Sometimes, I do feel that a lot of us plan our lives in November around two things - Nanowrimo, and the Singapore Writers’ Festival. This year’s theme was ARAM அறம், which talks about virtue and values, with Speculative Fiction and Sequential Art tracks. Needless to say, I was thrilled.
This year also boasted a good number of local and international writers coming, and to contain my excitement, I’m going to sum this event down to the 5 lessons I’ve learnt this year (In no particular order):
1. “You are the creative one, WORK AROUND IT.”
Growing up, I was idealistic (still am to some point) and thought that I still had a right to create whatever I wanted without consequences, since the state wanted us to create more anyway.
But a good number of years in the industry and speaking to veterans made me sure of one thing - if you take someone else’s money, you’re going to have to play to their tune, at least to a certain extent. And that’s where the struggle between the integrity of the work and agendas come to play.
This advice of “working around censorship requests” came from Aidli “Alin” Mosbit, during a panel about “true” artists and if they should seek state funding. And the more I listen to this phrase, the more it makes sense - you need your grant money, but you want to keep the integrity of your work.
No one knows how to balance and present your work better than you do - you are the creative after all.
2. Your friends and family are your supporters - appreciate them.
Need I say more? I was incredibly humbled and thankful to all our friends and readers who came to support us during the Pulp Toast and COSH Studios launches. It was also incredibly humbling to meet other writers who were just so authentically enthusiastic to meet readers, alike. If anything, the festival served as a channel for all of us to appreciate the writers, artists, and storytellers who brought our stories to us, and for us creators to be grateful for all the support we receive - regardless of how much.
P/S - Readers and supporters are not there for you to exploit either. If you consider a fan a “true fan” only after they offer you their soul and buy 5 copies of the same book, your complaints about how Singaporeans don’t support each other is moot (the accuracy of that complaint is another story).
3. People are interested, especially when you have a direction.
One of the more prominent questions we’ve been getting during our launches is the direction of our collectives, collaboratives, or just us as creators. And that drives another message home - as creators, artists, storytellers, we have a responsibility to work with the system if you want to get something out of it. The ‘general public’ may not be the best when it comes to knowing what’s “Art”, but they’re generally good at sniffing out interesting stories and authenticity when it comes to fictional accounts.
4. Have fun writing.
One of the greatest lessons I gleaned from the panel with Marie Lu was how much she enjoyed creating the characters and stories. And that was also when I got reminded about how I went into telling stories in the first place - it’s fun. Seeing Marie’s enthusiasm about her characters balanced out with interesting (but not convenient / fan-servicey) plot lines definitely fuelled me to write more that weekend.
5. There’s nothing wrong with being “just the reader”.
“I don’t have a problem with having ‘not-enough’ writers.” Junot Diaz, 2017.
In his lecture about Hope in a live Dystopia, Junot talked about how we were a society of many writers, but without enough readers. Or at least readers who do it because they loved to read and nothing else. And that point struck me quite a bit.
Reading as a reader, reading as a writer, an editor, or a researcher, changes your entire perspective and state of mind when you settle down with a book.
And that’s what I have for you this year - looking forward to next year’s line of activities, together with all the other stories and adventures that come with it. For more information about the Singapore Writers’ Festival, click here.