ANTS IN MY PANTS: Working as an indie artist who also does freelance jobs

I think there's a need to teach the public about how there are different models of work, like how schools taught me about different religions and cultural practices in social studies.

Oh, Uncle Gary. He wears like what office people wear and goes to an office. He works from 8 am to 6 pm.

Oh, Auntie Ju-Lyn works from home. She puts on "going-out" clothes and goes to her room. Sometimes she works 8 am to 6 pm, then 8 pm to 3 am. Sometimes she sleeps until 11 am. Then she'll feel bad and work until 6 am that night. Then Uncle Gary will scold her and remind her to take care of her health. Okay. Valid. Because she doesn't eat at night either. Then she gets gastric problems. And she doesn't have paid sick leave.

Uncle Gary does all sorts of work that his organisation decides that he should do. Instructions usually come in an email from somebody. But sometimes he has a good idea and asks the people around him, and they agree that he should do it or send it to someone else. They get to decide like how they decided that the organisation (or someone they appointed) should hire him and pay him $X on a certain day every month for the work he does that month. Even if he goes on vacation.

Auntie Ju-Lyn does all kinds of work that she decides she should do. How does she decide? Sometimes a voice goes inside Auntie Ju-Lyn's head and gives her an idea to work on, and she knows it is the thing she has to do because an inarticulable sense of compulsion overwhelms her inertia. Sometimes she reads an email or message with somebody offering to pay her for a job. Then she asks the voices inside her head - is it interesting? If it is, please overwhelm my inertia! And that sometimes happen. But if the voices are silent, she asks her bank account with how much the job is willing to pay - Is it interesting? And if the bank account is empty enough, or the remuneration is impactful enough, it will reply with an echo: interesting... interesting...  then she'll listen to it.
If not she'll do the other jobs as instructed by the voices.

Auntie Ju-Lyn may sound like a kook to you. But that's because you don't know enough people like her. And to be honest, people like her all work slightly differently, because the voices in their heads are different ones. And they didn't teach you about people like her in social studies.

Rant over.

Somewhat relevant read:

Leap - A new book, I suppose?

Finally, I present Leap, a picture book for adults.

Although it was completed earlier this year, I had debated if I should print it. A small run isn't cost effective, and large one made me worry about the reception, because as compared to my other works thus far, it is more "art-house" and niche. Moreover, it's my first official 2D visual art work, I'm not exactly very confident. And to top things off, it's a very personal work, so there is also some kind of hesitation with putting myself out there.

Nevertheless, I decided to just bite the bullet and did a very limited print run of the work, and submitted it for the Pameran Poskad 2015 - a postcard exhibition happening at gilman barracks from 19 to 22 Nov 2015. 500 artists are exhibiting their works there, so that kind of lends me strength. Safety in numbers?

I am also putting up the work in its entirety on my website, because... why not? Besides, I believe that the flashcards are the right medium for this work so that the viewers can flip them, spin them, toss them around. If you wanna print it, email me and I'll send you a print version. If you wanna buy a copy of the flashcards, let me know I may have some around. ;)

Indie publishing, indie author, indie artist...  indie is liddat. just do it cos... just.

Joe Meek

"Joe Meek Freak Beats" always show up when I google meekfreak, which I do once in a long while ever since I had adopted "meekfreak" as a handle since 1999 (it was during the mIRC days). I'd always wondered about him and thought he was a musician from the US. But now, perhaps because internet has really grown and more information is made available, I finally got to read him up and listen to his works.

Joe Meek was a british music producer in the 50s to 60s. He was an indie producer and would experiment with all the electronic sounds.

It feels more than a little strange that I feel a strong sense of affinity, not just in the indie, experimental approach... not just in the similarity of our tastes, but in a sentimental, curious, eerie way. I listen to his music and watch some of the videos and feel that these are things that I would like and was curious about before.

He committed murder and then suicide in the 1967. meek freak. is liddat?

Of Presence and Distances

Recently got to know two young artists, Benny Teo and Zhang Fuming, who asked me to write up an essay about their works for their upcoming exhibition.

Although I am an avid reader of art writing, it's my first time writing about it formally. Grateful to them both for the opportunity and freely sharing what they did with me. I had a lot of fun learning about their creative processes and concepts, and of course, observing them and their art. 

Check out their upcoming show here

Dreams and Persistence

Dreamt of attending a literature-cum-chemistry class at Yale, no less. Concluded something about Popularity of a literary work being a function of Genre + Target Audience. And that parallel lines won't remain parallel because they are positively charged. Huh, right?

Maybe it's related to this link my friend sent to me about Tom Sachs. Which led me to this video: Ten Bullets, which is worth a watch (20+ mins).

My favourite? Bullet number 10. 

Was at a gallery on 9 Apr 2015 and made some new friends, of whom there were two ladies whose contacts I didn't get, Ms Rebecca and Ms CS (and sorry if I got your initials wrong). We were just talking about art and what I do and intend to do, and they were generous with their encouragement and confidence. Thank you for your encouragement. I will press on!

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
— Calvin Coolidge (or Ray Kroc?)

Have you heard of Vocal Slender?

I first learnt of Eric Obuh from the BBC documentary, "Welcome to Lagos". 

Eric is from Lagos, Nigeria. He was an enterprising "scavenger", which is the professional title of someone who worked in the rubbish dump, searching through fresh loads of garbage brought in by the dumpster trucks, for scraps that can be resold for money. Clothes, metal, radios that can be fixed. I like the title, "scavenger". 

He was doing it not just to make a living, but to save up to finance his dream: of becoming a rap artist. In the documentary, he was depicted to spend his savings on studio time, cutting a demo, and getting his picture professional professionally taken to promote his musical talents

I was impressed and inspired by his dedication to his dreams.

Riding on the exposure that the BBC documentary provided, he made it to London. And he is still trying to make it bigger and bigger.

short intro:



Alternative music influences alternative writing.

It is often more difficult to pin down my inspirations. Being inspired is something that happens in an instant, and in the present moment. And the word "inspiration" has too much baggage - promising too much, and the artist can't help but expects too much, and of course, that ruins everything.

It might be more relevant to look into the past and understand and decipher one’s influences. Influences are more fundamental and casual – casual because something may be influencing in many different ways. I'm influenced by Kurt Vonnegut for his content choice and writing style, and I'm influenced by Naruto (anime) for I'm moved by the central characters' spirit and remind myself to be like him sometimes. Through influences, I better understand my preferences, development, and inclination... and from here, I should know what kind of work I am more likely to create and will enjoy creating.

Although I had the regular crushes on members of Take That, I listened to the music of Queen and Sonic Youth. With my first computer and connection to the internet, I actually searched for their lyrics to print out to put in the front of my transparent plastic school file... I read and re-read about what happened that night at the opera and those non-existent panty lines.

So, why do people (myself included) expect me to write orthodox, descriptive prose? That'll be like for someone who enjoyed Sarah Brightman or Mclachlan. And literary stuff? Vivaldi maybe? I listened to nirvana and the pixies and the cure and marilyn manson and ben folds five and REM and... joao gilberto (though i didn't really know what he was singing about...) It was, after all, the glorious age of Napster. 

I write alternative stuff in my alternative style - it's alternative writing, ok?

Random good links - Jul 14

No time to go into details, but here are some interesting links. Thanks to friends who shared.

  • Anti-establishment irony? 
    • vs
  • Where have all the flowers gone:
  • Secret life of bipolar I & 2:
  • BBC about lithium:

Pick one. Pick two.

Btw, my surgery went ok.

Writing is spending 2 weeks agonising over "that section" then deleting it altogether...

It's great fun, most of the time, writing and doing what I like doing... especially when everything is going right, and the paragraphs are looking better than they ever did before, and I think I am going to finish the project ahead of schedule, so I go ahead and adjust my expectations... then the mania runs out... and I get stuck on the same section for one day, two days, three days... back to it on the fifth day, then sixth... then again on the eight... ad nauseum, so I just delete the whole damn thing, the entire troublesome section, okay now what? I find that the momentum is broken and the confidence is undermined, because I cannot write! What happened to my winning streak? Can I ever get it back? I want to write like how i was writing before that bloody section again! 

But of course, there isn't a switch, or ignition key, or a petrol pedal to step on to rev up the engine again. I try to write when i don't feel like writing, and everything i write will be shit... so i think to myself, okay, I might as well just sleep... or... go for that long overdue doctor's check up! okay! yes! how constructive! plus, I get to take a break from my everyday routine! 

Alas! The doctor had to go and find something in my body, that's not supposed to be there and we decide to take them out next month, so, i go home, a little confused, and spend the next week worrying about it being cancerous, until the initial tests comes out and luckily, phew! it's not cancerous! i tell myself carpe diem man, but I still don't feel like writing, probably because of the pressure. so i research and read about grants and literary agents, and then i'm reminded of how hard it is for a writer to really make it, and then i think about how life would have been if i were still having a 9-to-5 job then i wouldn't have to worry about grants and i could enjoy the 7 days of medical leave that would have been the best thing about surgeries and shit but the piece of MC is now as meaningless as meaninglessness is to a writer working from home - i.e. it's probably relevant to some aspect of my life, but actually useless since i can't use it in the piece of writing i'm currently toiling over.

Tsk. but yes, okay, let's not go back there. basically, just go and get the gunk out like it's a root canal operation or something and get it over and done with. Since i'm feeling okay about it, it's time for me to finally tell my family that i'm going for the surgery, then they want to fuss over me, so i let them, and they tell me to eat more nutritious food, so i agree and research about food that's good for concentration and brain power, because i need that to help me write, so i conclude that i should take some good quality omega 3 to improve my writing, you know, then, apparently, this omega 3 business is very complicated because there are a lot of different sources, i go and buy some flax meal because of the marine toxins of fish oil, but then i find that they don't work as well so i have to go back and look for some fish oil but which fish oil, there are so many in the market, what DHA, LHL, EPA, HUH? AH! just buy something and hope for the best, and don't worry so much about the money, because you can't put a price on health, mental health, and maybe worry about the neglected blog and how to update it, to do the last month of absence any justice? I think... I shall begin with a catchy title about writing, and about how it all began:

Writing is spending 2 weeks agonising over "that section" then deleting it altogether...

Random good links - 16 May 2014

Working late...

It's 1.30 am and it's the Nth night in the past weeks that i'm up working so late. I haven't been waking up late either, for I've been waking up to a brain buzzing with a list of chores and errands.

i'm tired and I've been neglecting my writing because it's too difficult to write creative or complicated stuff when the brain is being wrung like a wet rag.

So what have I been up to?

Admin stuff. Administrative things, like planning projects, budgets, proposal, timelines, etc etc. For a while, it bothered me like how it used to bother me when I was working in a corporate office. ZZZzzz.

But friends helped me realise that this is all part and parcel of my work as a writer/artist. It's the "un-glamorous" part of every art project, but also one of the most essential parts.

And look, my friend A said, Isn't it nicer, better, infinitely more meaningful to be doing the administrative things for projects that I believe in?

Well, yes, indeed, i suppose it is nice, better, and infinitely more meaningful.

Admin really shouldn't bother me like how it used to bother me when I was administrating senior management's political spew and hidden agendas. 

And besides, I'm actually quite good at admin, which is why i could rise up far enough into the corporate offices to see the vomit and recognise the smell. It was just the purpose and the smell and the sounds people make when they puke shit that made me gag. 

Now that I'm administrating my own puke-shit, admin shouldn't bother me.

Now that I'm doing admin just to make my dreams come true, I might even come to like admin with time. But then, does that mean i'll be working even later into the night?! 

Random good links

No time to go into details, but thanks to friends who shared all these things:


Pick one.  Pick two. 


Why do people talk about speculative fiction like it's a new genre? Why question the existence or identity or the premises of surrealist fiction?

Surrealism is already everywhere!

Check out these women being fairies that resemble white egrets with lotus flowers sprouting from their heads!

Plus, they can also play the flute.

2014_03 speculative surrealist fiction.jpg

On stories taking a life of their own...

It’s kinda funny how stories take on a life of their own. Once I release a story onto its audience, it’s hard to ask it to come home.

Although that’s the case for most things (for when a sculptor finishes with a statue, then he installs it or something, then it’s hard to bring it back home to trim a bit of the statue’s nose or something), it’s just funnier with stories because it’s so easy to unleash the written word (all I have to do is to put a story in an email and click “send”) and rework a story even after the “click-send” (as the tangible, physical art works are merely sequences of computer data existing on remote email servers and my laptop’s hard-disk) that it appears easy to “re-call” it for editing (after all, to reinstall the revised, physical art-work, I simply need paste in another email and click “send”).

But like all other things, stories really take on a life of their own, because beyond the few words or computer signals in whatever server, the art truly unfolds when it meets its audience and trigger some chemical(?), biological(?), metaphysical(?), existential(?), cognitive reaction in their minds – it paints some mental picture or describe some ideas – it does something to the audience – give is commonly refer to as the first impression.

And the audience, especially a creative one, takes that first impression, and develops it to another idea, and other renditions, and so on and forth… like some cascade reaction... giving the story life of its own.

By then I can’t say, wait, wait! Let me edit that story a bit and then pass it to you, I think I can re-arrange the ending then we might get a better cascade reaction from you! Because that’ll be too late, as the first impression would have already ran its course and galloped away into whatever horizon. Bye bye.

Come back come back! I may shout to it, but the audience’s take on the work is somewhat set.

What will happen when the same audience reads the new rendition? I think it’d be like formulating the first impression of the new rendition and it’ll be another thing altogether. The audience would be like, hey this looks like something that I’ve seen before, and it’s not as fresh and… maybe grammatically better, but… hm. It’s hmm…

So, well, anyway my point is just that it’s kinda funny.

Thoughts on saying no...

‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.
— Charles Dickens, rejecting an invitation from a friend (from

A. sent me an article about creative people being able (or needing) to focus on their work and avoid distracting tasks:

I do find it very hard to say no to people. Since writing is a self-motivated undertaking, the general consensus seem to be that I can be very flexible with my time. But the truth is, I really need a huge, isolated mental space to contain my works in my head and to develop them... if i come out of my retreat, say, over the weekend or the festive season, I really have to put in days to reboot my brain. it's really not like how when I was doing corporate work and I can just come back to a document two months later and get started immediately. it just doesn't work that way for me.

A few months ago, G commented that Singapore is so small that we get to see our friends, relatives, very often, unlike how things would be if we lived in a bigger country, and we'd just up and go to a different city and live and concentrate on our work. Perhaps because of this and the connectivity, it's really hard to carve out that block of time and space.

And perhaps it's because we're Asian, and somewhat, typically collectivist, that I feel obligated to honour social expectations and priorities over my own? but maybe it's not an Asian thing after all. according to the article, it seems that western individualists also find it difficult.

Perhaps because writing is an occupation that's commonly associated with employment and work, people tend to think it works like a job. But, really, it isn't. Writing is more like self-employment, like motherhood, it's an obsession which consumes and demands one's entire attention. Actually, I can imagine that it's somewhat like taking care of a child. If I don't see a 2 year old child for 2 months, and straightaway want to carry him in my arms and teach him his alphabets, he may reject me violently (or noisily), for he might no longer recognise me. I'd have to play with him, cajole him, get used to him again, before i try to teach him something interesting.

But mothers seem to find it easy to say no. "No, i can't stay back to do more work, i have to go home and breastfeed." or lawyers and accountants or bankers or whoever else also seem to have the have the right to say no to social functions, "No, i gotta prepare for a big meeting tomorrow." "No, i'm fighting for a promotion so i gotta work hard these few weeks." and students studying for exams find it easy to say no. "No, i got a test tomorrow." Exams and promotions are so important that it even allows these people to say no obligations. in fact, entire families will retire early from social functions if one of the kids have a class test the next day. Why?

Or i am being presumptuous? perhaps they don't find it easy to say no at all. it's just that there are more of them around to make an impact on the rest of us, they've collectively changed the consensus, and people now find it acceptable for people to say no for these specific reasons.

Indeed, A. suggested that maybe because nobody really understands the demands of creative work and its processes, so nobody can properly empathise with the creatives.

Since people think writing or artistic pursuits works like a job (at best), which is typically something somebody likes to get out of as soon as possible, people think that it's the same for me. Actually, the opposite is true, since i gave up a full-time job's pay to concentrate on my writing, i really enjoy spending as much time as possible on my work. Which ironically suggests to others to think that writing or artistic pursuits are like past-time/hobbies, which should not be more important than meeting up with people who care about you? After all, there are those who still think that my creative pursuits are still acts of a spoilt child refusing to get a proper job, so anything i say remotely like, "i got to work", invites snorts and stifled sarcastic retorts like, "(oh please) what do you have to work on?" (with the silent "oh please".)

Whatever the possible reasons, saying no remains difficult. At the end of the day, it comes down to this, is it okay to just focus on my work and perhaps have no friends or social life? After all, maybe that's what full-time mothers, overly-promoted lawyers, accountants, bankers, and parents, who care a lot about their children's examinations, feel compelled to give up.

I haven't found any way about it. I'm just trying to explain things to one friend at a time, which may end up taking more time than just saying "yes" to whatever request, and... just hoping it'll work out in the long run...

Career Reflections on Lunar New Year!

The turn of the year is also a time to review our aspirations and reflect on our careers and other priorities.

Reflections on Career Transition is a guidebook that may help you consider your career progression and change. Although designed for militaries moving on to new careers, this book contains reflective exercises, career tips, and insights relevant to all.

Check out the free EBOOK here now! Or read more about the guidebook here.

Here's wishing you a very happy, meaningful, and fulfilling new lunar year ahead!

A response to a response - my first review!

The review printed out and pasted on my wall!

The review printed out and pasted on my wall!

My good friend, Vanessa wrote a review on All the people imagine and other short short stories a few days ago.

I didn't mention it here immediately because I felt too excited and thought I should spend some time to think about it first.

For quite a few times in the past weeks, I've explained my motivation to get my work out there to friends, that it is really about the inexplicable joy I feel when my writing gets read, interpreted, and translated into an idea or any other reaction by the reader. I get a kick out of it.

I write most of my pieces through “automatic writing”, that is, writing whatever comes to my mind, without planning ahead, in perhaps a semi-meditative state. So, I am sometimes led to believe that my stories are gifts presented to me so that I can write it down for whoever else is meant to read it. In fact, I sometimes read my own writing and surprise myself with the content, because I wasn't entirely conscious of what I had written before. On some levels I feel like a Chinese letter writer from colonial times, helping illiterate migrant workers write letters to their family back home, or someone working in the post-office, sorting out mail.

Feedback on my writing is precious to me, because hearing from readers “closes the loop” and lets me know that something worked and responses were provoked, and knowing these things, in turn, encourage me to continue doing what I'm doing. It's like a post-office mail-sorter hearing from the recipient of a letter that he helped to pass along that the recipient “got it”. It helps the mail-sorter feel that the things he does go beyond the seemingly mundane pointlessness of mail-room work. And so, I get a kick out of it.

Reading Vanessa's piece about my collection is one of the most important and significant milestones of my writing career. While I've gotten many valued feedback and encouragement along the way, V's essay is by far the most tangible and immediate record of a reader's reaction to my work.

You may think, "Yeah, she's your good friend, so she'll write nice things about your work, so it doesn't mean too much." But the piece is all the more valuable to me because I know her very well and I trust that she wouldn't write what she didn’t mean.

And yeah... so V, I agree with you. "When you know the writer, the knowledge transforms your act of reading."

Thank you very, very much.

Working from home? Thoughts on an Oatmeal poster

G bought a book from the Oatmeal. And it came with a poster about working from home. We thought it's funny to just put it up just outside my study/office/writing-room, because I've been receiving questions about working from home quite a bit.

Tangent thoughts:

  • Maybe it's more sensible to stick it outside my front door... like as a warning sign to my neighbours and visitors?
  • I actually think one reason working from home is made harder is because it's so different from the norm. I'll just have to explain to why "i have to go back home to work". because no "boss" is waiting for me in my office, monitoring my movement. And I have to explain to myself too. the multiple roles can get very confusing. :$
  • The poster is more motivational than it is at face value. Because the Oatmeal and poster is a successful blog-to-print thing. Maybe one day, i'll also have a poster. ;)
  • Friends, please warn me if my social skills degradation gets too severe. If, er, you're still there by then...