I received an email invitation from the Public Service Division online magazine team to be a guest writer for the Challenge e-zine, and I was thrilled to participate because I'm always looking for outlets to write and publish so that I can slowly build up my writing repertoire and experience and continue to grow as a writer, regardless what job I'm in.
One interesting story was in writing this was that initially all the graphics depicted a woman. Because managing stress is a sensitive topic, and already many have associated stress and inability to manage it with women, I emailed to point that out that it is better to have at least a graphic of a man as well. This will better show that everyone faces stress and everyone can manage it. Yes challenging times come to all people, it does not gender discriminate.
I imagined men might avoid clicking on the article if it appeared to be targeted at women, albeit unintentionally. This is a hard lesson I learned from writing my first book and having a man on the cover page. The book has generated a lot more interest among men than women, a mistake I regret.
To my surprise, the editor of the magazine welcomed my feedback (:D) and the designer included a man in the graphics! There you go!
So here it is, check out the cool graphics:
This post is very close to my heart, because it was borne out of my own experience as one being coached and as one who coaches. Particularly, because I'm a new freediving coach, everything is very new to me and I am vividly aware of what is involve in this act of coaching. It does not fully represent the whole spectrum of coaching but perhaps more of coaching at the beginner level.
Top athletes need coaching to become even better. But those who will see the most profound improvements through coaching are usually the beginners. Because there is much to work on as a beginner, every input can result in a significant change and new experience.
I believe I only made so much improvement because of my seeking of coaching throughout the four years of my freediving journey. When I first started out, and even now, I still have issues of relaxation and equalization. And I was not someone comfortable in water to begin with so I also had issues with finning and orientation. I was not the instantly "get it" kind of beginner freediver who instructors get amazed and impressed by, not the one who passed on her first assessment.
I was the one who had so many issues that I keep coming back for more coaching sessions. And look where it brought me today! Someone who now has sufficient experience and knowledge to coach others.
So I really know that coaching works - coaching can help you improve faster than you can on your own. Having a buddy who occasionally looks at you and gives you tips, is not the same has having a coach who is devoted to helping you achieve your goals.
And you don't always need a coach. You can experience some success and knowledge about what you need to work on from a coach, and subsequently practice on your own until you master it, before you find new issues that you need help with again. This way, you can have continuous improvement!
And that was how I got from where I started out at to where I am today.
Check out my blog post on coaching: https://therapystop.wordpress.com/2021/02/09/the-value-of-a-coach/!
"Writing is, for most, laborious and slow. The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare up something. Like other gunners, the writer must cultivate patience, working many covers to bring down one partridge." - Shrunk and White, The Elements of Style
I told you about those moments of inspiration writing right? And then there is the laboursome type, like the previous one on Útila island. Here is another moment of inspiration post that is a reaction. Reaction posts for me are usually inspirational. Meaning, I have experienced something and have a strong urged to comment on it. This strong emotional urge to respond to what someone has said or done is a powerful force for writing. It can keep me up at night to complete something.
So what happened was that two weeks ago, I saw a boat approaching a group of freedivers and shouting at them at how dangerous freediving is. The truth is that we were aware of the water conditions and we has safety measures in placed to keep ourselves safe. And if the conditions are beyond what we consider safe, we will make a judgment call to call off the dive. That spot where we were freediving is the only spot in Singapore where there is sufficient depth to freedive. Freedivers have been going there for years.
That aside, the post addresses more of what is covered in an introductory freediving course. And how any freediver who has been through that course will already have more water safety knowledge than the average person, because we emphasize a lot on safety in freediving education.
So check out this blog post: Is freediving dangerous? Three reasons why freediving is more than a safe sports
I completed this piece of travel writing called A Tribute to Utila: A Selection of Memories yesterday.
It was honestly a challenging write. I was trying to blend factual information with experiential information. Trying to give a general sense of the island and yet also the specific individuals who touched my lives. I wanted to write about them but also about how they impacted me. This is really complex writing.
I don't think I did it very well. But I tried my best and just had to send it off as I would like to move on to other types of writing and this has been taking up more than 8 months of my time.
Basically, I fell in love with an island. It was not love at first sight, but it slowly won my heart. And I wanted to tell others about this story.
So here you go, my amateurish and humble attempt at travel writing!
You know they always say don't wait till inspiration comes before you write, just write it anyway. I think that is good advice because work has to be done, whether there's inspiration or not.
But did you know how powerful it can be when inspiration does come? Inspiration comes when you have done the hard work subconsciously in the background - you have thought about something, spoke to some people about something, read about something somewhere.
And then suddenly, in a swift swoop, you get an idea and you sit down and write coherently from top to bottom in a non-stop fashion for an hour until it's complete.
That's how it went for "Doing a PhD in an Area of your Passion and How to Get There" and frequently for me, articles related to finding a career and purpose in life. This also happened for "Remaining Employable while Unemployed: How to Avoid Hysteresis". This other one was prompted by the term "hysteresis" I came across in a reading for work and also by the example of my friend, Chris, who told me during a chat that he finds jobs without searching for them.
So let me tell you a little more about my latest article "Doing a PhD in an Area of your Passion and How to Get There". I have been in touch with my friend, Hari, who shared with me how she discovered her new PhD topic in Special Education. I was asking her how did she know she wanted to study that. I asked this perhaps a few weeks ago when I was quite lost myself.
And then last Tuesday, I had an idea of writing an article about it because I felt that being lost about what to study and whether to do a PhD or not and if I wanted to, how do I go about it... These were all questions that I felt were not unique to myself and that others would ask as well. So why not I share a story of my friend who found answers to these questions? And perhaps by doing so enlighten not only myself but others as well?
I immediately texted her and asked if I could write about her and she provided me a more detailed account of her journey that I quoted in full in that article. And then I added an introduction to it and a conclusion to it to create a complete article that takes one through Hari's journey. I brought it to another level by suggesting that perhaps some of us really hate the PhD programme partly because we were studying an area of convenience, rather than passion. I also ran it through Grammarly to clarify my language.
And ta-da! It's ready! :D
So I have found myself a full-time job back here in Singapore since the 15th of June 2020. And while it pays my bills and I have good bosses, I still yearn to write every so often. It's like a part of my DNA. So I find pockets of time to write.
So here's an easy one I just did. It was easy because I converted a sharing I did into a blog post. So I already had my key five points and photographs selected and it was more of a conversion of speech into text and also rethinking some of my ideas.
Here is the article: 5 things you may not know about taking part in freediving depth competitions
I wrote it to demystify the freediving depth competitions. When we think of such competitions, we think of big names with big records. But did you know, we small names with no records can also participate in such competitions alongside these big names?
And it's not for your ego, but because these are GREAT learning opportunities where you can have an extended period of training. You also learn a lot from competing, things you cannot learn from just training. This is a small reflection I shared on my Facebook page:
Perhaps it was the way I was brought in up a society (Singapore) that cared very much about performance that I took competitions very seriously. It was very important to do well in them. Sometimes it even felt like it defined my worth - and I had to prove that I have got it in me.
I remember being very stressed before a competition dive and I met two competitors (I think it was Daniel and Pablo) who just did their dives. When they saw me being so stressed, they were amused and teased me that someone had died in the competition.
Basically they were implying that unless we had a chance of dying, there is really no reason why I should be that anxious, after all whatever performance I did is just a matter of meters and nothing more.
These people were diving way deeper than me and yet they took the competition in their stride and never felt the pressure that I was giving myself. That incident impacted me greatly and made me realise the limitations of my habits of thinking and how much I have to unlearn about my mindset about performance and whether I should allow it to determine how I feel about myself or an event.
So my hope for that blog post was that it would make more people curious about competing and consider competing themselves! :)
I was pleasantly surprised to be told that my book was reviewed by Dr Nick J. Sciullo, an Assistant Professor of Communications from Texas A&M University - Kingsville, who also has an interest in helping graduate students with academic writing. I first came across Dr Nick's article 'Writing as a Humanities Ph.D. Student: Discovering the Writer in You, Exploring New Venues, and Rebuffing Criticisms' and I knew he had a similar compassion and desire as I do - to help graduate students become better writers. So I contacted him and told him about my book and asked if he might like to have a copy. I sent one to him.
I did not expect him to actually read and review it. But that is exactly what this very kind man did. It is extremely difficult for someone like me who does not have many contacts or any network to publicize or market a book. So what he did for me was not only helpful professionally, but it also cause an increase in sales for me. Thank you, Nick! Your kind gesture is greatly appreciated.
The review he wrote was flattering, but better than that, he got to the heart of what I was trying to do. He understood what I was trying to achieve through the book. For a writer, to be understood, rather than misinterpreted, is something so gratifying. I was trying to raise confidence in graduate student writers. I have always felt that it took more than skill and ability to write, but confidence is also very important, because it is what gives you the courage to pursue a challenging path, which is exactly what writing and publishing is. When you feel encouraged or inspired to write, it is half the battle won, because it usually takes someone so much courage and effort just to hold a pen and write, because of all the fears and excuses that is common to a new and budding writer.
Let me quote a passage from his review published in the Journal of Scholarly Publishing:
The book is divided into an introduction, twenty-two chapters, and a bibliography. The chapters are (in a book of only seventy-two pages in all) short. Because this is not a rigorous academic study of graduate writing education, the chapters are quick to read and filled with an optimism that never comes across as inauthentic or exaggerated. It seems, perhaps, dismissive of the book’s content to write so much about its tone, but this positive tone is tremendously important for helping graduate students become scholarly writers. Rest assured: if graduate students take this book seriously, it is difficult to imagine them not becoming more confident, better writers.
You can read the full review here:
I found the PDF copies of these books online. It seems like the authors have made them available. I hope to share them with you here. Download a copy as a reference and refer to them as and when you need them!
Some people find writing very laborious. But for me, the writing of words come easily because I match my fingers to my thoughts. This means that whatever I am thinking comes straight out into the screen as I am typing it.
So writing can flow. It is both an act of the mind and the body. It is a dance and connection of the mind and body.
I have many such tips that I pick up over the years that make writing easy to me that I wish to share with more people. So I set up a facebook page called "The Graduate Student as Writer" after the book I wrote.
This page is an inventory of writing tips and advice, and also information for graduate students and academics. While there are differences between academic writing and day-to-day writing as I am doing right now, at the heart of it - the skills, knowledge, and understanding of writing are the same.
They involve a process of converting thoughts and ideas into words. So I believe the advice I give are transferable across fields, across disciplines, across careers, and across people.
Join me to learn more about writing at my Facebook Page!
After I returned home from Honduras, I begin writing a two articles on my experiences in Útila. The first one was on my experience freediving and the second one that I have not yet completed was more of a travel writing style article on the island.
I have completed the first one on freediving: What Three Months of Freediving in Útila Taught Me
In this article, I share how I learned to deal with my expectations and adjusted them, how I learned that having fun was the best way to learn, and also my experience with exhale diving, which is taking less than a full breath when you dive.