I get asked this a lot when the topic of Tea in Pajamas comes up. Why am I doing this whole author thing?
And there are a number of reasons I can share, although it might be helpful if I started with what I am not doing this for:
1. To be famous.
2. To make a ton of money.
3. To prove something.
4. To tell my life story.
To save time, my short answer is: I have a story to tell and I decided to put it into words. Having said that, I should also stress that although the idea of this book grew quite organically through personal life experiences, it isn’t a memoir, and least of all mine.
Do I love writing? Yes, undoubtedly. But have I always wanted to be a writer? Yes and no.
Upon graduation, after a shortlived stint in public relations, I worked for a time at a magazine publisher, writing features across a number of publications on topics ranging from food and wine, to fashion and lifestyle, to health and parenting. And while it was rewarding and exciting, coming out of that experience, I realized two things about writing: 1) loving writing didn’t mean I would love writing about anything and everything; 2) getting published on a variety of topics didn’t hold much meaning if I didn’t believe in what I’d written about or had no personal connection with the subject matter. Writing on an extensive scale at an intensive pace did enable me to build a large and diverse portfolio in a relatively short period, but the truth is, I felt like the furthest thing from an accomplished writer—rather, an automated text generator comes to mind. Burned out and somewhat disillusioned, I decided back then that if this was what being a writer entailed, I wanted none of it. And so I made a career switch, carving my niche instead as an editor in academic publishing, where I have remained till the present day.
I’m not certain when exactly the writing bug bit again, but almost 3 years ago, when I was adjusting to some changes in my personal life, things “flowed” quite naturally from there. The Chinese term for “crisis” comprises two words: the first describing “danger” and the next, “an opportunity”. During this challenging time, I was thrust out of my comfort zone and into a new way of going about things. In the process of finding my feet again, and with any earlier defenses broken down, it was a chance for me to view things in a manner that I hadn’t previously been able to. It took some degree of fumbling about in the dark before I identified a long-held desire to write not for the sake of writing, but because I have a story to tell and I may actually be good at it.
Now going back to the points mentioned at the top of this post, re. what this is not about.
I have no aspirations of being a rich and famous best-selling author. In all likelihood, I probably couldn’t fashion myself as the next JK Rowling or Donna Tartt even if I tried my darndest. It would be nice if people like my book and buy it, and as a result I eventually make enough money not to have to work full-time, but unless (or until) that happens, I’m perfectly content to keep my day job. Basically, I’m not hoping to write as a way to supplement the family income. Also, I don’t desire fame, nor am I doing this so I’d have something to “show” for myself—if anything were to be “proved” at all, it’s that I’m an introvert. Posting random selfies on my personal Facebook account is about as far as I have ever gone (or will comfortably go) in terms of self-promotion. I am an atrocious public speaker, I’m extremely self-conscious in front of strangers, and I couldn’t play a piano piece without mistakes if I knew someone were watching. Lastly, if I really wanted to write a memoir, I’d use my real name (Rachel Tey isn’t quite it). In the book, the closest references to my own lived experiences have been presented allegorically, and though I don’t deny that they helped make writing the story a little easier, they aren’t the story, per se.
Speaking of the story, where are we now with Tea in Pajamas? I’ve finished the bulk of my edits and we’re nearing a final proof, but there’ve been some delays with the character sketches (my illustrator is a busy man). It’s also been a very hectic period at work and the kids have been using up a lot of my energy. Still, I have my little ways to keep things moving. We’re getting there, we are.
In the meantime, if you enjoyed this post, do sign up for my newsletter to receive the very latest in book progress updates. I have a few ideas I’m experimenting with and I hope to share them here very soon.