Monthly Project Updates are a series I began when starting my blog. It’s mostly a way for me to hold myself accountable for finishing the many things I start, but I hope it also makes for an entertaining or thought-provoking read! My ultimate goal would be to have a group of bloggers share comments or link to posts about their own monthly progress and successes–the more the merrier!
Welcome to the first Singapore edition of my Monthly Project Updates! I outlined some of my planned projects in my last monthly post, and I’m happy to say that I’ve made progress on all fronts! Although… we all know that progress is a relative thing. I’ll be pushing myself much harder this month, but here’s where I am now:
Enjoying Singapore on a Budget
Living abroad can be expensive, especially in a high-cost area like Singapore. Since M and I want to make the most of our time abroad, we’re allowing ourselves to make splurges on sight-seeing activities while trying to cut costs in daily life. Here are some strategies to save S$ (Singapore Dollars) that have worked for us so far:
- Shop at Daiso—while our short-term rental came fully furnished, there were still several necessities that we needed to buy ourselves. I was thrilled to find that Daiso, Japan’s equivalent to the $1 store, is common in Singapore! I was able to get necessities like dishes, hangers, cookware, and storage containers at the incredibly low price of S$2—and all in one place.
- Eat at hawker stalls—groceries are expensive in Singapore, but you can get a full meal (rice, meat and veggies) from a hawker stall for less than S$4! The food is delicious, and you’ll have a wide variety of cuisines to choose from—Indian, Chinese, Singaporean, Japanese, Indonesian… the list goes on! M and I have been enjoying eating at various hawker centers in our neighborhood and trying local favorites like fish soup and popiah.
- Avoid alcohol—as much as I love having the occasional glass of wine or beer with dinner, the price of alcohol in Singapore makes it unsustainable! The cheapest way to buy alcohol is from a grocery store, and even there a single can of beer is S$3-4, and it’s rare to find a bottle of wine for less then S$30.
Little things add up fast, so the best way to watch the bottom line is to watch your habits!
I’ve been working on writing my first novel for a few months now, but since moving to Singapore it has been my main focus. The process, even in the beginning stages, has been humbling and has given me a tremendous amount of respect for every writer who has ever managed to produce a completed manuscript! I started writing with a core idea and a vague sense of where the story would lead, and quickly realized that I needed to do a lot more work planning out my plot and developing my characters. Two articles in particular have helped me through this phase: this article about the “snowflake method” of fleshing out the plot of a novel, and this one about how to write an engaging plot with just the right amount of complexity. Planning out the novel has been fun at times—and daunting, frustrating, or grueling at others—but I’m beginning to piece together a work of fiction!
I have generally low expectation for this particular “novel” (if you can even call it that at this stage!). I don’t expect it to win any awards or even get published, but I’m hoping to have fun with it and learn a lot from doing the hard work of taking an idea and turning it into a full-fledged manuscript. And who knows? Maybe novel number 2 will be a hit!
To me, living creatively means not just making time for creating art in your life, but making sure the rest of your life is fulfilling. Even as I’m taking advantage of this break in my career to write my novel, I’m looking ahead to try to find a career that will be a good fit for my personality and values—and also leave me time to continue writing.
My first step toward this has been signing up for a class through Coursera.org. Coursera allows users to take university classes online. Users have the option of completing the coursework for free, or paying a fee to have their work formally assessed and receive a certificate for the coursework they have completed. Since I’m still exploring career options, I’ve decided that the free option suits my needs best. I’m enjoying my class so far, and I’m grateful to have an opportunity to expand my knowledge.
What are you working on this month? Anyone participating in NaNoWriMo, or other writing endeavors? I’d love to hear tips and strategies for novel writing!