Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

January, 2019

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I’ve spent most of this month indoors. Most people do. Whether it’s in an office or in the confines of a house, we are usually bound by four walls. I go running from time to time. I borrowed Karl Ove Knausgaard’s fifth novel in his tetralogy Min Kamp from Hastings library and ploughed through its 660 pages. He’s a Norwegian writer and writes about his life in fictive form but with the honesty and detail of autobiography. It’s been termed auto-fiction.

In this fifth book Some Rain Must Fall he writes about his time as a student living in Bergen attending a writing course, his low opinion of himself, his attempts at being a fiction writer set against the successes of two friends, who are younger and more precocious than him, and about his relationship with his older brother, his family, and his romances with women. Two things stand out from the book: despite being a good-looking, almost two-metres tall Norwegian writer with ambition, his extremely low self esteem, and the clarity and rhythm of his sentences that are so reflective of whatever he is writing about.

He is a writer who is attuned to nature. He doesn’t write the names of trees; he just refers to trees as “trees”, rather than as pines or oaks or whatever, and he uses descriptions of nature and weather very well.

When I go running it’s usually on country roads, or through a local wood, and on muddy fields. It’s cold in January, of course, and I’ve noticed that my mood is usually low and depressed this time of year, especially the initial couple of weeks. It always passes. Emotions are just like weather; they move and pass through.

I’ve spent January working on a piece of nonfiction for a writing competition and on short stories. I like writing literature and I hope at some point I can do it fulltime. It will take time.

For my freelance journalism “career” I’ve sent out 12 pitches to editors. I’ve received one commission, one expression of interest, two rejections, and the rest of the pitches I received no reply despite my follow-ups. As you can see that’s not a good hit rate. The trick is not to be disheartened, to persevere, and to make sure future pitches are better.

I’ve continued working for a marketing company as an editor, copywriter, and consultant. I enjoy it and I wouldn’t mind doing more of it. Having diverse income streams is a good idea for a freelancer.

For this year I would like to branch out more beyond journalism. I have some ideas and I want to test them. The road ahead is not very clear to me. But I will let you know how they turn out.

Lately, I read an interesting article. It’s headlined The Equation That Will Make You Better at Everything [link]. The equation is simple and it reminded me of something that I should apply to the things I do. That is get out of my comfort zone. If I find myself cruising, stuck on autopilot, and going through the motions, I should find work that challenges me. If you’re a freelance journalist, that means getting a commission that will make you feel slightly uncomfortable, slightly scared, and under pressure, because you know the task will demand more of you than going through the motions.

Feeling uncomfortable is the only way to grow.

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Written by Lu-Hai Liang

January 27, 2019 at 11:24 pm

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