I’ve never been very good at reaching my goals unless I really want something. This has applied my whole life, to everything I’ve ever done.
If I only want it halfway, then mostly I don’t reach anywhere at all.
I think back about all the times I’ve reached my personal goals, and this is my reminder.
The first step to all this is:
Back when I was 16, there was a new Creative Writing diploma offered by Singapore Polytechnic. I’d get to learn about storytelling, journalism, videography, the works. It was my first choice on my application sheet after getting back my O-level results.
I didn’t get in.
I spent a day panicking about what to do. I couldn’t appeal through the portal, and there was really nowhere else I wanted to go. But my aunt challenged me to reach out anyway.
So I emailed them, and I called to ask for an interview. I brought excerpts of the book with me (the better chapters) in my portfolio.
It was almost 2 months of uncertainty, but it worked.
In the end, I think they saw my love for stories and let me in.
This entire ordeal taught me about determination. Because if I had just given up and gone to an Engineering course or some Communications and IT course, I’d never have gotten into my diploma.
I wanted what I wanted, and it wasn’t a halfway thing. So I got there.
Which leads us to the second part of this story on how to reach your goals:
Learn When To Let Go
I realised I knew nothing about writing when I started learning about it.
We learnt some formulaic ways of putting together a story — most notably The Hero’s Journey.
I thought this must be the holy grail. (Spoilers: I was wrong. There are other ways to tell a story.) I fit a story I thought of for class precisely into that mould, and set forth to work on it.
I ended up having about 20,000 words of the same first few chapters.
Truth is, I didn’t feel for any of the characters. For a long time, I beat myself over not writing this story. Every year, I’d feel worse for letting the characters languish in my head.
There were some parts of that story that I still find interesting and I want to work with. But mostly, the characters were flat, and I couldn’t figure out what to do at the climax.
After about 6 years, I just didn’t think about the story anymore. I’m not really sure why I need to tell it. So I’m learning to let go of it.
I still feel the guilt and the shame of not finishing something.
But I think if I let it hang around any longer, I won’t be able to tell new stories.
I was a writer in name. I still wrote, yes, but mostly either very short terrible poems, or pieces where I described the state of my non-existent love life (at the time), or short stories with flat characters.
Then slowly, I ended up not writing at all.
And so this is what is most important when you set goals:
Set The Right Motivations
I didn’t know what I really wanted when it came to writing. For so many years, it had been about waving it about in someone else’s face. Like oooh look, she’s a writer, wow, so cool, but I ended up not writing a word. I’m afraid of publishing my words and making them permanent.
I’m not saying all my short stories and poetry were bad, but I had lost that love I had for writing. I loved it first when I was 12. It didn’t matter to me then if the story was good or bad. I didn’t care if I was going to become rich and famous, or make a name in the literary scene for my country.
None of that mattered. I just wanted to tell a story.
I haven’t written stories in a long while. Not really, anyway. No fiction, poetry, or anecdotes have sprung out of me willingly, no stories begging to be told.
It’s taken me a long time to get to here, and it’ll take me a little while more to get to a new story.
Perhaps with a better understanding and a new map, I’ll find a new story to tell.