sleeping with a notebook 

no, about to fall asleep – you, not the notebook – with a pen in hand
exhausted but kept awake by the flashing light in your head
that keeps you scribbling pages and pages
you notice this happens a lot on planes, or when you can’t do the other work that you’ve been in the belly of for the past two, three months or longer, usually
in times like this, after a drought comes
a hurricane of near illegible characters
as when you’re half awake and trying to pour your recent dreams into reality
unfortunately illegible doesn’t translate well
doesn’t help that you usually write with your eyes closed
now you really can’t sleep

Re-Intro, evolution, and sources of inspiration

With every re-launch comes the faux-obligatory intro: it’s a new direction, a different person, and a renewed hope in holding out. Here’s my piece, complete with the About Page add-ons. Do leave a message, I’d love to get to know you!

Maths + Music + me = ❤

I’m Jessica, a writer and Maths-turned Economics student at the University of Cambridge. Fresh off my first job and the realisations that go with it, I restarted this blog as ‘Into Work and the Word’ to commit to writing, to confront my fear of failure, and to convince myself that blogging isn’t that scary. (Is it?)

I hope to write about my experience as young Christian finding my way in the world: through studying in college, grappling with vocation / calling (work), navigating through first jobs from internships to freelancing to entrepreneurship, and scrambling to deal with whatever comes up in my daily walk with God. There will also be much poetry. 🙂

‘Into Work and the Word’ thus refers to going into work while immersing oneself in the Word of God (and working at the craft of writing, if you like). I do not intend this blog to be exclusively for a Christian audience, and hope that you will enjoy reading these posts regardless of your faith.


Even more about this blog: This blog (b. 2009) has gone through many phases of being put down and picked up again. It started as a general outlet, became a sparsely curated poetry blog, and then tried to be a thought outlet but failed several times because I couldn’t be sure it was a non-obnoxious thing to do. And I really didn’t want to be seen as obnoxious. The turning point to blog my thoughts (Week of 7 June, 2015) came when our pastor highlighted Psalm 40 (quoted is verse 3):

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.

With this I realised that we are all given a voice, and we should use it to do what is good – i.e. to glorify God. In writing my voice is at its most sincere, and since I’ve been writing a lot anyway, I thought it would be good to blog as well. With that, I pray that you will be blessed by these posts.

‘A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.’ – James Keller

A few sources of inspiration:

The Bible: God’s Word, the truth, beautiful beyond measure. Speaks for itself.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

Seth’s Blog & Medium – drew me back to blogging after a long hiatus. They inspired me to learn to write engaging posts to make people think and maybe even make their day.

Annoying Precision – Qiaochu Yuan’s notes on blogging as a way to learn first prompted me to record my learning experiences in Evernote, and I hope to bring some notes that may benefit from discussion here in future.

Gowers’s Weblog – showed me how one mathematician thinks, written with beautiful clarity.

There are many people I could mention here, but I don’t have their permission so I’d rather not.

6. I looked out to the quiet night

I looked out to the quiet night

and thought I saw the One

But Nature did turn on the light

and lo! my love was gone.

The same way does the tick of Time

unveil the ugly Truth

Yet Love prevails above all odds

That is, if it is pure.

A poem from 2012. ‘This one was inspired by an entry in ‘Emotions’ from the book ‘Why the Toast Always Lands Butter Side Down – the Science of Murphy’s Law’ by Richard Robinson. This book tries to provide a rational explanation of the more trivial – or not so trivial – things in life.’

A Wild Character Appears!

I went for a short walk at noon, mind filled with advice from famed writers, most notably Ernest Hemingway:

‘As a writer you should not judge. You should understand. … You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice.’

The elevator stopped on the 17th floor, where a cauliflower-haired woman was waiting. She looked at the floor indicator by the ceiling, peered inside the lift, and made a few hand gestures before squirrelling in and inspecting the floor buttons. ‘Yes, that’s right…yes…pineapple,’ she said, and returned to tapping compulsively on her phone. The lift went down a few more floors. She continued her tapping, almost rhythmic but not quite, right index finger pressing into the screen. She sighed, paused, and turned to look at me. I was already looking at her, and she quickly turned back to her phone before checking which floor we were at. Nope, she couldn’t get out just yet. She shook her head and sighed again.

Then there was a man with droopy eyelids in an oversized white T-shirt, plodding across the plaza, head down, with uneven gait.

Then there was the boy at the supermarket- perhaps 5 or 6 – tenderly grasping a turtle soft toy by its neck as he waited in line with his sunglass-touting mother.

And then there was the amateur scrabbling for her notebook, awestruck at the wealth of characters around her that she had neglected for so many years. Such is the ignorance of youth.

4. Restlessness

It begins with a trill of the mind, of the finger,

Getting up, sitting down, getting up, walking out

Walking back, sitting down, getting up, trilling continues

Sitting down, shrill fast-forward, getting up, finger taps

On the keyboard, on the table, on the forehead, on the keyboard,

Forming a rhythm that I can’t get out out out of

Like a chipmunk going slower, bashing its head on an acorn

Quick succession of short blips, flips, trips, jitters –

I guess it’s what people call coffee.

Disclaimer: it’s not actually coffee.

I’ll revise this later

Even though I’ve been continuously bleeding thoughts into Evernote and my crinkly unlined journal, I’ve not shown anyone any of my writing. That means it’s often sloppy, and I don’t revise my work. Any thoughts of revision involve revising it later, which has not yet happened for any of my 1000+ digital diary entries, let alone the ones on paper. I’ve been editing this entry for almost an hour. The one piece I did publish (my testimony, which was only posted on Facebook and included in a booklet to a small group of friends) I revised every day for two weeks. It would’ve been longer, but that was all the time I was given. When formally writing for CoCoon HK and when writing marketing copy, I spend hours anxiously revising emails and interviews like a mad squirrel. Help!

My point? Revision is great, but it takes some getting used to. I bought a copy of ‘The Elements of Style’ for a friend this week, and took the opportunity to re-read a few pages. The differences between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ examples were shocking, and gives a taste of what careful revision can do.

Try to read Orwell’s deliberately drained translation of Ecclesiastes 9:11:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels this conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account.

Compare that to the original (King James Version):

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.

(No words can describe this.) You don’t even have to add specificity or vividness to improve a message. By changing a few words,

Applicants can make a good impression by being neat and punctual.

is transformed into

Applicants will make a good impression if they are neat and punctual.

How beautiful is the gift of clear, living language! Here’s to writing and revising better every day.