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3 Reasons Why You’re Not Finding Success

You’ve been at your craft for a few years, but you still haven’t found success. You’re wondering why it is so, and you’re beginning to question the value of your work. Are you not good enough? Are you doing something wrong? Why is it so difficult to get a big break? Let me tell you why.

#1 You expect to be famous overnight.

So often we dream of becoming an overnight success. We imagine what it would be like to have a video go viral or a scout offering us a million dollar deal. We imagine what could be, and we hope for it to be true. But even though there’s nothing wrong in hoping for great things, we sometimes expect our hope to reflect in reality. And that’s when we fail.

Hoping for rain and expecting rain are two different things – both approaches result differently. Hope keeps our passion alive – it pushes us to persevere and believe in our dreams. But expectation does the opposite – it questions our efforts and discourages us from dreaming. So… you can hope to be famous overnight, but you shouldn’t expect it.

I’ve personally seen people give up on their dreams because their efforts didn’t result in their expectations. It’s disappointing and almost always annoying. Why? Because they’ve barely begun. They think that 3 years into their craft should result in success. And with that expectation, they’re relying on success to keep them motivated. But despite success being a great motivator, it shouldn’t be the only motivator. This leads me to believe they don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing.

#2 You don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

It takes years to find success. I wrote my first novel almost 7 years ago, and I still haven’t found ‘success’. I’m not a millionaire. My recent publishing deals are the result of hustling my personal network. And there’s no way I can survive (let alone feed myself) by merely writing fiction. But, I know why I’m doing what I’m doing. I even wrote a blog post on why I write.

The purpose of my writing is my motivation. I don’t need overnight success. I hope for it, but I’m at peace with the thought of never being famous. It doesn’t bother me, nor does it challenge my efforts, when my hope doesn’t reflect my reality. And I can say all this because my reason redefines my success. Success isn’t fame and money – ‘success’ is something else.

#3 You don’t define your ‘success’.

If you live by the world’s definition of success, which is often money, power, and fame, you may never find it. But if you redefine success to complement your purpose – in life and in your craft – you will find it. And hey, if you wish to keep the world’s definition, by all means do so. But don’t aim for success without knowing your reason. It is your purpose that’ll lead you, motivate you, and bring about the success you hope for.

By default, finding success isn’t difficult. It’s our perspective that makes the quest a challenge. It’s our expectation that makes it ‘one step forward and two steps back’. But if we hope for it and persevere with a purpose, we will find it. It may not be in the form of money and fame, but it’ll be the kind of success that is meaningful, valuable, and personal to us.

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Posted by on November 16, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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The ‘Numbers’ On Your Creative Passions [Statistics]

According to statista.com

the revenue of eBooks in 2022 will be 13.5 million US dollars. In five years, there’ll be a 2.3% revenue growth. This means the digital publishing industry will continue to expand, and that you should start publishing digitally. It’s the only way to succeed.

the rock genre holds 14.3% share of music album consumption in the US. It is followed by pop and country at 13.4% respectively. This means that rock, pop, and country are the most popular genres, and that you should change your music direction to include them. It’s the only way to succeed.

the most popular film genre in the UK is documentary. Animation and fantasy rank last on the list. This means that there’s little viewership for animated and fantasy films in the UK. So if you’re a UK filmmaker, you should start making documentaries. It’s the only way to succeed.

the top selling video game genres in the US are shooter at 27.5% and action at 22.5%. These fast-paced games make up 50% of the video game market. This means that other genres – role-playing, strategy, adventure, and racing – aren’t as salable, and that you should stop developing click-based adventure games. It’s the only way to succeed.

the leading countries in art auction sales in 2016 are the US (582 million US dollars), UK (399 million US dollars), and China (362 million US dollars). France comes in fourth at only 41 million US dollars. This means that art outside of these countries do not auction at high prices, and that you should reconsider pursuing art if you don’t reside in any of them. It’s the only way to succeed.

the percentage of people who’ve never been to the theater, opera, or playhouse in Germany is 57%. Only 39% occasionally visit, and the remaining 4% are regular attendees. This means that performing arts isn’t a growing culture in Germany. So if you’re in Germany, you should pursue a more lucrative career. It’s the only way to succeed.

the percentage of adults in England who dance ballet is 0.6%. Those in the circus, 1.2%. Those who write poetry, 3.1%. Those who craft (calligraphy, pottery, jewellery making), 4.4%. If you do any of these, you’re in the minority. What benefit is there being in the minority? Do something everyone else does. It’s the only way to succeed.

While reading the above, did you shake your head in disagreement? Is it safe to assume you disagreed with the deductions made from these statistics? If you didn’t at first, you probably did at the end. But if you think any of these claims are viable, therein lies the problem.

You see, there’s no ‘only way to succeed’. If you believe in the ‘only way to succeed’, you will not succeed. Statistics and research articles are great, but they shouldn’t determine your direction in life. Sure, one thing sells better than the other. Conveniently, some countries perform better than others. But ultimately, it is your passion that matters.

Don’t put a number on your passion. Don’t box yourself with facts. So what, if your creative passion is least likely to succeed? So what, if you don’t come from a first world country? At the end of the day, you determine your success. We may live in a world where some are more privileged than others, but having a passion is a privilege in itself. And if you have the privilege to dream, don’t allow your environment to rob you of it.

Forget the numbers. Dream big. Pursue your passion. And succeed against all odds.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Why You Should Stop Playing Defense

Writers do it all the time. No, I should rephrase. Creators do it all the time. It’s almost natural – something we were born to do. And after many bouts of defense, we consider it normal. To be clear, I’m not saying it’s wrong. I do it too. I’m saying we should change our game plan – we should stop playing defense and start playing offense. Because only then, we can win the game.

Recently, I’ve been playing Clash Royale (#NotASponsor). It’s a live mobile game played amongst strangers. The tutorial of the game teaches players how to attack and defend their towers. However, playing defense will not result in a win. In order for the game to end – for a victor to be crowned – one must destroy the opposition’s three towers. The only way to win a game… is to attack.

In games as such, it’s almost considered dumb to merely play defense. How long can you keep the enemy at bay? Why are you wasting troops and strategy on defense? My dad once told me that in a game of chess, you have to think about attacking not just defending. When you start moving in on your enemy, your enemy will stop making offensive moves in self-preservation. Now, you’re in control. And when you’re dominating the game, it becomes easier to win. So then, why can’t we stop playing defense?

When someone criticises our work, leaves a not so favourable comment, or voices their dislike, why do we play defense? Why do we explain ourselves? Why do we make excuses repeatedly, without considering a possible problem?

Again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to be defensive of your work. I’m defensive of mine too – I always feel the need to explain myself, my actions, and my plans. But being defensive and never taking a constructive feedback into consideration is a silly move. If we’re constantly sweeping the problem under the carpet, we’re not cleaning the mess. We’re merely hiding it until someone else uncovers it. It doesn’t make anything better. And as creators, don’t we want our works to be better?

It’s time to stop playing defense and start playing offense. Always take a step back and evaluate every comment – good and bad. If there’s an obvious problem with your work, stop making excuses and fix it. If more than one person finds something odd, stop justifying and look into it. Defend your work, but learn to attack issues that are holding it back from becoming better.

Just like us, our work isn’t perfect – there’s always room for improvement. Sheltering ourselves from the truth changes nothing. Protecting our pride will not help us grow. If we want to improve in our craft, we have to start attacking. We have to accept we’re flawed. It is only when we stop hiding our flaws – embracing our weaknesses – that we become strong.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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Top 5 Email Questions [About Blogging] Answered

I get emails… once in awhile. And they usually contain the same questions. So today, I’ve decided to answer them publicly! If you’ve thought of sending a similar enquiry as the ones below, you don’t have to any longer. But if you still want to drop me a ‘hello’, please do – I love hearing from you.

#1 How Do I Grow My Blog?

SS asked, “What are the ways in which I could gain more readership? I would love people to comment on my work and tell me how I’m doing.”

I answered, “My tip for gaining more readership is simple: visit other blogs, read their content, and leave a comment. The blogosphere is a community, so you have to put yourself out there. Greet others first and introduce yourself. Don’t do it just to promote your blog, but do it to make other bloggers feel ‘read’. In return, most of them will pay your blog a visit.”

This is a question I get asked a lot. In order to give a complete answer, I addressed it in a separate post awhile back. You can read it HERE.

#2 How Do I Sell ‘Stuff’ On My Blog?

LF asked, “You gave me a great idea to sell my music on my blog and I was wondering how I could do that.”

I answered, “I use a platform called Gumroad. I upload my e-books on their platform and they handle the delivery to my buyers. They only take a small cut from the sales as a fee. You can sell your music on Gumroad too.

“Being that you’re not allowed to sell anything directly on a free WordPress blog, I customised my bookshop page to look like a store. The ‘buy now’ link leads readers to Gumroad. You can do the same for your blog.”

#3 What Should A New Blogger Do?

BD asked, “Any tips for a newcomer?”

I answered, “I always tell new bloggers the same thing: be yourself, have fun, and visit other blogs in the community – that’s how you slowly build an audience.”

#4 How Does One ‘Copyright’?

DV asked, “Could you please guide me as to how I could make the site copyrighted?”

I answered, “The only copyright you can put on a blog is a copyright statement, like what I do with my posts (the copyright symbol and the year). Unfortunately, that’s as much as you can do on free blog sites.”

#5 Can I Request For Feedback?

AA, EO, AS, RR, RC, SG, and BA asked, “Would you check out my blog and let me know what you think?”

I answered, “Sure!”

I won’t turn down requests to visit your blogs. However, I will decline requests to read your novel. As I’ve been asked a few times, I’d like to explain why.

Reading a novel takes time. And giving constructive feedback takes an even longer time. Hence, I only accept beta reading requests from authors I have personal relationships with. I also only ask for beta reads from people I’m close to. I’m honoured and flattered that you’d like my feedback, but I suggest you do the same. Why? Because…
… you’ll accept blatant truth more easily from those closer to you.
… family and friends who say ‘yes’ will give 100% of their attention to your work.
… you can trust them not to steal from you – I don’t plagiarize, but you don’t know who will.

That being said, if you want me to read a post or story you’ve published on your blog, feel free to ask! I’ll be more than happy to drop by.

Hopefully, I’ve answered some of your outstanding questions. But if you have more, you can drop me an email. As I’ve mentioned, I love reading your emails. Whatever the content may be, a message from you is a gem to me. Wow, that was cheesy… it’s the truth though – I have no reason to lie.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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The 5 Quirks Of A Creative

First and foremost, I’m not claiming these are the 5 general quirks all creative people have. By a creative I mean this creative; me. And I’m sure, even if you have a more analytical mind, you probably share some of these quirks too. I just thought, ‘hey, why not show people how weird I am, and find others who’re like me. I can’t be the only one talking to myself, right?’

If you have any of these quirks, do shout it out in the comment section. Let’s make – what is sometimes considered – weird, normal.

#1 Audible Monologuing

“This pillow smells nice. I’ll put this here, and this here, and this here. Mhmmm, cake. I like cake. No, you cannot eat that. But why? Ugh, I want it so badly. Ah, the moon is round tonight. What am I doing? I shouldn’t close the curtains, it’s not the weekend. Now, for the eggs. Wait, where’s the vanilla extract? Gotta have it ready.”

I talk to myself. I talk to myself aloud. I talk to myself aloud a lot. I’ve talked to myself to a point where I question if I’ve subconsciously vocalised my internal thoughts in public like a mad person. Once, my brother walked past my bedroom and back-paddled to ask, “Are you talking to yourself?” I’ve never scrambled for a reason so desperately before. But I think he knows now – his sister talks to herself.

#2 Thoughtless Shading

There are times where I’m required to be creative, but my brain is full of grey matter. So, I’d grab a piece of paper and a pencil and start shading. I would draw shapes and shade them. I’ll sometimes write random Korean words because they’re shape-y. If I have a colouring book nearby, I might do some colouring. But only using a single colour pencil – adding more than one colour requires creativity, which I have little to spare.

My thoughtless shading is almost a figurative act, of dumping my dull ideas onto paper to make space for livelier ones.

#3 Midnight Role-playing

You know how you’d occasionally have an awesome dream you wish didn’t end? I have those too! Who doesn’t, right? But because I sometimes don’t want these dreams to end – when I’m awakened for no apparent reason – I’d continue them in my head. I wouldn’t return to sleep. I would play out the rest of the story. This isn’t lucid dreaming, guys. This is midnight role-playing, which results in regret – experiencing lethargy for the rest of my day.

#4 Imagining What Will Never Be

I like playing pretend. I may act like an adult, but inside I’m a child. Some days, I pretend I’m a YouTuber. I pretend to be vlogging about my life. I pretend to be live streaming a game. I pretend to be shooting a cooking video, while actually baking a cake. I can do all these in real life. But nope, I’d rather pretend. It’s fun with no real work required.

Then there are days I pretend I’m friends with that famous actor. I pretend we hang out, go to the gym, and… fall in love. I pretend to be stuck in a burning building, only to have him rescue me. I know, it sounds silly. Merely typing this paragraph is embarrassing itself. So if you’re reading this paragraph, know it has required some courage on my end not to delete it.

I like imagining what will never be. It’s an escape from reality, and a form of priceless entertainment. You do it too – don’t lie.

#5 Imagining What Could Have Been

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, I like to imagine what could’ve been. It’s one of the reasons why I love visiting historical sites. The storyteller in me wants to imagine what life could’ve been years ago. I may not know what happened, but I can imagine what could’ve happened. I may not know who was present, but I can imagine who could’ve been present. Still in the past, I like to imagine what my own life could’ve been too.

I don’t regret my life. Given the opportunity, I wouldn’t change the past. However, the could haves make a good story. And as a writer, a good story cannot go untold – at least to myself.

Yes, to some of you I’m weird. But I know, some of you find my quirks relate-able. There are many of us in this world – people of creative and analytical nature – and we’re all unique in our own way. But we do share many similarities. We have common oddities. And it is through this mix and match that we connect – a mix and match that brings us together while being different in nature. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?

So the next time someone calls you weird, know you’re not alone. To someone out there, you’re pretty normal. But if normal sounds boring to you, know there’s someone who thinks you’re weird (they just haven’t mentioned it yet). That’s the irony of being uniquely you – you’re both weird and normal at the same time.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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The Story Behind ‘Grace’

My name is Jeyna Lim Sue Chen. It’s the name on my birth certificate and my identity card. And, as you may have noticed, there’s no ‘Grace’ anywhere in it. So, where did ‘Grace’ come from? Why is my name Jeyna Grace on most of my social media platforms? And why the word ‘Grace’? What’s the story? As I’ve been asked quite a number of times, I’ve decided to tell its tale. And it starts… in the beginning.

In the beginning, there was science.

At the start of my authoring career, I learned that names aren’t just names – that names have the power to make or break. They can paint images without adjectives and explanations. And they should be chosen wisely. This is especially so on the cover of a book.

As I’ve discovered, there seems to be an unintentional stereotype on non-English names. There’s this subconscious preconceived notion that people without English names aren’t from English speaking countries. Thus, an English book by a non-English named author isn’t up to par with English books by English named authors. It led me to believe that English names sold better. And having a pen name to distance oneself from a certain background was considered ‘wise’. Hence why I now have one.

However, times have changed. I now hear that publishers are looking for more diversity in their author pool, and having a foreign name increases one’s chances of getting published. But, I don’t know how true that is. And I don’t think it changes anything with existing stereotypes. Still, I believe readers have a varying approach to foreign names – whether positive or negative, it is individual. But back then, I wasn’t taking the risk.

So, how did I come about ‘Grace’?

Before I continue, I need to say that I’m not a fan of The Heroes of Olympus. I’ve heard of the books, and I’ve watched that one Percy Jackson movie, but it’s not something I plan on diving into. It’s just not my genre (anymore). Therefore, my pen name being Jeyna Grace – mirroring a fan pairing of the characters – is completely coincidental. I had no idea it was a ship name. And I only learned about it when readers asked if I were a fan. If you’re wondering the same, I hope this clears things up. Jeyna is my real name after all, and I chose Grace because of faith. Yes, you read correctly.

I chose ‘Grace’ because of faith.

I believe in God. I’m sure some of you don’t, and I’m not here to preach anything to you. However, God is the reason why I chose ‘Grace’. Personally, I don’t believe I can accomplish anything without Him. What I have today – my skill, talent (?), and passion – is because of Him. Many of my stories – on this blog and as books – are inspired by Him. And the novels I have in-store are made possible because of Him (not excluding all those who have supported me – I couldn’t have done it without you too).

Putting ‘Grace’ into my pen name is a reminder to myself that I’m nobody without Him. It keeps me humble. Whenever I look upon the covers of my books, I’m instantly reminded that it is all by His grace. Pride has no place when I reflect on His guidance and blessing in my life. And it is through my belief in grace that I rest in His good and perfect plans.

I guess, the story behind ‘Grace’ is pretty uneventful. I simply wanted to make a good first impression with readers, and I needed to remind myself to stay grounded.

If you’re considering on a non de plume, I suggest finding a reason and a meaning to the name. Your name shouldn’t only appeal to your audience, but should hold value to you. You want a name that speaks to you directly and drives you to keep pursuing your passion. Don’t pick a name just because it sounds cool – you can do that with your characters – but pick a name that paints an image you want to see. Let it empower you in your darkest times. And let it break any stereotypes the world might have upon you.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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The Emotional Evolution of Editing

Editing mimics the making of a blade. It is a test of endurance forged in fire. It reflects a heated steel cooling in flames. And it produces a refined weapon ready to face resistance. But unlike the art of blacksmithing, we’re not made of steel. So it’s impossible, I dare say, for the makings of a book to be without emotion. For more often than not, a book is an extension of its author. And an author is made of flesh and bone.

I believe that all authors go through a similar emotional evolution when it comes to professional editing. Though not everyone has the same response, most of us experience a facet of a particular emotion. So if you’ve undergone any of these stages, know you’re not alone. And if you’ve yet to experience them, know they’re not something you should be ashamed about. After all, we’re only human.

Stage 1: Taking Offense

“Dear editor,

Did you even read my book? How dare you call him irrational? And what do you mean ‘it sounds weird’? No, you’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Similar thoughts have ran through my head upon reading my editor’s comments. I won’t deny it. I take offense almost immediately. Come on, after all my hard work, how can I humbly accept an outsider brutally criticising my art? Yes, yes, I know it’s for my own good. But don’t expect me to read those blunt statements unfazed. I am angry! Calm down? You must be kidding me. Fortunately, despite the desire to explode in pride – with a letter of detest toward my editor – I know to take my words elsewhere. I go to someone I trust – someone who understands me – and vent.

I have an author BFF (or better put, best author friend forever). Her name is Erin. She wrote the super awesome, would-be-so-cool-as-a-movie novel, The Pirates of Montana. We come from the same author community and clicked almost instantly. And as much as she’s my confidant, I am hers. We share our frustrations, voice our concerns, and celebrate our accomplishments together. We support and encourage – pushing each other to be better authors.

Now, I believe it makes a lot of difference when you have someone like Erin. People who understand your predicament can help you rationalise before you act. In a stage where you’re offended by the truth, they can realign your focus and bring to light what matters most. Thankfully for all parties, stage one isn’t long standing. And having a friend as such will help you get through it objectively.

Stage 2: Explaining Our Flaws

“Dear editor,

I explained that issue in chapter seven. It’s a metaphor about life and death. And I was trying to be creative with my words. Maybe… I should’ve been clearer with my descriptions.”

I usually sleep on the blatant truth for a couple of days. It helps me get over my initial offense, allowing me to tackle the issues with minimal emotions. Then again, who am I kidding? The fact that I’m explaining my flaws instead of fixing them is an act of emotion. However, it is during this stage that I understand and grasp the problems in my book.

As I explain a character’s actions, I understand the character better. As I unravel my metaphors, I develop a better grasp of its notion. As I cover the holes of my story, I discover new ideas to improve it. And as I question my own use of words, I find even more creative ways to express myself.

By explaining my flaws, I acknowledge those flaws. And acknowledging my shortcomings, whether in my art or in my own being, drives me toward improvement. So if you have to explain yourself, do it! You might be right about some things, but you’ll also find that you’re not perfect. And when you acknowledge imperfection, you allow yourself to imagine again.

Stage 3: Recognising An Editor’s Gift

“Dear editor,

Thank you.”

You don’t have to – and possibly won’t – take everything an editor throws at you. If you strongly feel that an editor’s change pulls your work away from your initial direction, goal, and expression, you can make a stand. You’re the author. It’s your book. But oddly enough, while we wrestle with our editors, we’ll come to realise that being an editor isn’t easy. And that having the skill to improve someone else’s work is a gift.

I’m not an editor. I have done some editing work, but not where I work with authors. I can only imagine what it’s like for editors who face authors in the first two stages above. I’m sure they’ve encountered authors who respond immediately with hate. I believe they’ve met authors who think their books are without a single flaw. Yet I’m amazed at how editors remain patient.

Of course, not all editors are on the same playing field – some less professional than others. But I know it’s their job to help. So if you have an editor who has assisted you in bettering your work, do say ‘thank you’ – a simple show of gratitude goes a long way.

Without a doubt, editing is an emotional roller-coaster. And it is through this emotional ride that an author becomes a better author, not just in skill but in personality. Editing teaches us to be humble, to acknowledge imperfections, and to embrace change. It helps us be more creative, to challenge our abilities, and to try new things. The goal of editing may be to mature a book, but it also matures us – the soul between the pages.

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2017 in Writing Journey

 

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