When should a writer consider publishing a book?

by Nurin Ismail, Republic Polytechnic

Speakers Gwee Li Sui (second from left), Cyril Wong, Patricia Karanungan, Tse Hao Guang share their journey of becoming a writer at the All In! Young Writers Festival 2018. (PHOTO: Nurin Ismail)

The question of when to publish a book was discussed at a panel session at the 2018 All In! Young Writer’s Festival.

Ms Patricia Karanungan, a writer and editor with a special interest in diasporic writing, shared how numerous people have been telling her to get started on her own book. While they could be seen as a form of encouragement, she also felt pressure and stress. “If I’m not ready, it’s just not going to happen, and it’s not going to feel good if I force myself to just because someone says so,” said Ms Karanungan.

The four speakers at the panel session – Ms Karanungan, Mr Tse Hao Guang, Mr Cyril Wong and Dr Gwee Li Sui - on March 17 agreed that the creative process involved in writing should never feel forced or uncomfortable. They repeatedly emphasised that it should be enjoyable, even though that sounds difficult.

Mr Cyril Wong, a two-time winner of the Singapore Literature Prize, said he was inspired to start writing at a time when he was lonely, depressed and felt he could not fit in. He said: “Don’t be afraid of facing your first offense or your first mistake. I think sometimes the younger writers now should develop thicker skin and learn from these mistakes. Don’t get too emotional, it’s okay.”

Dr Gwee Li Sui recalled how a writing career was frown upon in the 90s as some viewed being a poet or a writer had no “economical prospect”. However, the field today is much more crowded than what it used to be. A writer is now recognised for his work but it may also mean that one needs to find his niche in order to stand out.

Ms Karanungan offered this tip when she said: “One way to distinguish yourself is through your lived experience because nobody else’s experience is like yours. Nobody else is going to have your point of view.”

While there publishing a book is no easy feat, the speakers agree that this is definitely a rewarding process which allows you to learn more about who you are. “If you want to be an artist, that’s about finding out who you are, expressing yourself and that is way more profound, intangible, way more uncertain,” said Mr Wong.  

This news story is written by Nurin Ismail, a Republic Polytechnic Diploma in Mass Communication student.