I am growing up.
After twenty-four years, I am still growing up.
Even when time is immobile, I still grow up.
Time, therefore, is of no consequence.
This is a ridiculously long and happy story. In fact it’s one thousand six hundred words long. I’m not sure which is more ridiculous: being happy or writing long. But you better commit yourself to these one thousand six hundred words.
Writing this may not have been the best decision. But not furthering my studies definitely is. Getting a Masters in Philosophy would mean that I would not have seen and done things I would not have seen and done if I was still encapsulated in a university, notwithstanding my enthusiasm for literary theory and continental philosophy.
Down the road, I’ve realised that theory is one thing, reality is another. Of course, many people have already propounded this notion but it is one thing to know a rule and another to actually experience it. Even the maxim above, comments upon itself like the Ouroboros, the serpent that swallows its own tail. Talking about life is one thing but to experience it is another matter altogether. I’m not saying that I’ve experienced a lot through these months. But they afforded me a perspective I wouldn’t have gained if I had chosen otherwise.
I go along.
Slowly plodding along the path I’ve created for myself by putting one foot in front of another: it’s not that difficult to create your own path. Just one leg and then the other. Oh, don’t look down as well. And along the way, I actually made up a few rules for myself to follow – almost infallible observations that I’ve made through my contact with the working society. But I’m not going to talk about them now.
Throughout the month that I’ve actually been active in searching for a job, I interviewed with a few employers with regards to editorial opportunities (that’s writing to you) and recently, copywriting opportunities too.
Sometimes, I cannot help but wonder if I am playing an RPG (role-playing game): all these choices. I have to choose what job I want, what career I would like. Once I’ve done that, I have to choose a specialisation. It feels like I’m choosing my character build and I’ve chosen a balanced character build of both rationality and intuition (I was a Science student and drastically crossed over to English Literature in the second year of The Bard, I mean, my university years).
But it is an RPG game without a save point. I cannot start again if I want to.
To go back to the concept of rationality and intuition, I think I’m more of an intuitive person even though I can analyse (and rationalise) situations very well. In any case, I think Rationality and Enlightenment are overrated and over-privileged concepts of the masses.
A paragraph for teachers
To go further, a rational career choice for a Literature graduate would be teaching. After all, what else can you do when you teach, the public intones. Well, I certainly respect that line of thinking, because you’re entitled to it. I think all teachers are great too. It’s a heroic task – the teacher has to answer to both the parents and the ministry of education. And not many kids appreciate teachers these days, especially those who teach English Literature.
“What is the use of studying literature, ‘cher?” a student questioned my friend, a teacher at a reputable school one day. I can’t remember what my friend answered but I doubt the student will understand the meaning of Literature at that age. It’s a thankless job, teaching. I don’t deny that there are happy moments. But they’re probably few and far in between, based on the number of teachers I’ve encountered. If the kids are cute, that means the administration will be nasty. And vice-versa.
I think it gets progressively harder as you advance from primary school to secondary school, and junior colleges. Students who gave Teacher’s Day gifts while they were in primary school will begin to bully the teachers in secondary school. A friend cried because her students frustrated her, to put it mildly. I can’t tell you about what happens in junior college because I have no friends in it yet. Maybe I’ll update this space a few years down the road. Meanwhile, I dedicate these two paragraphs to my friends who are in teaching (I lied about the one paragraph bit).
But for the benefit of those who invariably associate Literature graduates with teaching like fish to water, I’m the one fish that takes to air. Not a flying fish per se but a flying flying fish. A flying fish who is always flying. Progressing.
On a little note, this might probably be one of the ideas that will haunt me five years down the road. Imagine if someone comes up to me at a party and says, hey you’re the flying flying fish?
I tell flying flying fish stories
To go back to the beginning again, in between my last exam paper and my graduation ceremony, I wasn’t actively looking for jobs but neither was I slacking away. My hope was to land a position with writing and editorial responsibilities in a creative environment.
Because I want to tell stories.
I want to talk about things people never really bothered to see, things that have been right in front of them all the time. Things people take for granted. Defamiliarisation. It’s a big statement, I know. But I want to present perspectives of life other people never thought about.
However, most of the time, life doesn’t give you what you want. I actually ventured out of my area of focus (does this sound Orwellian?) for a while. I applied for positions that didn’t really fit what I was looking for, like jobs in management or with governmental bodies (this would take a rather interesting turn later on). I’m not really a person who rocks 8 to 5 working hours.
Writer but not freelancer
With my editorial experience, I became a freelance writer. Perhaps it was accidental because I didn’t start out with the notion in mind.
One day, a friend called me. He’s a staff writer for a publishing house that produces B2B publications and he was entering reservist soon. Because of that, the company would be short-handed for two weeks. And they needed a back-up. I agreed, seeing as to how I had nothing to do at the moment and I’ve done editorial copy before. Somewhere along the line, I realised the possibility of becoming a freelance writer and I was enamoured by it. You have complete control over what you do: you work at your time, you can choose your own clients and briefs, you have a say in how much you earn, and you can work from home. I was excited. Because my success or failure would depend wholly on one thing and one thing only: me.
Then I encountered a problem. I know how to write (actually I’ve encountered a copywriters’ rule that says: Everyone thinks they know how to write. Which is true to a certain extent because what else will account for the comic existence of copy like www.engrish.com?) But how do I go about freelancing? So I did research the MSOOR way (massively single-player online and offline research). I maxed out my library card’s quota and borrowed more library cards. Once I knew the proper way to approach writing houses, I began my targeted carpet bombing approach (maybe this is Orwellian?). I made cold-calls to newspaper companies and publishing houses.
Through my wonderful friends at Plurk, I was also made aware of a couple of clients who needed copywriting services. I contacted the clients and did my pitch to them. It was quite a novel experience because though I have the skills to execute what the client requested, I had never pitched to a client before. I’m sure my clients will be horrified if they ever come across this passage (though they’ll have to get past the one thousand and three hundred words or so first).
Meeting up with my clients was a truly wonderful experience, regardless whether it ended in a successful deal or not. In these two months, I’ve learnt a lot of life skills.
I negotiate my own deals. I take every inch of responsibility – from whether I should charge a higher rate or should I do it pro bono to the amount of effort I put into crafting the copy. Don’t be mistaken. I’m not hitting out at the benefits of a university education. The piece of paper is certainly useful (I’ve written two essays on that particular topic). Again, it is one thing to learn about theory but altogether, another issue to experience what theory talks about.
I didn’t come away as a freelance writer tangibly richer. I wasn’t out for the money. But after two months of freelancing as a writer, I did come away with the feeling that my education has now cut to another stage, from the university to the worldscape. I came away with the feeling that these two months made me grow up faster than the four years I spent in university. And I’ve never felt more satisfied than before.
P.S. I had never realised it until this moment when I’m typing this in Word: I was an account manager, finance manager, editor, and a writer all rolled into one. Albeit a small portion of each role. And inside my heart, with not a little pleasure, I know I did my best. I only hope my clients were equally pleased. A big thank you to everyone who has helped.
P.P.S I’m looking for a web host and a wordpress template that’ll allow me to play with typography, headers, and what-nots. Rice-cooking is also preferred but optional. Any suggestions?