When I was 7 or 8 my teacher taught the class to make books that required no staples, tape or string to bind together. We used a piece of drawing block, divided it along straight lines to create 8 equal parts, and somehow by folding it along its length and tearing the middle section, a little booklet could be formed. We worked with our classmates in pairs, and each of us wrote a little story about our friend, replete with illustrations (printed or drawn). When you’re young, somehow the trivial skills you acquire are considered bouts of brilliance, and that’s why I repeated the same trick over and over again, making multiple booklets and writing and illustrating short stories. I vaguely recall a mediocre illustration of a hamster (inspired by Hamtaro if any of you remember) which had huge and sparkling eyes even on a lifeless page.
Growing up, I was never an intellectual reader. In preadolescent years I was still reading books about girlish fantasies of fairies and princesses, and in fact I loved them. I guess reading them influenced my mind somehow, because I became caught up with the idea of pretty words and sentences, lines that hold no deeper meaning beyond them. Whenever I came across a pretty phrase I recorded it, and now I have a book filled with sparkling shells and gold dust. That was where I was geared towards growing up, head clouded with books swimming in superficial shine. At that point I believed that I could refer to my Book of Beautiful Descriptions when I wanted to write about anything like that, but I never truly went back to it.
My teacher encouraged me to join a writing competition when I was 12, and I wrote some sort of mystery story that seems absolutely childish now, but I was absolutely proud of then. My story eventually got compiled into a booklet of selected stories from the competition. I think that was the beginning when I started to gain a little confidence in writing, and my interest expanded.
It’s very easy for education to overtake your interests, especially in an education-oriented society like Singapore. I wrote in a personal diary, but besides that I don’t remember doing much writing in early secondary school. But every year, Literature students would be forced to write poems for Valentine’s Day (the poem constituted part of our grade as well). Although I found it burdensome to be forced to write poetry, I gradually (and unexpectedly) found out that I enjoyed doing it. That was when I started trying my hand at some bad poetry, and I grew to like the process more and more.
I really take to writing to express my feelings and record my experiences nowadays. For most of my life I’ve been living in a closed bubble, but last year I took part in a writing programme that really opened me up to a world of writing: an uninterrupted 5 days of workshops and sharing sessions with experienced local writers. I met many, many like-minded individuals who know so much about what they enjoy doing and that is really uplifting and inspiring.
No matter what happens, I can always turn to writing to make sense of myself- that’s one of the most heartening things.