Financing my writing career

If I quit my job today, I will have enough money to last me 6 months. If I sell off all my assets, I will have enough money to sail into the sunset for 3 years and 6 months.

I have always had a bigger purpose for the money I’ve earnt. Some people save for the next high, others for a fancy car. I have been saving all my life to finance my dream of becoming a writer.

Growing up, I was told that writers only have two options: to struggle or to give up.

Being the kind who doesn’t like to give up, I decided to struggle. Or so, I thought those were my only two options.

Fast forward a few years of working non-corporates and low-income jobs, I can say that my finances are in better shape than most people working high-income jobs.

Having it drilled to me from the start that I would never achieve financial success in a writing career, has made me strict about my expenses.

All my life, I’ve forgone the daily necessities of modern life: makeup, coffee, and alcohol.

I have never faced the mad rush of putting on makeup in early morning traffic, nor lived for the first hit of morning coffee. I don’t know how many shots it takes to get me drunk, because I have never tested the limits of my body in such expensive ways.

I keep my life simple.

When I need to feel pretty, or confident, I replenish my energy from the inside. I read books, I write, I go outside, and I talk to friends and family.

I am an advertiser’s worst nightmare, but this has saved me a lot of money.

To emphasise how much one can save on a low income, I’ve broken down my weekly expenses as best as I can:

  • Groceries: $50
  • Mortgage: $325
  • Electricity and internet bills: $20
  • Transport: $40

Total weekly expenses: $435

I share my expenses with my sister, which makes it possible to cut down on individual costs.

Next year, I will be turning 28. I have yet to experience the highs that people my age have experienced. I have yet to travel to Egypt to see the pyramids and ride on camels.

But for now, I substitute fancy vacations with long road trips, night outs with night ins, take-outs with homecooked meals. And I’m OK with every single choice.

I set this lifestyle into motion when I was 12 years old, training my mind from an early age, not to desire the things I don’t need.

I am now 27. If I wanted to spend 3 years in isolation, writing a novel, I could. If I wanted to quit my job and sail into the sunset for 3 years, I could. But I’m not going to do that.

My mind is set for the long term. Writing is a long-term game. And in the beginning, financial support is a writer’s best chance of staying in the game longer.

So, to writers and dreamers everywhere, I urge you to learn to support yourself financially.

I urge you to set yourself up to succeed in a world that doesn’t want you to.

This is the first article that I’ve written on Medium. If you like it and are a Medium member, please give it a clap. Thanks in advance!

The secret book club

Since things haven’t been turning out as I had hoped they would, I’ve a little more spare time on my hands. So I decided to do something a little unusual today.

I placed an ad in the local newspaper asking for kids to join a book club.

Now I don’t know how well or disastrous this will turn out, or whether anyone will even respond to my ad, but I thought it would be good to at least do something to encourage kids to read.

I used to work in the library, and during my time there I read to kids, and did lots of fun activities with them. The most memorable moments were when the kids would come up to me and talk to me while their parents were exhausted and napping on the couch.

I remember with joy when a little four year old boy came up to me and we had a full on conversation about everything you could ever talk about on the planet. He had so much to say and I was really surprised by how well he could hold a conversation.

I even made a little friend while I was working there. To this day we talk on FB once or twice a year. Our conversations are quite brief, I don’t think she can stay on FB for long, but I actually think it’s quite funny that once or twice out of the blue, I’ll see a message pop up and it’s from her.

Anyway, wish me luck. I really hope this book club thing kicks off. I guess what I’m really looking forward to is seeing some of the kids make friends with each other and have huge smiles on their faces.

Books should make children feel powerful

The fondest memory that I have as a child was listening to my teacher read Narnia.

Every afternoon at exactly 2:00p.m. we would stop whatever we were doing and sit there and listen.

If we were loud and boisterous one moment, we were quiet and in awe the next.

I was a playground junkie, I loved playing tag at lunchtimes with my friends. We would take over the entire playground with our shouts and running feet, but whenever it was 2:00 p.m, I would sit there on the carpet, arms crossed and turn silent.

I still remember quite clearly why I loved the book. It was the feeling that it gave me. I could see the images running through my own head as if they were scenes in a movie. Images of a boy running away from a witch, dropping down into a black hole, of children being tied to a tree and a mysticism that surrounded the whole story.

That was how my nine year old brain interpreted C.S Lewis’s words. I saw them as pictures and felt them, and no matter how many hours had passed, they stuck to my mind and imprinted themselves like memories.

As I grew older, into my teen and young adult years, I realised the power that stories gave to me.

They got me out of bed and made me run up a hill. They made me teach myself skills when I didn’t think I was smart enough. They made me see a different side to me when I didn’t believe in me. And they made me realise to always, always cherish the parts in yourself that you hate. Because somehow, miraculously those faults always turned out to be the one thing that gave you your greatest power.

I discovered that stories were the constant anchor I held onto during transitional moments in my life. They gave me a moment to pause and catch my breath before I was strong enough to swim back to shore.

Nowadays, I feel a tingling sensation course through my body when I find myself in the right section of a bookstore. It’s as if the excited nerves in my body are greeting an old friend. And all because of a book I listened to every afternoon at school.

The book seller’s magic

The lady at the bookstore, I saw her today, wrapped in a heavy shawl outside the bus stop.

Her hair was pinned up with a little black clip, a dark statement against her wispy white hair.

Four words popped out as soon as I saw her. Straw-like, stuck out, and slightly unkempt, but she seemed to flow of a magic that only book seller’s have.

One day, I hope to be a part of that same magic too.

And though I wanted to speak to her, I felt mute underneath the vast night sky. Some small feeling inside of me was holding me back from the book seller’s magic.

In my bolder days, when I’d spoken to her, she told me that she lived far away from the bookstore. Her children thought it was silly of her to travel all the way to the city just to work there.

But people who aren’t part of the magic don’t know. When you find a place of belonging, you’d do anything to keep it alive.

And though I am scared, pretty much every day now, I know I’d rather be scared than to stop being a dreamer.

I can’t help but continue on this path. It’s the only one that seems to ring true, the sweetest melody that makes all else bitter.

Now I can see that whatever happens, I will strive for that magic that booksellers have.

Weekend getaway to a writer’s home

I’ve always wondered what a writer’s home looked like. Rooms full of libraries, books that span across shelves, a reading corner, a warm fireplace, something a little reminiscent of the Beast’s library.

Last weekend, I got a chance to see such a home with my very own eyes, to live and breathe the space where a writer once worked.

Let me describe to you every breathtaking detail from the drive up the long winded driveway, to the little speck of dust on the kitchen counter.

It was as if we had stepped into a house that was waiting for us to enjoy its simple pleasures.

The ferns waved at us from either end as we rounded into the driveway, the door swung open with an easy click that opened into a homely kitchen and lounge, and there were cats, all six of them, roaming freely, so that you never got to see them all together at the same time.

After we had settled our bags down and pinched ourselves in disbelief, we gave ourselves a mini tour.

A little note was stuck to the kitchen counter. “There’s pizza in the fridge. Help yourselves.”

We did more than just that.

We cooked in the kitchen. Roast chicken and salad, while my friend prepared dinner for the cats. There was a pantry full of all the spices one could ever need, and drawers and drawers of utensils.

As I recall, my friend got mixed up between the cat utensils and the human utensils. You can tell that the owners were very fond of their cats.

After dinner, we melted cheese on bread and sat outside on the deck that overwatched the sea, and later that evening, we spread ourselves across the warm rug in front of the TV, while the cats joined us, purring contently.

Even though it seemed like an hour, we sat this way for five hours. The house seemed to have its own time.

It was midnight, when we reluctantly peeled ourselves away from the warm rug and entered the cool night, leaving this oasis behind us.

On the drive home, I struggled to keep my eyes open. The next day was a work week, what was I doing out so late? Still, it was the best decision ever.

Yawning loudly, we drove towards a purple-blue horizon lit up by a single streetlight. Lights multiplied by the dozens as we drove on – out of the countryside and back into the city, with just a touch of remorse tainting this lovely Sunday evening.

A jar of quotes

When I was teaching myself how to write, I kept a small jar of quotes beside me. They kept as a reminder of the reasons why I chose to become a writer.

If there was ever a day where I was easily discouraged, I would pick a few quotes out of the jar and read them silently to myself.

Afterwards, I almost always found my courage again.

Today I picked a quote from the jar and it said:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice saying I will try again tomorrow.”

These are the quiet steps taken by a writer. And if not tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow, or even fifty years later, all these words will culminate into something it was always meant to be.

As I close the lid to my jar of quotes, I know that there are many more writers hiding out there.

How do you find your courage to write?

Wandering without a religion

People always find it strange when I tell them that I don’t have a religion, as if I should’ve been born with one, like the hair on my head, or the skin on my back.

All I can say to them is that I never came with one. My parents aren’t religious, but they’re not atheists either. I always have to add in this last part as if not being religious automatically classifies us in opposition with whatever religion people believe in.

But from time to time, when I feel lost and out of my element, I have yearned for the guidance and support that people in community groups receive.

And the question that sometimes springs to my head is: How do I belong? Where do I belong if I don’t belong there?

Over time I have discovered that I belong in libraries and bookshops, in the comfort of an author’s words. Whenever I need guidance, I turn to books for advice and in them I find solace.

Who’s to say that reading isn’t a religion in itself, when it’s brought me great purpose and taught me how to have an open mind?

Wandering alone in the dark, I found my religion in their words.

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to them: To find words for what we already know. ~Alberto Manguel.