Writing Journey

Imagination Is A Superpower [#TRUESTORY]

JG Cover

This story begins in 1999. You might be wondering if I got the year right, and chances are, I might be a year off. But let’s just assume it was indeed 1999.

At that age, I had a classmate who was a great storyteller. Her tales were so unbelievably far-fetched, yet oddly I bought every one of them. And because she often sparked my imagination—like how she attained a publishing deal as a nine-year-old—I started creating stories of my own. It began with the haunted Barbie doll that sat on a black dustbin near the library. God knows how many tall tales I concocted about the doll—a doll which strangely no teacher seemed to care enough to get rid of. There was also that haunted storeroom, in the classroom at the end of the top most hallway, with existing horror stories that I added to. Random question: why is everything haunted as a child?

10 points to Gryffindor if you can spot me!

In 2001, I moved to a different city and enrolled in a new school. This was when I took my storytelling up a notch with a group of friends. It was during that season that Charmed became my obsession—what can I say, magic has always been a fascination of mine. So during recess, my friends and I role-played as the Charmed Ones. I was Piper. I had a Leo. My friend who was Phoebe had a Cole. All these names would sound foreign if you have never seen the original Charmed series. But if you know what I’m talking about, you can safely assume we were big fans for having our own Book of Shadows.

A couple of years later, I started secondary school. Role-playing had moved from play-pretend to internet forums. It was in secondary school that I had access to the Harry Potter books, and thus began the sleepless nights and eager evenings to continue a story I was writing with five other Potterheads. And because role-playing was no longer expressed physically, I didn’t just write stories online, I started concocting tales before bed too. In the privacy of my bedroom, I imagined going on adventures with Harry and the gang. I even vocalised the dialogue. It sounds insane but trust me, writing my own stories make me seem more insane—this was just the tip of the iceberg.

However, as I aged up, I gradually stopped with the crazy imaginations… because honestly, it felt crazy to me too. So instead of feeding my imagination before bed, I turned to writing. I wasn’t very good. And people knew that—they were aware I wasn’t the best at stringing words together. I didn’t win a single writing contest. And on two accounts, someone close to me said I wasn’t going to make it—that I should quit because I wasn’t going to be good enough and that I was talent-less. If you’ve had someone close to you put fire to your dreams, you probably know how it felt. Did I believe them? No. Did their words hurt? Yes, so very much. But I was determined to succeed. And so I chose to use my imagination instead.

Born an imagineer, always an imagineer.

Imagination is a superpower. And with great power comes great responsibility. Just like any other superpower, you can use it for both good and evil. You can choose to imagine the worst, where you feed your doubts and crush your dreams. Or… you can choose to imagine an epic adventure where you ultimately become the hero of your story. When such a power is in your hands, the choice on what to do with it is entirely yours. And, I chose to keep my dream alive.

These days, I don’t use my imagination in the same way as I did growing up. As an adult, I channel my flights of fantasy into novels and the positive what if’s into reality. I imagine what could be with a dash of hope in the impossible. Of course, I am not completely free from the monsters of my imagination. But just like in any story, no matter how many times a villain rears its ugly head, it never wins. So if you’re an imagineer like me, start using your imagination in a way that will propel you on your own journey. And if you think you don’t have this gift of imagination, take a look at your childhood—screen through those years where you were free from reality. I honestly believe that the spark is still there, and all it needs is for you to reignite it… again.

Writing Journey

3 Months Ago, I Became A ‘Hot Shot’ [#TRUESTORY]

This story begins three months ago—on June 1st—when I was offered a spot in the ‘Hot Shots’ campaign.

The ‘Hot Shots’ campaign is organized by CLEO magazine, where ‘every year, we select 30 successful women across industries to speak of their success, background, and how they’re reshaping the landscape of their industries.’ I know this might sound surprising, but when I read the offer, I hesitated. Yes, I actually hesitated. I asked my mum and my colleagues if I should go for it. And only when they said, ‘Yes! Of course!” I said, “Yes,” myself. Strange, I know.

Now, despite saying ‘yes’, I didn’t actually announce the nomination—I didn’t tell anyone but those who already knew. Why? Because I wasn’t sure if it was truly going to happen. I doubted. I didn’t think I was ‘Hot Shot’ worthy, and I thought CLEO might change their mind. So before CLEO sent me the official email, with my photoshoot and interview date, I kept the news to myself. Pretty understandable, right?

My photoshoot and interview date was June 12th. At 10.30 a.m. that day, I hopped on a Grab and headed to a hotel in Kuala Lumpur. The entirety of the experience was foreign to me. And upon my return home, I wrote a Facebook post summarising the event.

On August 1st, CLEO’s ‘Hot Shots’ issue hit the shelves. Firstly, let me just say, I’m not a fan of my picture. It wasn’t me. But CLEO is a fashion and lifestyle magazine, so what most people are generally used to is not something you would see on such a publication. That being said, after flipping past my profile, I started to read about the other 29 women. And, only then, I realised that being a ‘hot shot’ didn’t necessarily mean being a millionaire—a hot shot could be anyone who is doing what they love and making a change through their works regardless of the magnitude of their success. So hey, maybe I am worthy of being called a ‘Hot Shot’ after all (nope, still doubting).

This proves how nobody knew Clark Kent was Superman.

Then, August 21st rolled around and CLEO posted my full interview—both video and written—on their website and social media. As I’m not a fan of seeing myself in action, I cringed a little watching myself in the video interview. But I’m glad… no, I’m relieved… that I shared from the heart. There was no pretending. My words were true—if you’ve been following me for a while, you know they are. The only thing that wasn’t true to Jeyna was the makeup, which made me seem a little intimidating.

A couple of days after my profile went live, I went for a CLEO high-tea event. It was a weekday, so I had to take a half day off work. It was one of the most awkward experiences in my life. Remember when I blogged about ‘How To Balance Passion & Work’, where I mentioned about how I dislike networking? Well, which introvert actually enjoys networking? I was completely out of
my element! If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw the instastories. But if you don’t, here’s the status update on my personal Facebook account summarizing the whole 2 hours.

“Thursday, 5 p.m: Currently on my way home from the CLEO event—it’s safe to say that this is my first ‘networking’ event, so I guess it’s understandable to act and feel extremely awkward. But hey, at least I managed to strike up a conversation with a 20-year-old MMA fighter, her manager, and a singer signed under Yuna’s record label. Also, I got a free cookie and a makeup set from Wet & Wild. Overall, I’m glad I did something completely outside of my comfort zone. But next time, can I not go alone? Can I have a plus one please?”

It’s safe to say that I will remember this entire experience for a lifetime. I never imagined being recognised for my work on such a scale. Though I’m still a long way off from living the dream, the past few months introduced me to a world I didn’t know I could be a part of. So I’m grateful, tremendously grateful, for the opportunity. I’m glad, despite the fear of unfamiliar environments, that I stepped out of my comfort zone. And, if nothing more comes my way, I’ll continue to celebrate this moment. Because through it, I have bravely traversed uncharted territory and I’m now more than ready to sail into the unknown… again.

Try not to cringe! You can watch the video interview below and read the written interview HERE!

Writing Journey

This Story Begins In 2005 [#TRUESTORY]

I scrolled through my blog recently and realised that I don’t share enough personal stories. I do address certain topics based on experience, but nothing from, ‘hey, I was once an annoying kid,’ to, ‘wow, I said the cringiest things on Facebook.’ So today, I thought, let me share a #truestory.

This story begins in 2005. It was during those formative years in secondary school that I began exploring other forms of writing aside from short stories. I would write scripts for my school’s drama competitions, and I would write poetry–a whole lot of poetry. I thought I wasn’t good at short stories because I never won any writing competitions. So, I tried poetry instead. But even then–churning out both story-based and self-reflective pieces–I knew nothing about the rules and the mechanics of this art. I just wrote. And whenever I wrote, I would submit my poems to a local newspaper in hopes of being featured in their Wednesday student column.

Then 2007 rolled around. It was my final year in secondary school and I experienced the loss of two family members in a single week. My maternal grandfather passed away a few days prior to my paternal aunt. I wasn’t close to either of them as I can’t speak mandarin or hokkien–two of the few Chinese dialects in Malaysia. And, I only saw them once a year during Chinese New Year. So the loss was a strange kind of loss. I was sad–I cried when I heard about my grandfather, while I was unexpectedly called out from school–but… I didn’t know why.

At their funerals, of which I had to travel from one state to another just a few days apart, I wrote two poems. I used to carry a notebook around for when inspiration strikes, and conveniently, I had my notebook with me that week. Of course, I wouldn’t say their deaths were ‘inspiring’, but it led me to writing a piece titled, ‘Death’ and a piece titled, ‘If’. They were rather morbid pieces if I could say so myself. But it seems… I write better when in unpredictable and uncomfortable situations.

Shortly after those events, I returned to school and my carefree teenage life. Since I had two new poems, I submitted both of them to the same local newspaper. I didn’t expect anything, but twice, my friends hollered at me–after having flipped through their daily newspapers. They came into class saying, “Jeyna, you’re in the newspaper!” You see, my school allowed students a paid subscription to the daily newspaper. These students would receive their copies every morning. I wasn’t one of these students–my dad would buy the newspaper himself–and thus, I had no idea if my work was published. I had to be told, and on both occasions, the announcement from my friends and teachers were awesome surprises. Alas, it only happened twice. There was no third time, despite the dozens of poems I submitted.

Eleven years later, on May 30th 2018–coincidentally a Wednesday–I received a Facebook message from a friend with a snapshot of a different, but also local, newspaper. I knew I did an email interview. I even chose a handful of pictures to send to the journalist. But, I had no idea when the piece would be out. Being Facebook message–oh, how technology has advanced–brought back that same feeling when I discovered I was featured in 2007. This time however, almost a decade later, it wasn’t just my name. It was an almost full-page spread with my picture. Eleven years later… “Jeyna, you’re in the newspaper!”

Read The Online Version

If you’ve actually made it this far into my story, or if you follow me on Facebook and Twitter and have seen my status update itself, you might have noticed something. It took me eleven years. Eleven… long… years. Not one year, not three years, not even five years to be somewhat recognised, but eleven years. And I say ‘somewhat recognised’ because it’s only the first step. It’s a small accomplishment in comparison to the dream of having my book made into a movie. But, it’s a success nonetheless–one worth celebrating, just like the time my poems were published.

Now, if you don’t mind me asking, how many of you have been at your craft for almost a decade? If you raised your hand, let me applaud you for your tenacity and passion. Perhaps it’ll take you longer to see the fruits of your labour, but you will see it one day. You already have the drive to keep going and you shouldn’t stop. Don’t waste the years of blood, sweat, and tears. It is all worth it. Your dream is worth it. Your passion is worth it. Your story is worth it.

On the flip side, how many of you have been at your craft for less than a decade? If you’re thinking of giving up, don’t you dare! I cannot say you will achieve something in eleven years, but you shouldn’t give up just because ‘nothing’ is happening. Something is always happening when you invest in your talent. The only ‘nothing’, I dare say, is that ‘nothing’ is impossible. It might take you eleven years–it might even take you more, or perhaps less than eleven years–but nothing is impossible. Every step you take toward your dream is the first step toward something big. It’s just the start! And just like those of us, who have been chasing after the stars for many years, your dream, passion, and story are worth it–every muddy road, narrow trail, and arduous climb. After all, every path you take will eventually lead you somewhere.

This is a true story. This is my story. But this can be your story, too.