Johna: What’s Next

Notes on (another) move, writing, and moving forward

While Stef and I published the last pieces for our project, I was once again moving house, this time to another continent, 15 hours behind in timezone. 

Vancouver, until recently, was never on my residential radar. Marriage changes many things however, not least of which are best laid plans made as a single woman – although that’s another story entirely, one I’ll delve into another time. 

For the time being, we are here. Since the move, I have continued to contribute to Home Journal, a design and lifestyle magazine based in Hong Kong where I write a lot about home interiors. It’s a fun gig, albeit a world away from the creative writing I used to do. It’s where you’ll find me most recently apart from Instagram. (@johnabaylon, for the curious. Look out for the slider posts, many of which I might have tagged a lengthy caption onto.)

There’s also photography, a small flame I’ve managed to kindle on and off for the past two years. There are days the medium helps me with writing, and then there are days I feel compelled to focus solely on communicating visually. There’s not much to say about this yet, apart from that I’ve been learning its language, and figuring out whether, with it, I have anything to say. 

Speaking of Instagram: Apart from said captions, it’s been a while since I’ve published anything creatively. I say ‘published,’ because I have been writing quite a bit; I just haven’t been as confident, as I used to be, to publish them. 

There are many reasons for this, one of which is the Internet looking vastly different today from the days of LiveJournal and Xanga (and Out On Seventh Street, which grew around the time I migrated back to Hong Kong). My work in media makes this trickier: as soon as somebody’s received your CV, it’s likely they’d have done a quick Google search on you, as well, and it’s  impossible to more weightfully consider one’s professional output from their creative (read: personal; full-of-heart; did I mention personal?) one.

There’s also the part where I’m a bit older, and it seems like the older one gets, the more aware one becomes of what they do not know. One of my favourite writers, Fabs Harford, puts the sentiment best in this post, I think. Here’s the line that pulls at me strongest: 

“I’m not sure how all this ties together except to say – if there is any gift time and maturity gives us it’s the humble awareness of how very wrong we can be. How confidently and faithfully we can speak or participate in the very thing that we will one day devote our lives to demolishing. 

And knowing that makes it hard to share words.  Especially the written kind.”

I don’t think my convictions are fewer, or that my mind’s less made up about things, but I have changed my mind plenty, and things continue to change. I also think it takes me more time and energy, these days, to consider things carefully and to formulate an opinion, and then to try and articulate that fairly on a fairly saturated platform (the Internet).

It’s also taking a lot more effort and intentionality to pause and truly reflect without winding up in a mild panic attack over not being ‘productive’ in the hustle-culture sense. 

Another way of saying this is that I think, after many years of writing – and writing different things, different ways – I’m trying to find a semblance of my voice, again. Or to grow into it. And the idea of constantly churning out content for the web (read: publish) feels like pressure that gets in the way of that process. (That I do this for my day job is sufficient for the time being, as I settle into a new city; settle into marriage; and begin, again, this process of beginning again.)

All of this to say that I am working at this writing thing – trying to get to a place where I am ready, again, to share what I’ve thought through and written. I don’t know yet where that will bring me with Turns of Place, but in writing this, I sense that things will become clearer sooner rather than later. 

When the dust settles long enough for things to come into focus, I’ll return here, and let you know.

- Johna

Stef: What’s Next

Notes on upcoming work, where to find me, and how excited I am for what’s to come!

Turns of Place was a project that enabled me to learn so much more about my creative process. It taught me to face subject matter I’ve always felt hesitant to address, and to give this new genre a try so I’m not writing within a comfortable bubble. It shook the ground so I’ve nowhere to go but forward, and so I’m excited to share what’s next for me, and what to look out for in 2019.

I’m currently working on a poetry collection, Poems in a Moleskine, which will (re)introduce work that have spanned 8-9 years of writing. Its final form is still a surprise I’ve yet to find out, but the collection itself will feature poems that once began as musings on a notebook, gifts to friends, and pieces in local magazines and literary sites.

Juggling creative writing and a full-time job, however, is never easy, and I had to eventually forgive myself and adjust so as to dedicate myself to the craft, regardless of my circumstances.

Turns of Place took four long years to finish; this poetry collection took even longer to see the light of day. But I’ve made it my goal to self-publish Poems in a Moleskine by the end of July 2019—maybe even earlier if the work gets done ahead of schedule. There are many other projects in the works—perhaps even a sequel for Turns of Place 🤞but this collection I’m ready to share with the world.

You can follow me over at Diwa Daily, where I publish writer updates among many other things that interest me. Just enter your email address and press “Subscribe” to get my latest blog posts in your email.

New work will also be published in the following places

Finally, feel free to write to me at stef [at] gnzga [dot] com if you’d like to say hello or have any feedback and suggestions about the Turns of Place project. Creative work will always go beyond the last chapter, letter, or poem, so I’m always open and excited to sit down and have a discussion with anyone interested in what we do.

Thank you so much, and I’ll see you again soon!


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