I hear it all the time, “The media is bad”, “Journalists are horrible”, “Writing is a bad industry to go into”. Do I get tired of it? Yes I do. Undoubtedly. Sometimes, I even let it get to me. At times, I feel like I should be changing majors to something more practical just so I can have a more secure future. In hindsight, it’s stupid to let what people say dictate my present and future actions, but with so much backlash, it’s difficult to shut yourself out from all the noise. Other times, I stop to look at my surroundings. In a world of uncertainty, I am certain only of my talents, strengths and my hopes for the future.
I’ve been writing since I was a young girl. My earliest memory of writing is when I was 5 years old, and I distinctively remember writing an essay about my deceased younger brother (Read https://natalieeeha.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/an-open-letter-to-the-brother-i-lost/) for my annual kindergarten magazine. I also remember my parents being called in to see my teachers because it surprised them to see that I was writing like that (probably cause I sucked at everything else, the worst being Mandarin), and that was the point at which my parents knew I loved writing.
As I grew up, I wrote a lot of other things, apart from essays. I even “published” my own book (written in papers torn from the middle of my exercise books and bound with staples) when I was in primary school and attempted to “sell” them to my parents (to no avail, of course). When I got to secondary school, I put my writing on hold and limited it only to English essays written every few weeks for in-class exercises, and focused on studying science subjects because that is what everyone said would pay off in the future. You see, I am a person who is easily swayed by the comments, opinions and judgements of others, and it came as no surprise that for a long time, I felt the need to pursue Nutrition & Dietetics as a future career.
Then, came the fateful day I entered Sixth Form, which is the Malaysian equivalent of A-Levels (but slightly more compact and difficult). I found myself struggling with the three main science subjects; namely Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics. In retrospect, I probably could have performed better if I put more effort into my studies but the fact still remains, I was just not motivated. I struggled with my identity, my purpose, and my circumstances. I did not like being stuck in Kuching while my other friends were pursuing foundation studies in colleges in Kuala Lumpur and overseas. I wanted out. It didn’t help that I was failing in nearly all my subjects either. In the end, no matter how difficult and torturous I felt it was, Sixth Form was a real turning point for me. I found that it was okay to pursue something outside the field of science, and to pursue journalism, my secret and suppressed dream for nearly 15 years. With that, I became motivated to just finish STPM so I could get it over and done with and focus on my aspirations.
With that, I applied for all the schools which could offer me what I wanted in Malaysia– UM, UKM, USM and the university closest to home, UNIMAS. In the end, I was offered a Communication Studies program in UNIMAS. I admit, sometimes it disappoints me knowing that the only writing class offered in my major is News Writing, which is hardly Journalism, because my degree is a Social Sciences degree anyway. But then I look back and I am grateful to even have the chance to cultivate my talent, no matter how minimal the avenue is. I’ve heard of people saying that anyone can be a journalist, regardless of background and major.
And this begs the question, why do I want to write? What attracts me so much to the art of writing, to the extent that I want to do it for the rest of my life? It is a commitment I have to make. You see, writing is the one thing I feel I am truly good at. I tried my hand at piano lessons, and after Grade 8, I just didn’t want to continue. It just wasn’t (and still isn’t) my niche. When I write, I seek to inspire others. To tell my story to other people, and to have other people share their lives with me. I think writing is an art, and nothing makes me happier than someone telling me that they like my writing. I don’t need people to tell me that I am a good writer, all I need to keep my mojo going is when someone tells me they like reading what I write. Nothing brings me greater joy than that.
I don’t have to use words straight out of a thesaurus when I write. That is because I feel like the best kinds of writing are the ones that are raw, organic and untapped. I usually write at the top of my head, and words just come spilling out of me. I don’t need metaphors and philosophical adages in my writing. I prefer writing for the masses, for people who wish to understand and be understood. In my advanced English class one day, my lecturer said something that struck me hard, “Writing is a service. You write not for yourself, but for the people.” And after years of writing and composing articles, essays and stories, I find that this is the truest quote about writing. Nothing makes me happier than being of service to the masses with what I write.
The writers I admire are not the ones who can write stories with huge plot twists, or the writers who write incomprehensible plays. The writers I admire are simple, every day columnists, who relate to people and make people question everything merely with simple words that everyone can understand. Those are the writers I look up to, and that is the writer I wish to be. The one way I feel I can cultivate my talent is in the journalism industry, and if that makes me a bad person, so be it. Writing is what brings me the greatest joy and after much reflection, this is what I want to do, and I am proud of it.
To those of you who are struggling with self-identity, find what you love and go with it, no matter how ludicrous. The true definition of success is waking up every day wanting to do your job.