“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”
So typical of the poet girl to begin her article with a pretentious epigraph. (I am really only using self-deprecation to make myself more likeable.)
(Jokes aside) Hello to all you fellow readers, writers, and writers-to-be!! Am I ecstatic to learn of your existence. I’m sure the following experience will resound with you: an especially poignant line of writing graces your ears and, your heart swelling at its cadence, you turn to share a smile of pure bliss with your friends – only to realise that everyone else’s eyes are glazed over with boredom, or else preoccupation. I’ve had my fair share of these downers, believe me. It’s unfortunate that there are very few amongst my peers – and likely your own – who take particular interest in the literary arts. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to sustain your own. Here are a few practical ways to grow in your love of the written word:
- Apply for CAP. If you’ve been interested in writing for some time (or pay attention to your Lang Arts teacher) (these two do not have to be mutually exclusive), you probably would have heard of the Creative Arts Programme, a 5-day seminar for Secondary 2, 3 and Year 5 students. The CAP experience will be unique for every participant, but for me it served as an eye-opening exposure to the vibrant arts scene in Singapore and beyond, as well as—significantly, for many of us—a platform on which young people passionate about writing and literature can connect and improve together.
- Build (or find) your own writing community. The easiest way, of course, is through CAP, but certainly isn’t the only way. There are local poetry collectives which you can join, such as SingPoWriMo (short for Singapore Poetry Writing Month), an open Facebook group of poets, both published and amateur. Another suggestion is simply to get interested and involved in the local writing scene, which is far more active than you’d think. You inadvertently get acquainted with local writers, and I find conversing with these people in the flesh is inspiration unlike any other to spur you on in your writing journey.
- Read, and expose yourself. Read?!!?!?!?!? So underrated it’s quite depressing. Granted, it’s become a bit more fashionable of late what with the whole hipster movement but hey, there’s a whole world out there beyond John Green and Murakami! Besides novels, there’s poetry, plays, creative nonfiction, nonfiction, et cetera. Singapore literature is something else you could try out – visit Quarterly Literary Review Singapore for a sampler of the thriving lit scene. If reading text isn’t really your thing, there’s a whole treasure trove of spoken word poetry on YouTube – I’m sure you’ve heard of Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye (if not, here). Read because it keeps your creative mind humming, ready and stimulated to produce work of your own. Read because you learn so much by doing so – about the world, about beauty, about yourself. Read to learn, and is that not what makes us all human?
I will not tell you about how rewarding writing is, or how much you will get out of it. Not everything has to have a tangible outcome. But know that literature is not merely a subject you study in school but a living, breathing art form, and it is accessible to each and every one of us. If you’re someone who is interested in exploring it, be it reading or writing, I encourage you to please, plunge headfirst into this immersive, confusing, beautiful mess of reflection and self-reflection. You might think you’re mad for even giving it a second thought, but you might just not regret it. And for those who are already writing, you are joining a wildly diverse ecosystem of people who are nevertheless very much like yourself: finding an inexplicable urge, every once in a while, to pause everything and simply let your pen bleed. Tortured artists, misunderstood souls, call it what you will – hey, we’re a happy bunch. I will tell you, however, that it’s a constant struggle to sustain one’s creative pursuit, because life always gets in the way – homework, IAs, CCAs, EE and so on (as I typed that I just died a little inside). But that’s okay. I promise that once you start, you’ll never lose it altogether, and you won’t want to.
All the best, friend!
Tan Jing Min (6.16) is from the graduating batch of 2016.