Writing – a step out of comfort zone

  • Education
  • Sunday, 26 Nov 2017

Tian Zi embarked on her BRATs journey with a genuine interest in writing.

TWO years ago, a post on my Facebook timeline caught my eye. This did not happen often; it was as if fate directed me to click on it.

The Star was recruiting teen writers for its Starstruck! Young Journalist Programme.

At the time, my command of the English language was equivalent to a cat’s ability to bark, but I had nothing to lose, so I applied for it.

Two weeks later, I found out that I got through the first stage. After the subsequent two nail-biting stages, I won a spot in the programme, along with many other bright young writers eager to prove themselves.

This year, I became a BRATs young journalist. (Starstruck! has since been merged with BRATs.)

Apart from accumulating lots of article drafts on my desktop, I have earned a number of fulfilling experiences.

I did not embark on my BRATs journey with the ultimate intention of scoring the prestigious internship at the end of the year.

I pursued this journey with a genuine interest in writing.

Every fortnight or so, I was faced with a challenge to produce the most newsworthy article based on a given topic.

In the beginning, I often opted for easier article angles, like listicles. I had the comfort of just doing research and compiling information into a list.

However, as time went by, I urged myself to try something else, like interview pieces.

Now, interviews aren’t that difficult for me, even though it means that I have to interact with people.

I’m not the most sociable person around, but journalism makes me step out of my comfort zone.

Conducting my first interview was nerve-wracking, but I got through that block of anxiety.

Despite how rarely my interview articles were chosen to be published, I still tried my best each time I wrote an interview piece.

No pain, no gain, as the saying goes. Throwing myself into that pit of stress taught me a lot, like what to do and more importantly, what NOT to do.

If I didn’t force myself to write such articles, I would’ve never gotten the chance to interview national divers Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong. It was an interview over email, but it was just as cool.

Time management was also a muscle I got to train on this programme. As a procrastinator, I had a difficult time with this. I was once so caught up with school that I didn’t send in my article till a week after its due date.

I felt extremely guilty. To prevent the growing feeling of guilt from overwhelming me, I just knew I had to manage my time well.

It’s easier said than done. Occasionally, I would write my piece at the very last minute. It’s stressful, so I don’t recommend it.

Working with other aspiring journalists was a great pleasure, as well. There was a sense of friendly competition. Who among us would have their articles published? Who comes up with better ideas?

These questions drove me to write the best I could.

Words cannot describe the amazing time I’ve had in this programme.

I wouldn’t change a single thing, not even those embarrassing interviews or even the late nights.

If fate didn’t draw me towards that gleaming post on Facebook, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to grow as a writer and a young journalist.


Star-NiE is looking for teenagers (aged between 14 and 19 in 2018) to be part of our 2018 BRATs Young Journalist Programme.

Throughout the year-long programme, participants will experience life as a journalist, contributing ideas, conducting interviews, and completing writing assignments.

Active participants will earn a certificate of participation at the end of the year. Top performers will win a coveted internship spot with The Star at the end of the programme.

To apply, send a 500-word self-description that screams “Pick Me!” to brats@thestar.com.my before Nov 30 with a snazzy photograph that best reflects your life. Title your e-mail “I’m a BRATs Young Journalist!”.

Articles written by BRATs participants are published in The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (NiE) pullout on Wednesdays. It is available only through school subscriptions. For more information on Star-NiE’s BRATs programme, go to facebook.com/niebrats.

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