conveyed the message well enough. So, do let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

© 2013 Jeyna Grace

(For more short stories, click HERE)