On writing.

young adult old soul writing magic realism

Do you know how your voice gets rough after you have just woken up? I think something similar happens with writing when you don’t write for a while. My language gets rough from disuse, my pen gets tongue-tied. It takes a little time for me to regain my bearings, to know where I am going with an idea once it has passed through my head and has flowed to the tip of my pen. I experience momentary amnesia, as though I had never written before in my life and had just been handed a pen. How do I operate this contraption? How does one write? How did I manage to do it before? How can I replicate my earlier writing?

It’s always like this in the beginning: an initial awkward phase, an embarrassed attempt at catching up.

“Oh hey, how have you been? Haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Yeah haha, just…been busy and stuff, you know how it is.”

“Yeah, tell me about it, hah…”

“Soooo, what have you been up to?”

But after a while, it’s like falling into the familiarity of an old friend. After the habit of writing has taken form again, I no longer have to tiptoe around it, afraid of committing another faux-pas. I can be honest, too. I can say:

“Writing, you’re great and all, but I kindof hate you sometimes.”

And writing will be honest and say:

“Yeah, me too. You’re so flighty sometimes — you jump from one idea to the other and you don’t finish half of what you start. Your notebooks are filled with stuff you’re never going to finish. And we need to talk about all those run-on sentences and complex structures you use. Also, that’s not how you use a semi-colon.”

Writing is a terrible passion to have; I wouldn’t recommend it. But I’ve said it before: I am helpless to it. I have surrendered utterly and completely after years of denial, of convincing myself I was better off as something else, nurturing some other harmless passion like puzzle-making. It’s what I feel called to do, in a way. And it’s time I stopped rejecting the very thing I’ve been praying the Universe for.

Besides, there are benefits to it, too. Writing keeps me real — in no uncertain terms. It tethers me to myself, helps me to process things I would otherwise never notice. Writing provides a peek into myself, a reflection from the corner of a mirror. It is one of these things without which I feel I am incomplete. It’s like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. At this point, it is that central to my identity.

I wish it wasn’t, truly. Life would be so much easier without this kind of passion hindering me. I would be great at not writing, better than I am at writing, actually. I wouldn’t have to try to explain what it is I write about. I wouldn’t have to dissuade people from wanting to read my writing by saying:

“It’s just…it’s weird. It’s not fictional, but it’s also not non-fictional. It’s based off of reality, you see, but actually…”

But you know, que será, será. Or in the words of Lemony Snicket:

“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.”

So I’m embracing it wholeheartedly: I’m a writer.

I’m not the best one around, my stories aren’t the prettiest, my characters aren’t that well fleshed-out and I could use some help with semi-colons and sentence structure. But in spite of all that, I am a writer. An imperfect writer. Before, I was an imperfect person who happened to write. Now, though the difference may seem small, everything has changed.


Note: I have used a semi-colon in this blog post and I am hoping against all hope that I have made correct use of it 😂. It’s just my favourite kind of punctuation. After the dramatic interrobang (?!), of course.

Writer? Writer.

young adult old soul magic realism writing

I am currently thinking about how I will evolve and where. It’s become obvious to me I need to move on (both for my own growth and because I cannot stand the routine, have gone way above my limit of round-trips to this business park I both hate and love.)

It’s frustrating that I know no details of this impending change: no how, where or when — and the only answer I have as to “why” sounds feeble even to the kindest ears:

“I am tired.”

“But why, you’ve got everything over where you are. You’ve got bosses who always say please and thank you, who give you books and buy you croissants and respond in kind to all the jokes you make. Besides, you don’t even hate your job. You wanted to be a writer.”

I know. I know. I know that I have it good, that it could be much worse. I know I could be job-hunting for months, like my friend is, or hating my crappy job like my sister does. And in the grand scheme of things, I have very little to complain about and so much to be grateful for, starting with the fact that I have a home, food and even a job.

Yet I cannot silence this qualm I have, this feeling; a far-reaching boredom, an exasperation with the smallness of it all, the lack of zing and pizzazz and excitement.

Everyday is predictable, following the same script from the day before, like an endless rerun of the same old sitcom. I feel like a goldfish sometimes, circling a bowl, forgetting every 5 seconds —in my case every weekend— what the week was like so that I can endure the upcoming week better.

I hate that I don’t love it anymore. Not when less than a year ago it gave me so much joy.

And the worst part is I shouldn’t even be posting this here. I want to be a writer, but I don’t even know what to write and for whom. All I know is some part of me insists on being a writer and I am helpless to it. It insists even after all the criticism I put my writing through, staying alive as nothing else ever has.

And I want to listen to this persistence more than I need to. I have to see where it takes me. I have to try even though I do not know the littlest thing about it: what it wants to write, how it wants to write or even why.

All I have to go on is one stubborn sentence from this unhinged desire. You see, this desire/persistence/annoyance/passion throws tantrums like a petulant child, one who will not see rhyme or reason and who answers every legitimate question with:

“I want to be a writer!” 

and a huff and a pout and an attitude that says “We do not negotiate with people who do not want to write.”

As exasperated as I am with this, I also know that it is a sign. If I cannot be ‘happy’ in a work environment that gives me everything I need, then maybe it’s not meant for me. Or maybe it was but now I’ve outgrown it and I have overstayed, simply.

I want to be a writer.

It doesn’t mean that I am ungrateful for what I have. I am, endlessly. But this shouldn’t stop me from reaching for other things. Other riskier ventures, where people will not be as kind and life not as easy.

I want to be a writer.

Six words and here I am: ready against all reason to be pulled apart by this feeling, to follow this utterly ridiculous demand to the ends of the earth.


Note: Yes, my boss buys us all croissants from this lovely French bakery whenever he drops by. And gave me books he no longer had space for. And is generally a really cool human being along with my other boss.

A writer.

young-adult-old-soul-writing-cadmiumyellowdeep-
Art by : cadmiumyellowdeep

Since I stopped being a child, I’ve always taken care to keep my dreams and the real world separate.

Even if I would dip my toes back in the other worlds on bus journeys or open a window into daydream in the middle of class, both these worlds were left relatively estranged, sealed off from the other.

By day I slipped into reality and meandered down its labyrinthine alleyways. By night I flew into dreams, and strange visions awakened in me, tickling parts of my psyche I did not even know were alive. It felt strangely like I was sectioning myself, partitioning two opposing sides. Without need for any foul concoctions, I had somehow landed myself into a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde kind of conundrum.

And yet, one without the other was incomplete : the real world without dreams felt hollow ; dreams that were not grounded in reality lost their meaning, fading like smoke in a gust of wind.

Still, it had to be done. My dreams were far too great to ever achieve. I didn’t, couldn’t possibly have what it takes — everyone else said so. Or rather, they didn’t have to. Their deep-held beliefs spoke for themselves. You see, my dreams bled into life every time I held a pen and while that meant I was good at languages and writing, it was not a very special skill to have. Everyone can write. Millions of people master two languages. At any point in time, your skill and therefore you, are replaceable. There are countless other people who are better at it than you anyway, who’ve been doing it for longer. How likely would it be that of all the writers in the world, I would be the one to make something out of my writing ? Not very, apparently. So if you have a replaceable skill like that, don’t turn it into a dream. Don’t take it seriously. Try something else, and do some writing on the side, if you want.

That’s what it started out as : “Writing is not a real skill. Languages are easy. Only the very few people who are really good at it ever succeed.”

For my own good, I should not dream big. I should settle for some average occupation or the other, safe in the knowledge that I would never have made it had I followed the inconsistent path of dreams. I would have lost momentum halfway through and would have fallen flat on my face. And yet, in spite of all that being drilled into me, in spite of me telling myself these things, dreams kept spilling onto the well-constructed reality others had built for me.

Disbelief met with determination, and after many years, my dreams infiltrated reality, and I am now a little of what I thought I would never be : a writer.

It didn’t turn out exactly how I pictured it, but it is what it is and it is more than what I ever thought I would get.

The greatest point of tension is that now the two worlds do not mix well. They are each wary of the other, unused to being anything but two separate entities. Now that my dreams are grounded in a kind of reality, I don’t know what to do next. I cannot tell apart the dreams I have just for the sake of having them from the ones I actually want to bring into the real world.

I mean, is writing even my thing anymore? I just happened to be good at it and did it. Could it be I’ve yet to find my “thing”? I don’t know.

I cannot keep being content, stagnating in the kind of joy I am experiencing now.

Because I am being gifted a luxury very few people have the privilege to experience : I have a little bit of everything, and the winds are in my favour. I have some time, some money, perspective, freedom, support… I am being given everything I need to achieve my dreams.

The question is, do I even have one?

I’m not sure what I want. All this time I’ve told myself dreams were impossible and now it turns out they aren’t all that unusual here in the real world.

It’s that feeling, you know, when you just want to make something out of yourself. It would be such a waste not to.

 

That kind of love.

 

Young Adult Old Soul Magic Realism Writing
Art by : Sasha Ignatiadou

Have you ever started missing someone all of a sudden? Someone whose absence you have been used to, who has become a voice on the phone, a collection of distant memories or a set of highly specific things that remind you of them.

But then years down the line, something inside of you throbs out of the blue. You start missing them, missing, missing, like something’s just not right, like you’ve lost a limb or some crucial part of your life. Years of conditioning and being far from that person have lost all meaning. You just miss and life won’t go on as usual until you are fulfilled again, until everything falls back into place and the stray planet in your solar system realigns.

In that way, I really miss my sister.

She’s my eldest sister and quite honestly knows me better than I understand myself. She’s always been kind and caring and terribly proud of her siblings; the kind of big sister you find in movies. But now she lives terribly far away. I mean, if I ever missed her and decided to jump on a plane to get to where she lives, I would be travelling for about 2 days. I thought I’d gotten used to it, to her not being there most days, or months and eventually years.

But as I grow older, I value her more. And I add that love to my understanding of love as a whole. How naive it is to think that romantic love is somehow superior to all these other kinds of love. Or more powerful, more meaningful, more important — most important even.

I romanticise a lot of things, but not romantic love.

Romantic love is a facet of love, not the whole concept. I can think of so many other loves that have been as and even more important in my life. That’s also why I am not rushing into romance now, however wonderful the idea may be. Love will come, it will grow safely, steadily. Like a seed sprouting from the earth, it will lean toward the sun and with great care will unravel its colours, its leaves and flowers. Love will be slow and will take its time to grow roots, to progress naturally everyday.

Maybe I am boring for thinking that. Maybe I am boring because I don’t think romantic love is that special. But hey, I’m willing to run the risk of being boring if that means I get to be who I am.

Notes to myself : happiness.

Young Adult Old Soul Magic Realism Writer
Art by : Pascal Campion

At the very beginning of the year, stood on my rooftop and watching the fireworks explode from afar, I did not think I would be where I am today. Much of the year would pass as it had begun : with me staring far-off at something I would much rather have been a part of.

Hasn’t life mostly been this way, after all?

Slightly dreamy and all the more disappointing for it.

But Fate twists and turns, and takes its sweet time setting lives up. It’s funny how now that things are going in my favour, I think of Fate. Otherwise my thoughts are just a mumbo-jumbo of nihilist thoughts and awfully potent pessimism.

I mean, my “Why would life make me dream of things I can never have?” has turned into “Good things happen in life.” and even now, I don’t know which is right. If one is righter than the other, if both equally apply. But I am trying not to think too much though : if there is one thing I have learnt, it is that “happiness” (whatever it means) is precious and that one should give one’s full attention to it when it presents itself.

So, to myself I say :

Stop waiting for the other shoe to drop. Don’t wait for things to turn sour and then exclaim “Aha! I knew it!”. Maybe things turned sour because you weren’t paying them the right kind of attention. Besides, you know “happiness” doesn’t last, so savour it, every last bit of it like a juicy fruit you can’t get enough of, like a drink that makes you slurp so you can get the last drops of it.

Most of all, meet “happiness” half-way. I don’t think it likes to be met with mistrust and shifty eyes. Besides, even ephemeral “happiness” leaves lasting traces. Like scars, but the good kind.

 

Some advice to myself

typewriter
Gif by : Unknown

Reflecting on my failures in writing, there is one thing that I understand I have been doing wrong. And that is to cry out for ideas, attempting to pull complex stories out of thin air. That’s the whole problem : stories like these are not rooted in anything. They are just streams of words preceding each other, rushing to make a point, to pool into the ocean. They have little authentic meaning and instead look like a patchwork of ideas, not all yours.

Instead, what I should have been doing is to be quiet, and let the ideas rouse from where they are buried. There is plenty to go around on the inside : 20 or so odd years of submerged reflections, of things learned consciously and unconsciously, of lessons tangible or not, of people met and loved and left.

That is how you call upon your inner self, you stay silent and instead of planting other seeds—let the ones that are already buried deep in your ribs sprout up. In so doing, you let yourself speak and understand why you are the way you are. And when these stories emerge, you need to prune them, water them, de-weed, make sure they don’t grow sideways. You need to take care of the stories that spring from such depths; you never know how great they will grow. As unruly as they are though, as much as they leave you exposed, these stories have roots, so they have meaning.

They are irrigated by the blood flowing in your veins—these stories are yours. Not a tale could be told that resembles it, even if they both speak of the same themes, because what is yours is yours. They are your stories, straight from your gut.


Note : This is Day 3 of my NaNoWriMo writing challenge. Here are the entries for Day 1 and Day 2.

Good enough

murakami

I hate everything I am writing lately.

I hate the way I can’t seem to get my words out, the way my writing never flows.

It just doesn’t come as naturally as before.

You know how when you’re drawing, and you keep trying to draw a curved line a certain way, or are attempting to make an identical “other eye” and it doesn’t work ? And you keep erasing it over and over, tracing it back on with the mechanical pencil and erasing again until the paper just—tears ? Rips apart under your fingers ? And the frustration builds up from your gut, rushes out in a guttural roar, and you just, tear, tear, tear. Swear you’ll never do this again.

Well, the paper is my brain.

Or feels like it.

But that’s my own fault, sortof.

I keep trying to make everything I write “good enough”. Keep trying to stamp ‘perfection’ on everything that leaves my brain. So before the idea even starts out, takes shape, it is garbled up, mashed into a mould it doesn’t fit into, trying to be what it is “supposed to be” : good enough. I don’t know what the standard is, what “good enough” really looks like. It’s just a vague idea that has been built into something immense. Like a balloon dressed in a crisp, black suit. Like the biggest matryoshka that has been emptied of all its other dolls. It stands tall, intimidating, daunting with the knowledge of all that it entails, but is just so damn empty inside.

But the image is enough to tie all the faucets of my imagination shut.

Ideas are meant to be like this, I almost say, pointing to my memory of anything that has ever made me feel anything worthwhile. But there are examples (of writing, mostly) that are far too precise as well, down to the sentence. It has not yet devolved into anything matching an “I wish I’d written this.” spirit, but I wonder how close I am to that.  If I had to envy other writers, I don’t think I would envy their intelligence or their finished works. But rather their capacity to be both authentic and interesting. Two things I don’t think I can manage at once.

‘If you’re not the kind of idea that looks like this,’ I almost say to myself, ‘if you are not this kind of authentic, please go away.’ Sometimes, I look back at things I have written and wish I could write them again. Why can’t you be like this idea ? See how good it was ? Why can’t you write like how you wrote back then ?

And it’s all because of the (not-actually-stupid) stupid writing contest I’ve been trying to get into. It’s huge and amazing and it’s the first time I’m actually going to do something like this and it has to be amazing and breathtaking, revolutionary and so interesting that every word drips with meaning because what’s the point if it’s not, right ?

I’m not in it to win.

I could never win. 

I thought saying that would remove me from the idea of a “race”, a “contest”. That I could then go on my merry little way and dissolve into one of the ‘worlds’ I am so keen on writing about. But if I’m defining the whole artistic venture that is a writing contest as not even a prize to be won, but as a prize that cannot even be won, you can clearly see how peaceful writing removed from internal pressures is not a thing that’s going to happen. Because at this point, I am facing an impossibility. It’s not even a boolean “You’re going to win” or “You’re going to lose”, it’s a : “You’re going to lose. What are you going to do about it?”

Try to make it so perfect I can’t lose. 

If, by nature, I am a perfectionist, I am also someone who sees far more possibilities in something than there actually are.

I might not win, but boy am I going to learn so much from this experience.” 

That is my train of thought, often enough.

But not now.

I’m an idiot, in that sense. A perfectionist idiot who’s afraid of time running out and so is  constantly rushing into doing things. But I am also one among to many others like me.

Like people who thought they had to be a certain way, to write in a certain way. Good stories are written like this, and here’s an 800-page guide on how to do it…said nobody ever. 

Maybe it was fortuity, maybe it was Fate, but not knowing what they were about, I started reading Haruki Murakami’s first works “Hear the wind sing” and “Pinball” this past week. Accompanying them is an introduction from the author, the first time I read anything of his that isn’t fictional. And it’s everything, everything I needed to hear.

Give up trying to write something sophisticated. Forget all those prescriptive ideas about “the novel” or “literature” and set down your feelings and thoughts as they come to you, freely, in a way that you like. 

I am no Haruki Murakami, but perhaps that’s the point. Haruki Murakami did not know he was going to be Haruki Murakami. He just learned, in writing, to be himself. And everything else arranged itself around that, good or bad. I think I need to learn something similar to that. Something that applies to me.

I have so many ideas though, so many things I want to write about. NaNoWriMo’s even coming up and there’s so much I want to do. I keep jotting things down, from keywords to sentences and summaries ( “observatory”, “A cat’s life”). I still need to overcome my overthinking, still need to work on so many things.

But maybe I just needed to say it, because thinking it wasn’t enough.

Anyway, if I have to choose between being authentic and being interesting, I would rather be authentic first. I can learn to be relevant and impactful later.

Meanwhile, I’m still going to try for the writing contest, because it would feel like giving up at this point. It ends November 1st, the day NaNoWriMo starts. Ends are beginnings, always, so I’m going to count on that.


Listening to :