Thoughts about NaNoWriMo

“I realised that with everything that was going on in my life in November, daily writing would be more of a stress than a stress-reliever. So I slowed down a bit.”

nanowrimo

November officially ended 3 days ago. With it, thousands of new stories have seen the light of day, millions of characters have been born and sheaths of paper and Word documents have darkened with writing. I am sure that over these 30 days, many a writer and individual has found themselves or undergone change that will stay with them for a lifetime.

But I am not one of those people.

My attempts at NaNoWriMo this time around have been just that, mostly : attempts. At first, when I realised around Day 7 that I would not make it, I felt a little bit like I’d failed. That I was giving up, going the easy way. But for all of the motivation that NaNoWriMo gives you, there’s also a pressure to keep writing everyday or continuously, at the very least. And it has to be good too, you know? If, like me, your version of NaNoWriMo consists of blogging everyday, there’s a bit of an added pressure of posting a daily entry. And then you just start sortof manufacturing at some point. You make up stories that are not rooted in anything or write things you think you’re supposed to write.

Don’t get me wrong, though—NaNoWriMo has taught me a lot about my limits.

It’s taught me that sometimes I say I’m too tired to type up a blog post or to write when I’m really not. It’s taught me to go beyond lack of inspiration and view even creative writing in a more practical way. I need to truly make time for writing, I have learned, and not just write when I feel like it or have been randomly inspired. If I wait for inspiration to hit me, then I feel I will never write the things that I really want to write. I will write about things I will happen upon, but never about the thoughts that are hidden so deep in my psyche I cannot even find them. I need to keep digging, to be less whimsical about the act of writing. Because there’s so much more out of me and it would be a shame if I did not squeeze myself a little to get these stories out.

I just wanted to write this as a reminder to myself and hopefully as reassurance to other writers that you don’t have to complete NaNoWriMo if the pace doesn’t suit you. If it makes you stray from your writing goals or makes you feel a sort of obligation that takes every and all pleasure out of writing. At the end of the day— and that’s just my 2 cents— you should feel some kind of positive feeling about your writing, and not dread the prospect of having to do it again tomorrow.

Thankfully, I never did reach that stage. I realised that with everything that was going on in my life in November, daily writing would be more of a stress-inducer than a stress-reliever. So I slowed down a bit. Now that I am a little less busy, I have an idea to make up for the number of posts ‘lacking’ from NaNoWriMo in December. I should be able to do this much, I think.

Thank you to everyone who stuck around for my attempts at NaNoWriMo though, however inconsistent and whimsical the posting was. I appreciate you and the time you spend on this blog 🙂


 

Blue-hued and blurry

eq
Art by : Elliana Esquivel

I’ve got the blues, got the blues, got the blues.

No matter how many times I say it,no matter how many times I try to expel these blue feelings with my breath, they simply won’t be forced out, and I am left blue-hued and blurry. It is as though my body has gone up in fumes, like I was walking down the street and a stray witch’s spell hit me right in the chest, turning me into blue smoke.

And what’s left to do when you’re smoke but to wander and disperse? To dissolve into particles in the thin night air—to never be whole again. Endlessly scattered, like the foam of the sea when it crashes onto black volcanic rocks.

My mind is all sorts of foggy now, so I am staying in and waiting for clearer skies.

Taking a new step forward

wpachievement

Without me looking, 2 years have passed in a blur of weeks and posts that were never quite ready to be published on time. I never imagined I would keep something up for 2 years, or that I would be any good at it. But it has brought me so much, from the things I’ve been able to write to the people I have met here. At the very least, blogging has made me believe in my own abilities a little more.

I’ve said it time and again, that I’m not really a “good” writer. I’ve got so much yet to learn. But I want to have a little more faith in what I do. I want to believe in the kind words people have gone out of their way to say to me. I want to honour the time spent, both yours and mine, on this blog. Soooo, I’m taking a step forward and actually participating in a writing competition. A sortof big deal kind of writing competition.

I’m not making it out to be a big deal, I’m not in it to win, I think I just want to say “I am here.”. But I will be giving it my best shot, too. It’ll be one of the first fictional stories I will be writing in a long while, but honestly, I just want to try. And see what happens or not. Win or lose, I will either gain a lot more than I bargained for or I will have the satisfaction of having no regrets.

Most of all, I cannot thank you enough for these 2 years. It’s been much more than I could have expected. I really hope it’s been worth the while for you.

With endless thanks,

Ilah.

Writers who do not read

” One last time, like a lover at the train station, I will bury my nose in the heart of the pages, deeply inhale the smell of books : ink and paper mixed with the smell of slow adventures and home.”

unknownart
Art by : Unknown

I am a bad writer because I do not read. Not enough anyway; not nearly enough.

I remember once during university, a girl from the same journalism course interviewed a writer, a model/photographer who was, by all means, not a bad person at all. He had this sort of effortless confidence about him, and was a quite decent photographer, too. He was popular and not unkind, from what I could tell. And so, as he was working towards getting a book published, he declared, with all the confidence of a well-loved model/photographer who would have a following no matter what, that he did not read.

“I’m lazy,” he said “but that’s not why I don’t read. There are people who find an escape in books, I want to create those escape routes.”

As I look back at my own experiences reading books, I have to say I can’t quite agree with that. I do not want to. You can imagine, in a lecture room full of journalism students (even those who specialised in the more technical aspects like filming, or video-editing) that this did not go down very well. Our professor was quite scandalised. If he’d had a pearl necklace, I can tell you he would have clutched it with one hand, briskly waving a pocket fan with the other, thoroughly vexed.

But I feel like if you want to create a refuge, you must know what it means to be in one, first. To crave it, to stumble and falter through life looking for that warm orange glow without really knowing that you are, and to finally find it, not even understanding how wonderful it is that you have. Even if it is temporary, even if the book ends. It is important to feel that for one moment, you have been found. Seen, for what you truly are.

That’s also why I want to read. So that I can plunge into books that feel like pieces of myself scattered in someone else’s brain. To be able to read sentences once, twice, ten times over, and still feel like I am being stabbed by the words, so shocking, so resonating with some kind of inner truth they are. Because I want to glide down heaps of pages in the blink of an eye, carried by the smooth writing, the intrinsic flow of ideas, the way they unravel and bloom and die.

Like I’ve done numerous (not yet countless) times before, I want to have long, silent conversations with books, with the stories they tell. I want to feel wounded as a figment of someone’s imagination is struck by the same fate as I. And afterwards, I will draw patterns on the cover, tracing over the embossed lettering with the very tips of my fingers. One last time, like a lover at the train station, I will bury my nose in the heart of the pages, deeply inhale the smell of books : ink and paper mixed with the smell of slow adventures and home. In the aftermath, I will stare at the ceiling, feeling oh-so-full and yet also cut short, and I will talk to long-dead authors in my head. “Your ideas elevate mine.” I will say.

I am not a pure original; I doubt anyone is. At times, I will find pieces of something interspersed in someone else’s words, and I will feel the strongest pull towards it— and I will decide that that part is “me”.

I have not come from myself, after all. I am a jagged piece of this universe and so I find myself in all the probable and improbable places it has to offer. I am scattered, constantly reinventing myself and being reinvented by the world(s) I find myself in.

A Day in The City

Some time back, I wrote a post called “Adventures in the City” about slow, deliberate walks in the city and finding adventures hidden in everyday sceneries. And I have been writing about “the City” for a while now, never calling it by name. But I took a few photos on that day (none very professional or even not-blurry, I’m afraid) and I thought it might be time for the City to be properly introduced. And since this blog is fast becoming a little piggy bank for my little moments of infinity, here it is :

The City, My City in all the delicate splendour of a mid-Saturday stroll, sounds of rustling leaves overlapping car honks and the shrill of bicycle bells cutting through.

City1

The sky so blue it hurts my eyes, a gradient of azure that makes me itch to dive in and not surface for a while as I look for stars and nebulae hidden at the other end of the cosmos.

City5
The bird’s beak is a nose, a mouth and a chin all at once. // An indifferent look is an endless farewell.

City2

Little discs of sunlight, from when light streams through the gaps and interstices of the foliage, swaying oh-so gently with the wind that rustles the foliage. I’ve taken a mind to calling them “Sunlight ricochets”, lately.

City 2

I could spend forever here, craning my neck back to gaze at this lushness, this oasis of filtered light and nature in the heart of a bustling city that, too often, is harsh and cutthroat on the edges. The trees are gentle giants, shielding weary humans from the outside world as they form a dome of sorts over the heads of visitors, leaving warm sun-stains all over the exposed skin of arms, necks, faces and legs. Their endless veins make me look at mine, make me wonder at how my body is so complex : elaborate circuits running under my skin, working day and night, endlessly.

Untitled design

Light. This is very bad photography, probably, what with taking in all that glaring white light. But I love this, all the same.

city4
Selfie (?)

WhatsApp Image 2018-08-16 at 21.04.33

The city, constructing itself. Constantly rebuilding, constantly changing face.

City6
The woman turn us into poets; the child turns us into philosophers. // The true poet is he whose brain is a lyre in between the hands of the cerebellum.

 

city8
Suffering only makes great those who already are. // Goodness civilises intelligence.

Ties

” I would rather be here than be alone.” (and what a statement that is, what a thing to feel when you yourself are so usually enmeshed in solitude, wrapped around it like a wedding band around a ring finger).

ceruleanwax2
Art by : ceruleanwax

Weeks of familial effusion, of knitting together days quietly (and not-so-quietly) spent occupying space together have passed. And with them the careless brushes, touches you do not need to think twice about, affection that needs no explanation. It has been weeks of others becoming extensions of myself, of feeling that : “I would rather be here than be alone.” (and what a statement that is, what a thing to feel when you yourself are so usually enmeshed in solitude, wrapped around it like a wedding band around a ring finger). Somewhere, the barriers of ‘you’ and ‘me’ and ‘them’ have melted a bit, like chocolate on a hot day and have left us with intersecting spaces called ‘us’.

This feeling, it is that of blood that is finally around its own, it is like an ocean that has found its own rhythm, like strangers that have found others like them. It is the reality of living in an inner circle only we know, of calendars marked by the days of our personal achievements and ridiculous little happenings in our lives (That time N. got engaged, and Aunt M. started her own business, that day when B., aged 3, demanded the softest of cakes, in french).

Family is warm, warm, warm, where the rest of life is sometimes cool and works in seasons. Family is just one person, sometimes. Or, in some cases, a whole fleet of people who don’t look like you or share the same gene pool. But family is not always easy. Family is also work. And a slew of other little or big issues.

But even this richness, this ambient, suffusing warmth can leave one feeling a bit hot, needing some air. Needing to be on one’s own.

And so now the 2 a.m. conversations in the semi-darkness of a living room have faded. The alternate reality of 3 a.m. teapots, pastries and chips have flown away in an aircraft, held in suspension in the skies waiting for a next time. Now that I have made my peace with the goodbyes that I have said, now that I can swallow the feeling of missing someone, can process the flashes of memories, I must tend to the gardens of thoughts inside my head. They have overflown and overgrown, have tumbled over the precipice, the mouth of the chalice. Now I must groom a garden angry at being left alone, at not being kept in shape and style.

Carefully, I must pluck thoughts and and go through each of them with the patience of one who has spent an eternity learning botany, and the quirks and ways of all flowers and plants. I must give them all attention and nourishment, sunlight and beautiful words. Feed them meaning and purpose and things worth living for.

I must find myself again, a little, in the seasons of life, in the way the leaf drifts, alone, from the (family) tree.


Note : Here, explained, the reason behind the sporadic posting lately. Thank you for your patience ❤

Listening to :

 

Luminescence

“It takes the attention away from the cloudiness that hides under my skin, the one that comes out in puffs of idealism and murmured poetry spoken into the skies, words that, like kites with broken strings, will not return.”

heikala
Art by : Heikala 

Unsolicited muscles burn to life, light up, bloom blotches of pain red like a traffic light or scattered roses across tender skin. This ache, soft yet clamorous, is grounding, more so than any whispered words, any gentle-willed reminder to breathe and feel. Where the world blurs outside of my vision, all foggy and confused about what it is and what it wants to be, where the mountains feel like cotton balls that could take off at any moment now, ready to be blown away by the softest breath or the easy course of a summer breeze, this redness is sharp, focused. It clamps down on my arms, dragging the muscles with any movement, serving as a reminder.

It takes the attention away from the cloudiness that hides under my skin, the one that comes out in puffs of idealism and murmured poetry spoken into the skies, words that, like kites with broken strings, will not return.

Some days, I am afraid that like an alien hiding behind human skin, I will be found to be— behind the perfectly obedient façade— a well of profound fuzziness, a nebulous chaos frayed at the edges; an erratic creature that follows loose threads of Fate and ends up in impasses, dead-ends, somewhere at the ends of the Universe, in the silence of all things.

Where I have taken the pulse of life for granted, this throbbing within the very marrow of my bones does not desist. Its pain is like the light of thought running along neurons, the ones that, in the absolute, eternal obscurity of a solitary brain, emit light like stars in the silent universe.

There is more to this body than meets the eye.

It remembers what my brain has never known to have experienced. Phantom touches, phantom pain. It knows, without needing a single thought, how to draw the curves of cheeks and lips, how to loop the Y’s and G’s into a unique handwriting that is not the result of my mind’s efforts.

My body has intelligence I cannot comprehend.

Which is why, when my limbs groan and let out this soft ache, this not-uncomfortable sting, I listen. Because bodies are honest where minds fail, sometimes. Minds are tricky places to be : as though a hall of mirrors, you never know what’s real and what’s not, and since so much of reality is a perception, there’s rarely ever any certainty.

This ache, this pain blossoming up my arms, it is a reminder that I am alive.

That I am not trapped inside a body, a mindset, a routine or a lifestyle.

It is a warning, too.

To not let this life slide by, to not let it go dead without a bang, like a firework that could never explode into an all-encompassing darkness, never lighting up the world, instead letting obscurity —and silence—reign.


Listening to :

 

One Last Entry

pretty-book
Gif by : Unknown

Your pages came in pre-yellowed, and I knew then you were just my type.

Aside from the corny quote on your cover, you were pretty cool. You’ve been home to so many of my thoughts over these past 8 months. You have been the universe holding all of my wor(l)ds together all this time. You have seen the birth of E., have witnessed her first staggering steps into existence and lostness. You’ve been places, too. You have traveled a lot in the safety of my bag—under the trees, by the sea, to the port….The sound of waves has echoed off of you, and have had me write odes to the ocean, build shrines for wanderlust. You have yellowed beautifully under the sun, have drunk its warmth and creaminess. There are adventures written in between your lines that I do not know how to read.

You are infused with the stuff of all my being, have immortalised a part of me. You hold, in writing, moments I no longer remember. If one day, years later, I come back looking for the 2x-old me, I will find her in your pages. When one day I will have died, there will always be a version of me hanging around in between your smooth, streaked turquoise covers, questioning existence, marveling at infinity.

And oh, we’ve had a few adventures, too. And they have left you with marks and scratches, pen strokes and dents in the softness of your cushioned cover. And there’s also a tiny cut on your back cover, but let’s not talk about that.

I really do get too attached to things. 

Because it’s not just the memories I cherish. This has been a part of my journey, and you, inanimate object that you are, have strangely —like the others before— become a companion. I am still on that journey, still on the road, while yours ends here. You’ve fulfilled your purpose and found home alongside others, on the one not-messy shelf of an otherwise chaotic display.

But there are new adventures coming up. And a new companion.

This one is all sharp angles with a smooth black, crocodile skin pattern cover. The sides are all golden, gleaming like threads made from our very own sun. It is a bit fancy. And quite large.

And not as yellowed inside yet, but I’ll manage somehow.


Note : And behold now (a bit of) the very journal I am saying goodbye to, complete with corny (and yet more fitting now than ever) quote. But the bicycle is a nice touch, you’ll have to admit.

journal.jpg

 

Lostness

lost9jedit.jpg
Art by : 9jedit

I’ve been read the stories; how Little Red Riding Hood runs into the wolf because she is bewitched by the road less traveled by, how “Le Petit Poucet” is lost in the woods trying to find the way home.

Wandering’s bad, I’ve been told.

Nothing good comes out of it.

Keep off the abandoned gardens, stay away from the battered brick house falling apart. Do not try to slide in the silver of space between two houses. Do not go down roads unknown. Do not roam.

“Do not wander,” my mother used to warn me “You will get lost.”

And for many of my most wonderful years, I did not.

When insomnia woke me up in the years between 6 and 10, I did not wander up to the roof. I did not go to see what the night looked like, what the night would feel like on my skin. I never tried to fly my kite at night, to see how it would look like in the moonlight. I watched the dangling keys, out of reach. I looked out from behind barred windows, watched the grass bow to the wind, creating waves and ripples of green. I watched the night unravel, turning into dawn. I stretched out my hand, tried to grab a fistful of night, of lostness in my hand. I inhaled freedom from the curve of my cupped palm.

But it was like smelling flowers that would never be mine. Like trying on someone else’s clothes.

So I imagined other people. Blurry, faceless, and big—towering. How did these people live the night ? What kind of world was out there beyond my reach, separated by a single door ? What dangerous life could there be that would leave no trace come the next morning, soft and dewy ? How—how could the night be bad if it looked so beautiful ?

I think somewhere, we’ve been robbed of the idea of lostness. How enchanting it can be, how in lostness many wonderful paths can be uncovered, explored. How, in lostness, one finds pieces of oneself.

I want to reclaim that lostness doused in fear and caution.

I would like to be showered in night. To let the stars, the milky way and all the worlds beyond engulf me.

I want to roam the countryside, to ride bicycles down dirt roads that lead to the middle of nowhere. I want to climb trees and roll down hills and see for myself just how deep that creek really is.

I want to wander and I want to be lost.

Maybe I’m not a Little Red Riding Hood. Maybe I’m not a “Petit Poucet”. Maybe I’m a Little Prince, who visits planets and talks to strange kings and businessmen. Maybe I’m a Little Prince who tames foxes, who speaks to snakes and makes friends of stranded aviators.

 

 

 

 

Decluttering

lipeligif
Gif by : Lipeli

Decluttering, cleansing, finding myself again underneath all of the debris.

Ever since I first had one up until now, my desk has always been a mess. The result of a scatterbrained eagerness for any kind of learning, an ache to pick up new skills like a child wants to adopt every stray puppy they see.

Fountain pens for calligraphy,

charcoal for sketches,

Chinese ink,

origami material,

pages of Spanish vocabulary,

a mandarin handbook.

There was always a story to be found in the messes I made. Always something to read in between the layers of stuff strewn all over. We all leave traces behind. Like the wind carves unfathomable patterns into sand dunes, like the waves imprint the shore in abstruse motifs. Like paw prints left in the mud, marks left against a tree trunk. Oddly, I felt this was mine.

Something about it felt deeply personal. Like that mess pattern was one only I could create, one wrought from my whimsical thinking, my moods, my interests, my states of mind, my worlds. Something that was entirely different from what another person’s mess would be like if they had the same items at hand. It also gave me a lot of places to hide behind. Behind a book or wads of paper, lead staining my fingers to keep people away, making them believe in the idea of intense creation, of passion and creativity running wild, something that should not be interrupted, obstructed.

But I also kept a lot of junk.

Sentimental junk.

Ridiculous things I was too afraid to throw out. Because somehow, they became not souvenirs, but escape routes. As though holding onto them would take me back, away from not so pleasant realities. I hoarded these insignificant things, bits and bobs, almost compulsively. I dug my nails into these scraps from the past, into wood shavings left from once impressive moments. I kept so many things because sometimes the present is scary. And the future both marvelous and uncertain; foreign. But the past, the past is home.

It was then, I think, that nostalgia sank so deep into my skin. Filled my pores with the scent of old pages, of yellowed memories. Gave me this faraway look that I cannot shake from my eyes. Cloaked me in gentle sadness, in longing for a place and time that no longer exist outside of my brain and its peach-coloured memories.

I lived in the past. In worlds spun from idealised, romanticised memories. I swam in diluted truths also given new life by a bored imagination, a creativity itching to get started again.

.

.

.

I have began throwing them out, now.

Detaching myself from the havens they once promised.

It’s a sort of materialism, too. I realise. By wanting to keep a moment alive through an object, you end up glorifying it instead, sometimes forgetting why it even matters so much— you just know possessively, agressively that it does.

So yes, I am done with the button that fell off one of my clothes at some point in time. Done with random junk from my school days. And old receipts.

But I am still keeping my movie ticket stubs. Still wondering how I am going to reuse the unstitched sleeves from my ship-wheels and sailboats dress. Because, come on, that’s symbolic. I’m also cleaning out my phone. Deleting near-duplicates of the same shot. Keeping only what matters truly (and well a little bit more, too).

And I am not obsessing over keeping things either. I am not digging my nails into things, not wrenching my arms possessively around overflowing cardboard boxes. I am learning to let go. To enjoy now. 

Mentally too, it’s liberating. Like I’m shedding years of old relationships that no longer hurt now that I am freed of them. No longer am I fractured, either. I am not whole, but…pieced back together, even if sometimes it feels like I just stuck a band-aid on it and prayed the bits and pieces would hold themselves together.

Under the weight of clutter and memories, I feel like I shrank a bit all this time.

Even now, I am still messy.

But I clean up more often. I throw out old bills, pamphlets. I don’t let things clutter my space, my mind. After all, with all these useless things out of the way, I can finally set to work on creating a mess that is all me.


Listening to :