Here’s some initial thoughts I’m trying to organize for a forum I’d be sharing tomorrow afternoon with KJ John (from OHMSI) and Siew Li (from Kairos Research Centre) at the Young Writers’ Camp 2007. I’m a small fry in these kind of things. But here are my unrefined responses. In terms of writing, the genre I use is primarily blogging so here goes. Thanks Egalitaria for some excellent questions!
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– What’s your story? How did you start writing in the first place?
I’ve kept a spiritual journal since my secondary school days. So I’ve written more in my private space. I’ve tried writing articles here and there. It was only until in the early days of “blogging” when I was encouraged by 2 people to give it a try. The first one was Karen Ward, a pastor in USA part of th emergent conversation and the other was a guy named Kiffer who taught me how to use movable type and allowed me to use his webspace and later helped me set up my own blog. I blog primarily for myself with a conscious awareness others maybe eavesdropping.
– When did you realise that writing could be impactful (if at all)?
I was surprised by some comments (I don’t get a lot) and emails saying that what I shared was helpful. Then slowly I noticed people linking my blog. A number of people met me face to face and some decided slowly to join my church.
– What were the challenges and key milestones in your writing journey?
The main challenge for me is wondering whether what I write is helping anyone at all. The other challenge I face is I don’t see myself primarily as a writer, but more as one who wishes to communicate my thoughts and ideas. Ironically, that realization also is a key milestone in freeing myself to be myself. The medium of blogging provides that freedom for me, and yet the challenge is also it lacks the discipline other genres requires. Another challenge is my limited style and vocabulary.
– What motivates you to write today?
It’s good therapy. It keeps me sane! Maybe just maybe someone is listening and someone might be put on a path of change.
– What areas are you particuarly interested in? What do you write mainly about?
I’m mostly interested in how the Christian faith connects with life – personally, corporately and with the world. Most of the time this is expressed in my reflections based on quotes which inspires me, occasional random thoughts, book reflections, and comments on what I’ve heard, seen or read during the course of the day. I also enjoy pointing people away from myself to other helpful resources or insights – so I do an occasional random links post.
– Where do you publish your thoughts? How do you choose what to write about?
I write mainly on my blog and when asked others to write an article or an assignment. Usually a concrete event or conversation sparks me off to a tangen, and I give it some free flow treatment.
– How do you know your audience (whoever they are) is gaining from what you write? Is there a way to measure the impact you have on the public?
I know my audience primarily from comments, email or feedback face to face. It’s hard to measure the impact right now. Blog stats are not very reliable.
– What are the main issues that we should be writing about?
life experiences and lessons
reflections emerging from a faith perspective
– How does this connect to your relationship with God? Does it build up or stem from your faith, or both? How?
blogging has become like a side spiritual discipline for me personally and in connection with others. it’s one way which I open myself to a certain level and allow others to have a peek in what a pastor or a Christian thinks and feels about certian subjects of interest. In that process, I find that I’m practicing an ongoing reflective mode all the time – if there’s pray with our ceasing, then it’s reflect without ceasing. If an unreflected life is not worth living, then this practice has helped me take note of all that’s worth living. So, it’s a both/and thing for me .. building up and stemming from my faith.
Reflection, prayer, thoughts, conversation is more intertwined rather than separated for me as I write. It also allows me to unload a lot of the clutter in my mind and heart.
– What inspires you? How do you keep from writer’s block and avoid challenges affecting you?
People, events and conversations inspire me. Disappointment, frustration, anger nudge me too. As for writer’s block, I usually do a “random thought” post … one of the images that has stuck to my mind is a scene from “Finding Forrester” where Sean Connery challenges this prodigy young African American writer to allow his writing to flow and then critique it later.
– Why do you write for the public and not just write privately?
because I value “eavesdropping” and believe in “indirect” change.
– What if I am fearful and not sure about what to say? Should I still write it? Do I have a role to play in Malaysian public life?
This is a challenge for me because of my vocation as a pastor, so I think twice when commenting about political or controversial subjects. I see myself as raising awareness and providing some guiding thoughts but never overtly directive. I usually go for linking to people whom I feel have an insight I find useful. For be the private and public thought can be distinguished but it’s not divided and thus I do feel have a role to play. And I express it by opening my life journey as a venue for interaction.
– I have a lot of things to say but don’t know where to get my messages across – where do I go and what do I do?
I talk to people. I talk with those who do write. I converse with those who may be idea shapers or movers of change. I take up challenges of writing even though I still see myself as inadequate (e.g. Asian Reflections, Kairos) to streth myself..
– Who were your role models?
Robert Brow who provided much of his stuff free online and responded to my emails and guided me in my own struggles.
Brian McLaren who tries to communicate thoughtful more complex insights (usually found in academic writings) in more accessible form.
There’s more … but list 2 first.
– Has your writing developed who you are as a person as well? How?
I think it has given me confidence to express my thoughts and even cause to practice restraint. It has also turned out to be a bridge toward connecting with new people, stretching my own horizons and opening to new possibilities. It’s also full of surprises as well. And I’m learning to cope with these surprises and see where it could lead from here.
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That’s all for now … will refine it as I go along tomorrow. And now for some domestic responsibilities before finalizing the sermon for tomorrow.