The journalism grind is real.

This is nothing new, but seeing as the topic has been a recurring theme all day long, so I’d figured I might as well put all of these together.

Firstly, via the Locked on Celtics podcast (21 Jul), by John Karalis and Jay King. These guys are two of my favourite Celtic writers, especially Jay in his early days with CelticsTown.

Little side story: John probably doesn’t remember this, but I reached out to him for advice on Twitter DM back in 2012, when I was starting out.

In his words: “It’s a lot of hard work but if you’re dedicated you will be fine.”

He wasn’t kidding about hard work. I’ve kept his words in mind throughout these years running The Pick and Roll, through all those long nights. Hard work, check. Dedicated, definitely check.

Jay on the other hand, offered some really good advice on what to expect, when I checked in with him prior to my first game under media credentials – always very thankful for that.

Back to the podcast. Jay was talking about how he got to where he is now with MassLive, and ended the tale with some advice:

“… that’s the really lucky story of how I got to where I am now. If you want advice, the only thing I’ll say is work don’t be afraid to write for free, you have to to get your name out there, write for blogs. Just build up your resume and keep working as hard as you can.”

John pretty much agreed, and expanded on the thought.

“I would say the same thing. Nowadays, there is such an advantage… This is a very competitive field, and covering sports has so many similarities to playing sports. Where it’s hyper-competitive, there are limited spots, there are millions of people who want to get those limited spots.

… If you’re listening, trying to start your career in this: Jay is absolutely right. work work work work work work. Do a lot of work. Write. Start a blog. Write for a blog. Ask to join a blog… get paid nothing. Or get paid a little bit – it’s easier when you’re younger, and you don’t know what it’s like to have money, so you can go and piece together a career, by writing for – three hours on one site, and two hours on another site, and three hours on another site. You get your name out there, and you learn. You submit your stuff to editors, they will make corrections, you look at what the corrections are, and then you do it.

… If you can understand that you don’t know everything, then you’re a pretty damn smart person. Because that allows you to take in suggestions, and work those into your professional life and the things that you do on a daily basis, and then you personally will become better, at whatever it is you do.”

Jay rounded it off with this:

“Opportunities are tough, tough tough tough tough in this business, but just keep working until you get it, and prepare yourself for the opportunity.”

Then, from Jalen Rose on the Jalen & Jacoby Show (20 July):

“And you know what gets lost amongst those that become successful? All the sacrifices and discipline that they had to endure, in order to get to that point.

Like people we joke a lot about this show, about us not doing any work, or things of that nature. But you don’t get to this point if you don’t decide to outwork people.”

See a recurring theme here?

I was shown this article later in the day, and Robert Silverman made perfect sense.

There are just too many people out there who love watching games and think that with a bit of luck and a lot of bootstrap-pulling they could become the next Bill Simmons or Zach Lowe or any number of guys who started out as mere bloggers and are now considered leading lights in the industry.

Writing takes discipline. It takes commitment. But even when you check the boxes, it isn’t as easy as that. You need to differentiate yourself by getting ahead of the average writer who doesn’t have a unique voice. You need to get lucky, you need to know people – pick two of three. But before all of that, the basic criteria comes down to this: plain hard work.

And this quote from Matt Moore (love the guy) just hit the spot, right there. Right up my alley.

Moore: Write. Write all the time. The best thing you can do to make yourself better is to write about as many things as possible. It helps with honing what you do, it helps with building an audience, and it helps with figuring what you do well and what you enjoy doing.

Maybe you don’t like doing play breakdowns but you love esoteric discussion. Maybe you’re not crazy about cap talk but you get really into X’s and O’s. And the only way to keep yourself as part of the discussion is to write. When I was supremely frustrated with my inability to get a gig in late 2009 (AFTER ONLY TWO YEARS WRITING!), Tom Ziller gave me some great advice. Quit whining and write. What you’re doing isn’t enough? Write more. Because that’s the only thing you can control.

I’ve always maintained that the only thing you can control in any situation is yourself. You can’t control the opportunities that happen, you can only make the best with what you have, and stay prepared for anything that comes by. What you get is proportional to what you invest – the harder you work, the more you’ll get out of it. Be it an improved voice, consistent writing, or simply an expanded audience, something will fall through.

Basically: never get discouraged. Keep grinding, until something good happens. If you don’t prove your worth, nothing is going to ever happen. Only by consistently proving your value, developing your voice, and expanding your network, do you have a shot at making something happen.

Yes, journalism is a grind. It’s tough to even get your foot in the door, and it takes a crazy amount of effort when you’re actually working. It’s exciting as hell, it’s never boring, and it does sap the life out of you. But if you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is, you do it.

Don’t get envious. Don’t get down. Get even.

 

Advertisements

Worrying.

“Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.” – Mark Twain.

A rather pointless exercise, but one most of us can’t help doing. I live by a simple axiom that limits the amount of worrying I do.

If there is anything I can do to influence the outcome, it stays on my mind.

image

If things are out of my control? I stop worrying. The. End.

Of the most beautiful phase

A lot of people speak of a woman’s wedding day as the the time when she looked her best. It could be true, but I’m inclined to disagree.

In all honesty, my wife wasn’t at her best on our wedding day. She was tired from staying up the night before. Getting an early start with all the make up, hair and so on was a grind. Add the fact that she was dressed in a wedding gown, trying to tahan the chills of that morning and looking forward to GTFO (if I might put it crudely), didn’t do any wonders for her disposition. Nevertheless, she looked fine in the photographs, and that’s all that matters when memories fade eh?

To me, V was always at her most beautiful during the later phase of pregnancy. The radiance of impending motherhood puts an indescribable hue onto her countenance.

Well of course, there is that Neanderthal feeling of satisfaction I get (“THAT THUNG GROWING INSIDE HER? I HAD A PART OF IT! RAWWRRR GRUNT OOMPH *THUMPS CHEST*) on a job well done, but that’s not it.

I love the feel of her growing belly, feeling the skin move with new life beneath. Those might not be Upton-esque curves, but there is just that indefinable glow that seems to shine forth. The way she gently pats her swollen belly, as if reassuring the little boy within, holds a sense of calm about it.

I’m not going to lie about the bad parts of it (throwing up, inability to sleep through the night, waddling with all that extra weight), but the thought that she’s willing to bear it all for the sake of bringing a new life —our new life– into this world, makes her that much more beautiful in my eyes.

So the little one is due in less than a month, and we’re all waiting. Just for now though, I’d like to dedicate this day to the woman who’s shared the past eight years of her life with me, and years to come.

Happy Valentine’s Day V. I’m not the best writer out there, but this is all I’ve can come up with. Love you, and thank you for being with me all this time.

Where the memories are, and doing what feels right.

One of the things I miss most about Singapore, is being able to cycle around the neighbourhood, feeling the cool breeze and enjoying the peace of the night.

On my way home just now, taking a detour to take in more of the neighbourhood sounded like a good idea, and before I knew it, I was back at my old block. So many memories. Of learning to cycle at the void deck. Playing catching after taekwondo class at the nearby block. Pushing through the bushes underneath the overhead bridge, and imagining it to be a secret base of ours. Snacks from the Indian mama shop right behind. The countless times of cycling around the place, every turn and slope was deeply ingrained; I was operating on instincts.

I smiled when I got to this cycling path that used to be a really steep slope (but has been revamped into a gentle one now), because a certain daredevil (or brainless idiot, depending on how you look at it) at the invincible age of 11, decided it would be an absolutely brilliant feat to cycle down that precarious slope at top speed – without hands. Needless to say, I ended up losing control and sprawled in a heap on the floor, fortunately getting out easy with only a scraped knee.

This was home for almost fifteen years, and I still miss it.

Onwards, to the place that held so many cherished memories amidst mindless drudgery: Ngee Ann Secondary School. It’s funny how a building can evoke an aching, almost painful yearning in the heart for days that are long past. The basketball court that I spent countless hours at, rain or shine. Walking down the same old path to school five, six days a week. Frantic copying of homework before morning assembly. Magic: The Gathering sessions in the canteen. Spraining my wrist on the same damn court because I tripped on the edge of the court (idiot.)

Remembering the days back then. Swimming training was three days a week, Red Cross took Saturdays away. Between those two ECAs, school and homework, the days just whizzed by. The best part was probably the Swim Camps, when all of us had so much fun. The endless blackjack sessions. The morning training. The insomnia. The barbeque sessions. The Emil Chau songs. The night walk to Changi Airport. The performances. The nights when we would sneak out of school and grab a bite (and Jolly Shandy) at Tampines Mart.

To this day, I still kick myself for some of the juvenile, tactless and supremely stupid things from back then, but the fondness of fun times outweigh the dumb moments of course. If only, there was some way I could revisit some of those days.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a nostalgic who reminiscences about past days too much. There are just too many memories for me here to ever move away from the place. I’m pretty sure if I’d continued to stay in Singapore, I would’ve eventually just gotten a place right here, rather than follow the inevitable trend of moving to Sengkang/Punggol, as many of my generation have done. Then again, we’ll never know, since it hasn’t happened. It sounds like an fascinating alternate reality though.

While many people would label me as a planner, it is interesting to note that my personality actually swings in the other direction. Over the years, I’ve led my life largely on faith and trusted my instincts, going by what I felt was right, much more than pragmatic decision-making like weighing the scales, noting the facts and numbers and coming up with a practical decision.

For example, what kind of flaming idiot would actually quit his job, get a loan, leave the comforts of a wonderfully familiar environment behind and fly to Australia, having only the “plan” (if you could even call it that) to finish a final university semester and then literally wing it and find some way to stay on, simply because it “felt like the right time” to do so? Utterly un-Singaporean-like, if I might say so.

Or for that matter, quitting a stable full-time job to be a domestic dad for nine months? I’m glad V has been supportive on (most of) my decisions, although you could imagine the kind of grousing that went on in her head.

Looking back now, I’m really glad everything worked out, but had I actually paused to contemplate the enormity of that decision to move to Australia back then, it would have probably made next to zero sense. Could it possibly have stopped me in my tracks though? Nah.

Fortune favours the bold, and I like to think it looks kindly on lucky fools like me as well. There’s good, and there’s lucky; I’d pick lucky over good any day. I’ve always been a firm believer in the fact that destiny has its plan for me, and that I am walking in the forest of life, sauntering along a path that has been waiting for me all along, and is revealing itself to me, a few steps at a time. All I have to do, is to trust myself and pick the right trail when the crossroads come along.

Keep walking, keep trusting. Happy New Year’s Eve, 2013.

The thing I hate most about being sick?

That feeling of helplessness from having a body and mind that’s not at their best. I feel inept, incapable of doing anything or even think about anything. Focus is just plain gone.

The only thing left to do, is to endure, and recover. And you know what they say about the sick needing to rest and recover? Bullshit seriously, how do you rest (via sleep) when you can only sleep 4-5 hours a night? The rest of my night was spent coughing or in a state of mild delirium dreaming about being in the fantasy books I read. (You are what you read, literally.)

Having a nasty flu/sore throat/headache/fever combi (and a stye on my left eye area right before) was no walk in the park. It’s been more than a week since I last felt fully healthy. It sounds strange, but getting back to work has helped somewhat, because I had something else to focus on outside of feeling sorry for myself at home. Of course, I was a phlegm machine with a hacking cough all day long, spitting it up and out whenever I had a chance.

Maybe that’s how getting old will be like. Thankful to be on the road to recovery right now, that is all!

Prejudice and acceptance.

Hold Hands

The world would be a much better place if we learned to look past our differences, and find the things that speak a common language deep inside. Be it love, humour, passion, creativity or something else altogether, all it takes is the first step – a willingness to try.

Less prejudice, more acceptance. We are who we are, and learning to agree with others is one simple, yet powerful step in fostering peace in this little world of ours.

Enhanced by Zemanta

What do I want in a job now?

This question yields different answers at different times, and it’s the same for me.

Right now, I’m looking to move into a job that’s preferably less involved in operations. Being on standby duty is no longer as fun as it was, and I’ve more or less had enough of being on 24/7 duty, after having carried the mountain for the past years in my old job. I don’t mind being involved in presales, postsales or even planned migrations, but please count me out of the outage firefighting team. I’m not as keen to keep plugging away in the network field as well, much as it’s been my rice bowl for the past years.

Another question at this point is whether I really am interested to move into writing as a part-time, or even full-time career. After having had a taste of writing on a freelance basis these past months, I’m not so sure I want to be an automaton that cranks out content at scheduled times. I still love writing, but being constantly required to produce fresh content independently on a regular basis is nothing but draining. Parenthood saps my life energy enough as it is right now, thank you very much. That being said, I’d love to write if constant direction is given on topics though.

So, where to next? I want to find opportunities to move into project management, and another interesting thought surfaces here: do the certificates make the man, or is it the other way round?

I had a comment today about how my expected salary could easily hire a PMP qualified project manager. While the angry comeback would certainly be a “screw off and hire someone else then!”, the rational eye would admit to that market rate. Window dressing aside, does the lack of industry certification make me any less qualified in managing projects though? The comment could easily be seen as a leverage tool to talk the price down as well.

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Food for thought in the days ahead.