By Pola Singh | OPINION |
How my writing journey started …
I always admired people who could present their thoughts in a simple yet appealing manner. So appealing, that their work gets published. And so from young, I dreamt of seeing my own writing in print too.
My first piece appeared in the New Straits Times as a ‘Letter to the Editor’ back in the early 1970’s. When I first saw it, I was overjoyed! I was so elated, that I bought three copies of the newspaper and read my ‘masterpiece’ over and over again.
As Confucius aptly describe – ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step’, and so my writing journey started with the publication of this maiden letter.
MY EARLY WRITING STINT
In the 1970’s and while having a full-time job, I wrote for the papers every now and then. I got my break as a part-time stringer for the Sports Desk of the Malay Mail. I learnt by observing how sub-editors would effortlessly refine my draft into an exciting and persuasive piece. It made me realise that constant practice was as important, as our flair for writing.
My writing passage took a break in the late 1980s as I focussed on my PhD degree in the United States. Though I never had a flair in academic-type writing (as it appeals mainly to academicians who are in a world of their own), I gained another perspective of writing from the lens of associate and full professors.
My 7-year stint at the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Ministers’ Department was a game changer. My writing skills improved by leaps and bounds. Interesting my big boss was Dr Mahathir. There was plenty of writing to be done this time but were of the esoteric and boring kind, at least to most people. There were many policy and economic papers as well as memorandums to be prepared in quick turnaround time and on a very regular basis. Little did I realise that I slowly but surely, continued to fortify my writing skills. The training was excellent as it sharpened my mind in differentiating the wheat from the chaff.
My subsequent years at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta made me what I am today. It was a challenge to work in an international organisation comprising personnel from 10 culturally-different member countries. My earlier stint at EPU indeed put me in an advantageous position especially when it came to preparing urgent policy papers that could be easily understood and internalised by Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials of the 10 member countries of ASEAN.
Returning to my writing passion
I retired a few years ago. Having more time on hand, I have returned to fulfil my passion. However, instead of writing on serious economic and social issues, I choose to reflect and write on life experiences, friendships, challenges, imbalances, beliefs and values. Essentially, covering issues that affect the man on the street – which really matters.
Through my writing and with justice and fair play in mind, I attempt to be a voice for the voiceless and give faith to those seemingly ‘without hope’. I also use my writing to address and provide resolutions to issues facing the nation on racial unity, corruption environmental issues and social issues such as ageing gracefully.
I have compiled many of my articles into a book “My Reflections of Life” for those who missed reading them in the media. As I have many more articles, I am contemplating publishing my second book.
On numerous occasions, I have been pleasantly stopped at parks, cinema hall, Bukit Kiara hiking trail, roadside, shopping centres and even weddings by strangers who tell me they have read my pieces in the papers and support my views. Such encouragement has naturally spurred me to write more. Writing now comes with a purpose. I am inspired to write, to make a difference to the people.
A WORD OF ADVICE TO ASPIRING WRITERS
I derive great joy from writing and bringing issues often discussed at the dining table to the forefront. My humble advice to those desiring to write is simple – read widely and keep writing, even if your piece does not get printed. One fine day, it will. Your belief will take you there. The gridlock of words that seemingly get stuck in your head will soon unravel and gush out effortlessly like a river rushing to the sea! Practice, of course, makes it perfect.
Next, know your target audience and their interest, so your writing will resonate and appeal to them. Write in a simple and reader-friendly way using words that are easily understood. This way, you will connect with your readers at ease and voila, you will have a faithful following! As an added advantage, take up photography as a hobby as it would go a long way in enhancing and painting your articles. Pictures, after all, speak a thousand words.
WRITING IS FULFILLING
I derive much pleasure and joy in writing. As a person, I am contented materially, emotionally and spiritually. I acknowledge that I have more than I need and I thank God for his abundant blessings.
To those who never fail to read my articles in The Star, Sun and New Straits Times, thank you for believing in me and connecting to my articles and stories, all these unforgettable years. As a writer, I exist because of you!
It has been a truly amazing writing journey. So purposeful and so soulful.
My Reflections of Life: New book by former Malaysian DG Pola Singh (Asia Samachar, 15 April 2015)
Veerinderjeet, Ranjit list Malaysian-based company in Singapore (Asia Samachar, 27 Nov 2015)