AH: What Writing Means to Me

Hullo, world!

It’s finally feeling a bit like summer. Yesterday, we went out for a picnic for Canada Day. I had a marvellous time there and hope to do it again. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝♡︎

Today, I wanted to share with you one of my all-time favourite authors. Her name is Ayako Miura, and what I find remarkable about her is that she’s a Christian author who wrote explicitly Christian themes and still left a mark in the Japanese literary world. Her most famous work, Hyōten (Freezing Point), set in Hokkaido, won a literary award and was dramatised countless times and was also made into movies in Japan and overseas. Many of her works are only available in Japanese only, which I find somewhat depressing, but hey, maybe it’s that time to learn Japanese!

Jokes aside, I recently came across her essay/reflective work, What Writing Means to Me. The first part is mainly a reflection on some of her famous works. The second part talks about her writing philosophy as a Christian author. The last part featured her thoughts on famous Japanese authors like Akutagawa, Dazai, and Ichiyō. What I thought I’ll do is to share some of the quotes that spoke to me from the second section. 

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you Ayako Miura’s What Writing Means to Me!

Disclaimer: I’ve done my best to translate as closely as possible, but any errors/misinterpretations are my fault. I also add an honorific “sensei” at the end, which we usually do for teachers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, authors, and anyone we respect. ୧꒰*´꒳`*꒱૭✧

i. “First, pray.”

This is the basic. If writing is God’s will, He will take care of the rest. 

This was her husband’s advice given to her on the night the story of Hyōten came to her, Miura-sensei writes. He told her it was alright to write as long as she prayed and this has remained central to her writing. What I thought was really remarkable was how Miura-sensei calls her occupation as an author a “writing ministry”. To her, writing is an evangelical mission…which is easily seen in her works that features many challenging theological themes that have continued to intrigue and uplift Christians and non-Christians alike. Prayer is the foundation to build this writing ministry. 

ii. “When writing a novel, I start with what moved me the most.”

If it does not move you, it cannot move the readers. What makes the reader cry, I have cried more over. 

“Faith literature”, Miura-sensei says, “is to entrust your faith into the novel when writing. So it cannot be simply laying out the facts–you must embody faith through your stories and characters.” Again, I love how Miura-sensei uses the word “faith literature” when talking about her work. Something I’ve always struggled with in my writing is the degree of explicitness my faith should be–should I implicitly write it in? What does being explicitly Christian even mean? But through Miura-sensei’s book, I came to realise that the reason her books seem to knock the breath right out of me is that she writes grounded in the Bible. She writes about how the world is one of confusion, and when she comes across a beautiful Biblical concept, she wants to share them with people the way you might want to share tasty food with a loved one. To her, it comes out as faith literature. 

iii. “Next, I write ‘the world I know the most’.”

That is, to “write your problems”. 

As a teacher, Miura-sensei struggled with coming to terms with the abrupt change in the teaching style during and after WWII. This was actually foundational to her journey to faith, so many of her works feature teachers and the limits they have when they come across complicated family situations/moral dilemmas. She also battled many illnesses and spent a long time in hospitals and around doctors, which she attributes as being influential to “her world”. 

I think a lot of writers lose heart when they’re told to write “what they know”. But really, what that means is to write “what matters to you”. What matters to me will come to matter to people because chances are, we all struggle with similar problems. For Miura-sensei, she started with her problems and went deeper by researching/interviewing to see what else she could talk about. And this is what “writing the world I know most” looks like. 

iv. “Lastly, if you have started a story, you must finish it.”

Even if it’s a wonderful novel, if it is half-written, it cannot be published. 

This, Miura-sensei writes, is the most important thing when it comes to writing a novel. Miura-sensei also writes about the importance of keeping a journal. When keeping a journal, you must come to face yourself, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. To continue this process, she writes, is what makes us grow as persons. 

I used to have no trouble finishing my wips and used to write stories as presents to friends and families. (Now, I think they were too nice to me, but that’s beside the point.) Some were long, some were short. But the point was that I finished them, so people could read them. 

Now, I have more trouble finishing the work I started. I have grand designs and themes and piles after piles of words, but they’re unfinished–and hence, unreadable. Whenever I feel like I won’t see the end to my current wip, I can remember Miura-sensei’s words… “Even if it’s rough, if it’s written, it’s a novel.” 

And with that in mind, let us keep writing. ( ᐢ˙꒳​˙ᐢ )

Thank you for reading! Have you heard of Ayako Miura? Do you have an author you respect from the bottom of your heart? What are some of the advice from Miura-sensei that spoke to you? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

 On Finishing A WIP For The Longest Time, Ever.

Hullo, world!

I am finally back and logged into the blogosphere after a month+ hitout. I was actually hoping to come back on the last week of May for the afternoon tea post but ended up not being able to…(I know, I still have not found the right work-balance thing now that I have work on Saturdays.) If you remember me from May, I decided on a hitout to finish a WIP…given I haven’t finished one in like, two or three years. So, the big question is, did I finish my WIP?? *the suspense builds*

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YES!! 

I did finish my WIP, and I today, I want to talk more about it…

>> Read more about Osthauptstadt here

My Thoughts?

Some things I thought after finishing:

  1. It was easier than I thought??

Obviously, I had to be intentional about the time I make to write, where I was going, and maintain my inspiration throughout the little time I had to write. I also wrote in a cafe for one of the writing sessions, which was fun! I also fully inducted Notion into my writing life, and it has been a lifesaver. I used Rebecca’s Notion templates for setting up my WIPs. I am head over heels in love with Notion and don’t know how I functioned without it…I know, I really should try to get out of this plannerholic cycle, but plans and journals and notions spark so much joy inside me!!

  1. Didn’t feel like a great accomplishment…

This is kind of my honest reflection. Although I know I should be happy that I did, indeed, finish a WIP for the longest time, ever, somehow I don’t feel like I’ve done something great. Rather, it feels like something I should have done earlier and I finally got down to it…

  1. Trying to rush into another shiny new idea ™

Yes, you heard that right. As soon as I finished Osthauptstadt draft 0.5, I was already thinking of a new WIP to work on. I have a stack of WIPs I want to work on this year, some half-baked, some more-than-half-baked than the others, but I desperately wanted to not lose my writing steam. If you follow my email list, I started the month with a rather bold claim, “I will continue working and finish one more WIP by the end of June!”

Which, by the way, is totally not happening. *hides in a corner* 。°(´∩ω∩`)°。

  1. Feeling burnt out

I started out the month hopeful and thinking I could finish another WIP. After all, I just finished one. How hard could finishing another one be??

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Well. Any author/writer on the block can probably tell you about it. Also, for some strange reason, this week has been a tough one for me. Versus the first week of this month where I was like, “I can do anything”, this week was just…not that great. And, when things are like that, it’s usually a sign I should slow down…( ´•̥ו̥` )

  1. What is wrong with me???

Although this is kind of what I’m thinking right now. I finished a major WIP, I’ve been enjoying my new job, and I’ve been doing some of the bucket list things to do during summer. Technically, things are going well…

Now What?

Then, I realised: I’ve actually written a blog post on what to do in this kind of situation!

>> AH: 5 Steps to Recharge After A Major WIP

(And if you’re in similar shoes as mine, do take a moment to read through it; it’s quite useful, I promise.)

Now that I’ve poured myself another cup of tea and taken a breath, here are some things I’m planning to do:

  • Will take it slow, definitely.

So, obviously, I won’t be breaking my back trying to finish another WIP. 

  • Will follow my advice…

I’ll be reading some books I love and take this month to fill up my well of inspiration!

  • Probably follow the intense writing month -> rest month -> intense writing month routine from now on…

Earlier in the year, I was planning to have a WIP focus each month and slowly work through them. Yet, now I realise I need a more relaxed writing schedule to balance writing and life. ꒰◍ᐡᐤᐡ◍꒱

  • Take it slow (take 2)

I probably sound like a broken record by now, but really, take it slow! 

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And that’s it for today. 

Thank you for reading this post! How is your June going so far? What are some of your WIPs? Do you have a way of taking a break after you finish a WIP? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

May Hitouts Notice

Hullo, everyone!

I’m here to put up a notice that I’ll be on a short hitout during May–and here are the reasons.

i. In which I get a new job

Yes, that’s right! I’m now happily working at a tutoring centre that offers anything from phonics to college prep (like the SATs and the ACTs). I love this job because I love studying and helping others find joy in it, but it’s a lot of work–and not to mention I have classes on Saturdays. So, until I get used to the routine and finish my training, I don’t think it’s realistic for me to be posting on Saturdays. And as you might know, Saturdays are special days for me–so I would like to continue blogging on that day. Hopefully, I’ll be back by the end of this month to tell you all about May in my Afternoon Tea post.

ii. In which I try to write. To the end.

Another thing I’m attempting this month is to finish my 0.5 draft of Osthauptstadt. I’ve been working on and off on this WIP, and I think if I push through, I might be able to finish this draft…

Which is kind of a big deal.

Okay, every WIP that has a tentative “The End” is a big deal, but this one especially–it was the WIP I started during the pandemic which sort of grew with me throughout that time. Also, I haven’t been able to see a WIP to the end in about three years. ( ; ›ω‹ )

So, (again), hopefully, I will be able to keep plugging away at my draft till I reach the end.

iii. In which I try to re-focus my total brand identity.

Recently, I found Notion, the dream online journal/planner/organizer thing I totally didn’t know I needed. While sorting out my tasks on there (like work, school, &c.), I realised it’s been a long due to taking a review on what I do here on the blog as SJ Barnard–and elsewhere.

I love blogging, and as it’s something that sparks joy inside me, I will continue doing it. But I think I need to reassess where I’m at and also have more cohesiveness on places like IG (which I disappear off from on a regular basis).

But overall, thank you for being an SJ reader & being patient with me as I figure things out! I will see you at the end of May. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝♡︎