Writing Journey

What Happens When The New Year Is Hopeless?

It seems that 2021 isn’t the new year we were all looking forward to. And though that statement might sound discouraging, the question we have never asked is why—why must every year be a fresh start? Why are we so quick to disregard the year before when perhaps… a new year isn’t meant to be new, but a continuation of our story?

After an arduous and uncertain 2020, many of us hoped for a better 2021. We wished for a semblance of the life we once had, where the cares and struggles we used to face now somehow seem trivial. We yearn for some form of normalcy without the face masks and the lockdowns—a time when we had some control over our lives. Alas, life has reached a level of unpredictability that attempting to plan, hope, or even survive is a daily challenge. So what do we do when 2021 isn’t a new year?

Many would like to pretend 2020 and 2021 didn’t exist—that we have skipped two years in this lifetime. Unfortunately, these two years are as real as they can be. And maybe… just maybe… these are the years where we learn to appreciate life. Instead of constantly chasing a new beginning every year, in hopes of forgetting what we deem as horrors of the past, we now embrace the continuity of life. Because life… doesn’t restart at every January 1st.

Life is continuous. And a new year is a façade. We believe in better things to come every new year, forgetting that better things do come at different stages of our lives. We shun the obstacles and the troubles of the past, forgetting that those challenges made us who we are. So perhaps, a new year isn’t the answer to hope. The answer to hope is in life itself, where the memories of the years before remind us of our storms and rainbows—both the bad times… and the good times, too. Simply put, it is our experiences in life that give us hope.

So yes, 2020 was bad and we may not know where 2021 will lead us. But if there’s any consolation, the uncertainty includes a brighter and better possibility in the entirety of our continuous journey. After all, if we take some time to look back, we will realise… we’ve experienced it before.

Original Works

Into The Sky [Music Meets Story]

“Have you decided?”

“I think so,” I said. It wasn’t a difficult decision—I had always wanted to fly. The great rush of the wind against my skin, in the embrace of the peaceful amber skies, had always been a dream.

“Well, no matter what you choose, know that I’ll support you… fully,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. I had never once disappointed her. In fact, I often believed I made her proud. My only fear then was making the wrong decision—despite it being an easy one. Alas, one could never be certain if easy was good, nor if hard was any nobler than easy.

“Goodnight then,” she said with a gentle smile.

As she left my wooden tent, I pushed myself seated. Turning to the window above my bed, I heaved a sigh. There were five days, three hours, and sixteen minutes left—the remaining time to reach a decision. Perhaps, I should stick with my first choice—to spread my wings and escape the never-ending battles and the haunting smell of blood that reigned over my reality. If I could close my eyes and wish it all away—taking to the sky with my glorious snowy-feathered wings—wasn’t that the hope of every being in a hopeless world?

With the stars twinkling in the distance as the cloudless night presented the full moon, I wondered why—when my brother made his choice, it was to run fast and furious across the golden sand dunes. And when my sister made hers, it was to brace the wrathful waves of mighty storms. Yet, just when I thought they could flee from the raging turmoil that plagued our land, they stayed.

Still, five days, three hours, and sixteen minutes later, I chose to fly.

“Have you decided?” I asked.

“I think so,” he said. It wasn’t a difficult decision—I always knew he wanted to fly, too.

“Good. You have my support, you know that, right?” I replied.

“Yes. But can I ask you something?” he said with a frown. Therein lay the same hesitation in his mien. The same hesitation that was once mine—if my choice was selfish and cowardly.

“It’s alright if you want to run,” I stated. “Everyone secretly wants to. I did, too.”

“Then why did you stay?”

I chuckled. Indeed, why did I? The night after I received my gift—to own the body of a magnificent bird of prey—I could have bid farewell. I could have left everything behind to start anew. I could choose the adventures I wished to embark on—ones that weren’t marked by death and destruction. But just as the battle horns blew at the arrival of yet another challenger, seeking the very ancient art that granted me my gift, I rose from my bed ready to protect what was mine.

“The same reason you might,” I told him.

“I don’t understand,” he said. Alas, neither did I in his state. “But it’s not wrong if I leave, right?” he prompted.

“No one is stopping you,” I replied with a smile. “And no one will judge you either. The gift is yours to use, however you wish to use it.”

He nodded. He had made up his mind—he was going to fly. And yet, I knew, he would stay. Just like every single one before him, the allure of the great beyond could never snatch us away from home—more than the magic we fought for was the family that fought alongside us.

At the next blow of the battle horns, we would be the vigilant eyes in the sky. Our brothers would rumble the earth with their spirited roars. Our sisters would wield the elements of the sea with righteous anger. This… had been the ways of our ancestors—to unleash the primeval beast within, to defeat the teeth-baring demons that were hungry for our souls, and to grasp onto hope with our fragile hearts… even when there seemed to be none.

“Goodnight then,” I said.

Five days, three hours, and sixteen minutes later, he chose to fly. And as quickly as an enemy arose, he was by my side—not on a quest to resign from life but to be bold, passionate, and determined… to fight for it.


This story was inspired by the original composition, Everything Will Be Alright by Niklas Ahlstedt.

Music Meets Story © 2020 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Writing Journey

Are You Afraid Of Making Mistakes?

I grew up in a culture where the term ‘silly mistake’ was used fairly frequently during my formative years. Whether it be a wrong answer in my mathematics exam or unintentionally messing up, my parents, teachers, and anyone older than me would rarely fail to point out something they deemed as a ‘silly mistake’—to an extent that even honest mistakes were sometimes considered silly.

In that same culture, broadcasting or sharing my mistakes is also frowned upon. Why in the world would you ever tell others about your weaknesses and your failures? Opening up about how I’ve messed up is considered as washing my dirty laundry in public. And so for a long time, whenever I made a mistake, I would attempt burying it… and, when I was still a child, shifting the blame to someone else was a default reaction.

I’m not sure about the rest of the world but in Asia, I was raised to minimise mistakes. Thus, I was afraid of making mistakes. Yet in this day and age, we are told to ‘celebrate mistakes’. And coming from a culture where we never once celebrated our past mistakes, what does that phrase actually mean? How do we celebrate screwing up? Are we to pat the backs of those who failed? Do we cheer for regrettable and seemingly ignorant decisions?

It was only after a few years in the working world that I learned what it meant to celebrate my mistakes. And though it might seem counter-culture-intuitive, celebrating my mistakes meant acknowledging that I wasn’t perfect—that in all the years of covering up and hiding my mistakes, it was time to accept that I am human.

What that phrase means to me now is admitting my mistakes, being responsible for the outcome of those mistakes, learning to troubleshoot the mistakes, and not shifting the blame or sweeping it under the carpet. Celebrating my mistakes is being bold enough to say it was my fault and that I was wrong, without the fear of judgement—despite the likelihood that I am still being judged in this culture. Celebrating my mistakes also means being unafraid of making mistakes because it is through my mistakes that I learn and improve in areas that clearly needed improvement. And guess what, celebrating my mistakes is one of the most freeing decisions I’ve ever made.

No longer am I striving to paint this perfect picture. No longer do I need to pretend that I am succeeding in life. No longer will I have to hide who I truly am—I am free to be a human with all the flaws a human could possibly have. And that is why I’ll keep celebrating my mistakes… even if the world wouldn’t celebrate them with me.

Are YOU afraid of making mistakes? Maybe it’s time to celebrate them instead.

Original Works

Reach | Goals | Hotel

They say that some goals are impossible to achieve—that no matter how fervently you imagined, dreamt, or even planned, it could never come true. And perhaps, they are right. But, did I believe them?

“What do you think—grand, isn’t it?” I prompted, as I showed her yet another one of my sketches.

My mother responded with a thin smile. It was the same smile that had graced her meek demeanour for the past few years—an empathetic expression of little belief. Though, there was a time when she truly did believe—a time when we would have sweet cereal and cold milk for breakfast, when the weekends involved a game of frisbee at the park, and when my father would take us on spontaneous road trips in his sputtering jeep. It was a time of jaw-aching laughter, silly yet dangerous pranks, and wide grins of true belief in the bright side of life. But within three years, my mother had lost it all.

Some days, those memories didn’t seem real to me either. It would play in the blackness of my eyelids right before I fell asleep—like a family-friendly film in the popcorn-scented theater we had not visited since. It often felt like someone else’s story—perhaps, the story of another me from another universe. Were we really that happy? Is that how a genuine smile looked like—raised cheeks and wrinkles by the eyes? Some of those memories had slipped from my mind all together—now surreal.

“There’ll be three floors of swimming pool, connected with a swirling water slide. It’ll shoot through the ceiling!” I added.

“That looks like a lot of fun,” my mother said. “But you’ll need lifeguards.”

“Right. Like at the public pool,” I noted.

I almost forgot about the swimming classes I took every Friday. My father would pick me up after school—my yellow swim bag and metal lunchbox often placed on the backseat. Yet, in the recollection of those sunny afternoons, there were gaps in what was once a weekly routine. I had forgotten the warmth of the sun on my skin, the soothing humming in my ears while underwater, and the shiver in my spine as I dashed for my towel on the pool bench.

“Is it almost done?” my mother asked.

“Almost,” I replied, flipping through my sketchbook. There were a few sketches left before the blueprint of my first hotel was complete. It would be my proudest creation yet—the first step toward achieving my dream of becoming the world’s youngest architect.

“Don’t forget to show your dad,” my mother said. “He’ll want to see it.”

“Yup! I also need to ask him about the piping.” I smiled. And at that moment, I wondered—was my smile a true smile? I had no mirror—were there creases by my eyes? When my mother responded with a loving gaze, I knew—I had a smile of belief.

My parents may have long lost their belief but I had yet to lose mine. Despite the past years of uncertainty and fear, I still believed. Even when I struggled to be brave, even when I cried into my pillow, even when they could no longer remove the endotracheal tube, and even when the doctor said it could be any time now, I still believed that dreams do come true. That if you stretched your hands—reach for the stars—nothing was impossible. And though I might have forgotten what life was like—what it should be for a healthy twelve-year-old—I had not given up on it yet.

One day soon, I would be free from my restraints. I wouldn’t have to peer out of the hospital window to glimpse the stars, I would stand beneath them. I wouldn’t have to replay old memories, I would make new ones. There would be no more tears. There would only be belly-aching laughter. One day soon, my dream would come true—I would be the boy who conquered death. And there would be plenty of smiles—authentic smiles of true belief.


Reach, goals, and hotel were words given by Mervin Raymond.

It has been awhile since I’ve written something like this. And honestly, I found myself tearing up a little. I’m sorry if I made you a little sad too. I just felt like writing an emotional piece and this was it.

Now, it’s your turn! Write a story with the three words given. Perhaps you can lighten the mood with a story of your own?

*To download the banner, left-click then right-click to save.

3 Words, 1 Story © 2019 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.

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

Writing Journey

How To Silence Your Inner Critic

You can’t.

Just like how you can’t silence those ‘outer’ critics, you can’t silence your inner critic. But… what you can do, is decide on how to deal with that pesky voice in your head. And, the easiest way to deal with it, is in the same fashion as tackling those critical comments from the outside world. Alas, here’s the irony: the most common advice you would hear is to ignore the critics. Don’t respond to any of them—good or bad. In fact, don’t even read what people have to say about your work. Sound advice? Perhaps. And though ignoring the external negativity is possible—challenging should you decide to try—you can’t exactly do the same with the whispers and taunts from within. It’s impossible to shut out the doubts and mute the negativity. So, what do you do? What can you do?

Personally, I do not disregard both good and bad comments about my work. Yes, I broke the ‘ignore all reviews’ rule. Yes, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. But as part of my practice—Googling for reviews and reading every single one of them—I choose when to respond. And, there are only two occasions of which I do.

The first occasion is a negative review that contains at least one positive thought. It shows that the reviewer took the effort to find one good thing to say. And with such comments, I thank them for their time. After all, they slogged through my work. And despite disliking most of it, they cared enough to say something nice. The second occasion is a positive review that is of a few hundred words. Again, the reviewer took the time to craft a lengthy feedback—not solely praising the book but offering thoughts on areas I can improve in my future works as well. So, in the same way, these are the two occasions of which I respond to my inner critic.

Whenever that little voice decides to ruin my day, I try to find one positive takeaway. “Your writing is too simple,” it says. Well, simplicity isn’t a bad thing! “Your writing will never win literary awards,” it says. Well, I don’t plan on winning awards—I just want to tell stories. “Your writing will never be good enough,” it says… Ah, that one stings.

All right, let’s be honest, sometimes finding positivity can be tough. But when that is the case, I look for ways to improve instead. “Your writing will never be good enough,” it says. Well, at least I’m working on it. “Your work is boring,” it says. Well, I guess it’s time to spice things up! “Your characters are so cliche,” it says. Well, let’s find a way to make them not cliche. Our inner critic may come across as mean, hurtful, and discouraging, but how we respond makes a difference. In fact, our inner critic may be the voice we need to hear to improve in our craft.

So the next time your inner critic decides to speak up, don’t just listen but respond in a way that pushes you to do better in your art. After all, you can’t silence it. There’s no mute or off button for your subconscious mind. The next best thing you can do is use it to your advantage.

Writing Journey

I Don’t Believe In Talent

If I believed in talent, I wouldn’t be writing. If I believed in talent, I wouldn’t be making videos. If I believed in talent, there will be no blog posts and no stories—not a single creative expression finding completion. I wouldn’t have undergone arduous months campaigning for my novels. I wouldn’t have encountered countless rejections and experienced amazing opportunities. If I believed in talent, I wouldn’t be here today. Thus why I don’t believe in talent. Instead, I believe in doing what matters.

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that talent isn’t a strong ‘currency’ in life. Sure, having talent is a great capital for when you want to start pursuing your dreams. But soon enough, you’ll discover that there are others who are richer than you—others who are far more gifted than you will ever be. You’ll start to notice young bloods surpassing you in your craft—geniuses that leave you stumbling in the dust. And when that happens, what do you do? Do you throw in the towel—refuse to fight for your dreams because you’re not talented enough? Do you wish for more talent—fantasize about the day you will be discovered for your brilliance? Here’s the thing: if you’re running on talent alone, you are bound to fail. And if that is true, you’re probably wondering… is success possible—can you actually succeed without talent?

Success is self-defined—we define success through the things that matter to us. And what matters to us includes the reason why we pursue our dreams. Personally, I do what I do because I want to be a source of encouragement. I do what I do because I want others to believe in their dreams. I do what I do because I want to make a difference—no matter how small the impact may be—in the lives of those around me. And that… is all that matters to me.

Now, why does your passion matter to you? Why is your dream important to you? Once you know why it matters, you don’t need talent. Yes! You. Don’t. Need. Talent! You don’t need talent to do what matters. You don’t need to be a creative genius to do something of value. You don’t need to have an impressive IQ to live a meaningful life. After all, when something matters to you, you will do it anyway—you’ll find a way to achieve success, overcoming every obstacle, unfazed by the world of talent around you.

So… if you’re in a stage of life where you’re questioning whether you have what it takes—if you are gifted enough to pursue your dreams—start looking past talent. Don’t limit yourself to your physical abilities but look within you to find the reason for your ambitions. Ask yourself why what you’re doing matters to you, and stop living on the currency of talent. Make a decision… to start running on purpose instead.

Writing Journey

Your Alternate Ending

Our life is like a book except that the ending is constantly changing. With every decision we make—from what we eat for lunch to the time we go to bed—our future is being revised over and over again. It is an alteration we do not see, perhaps in belief that certain actions are too small to account for anything. But once we start paying attention—noticing even the minute details—we’ll begin to see the ripple of our every action and thought. We’ll realise that with every breath, we are rewriting the epilogue of our story.

To some, grasping the notion that ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’ is terrifying. And indeed, it is a scary thought—what will happen with every success and failure? Will we end up with a bad final chapter? What if our decisions change our entire book? Unfortunately, that is how life is. But it’s not all that bad when we start to see the possibilities that come with change.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve come to realise that change is good. Change has broadened my perspective of the world and the opportunities it has to offer. Change has forced me out of my comfort zone—to try new things and embark on different adventures. Change has led me down roads I never thought I would traverse, changing my ending repeatedly—the same unpredictable future from the start now as unpredictable as before, but… much brighter and more exciting than yesterday. Change, if I dare say, is a gift.

Now, of course, there was a time I was afraid of change—a time I feared that it would alter my dreams, divert my goals, and lead me astray from the grand plans I had for myself. But, not any longer. I’ve learned to adapt to change. And with every adaptation, I’m writing a better story for myself. With every trial and error—every uncomfortable moment—I’m shifting my perspective for the better. And so, I challenge you to embrace change too.

I challenge you to create an alternate ending for yourself. You do not have to give up on your dreams. You do not have to drop any of your plans. I, myself, didn’t stop being an author when I started doing Facebook videos. I didn’t stop writing stories while I explored other platforms to share my ideas and experiences. In fact, when I challenged my status quo, my dream expanded. So I’m glad—I’m glad that I’m no longer afraid of change. I’m glad that my ending isn’t what it used to be. And I cannot wait to uncover the alternate end to my story because I know… it can only get better from here.

Others

8 Things I’m Grateful For In 2018

1. My trip to the UK. Though it was not the best nor the most memorable, I finally visited Potterland of which I thought was impossible.

2. My novel, The Slave Prince, finally hitting bookstores after the arduous hours spent on fundraising and editing.

3. My 3/4 page feature in The Sun newspaper. Who knew I would be given that much print space? Certainly not me!

4. My whole CLEO experience—from the photoshoot to the luncheon—that pushed me into the most awkward social situations, which have now made me a little bolder and more willing to say ‘yes’ to social events.

5. The many times I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, agreeing to ‘things’ I never thought I would agree to, to push my limitations both in my personal and work life. I accepted so many challenges this 2018.

6. Learning a lot from my day job that has helped me to map my personal plans for the future. I never knew I could take such a route on my authoring journey. I never knew I would be so fond of the words, ‘business’ and ‘consultant’. Simply being willing to learn has helped me to see the endless possibilities standing before me.

7. A life plan for 2019 and beyond that doesn’t just involve writing novels but has a more meaningful purpose. Finally, there’s more to do! And I cannot wait to share it with you. So be sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming posts!

8. My friends, especially the (unlikely) people who are so supportive of my plans and have offered a hand to help me make it happen. And my family, for still being a close unit—still going on family trips and spending Sundays together. Hopefully, next year won’t be that much different.

After all that has happened and that is to come, I have a feeling 2019 is going to be an amazing year. 2018 is just the start of my novel, and like all epic adventures out there…. it’s about to get exciting!

Is there anything in your 2018 that you’re grateful for? Make a list!

Writing Journey

How To Balance Passion & Work

One of the biggest, and probably most difficult, decision we have to make in life is the choice between surviving and pursuing our passion. Which is more important—doing the things that we love at a cost or work to pay the bills and perhaps live a more comfortable life? It always seems to be one or the other. And, we often believe that those who get to do what they love and make a living from it are the blessed minority. But here’s what I’ve come to realised… there’s actually a way to do both. It won’t require much except for a little courage and a change in mindset.

Let’s start with our mindset. As passionate individuals, we often want to live our passion—solely our passion—nothing more, nothing less. We have the biggest dreams and the wildest goals. We aim for the stars. And, there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s something we should keep doing. Heck I do it all the time and perhaps too often. But, if all we strive for is what we idealise—refusing to try anything new—our dreams will remain as dreams.

Speaking from personal experience, I’ve spent way too many years focused on the dream of becoming a full-time author. It has been all I’ve ever wanted that it tunneled my vision—building walls around my other abilities. Because that dream was my sole focus, I shied away from trying new things, exploring new industries, and stepping outside of my comfort zone in fear of ‘jeopardizing’ my dream. But, after a few uncomfortable experiences, I started to see what the world had to offer. I found opportunities that could actually help me achieve my dreams. Yes, they may not be about writing or directly related to my passion, but they can and will bring me one step closer toward being a better writer as a whole. I still want to be a full-time author, but I’ve chosen not to box myself. I’ve made a decision—a change in mindset—to try, fail, and seize everything the world throws my way.

Now, of course, if you’re an introvert like me who has been boxed for far too long, doing something new is daunting. Choosing to embrace new environments is scary. What if you say the wrong words? What if you fail to meet expectations? As many opportunities as there are to advance yourself, there are equal or greater opportunities to fail. So, we make excuses. Despite knowing what a great stepping stone it may be, we give ourselves a reason not to do it. What a waste, isn’t it? Here’s the thing, we actually don’t need a lot of courage to break those walls. Sometimes, all we need to do… is close our eyes and say ‘yes’.

I’m a socially awkward individual who has trouble connecting and meeting new people. But I’ve learned to say ‘yes’ to social events because I know it will do me good. I still hate it—I do not like mingling—but if it’s a good opportunity to advance myself, I say ‘yes’. I may regret my decision later on—diving blindly into an unknown environment—but I say ‘yes’ first and worry about the outcome later. After all, we cannot predict what will happen in life. But I believe that every open door presents an opportunity to go further and do greater things. And with all these doors, it only takes one step—a pinch of courage—to step through them.

If you’re in this stage of your life where you’re struggling to balance between your passion and work, perhaps it’s time to be bold and break the walls you’ve built around you. The odds of you achieving your dream is higher when you do more. Confining yourself at the notion of protecting your dreams doesn’t preserve your passion. Instead, it’s hiding your gifts and abilities from the world. So be brave fellow dreamer. Start learning new things and exploring new ideas. Start challenging yourself for the sake of your awesome dream.

Writing Journey

Being The Best Writer

Before I begin, I want you to know that you can now grab a paperback copy of The Battle for Oz on Amazon at only $8.33. If you’ve not read my book, here’s a chance to do so at a 50% discount! Buying this book will support my authoring career, allowing me to write more stories for you. So visit HERE to grab your copy today!

So, back to the topic at hand: being the best writer.

If you’ve ever wondered how you can be the best writer, wonder no more. Here are 3 things you can do to be the best writer ever! Trust me, it works.

1. Stop Caring

This is applicable in life as it is in writing. If you want to be the best writer, you have to stop caring about what others think of you. You have to stop entertaining passing judgements. You have to accept, that as a writer, you cannot please everyone. You are you. Seeking the approval of someone who doesn’t like your work simply holds you back from moving forward. And dwelling upon a dislike only makes you self-conscious. This self-consciousness can mold an opinion into truth – which is not the truth. So stop caring about the world’s perception. Perceptions aren’t reality.

2. Find Your Purpose

Why do you write? Do you know that knowing why you write makes you more self-aware? We all have a purpose in life, and we all certainly have a purpose in writing. Knowing our purpose helps us stay true to ourselves. It drives our passion, it reflects our identity, and it reminds us to be us. Whether you write to inspire, to be read, or to share, our writing comes from a meaningful place. These meaningful, purpose-filled words make us unique. And these same words express our uniqueness.

Yes, I believe we’re all special snowflakes. As derogatory as some like to use the term, it’s the truth. There’s no one like you, and knowing who you are makes you a better writer.

3. Endeavour To Improve

If all this while you thought I was writing about being the best writer in the world, let me clarify now: you cannot be the best writer in this world. There’s a sea of writers, honing distinct voices, that it’s impossible to benchmark this skill and talent. So perhaps the better title for this post would be: Being The Best Writer You Can Be. And the only way to be the best writer you can be ever (!) is by endeavouring to improve in your craft.

Writing is a life long journey. When you choose to become a writer – out of passion – you choose to do this for as long as you live. You may not be ‘the best writer you can be’ today, but the more time and effort you put into improving yourself, you will be ‘the best writer you can be’ one day.

“Ah, well Jeyna, I know all this,” you say.

Well, so do I. I’ve said this before in my previous posts. And though I’ve not specifically written a post about it, I’ve repeated myself like a broken record. However, I publish this post today with a single goal: I want to remind, both you and myself, that we can be great writers by staying true to ourselves.

We don’t have to change to fit into a best-seller mold. We don’t need to repurpose our dreams to be accepted by readers. We just have to strive to be the best we can be. And, let’s not just practice this in writing but in life too. Because the only time we experience life at its fullest is when we experience life as ourselves.

(Not-so-random plug; I recently launched my fitness blog over at blogspot. Besides writing, fitness is also a passion of mine. If you’re into it too, I’d love to have you there as well!)