#AtoZChallenge: M is for Me, Myself and I



Even in this space age, there is still much to be discovered on Earth, about Earth. Similarly, as we continue to explore the world around us, we remain our own best friend and fiercest enemy – a big puzzle that takes eternity to figure out.

I realised this in recent years, as I grew older and sometimes paused to reflect on my accomplishments and yet-to-be-achieved goals. It is what we do that defines us, yes, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones with an adequate self-identity. While perceptions by others matter, it is vitally important that we are able to live with ourselves.

The nature of auto/biography is ambiguous – our choice of what to announce and conceal reveals much about us and our view of this world. As I put my 2015 InCoWriMo letters together as a book, for example, much becomes clear – my writing patterns, the words I embrace and shy from, things I am passionate about, secret longings and guilt, distant memories and regrets, etc. Indeed, my letters to strangers and a few acquaintances serve as a mirror, from which I get to see my true character as a writer.

InCoWriMo stands for International Correspondence Writing Month, which challenges you to write a letter, note, card or postcard BY HAND every day throughout February. Interestingly, the biggest surprise I found about myself through this challenge is how much I canNOT write by hand, and it is not just because my handwriting is terrible.

Indeed, I have been writing with computers for more than 20 years. Transforming my thoughts and feelings into words on screen has become such a natural and automatic act that I have to make an effort to re-learn how to write on paper. It involves a thorough restructuring of my thinking process, to put emphasis on ideas themselves instead of the many ways to express them. A good example is the lack of opportunities to correct mistakes on paper. When I am unable to re-spell, re-phrase and re-adjust my words any time I like, it becomes difficult to think lineally and fluently. Sounds bizarre? I know.

Another surprise is how much my writing is influenced by fonts and formats. It is like cooking – when I concentrate on presentation, the actual act of producing a dish is taken to the back burner and occasionally forgotten until it becomes a burned mess. It may be described as a “publishing mentality” – writing for other people, not ourselves. Now, writing by hand removes such distraction and forces me to focus on the actual words. Let me tell you: Their appearance, signification and effect can be so considerably different that they are difficult to reconcile.

With that said, writing by hand propels me to be honest with myself – what I see is what I get. The result is a sincere book, a true record of a writer’s progress in the shortest month of the year. I am afraid it is full of “me, myself and I”, but that is the nature and significance of auto/biographical writing. Luckily the topics often drift away from the protagonist to include issues of life, love, literature and letter writing, which are truly worth a read. Even I like them.

On Life, Love, Literature and Letter Writing: My InCoWriMo 2015 is now available as a print book.



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