Tag Archives: depression

Keeping me Weird

Hi everyone!

Man, didn’t mean to drop off the face of the earth, but I had two (well, maybe one) good reasons!

First of all, once again jobless. Despite the hope I’d be asked to continue at that supermarket I did a Christmas contract for, I’ve not heard a lick of a word from them. But perhaps that is a good thing! Perhaps this is a sign from On High that I should get off my butt and submit (yet again) applications more relevant to my degree and work experience.

In the meantime, what have I been doing ever since I finished my novel?


Yes, this fantasy video game has utterly swept me into its snowy world and done a damn good job of helping me forget the pain/depression of losing a stable means of income. But I would also be fooling myself. If I wanted to, I could always go back to that dishwasher stint, or head out there and perform the same old rituals of the (job) hunt.

I just chose not to. For over a month and a half, I chose to – for once – have FUN. I chose to lose myself in Skyrim. And oh, has the obsession been sweet.

God, this is a beautiful, beautiful game. Words just can’t describe it. These past few weeks, I felt like I could do anything – slay dragons, wrestle giants to the ground, and tackle most obstacles merely by poking it with a sword and castle-sized stones. No messy job hunts. To earn money, all I had to do was to raid tombs and rob the dead, or help a girl find love in a small town, or reunite ghostly lovers searching for each other on an ancient battlefield.

I could go on and on about the game, but let’s just say that Skyrim is the reason I disappeared from Facebook and much of social life, leading people to actually wonder what happened to me! In fact, I played this game so much the fingers of my right hand swelled up, requiring me to drastically realise that, okay, perhaps I should ease back on the 12-hour, bladder-tightening gaming sessions.

But in the end, when it comes to my prospects, it’s just as Paolo Roy says about unemployment: I have to figure out how to live on my own terms.

Hack and Polish

It has not all been fun and games! I have actually started the editing process for my novel. This requires me to print it all out, as having it on paper makes it much easier for me to spot the minute and structural details I should fix.

And what a whopper the novel turned out to be! At 14-font and single space, the manuscript was a murder weapon-worthy 258 pages.

With my muse dragon, Fangthorn, and Fuzzy Red Hat of Inspiration.

Now that I gave myself a month to let the novel ‘rest’, I could start rereading with a fresh mind.

Good news, at least. So far I’ve gone through three-quarters of the manuscript and it isn’t as bad as I thought it was. There are two, three chapters that need serious reworking but otherwise…it could work. I just need to get to the ending before I can get down to the serious rewriting.


But there is, also, another reason I’ve not bothered job hunting the past month. February is when I fly to Texas for an exciting month-long vacation I planned half a year ago. And after a whale of preparations, I am finally here!

Austin's motto, seen on a colourful row of T-shirts at the airport.

That’s right. I’m in the US of A, and so far my holiday is fantastic 😀

I’m come across a customs official who tawks ta me in dat distinctive Brooklyn accent, spotted people in Amish-like robes, and eavesdropped on Americans who chatter straight out of all those US telly programmes I grew up on back in good old Malaysia.

It’s a surreal feeling, and I must stop acting like such a tourist and stopping every five steps to take photographs! I have a feeling people will not look too kindly to me stalking them with a camera.

But hey, at least I brought my homework – the manuscript which I saved on my thumb drive and plan to edit when I get some free time at night.

And in case people are wondering: No, this vacation will be, for once happily, Skyrim-free.

Will update soon, I hope! 😀



Filed under Books, Computer Games, Depression, Malaysia, Novel, Photography, Role-Playing Game, Skyrim, State of Mind, Triumph, Work, Writing

Baaaaaarf, or Day 16 NaNoWriMo

Bridget Jones-like diary entry:

Oh why do I feel like a sick cow whenever I go for these ‘job assessment sessions’? Has my body learned to spontaneously erupt into cold sweats at the mention of group interviews? Head is spinning. Skin feels hot. Tummy is churning and my hormones are threatening to spill onto the world like a rabid penguin. I feel like crawling to the feet of those stone-faced interviewers and vomiting my supper on their wage-earned shoes. I want to scream, “I don’t care if you hire me or not. Stop asking me why I love you!”

And to top it all off, I could only do 400 words yesterday. At least my kitchen shift yesterday was relatively painless.

I must survive today. I must survive today.

25909 / 50000 words. 52% done!


Filed under Books, Depression, Fantasy, Novel, State of Mind, Work, Writing

A Poem of Impulse

Warning! Language and Amateur Poetry ahead 🙂

(For some reason I can’t make the bloody thing break up in lines of four. Ah well)


Give me a teleporter, a machine of marvels

bristling with balls and brass.

I’ll have it zip me over the fuck so fast

I don’t care if it cooks my ass.

Give me a spaceship, rickety or fine,

Patched with tough love and glue.

I’ll steal you with me to moons of wine,

then ravage stars named after you.

Give me wings of ostrich and gander,

the hellbike of a demon of despair,

I’ll gladly tear off the wings of an angel,

my love, to just breathe the scent of your hair.

Give me dragons or farkin’ Santa Claus,

Oh, thanks for the sleigh and elf lads!

There are plenty of people I’ll be a good girl for,

my dear, but only one I’m willing to go bad.

Look, just get me on a damn plane, because you know what?

There’s grey nights and shitty, shitty days,

When all you wanna do is hold that special one in your arms,

and everything goes the fuck away.


Filed under Depression, Leisure, Poetry, Writing

The Only Way You Can Go is Up

I got another job rejection today.

I’ve decided to do a count ever since I started applying for work in this country, and have come up with the following statistics:

Rejections by Type of Industry since October 2010

Within Field of Experience

Bookseller – 3

Marketing/Communications – 3

Freelance Writing Work – 2

Outside Field of Experience

Retail – 3

Food/Restaurants – 3

Admin/Office – 2

Supermarkets – 2

These numbers are interesting because it looks as if I’ve been applying for jobs outside my field of qualification and experience. I then realise that although I have a Masters in Creative Writing, a (Malaysian) Diploma in Business Communications and nine years of (Malaysian) journalistic experience, those sort of jobs are few and highly competitive. Like shark-in-the-bloody-water competitive.

As for proofreading and editing jobs? Ditto.

On the other hand, there are plenty of restaurant and admin work out there…the trouble is I don’t have any recent experience. No employer is going to take someone who last did some waitressing or office job 15 years ago, in a foreign country. Then again, there are also companies that actually don’t mind those without experience, but I hear these tend to be leery of hiring the ‘higher educated’ candidates, the ones who look more likely to fly the coop the moment ‘something better’ turns up. Which gives me a sneaky idea, actually. But no, more on that later!

Anyway aside from that, the answer then is to train, or keep bidding for freelance writing work. I’m not going to touch on writing-related successes, or failures. That’s different. These are the bread and butter of every writer. Job-wise, though…I am going to have to be inventive. Smart. Imaginative. I must get off the beaten track!

It’s Just Bad Luck

A relative said something the other day that made me so angry.

I said, “I applied to a few jobs and I’m waiting for them to get back to me.”

And the relative said, “You can’t wait for them, you have to go out and find them!”

Which I had to concede he did have a point. Perhaps I was not looking hard enough. Until that person ruined the moment by ‘subtly’ asking if I’d thought of doing something with Avon.

I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, I know. I’m doing all this job hunting in between writerly stuff. And besides, at the charity shop where I volunteer there is a distinctly gloomy air among the staff. People are talking about how bad the UK job market is right now, about how thousands of youths are graduating with no jobs available to them.

“It’s just bad luck, sweetheart,” Mom said to me on the phone, recently. “Just give it a try, okay? You have two years.” Less. “No harm in trying.”

On the plus side, I have amazing friends, a loving family, a book volunteer job I enjoy…AND one freelance writing project – the Edinburgh Tour thing. Oh, and three more companies willing to take me on in the next few months, as a volunteer.

I can’t give up! I can’t despair! I must keep going!

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Filed under Charity Shop, Depression, Family, Photography, Volunteer, Work

Malaysia should not equal Failure

Our name tags for the literary salon

I have to admit, the last two weeks have been pretty rough.

For some reason, much to my embarrassment, I ended up crying on my friend Babs outside a bar, without my coat, in the freezing cold. It happened on a Tuesday. I was already in a pensive mood when I chose to accompany good chums to a literary salon, but I told myself I had to shake it off! After all, I’m not usually such a downer.

Ignoring the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, and my failed job hunts, and my feelings of inadequacy and panic at not doing enough, I liked to think I was a pretty chirpy person. No, seriously.

So here was me at this literary event, actually having a good time (free wine and sandwiches are always a plus!), seeing familiar faces like the bouncy Sam Kelly, Ian Rankin and the lovely Ken MacLeod. And meeting new people like Charles Stross who seemed like an important bloke, judging by the quick introduction Babs whispered into my ear.

Unfortunately I was in such a state I only vaguely remembered him as “being in science fiction”. Anyway he and his friend (Nick? Nic?) were already chatting with me and happily I got a chance to practise pitching my Malaysian urban fantasy premise to them while having no idea who Charles Stross was. They seemed intrigued at least, from what I recall with a head already comfortably buzzing from a single glass of wine (yes, I have near zero tolerance).

And then sometime during that event, it started hitting me all at once. Babs announced she needed to step outside for fresh air, and that was all the excuse I needed. One awful breakdown later, I made excuses to leave early and walked all the way to my flat, feeling my feet drag and trying with my limited powers to figure out what the devil was wrong with me.

My three closest friends here (imaginatively called The Edinburgh Trio) have been amazing, with Alison constantly assuring me I am doing so well, which is a lifesaver when all you want is someone to believe in you. But all the while I can’t help but hear this clock ticking eternally away in my head. It’s the sound of the countdown of how much time I have left in this country – one and a half years – and if I don’t find something, a job or an agent within that time… I have to admit I am haunted by that spectre of failure.

Your Life is not Over

My best friend Liz, who believes in tough love, tells me I have to prepare myself for the idea of a career beyond the UK. “Your life wouldn’t be over,” she says. It’s perfectly sound advice, but when the notion sinks in that I’d have to return to Malaysia…

Part of me flinches.

“Don’t come back to Malaysia,” my dad says via Skype. “Stay in UK. There’s no future in Malaysia.”

“Come back to Malaysia,” an ex-colleague tells me on Facebook. “Don’t add to the Brain Drain statistics. Come back and help build the nation!”

…With a Creative Writing Masters?

Okay, so perhaps I can teach in Singapore or something, but one day I have to face up to how I feel about my country. Should I be patriotic, help “build the nation?” Or say, F*ck it, Malaysia’s a washout?

Will people even appreciate what I love writing, or will they continue to thumb their noses at fantasy and science fiction in favour of so-called ‘serious literary fiction’? I know there is virtually no government support back in my country for writers, and part of me recognises that I can’t compare Malaysia to a developed nation like UK. (And let’s not mention the corrupt and greedy politicians running my homeland).

No, one way or another, I have to make my remaining 1.5 years here count.

Tick, tick, tick.

Comfort Food

After that long walk home, I sat on my couch and probably brooded. And then seriously, at 10.20pm I was seized by this impulse:

I must have Japanese!

A little rumpled, but divine.

To be precise, I needed to have my Unagi Don. It is my absolute favourite Japanese dish, and I’ve lost count of the number of fishmonger shops I’ve walked into around Edinburgh, hoping I can save money by making it myself, only to be told “Sorry, we don’t sell eel”. You’re a seafood shop! How can you not have eel!?

Apparently they don’t really like eel in these parts. I get the impression they think of it as a yucky sort of fish.

Unagi Don! Look at that picture! How can your lips not smack at that juicy chunk of grilled eel flesh smothered in mirin and soya sauce, gracefully perched on a bed of steaming hot sushi rice… And it just so happened a Japanese restaurant nearby does food deliveries. I ordered at 10.20pm. The restaurant closes at 11pm. The food arrived at 10.40pm.

Talk about service! Ahhhhhhh. My world was right again.


Afterwards I found some websites and sources that seem to link creativity and depression. Disabled World posted an article which said: Edgar Allan Poe, Honore de Balzac, Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Audrey Hepburn, and even Jim Carrey all had something in common. Aside from being renowned artists, they were also afflicted with depression.

This part intrigued me: Studies have established that there is a very close relationship between creativity and depression. Many artists are prone to depression due to the highly emotional aspect of their craft. The angst and solitude that usually surrounds the creative process also makes them vulnerable to bouts of sadness. The strong emotions that compel artists to create are the same forces that lead them to pits of depression.

Another website suggested that mild depression actually helps creativity. I have to say I don’t think I have depression, although that breakdown really scared me. Especially with some of the symptoms I was experiencing: lack of interest in things I used to enjoy, loss of appetite and so on. Luckily that went away, the moment I had my Unagi Don 🙂

Now who is Stross?

Much, much later, I decided to look up Charles Stross. I realised I had his name misspelled in the beginning, thinking it was ‘Strauss’. A search engine put me to rights, and I looked up his wiki entry.

Let’s see: Writer based in Edinburgh. Works range from science fiction and Lovecraftan horror to fantasy. Sometimes regarded as being part of a new generation of British science fiction writers who specialise in hard science and space opera..

Okay, so far so good. Then my eyes drifted further down and I choked.

Oh my god, this guy invented the Death Knight, the slaad and the Githzerai for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons! The Githzerai like the warrior/mage Dak’kon which is one of my most favourite tragic characters from my favourite computer RPG game, Planescape Torment!

I was talking to the guy who created a piece of AD&D history! ARRRRGH.


Filed under Computer Games, Depression, Family, Food, Malaysia, Procrastination, Writing

Almost There…

Sunset at Ipoh city, Malaysia.

I am in a state of excitement.

It’s been two weeks, I’ve been operating on four hours sleep per day with a brief nap in between, and somehow I’ve gotten my word count from 60k+ to 78,000 words. I am aiming for 81k by…today, and then I will spend Sunday preparing the things I need to submit it for an apprenticeship due the end of this month.

So far, my attempts to stir interest from various people about my Malaysian supernatural-thriller noir, as my mentor calls it, have been unsuccessful. I’ve tried submitting it for the Scottish Book Trust’s New Writer Award, and to Angry Robot. To no avail.

Oh, wait. Come to think of it, what I actually sent to Angry Robot were the opening chapters of my fantasy novel The Prince of Engmar, not the Malaysian novel. I also sent those opening chapters exclusive to one fantasy/scifi literary agent, only to receive no reply despite the polite inquiry, since September. I’m losing track of what I’ve sent to whom! Or perhaps it’s just the lack of sleep.

I am a bit disappointed because my fantasy novel, which I am so much more eager to write than my Malaysian novel, which I believe is so much more exciting, hasn’t garnered any interest. Ah well. I have to keep going.


I am immensely thrilled because yesterday I hit upon a major revelation for my main character of Malaysian Dark (working title). Without any planning at all, I wrote a background scene which made me understand why he acts the way he does. And just a few hours ago, a chapter I thought would be immensely boring threw up a much more interesting plot development.

I love moments like these, when despite having planned out the structure and direction of the novel, you allow the characters to breathe and act as they would…and something pops up that makes you believe in the story again. To be honest I was losing faith in my novel more than once over the months. But I kept writing, telling myself I don’t have to make it perfect the first time, and kept thinking that I would fix the damn thing in the rewriting. As long as you keep upping the word count.

A part of me would be thrilled for the people at AIF to acknowledge my writing, but at the same time, I have reservations. I’m not sure I can afford the exorbitant apprenticeship fees. I am pretty sure the fund they say is available for successful applicants would not be available to me. My postgraduate work visa says “no recourse to public funds”. As my New Zealander mentor David Bishop once amusingly put it, he and I were “foreign scum”. I shall leave it up to the Heavens. And to the AIF judges. And put a damn lot more work into it.

At the very least, I would have a novel NEARLY done. It’s all paying off, after two years of slogging with a Masters achieved in between! I have to believe it is all worth it. Another month, if I push myself, I might actually have the first draft of my very first novel.

And then the real work begins.


On another note, still getting those job rejections. I’ve told my parents to stop asking if I have one yet. I mean, really, to be frank it’s getting depressing. And then I’d be reaching for those bananas, my favourite depression killer. Although I’m still shooting off job applications, I am resigning myself to the fact I have to somehow support myself through freelance writing work. My dwindling funds are constantly on my mind.

Kinta Nature Park, Batu Gajah, Malaysia.

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Filed under Angry Robot, Apprenticeships, Depression, Fantasy, Novel, Photography, Publisher, Thriller, Work, Writing


(Warning: Language)

I’m not sure what to say. I’m sitting here, in tears, staring at an email telling me this employer won’t consider me for this job I applied for.

It was just a few hours ago that I fantasised what would life be like with this job. I’ve lost count of how many jobs I’ve submitted applications for, but out of all of them I’d taken a fancy to this one. Every day pressure keeps mounting to find a job in this expensive country, especially with my parents asking me if I’ve found anything yet. I don’t want to go back to those days when I would fuck the writing and scour through sites, like a hunted animal, applying for job after job.

I have to tell myself my worth has nothing to do with whether or not I am unemployed.

I will remind myself that I am a beautiful, talented person and that any company would be lucky to have me.

I have to stop counting the months I have left to support myself in this country.

I have to consider swallowing my pride and finding some cleaner and bar staff job, if they will even take me for not having the fucking  experience.

So it’s another rejection. I should tell myself, Big deal, right? I’m a writer. Writers should get used to rejection.

That’s the problem. I’m too sensitive, too soft. I have to be harder. I have to be angrier. I have to seize the opportunities and work faster, smarter.

I have to fucking write, get my life in order, and finish this damn novel.

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Filed under Depression, Novel, Work, Writing