Are you a Just Do It Person?


This is so true when it comes to writing fiction.
No matter what, showing up on the page is important. I did this scribble of colors on a blocked day, and it works as my reminder. Letting it go and expressing yourself is all you need on some days.

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Do you ever get blocked? Or do you write through your blocks?

Writers Write for their Own Joy


The last week has been a roller-coaster ride in terms of writing.

Some days a 1000 words have arrived in less than two hours. On others I could only find 200. After looking for them the whole day.

But I’ve learned to take it easy on myself and enjoy writing, even on the days of famine. I can be my own best friend, try to know myself, and forgive myself, let my self be, and watch it just wallow in creativity with no end goal in mind.

This isn’t for all the days (there will be months of editing), but for now I can just write for the pleasure of it, and not cry buckets if the words don’t come.

But I've learned to take it easy on myself and enjoy writing, even on the days of famine.

Writers Write for their Own Joy

 

What about you? Do you take joy in your reading, writing and general day to day life?

Do you warm up before you start on your #WIP ?


Today, I’m posting one of my warm-up sessions, unedited. Do you warm up before you start writing on your #WIP ?
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When writing becomes second nature

Writing warm-ups

I write often at a food court in one of the shopping malls in the neighborhood. Today I have 600 words already under my belt when I set off, so I do not feel that fear which always accompanies an empty page. But I do have to start a chapter, and that is hard.

Sometimes the best way to write is just wait for it to come, and surround myself with the hum of conversation, with the clatter of cutlery thrown against ceramic plates, the muted screech of chairs drawn out from under the tables, the whir of the food processor as yet another milkshake is born.

At a table near me sit four Chinese women, animated over their cups of black coffee, all short-haired, middle-aged, frumpily dressed, with big smiles as they discuss some achievement or the other in Hokkien. Must be related to badminton practice, because I see pink and blue and red racquets poking out of each bag.

The Hong Kong Roast stall near which I’ve picked my table is the most eye-catching. Red-browned, glazed piglets, ducks and chicken hang motionless under yellow incandescent lighting, the queue is witness to the stall’s skill at cooking and the reasonable prices. A large portion of roast duck noodle sells at SGD 4.

They’re not shy of promoting their culinary efforts either—each plate of sliced roast pork comes with a pink or orange or yellow plastic rose and plastic green leaves, which later lie sad and abandoned on the plates amongst a pile of bones. The elderly cleaning lady (all cleaning staff at the food court is elderly, the young generation mans the sales counters), cleans off the plates with brattles of sound off stage behind a screen, and I think of the poor crushed petals of plastic roses lying under chewed-up bones.

I pick at the pile of pineapple slices on my plate with a toothpick the fruit-seller served them with. Why you eat so many fruit, ah? he asked me today, by way of conversation.

Rare in Singapore, to be addressed about anything other than your food when eating at food courts. But he has seen me off and on for weeks and months, and with no waiting queue behind me, threw me a question.

I smiled back. Love fruits leh, but too lazy to peel them one. I mangled my English on purpose. I knew I didn’t get the slang quite right, but they say, Ha? if I talk with all the conjunctions and prepositions I learned in school. The fruit-seller smiled back, Healthy one, ah, and handed me the change. I’ve used this sort of conversation in stories before, but my novel isn’t set in Singapore, so today’s exchange at the fruit counter isn’t helpful.

In all this time today, I’ve just sat and typed at random about where I am, about the Indian man gobbling up his chicken rice, dressed in striped shirt and office gear, a red backpack beside him, fake golden Rolex watch glinting under the light.

Or the elderly Chinese lady in glasses, coaxing strands of noodles on to her ceramic spoon, garnishing each mouthful with a slice of pickled chili, and popping the whole thing into her mouth while swaying with the music from her headphones.

Beside her sit two white women, one of them making inroads into her vegetable and rice with fork and spoon, the other making a mess of it with crossed chopsticks. The Chinese lady doesn’t look at them, not once.

Now that I have warmed up again, written my way through the Food court and waited, I’m hoping the Chapter will come to me. When I go home I’ll upload this on my blog, and tell you all about how I sat down today and waited to write.

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(P.S: I got in 1056 words after my warm-up, which, though not scintillating, is still much better than nothing)

What does it all mean?


What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?

When I write a story, (especially flash fiction like this one, that I wrote on the spur of the moment for the A to Z Challenge) I often wonder what it means—what I as the writer meant it to mean, and how does the reader take its meaning.

I’ve written stories which I thought were literary, were the subversion of a myth, and been congratulated on writing a fairy tale; I’ve written about a boy suffering abuse and have had folks root for the abuser; I’ve killed a character and then had the readers wonder what he would do next.

The problem, as I see it, can lie in two things:

I suck at writing: My craft could be undeveloped enough not to be able to support my muse—the story hovers inside me, a shiny hummingbird, comes out on the page a slimy, slow-moving slug.

Counter-argument: Some of the folks get exactly what I’m trying to say—how do they see the hummingbird instead of the slug?

Reading fiction on blogs demands too much attention: And some readers just can’t focus well enough to read the whole story. They comment on the few words they have read, move on.

Counter-argument: Doesn’t that show my weakness as a writer, because I wasn’t able to grab the reader, pin him or her down till my story was done?

This leaves a very confused writer. Do I suck at writing? Do I give up writing fiction on my blog?

Over the last weeks of writing a story a day, I have come to the following conclusion:

I will keep writing fiction on my blog, because it challenges me, and I enjoy it.

Yes, the writing process is never complete without the readers and their reactions– but there is something to be said for perseverance.

If my craft is lacking, practice would help. If blogs aren’t the best place for fiction, well, they’re still the best place to play around and experiment. Most of the stories I have written during the challenge are in genres I wouldn’t have written but for the prompts I was sent.

It is all good.

So has this happened to you?

As a reader, have you ever come across a meaning in a story which you discovered was different from anyone else? As a writer, have you had a reader give you back a meaning to your story that you never intended?

Some days are like that: Daily writing Exercise


Another daily writing exercise—some day I’m sure I’ll regret putting up such random stuff on this blog.

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Some days are like that.

They creep up on you so quiet that before you hear the whisper of their footsteps, they already have their arms around you, looking over your shoulders, nudging your cheek with their noses like the familiar, errant lovers you let back into your life more than once, only to regret it.

They ask to share your coffee and hang around as you check your mail, or get ready to go out to the office, or the shop or wherever it is you go out, and by lunchtime, you have given in to their charms. You have wandered with them hand in hand, around your home, dreaming, or across the yard, chatting with the neighbor, or playing mindless games on a computer screen, forgetting errands  and grocery.

And those days, the rascals that they are, wind themselves down, and when you turn around and look, they’re gone, having taken their seductive assess off to beguile another unwary sod. It is night, and time for bed.

As you turn in, you wonder where you went wrong, at what precise moment you lost control, and that perfect day, as full of possibilities as the past, came up to naught. You close your eyes. You’re full of naive intentions, having learned nothing, determined to succeed, impatient for the next morning.

But you never know when another of those days turns up and you lose yourself all over again, left with another day come and gone, and nothing to show for it.

Some days are like that, and that is all that there is to it.

 

Dark Half of the Hourglass: Daily Writing Exercise


Hourglass and pencil

Hourglass and pencil

I started this blog as a place to put in a bit of writing practice on a daily basis. It has been a while since I wrote here for practice, so here goes:

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Curved glass walls bear me down. I slip and slide, slow but relentless as I scribble on the glass, pencil in hand, and think of Alice, wonder whether she would have written all that clever stuff down instead of blabbering it,  if only she had such a pencil as she followed the rabbit. My writing makes about as much sense as Alice picturing herself crossing the earth and coming out at the other end to find people hanging upside down, but that does not stop me using my pencil.

I’ve found out I’m slipping down an immense hourglass— I can’t go back up nor stop. I’m only given this pencil, and a few silent conversations with fellow sliders. We could compare notes about what we scribbled, but the trouble is, none of us can speak, and I’m not sure anyone can listen. We may not touch because we fall in parallel lines.

We’re all headed towards the dark side of the hourglass. I don’t remember when I figured this out, and how. But I know that in the dark side we would continue to fall, unseeing–only this time the fall would be much faster because we would not slip along the glass edges, but hurtle down straight, into the unknown. No one knows what happens then. Not that I’ve asked, but since we can’t talk and no one flits by telling us anything, I think no one knows.

Given that I have a pencil, and nothing much else to do, (I remember hunger, pain, warm and cold, cruel and kind as words I once scribbled, I no longer know what they feel like), I will live in my pencil.  I will now strive to forget the bit about up or down. In the length of pencil left me, I’ll stop trying to make sense of it all: I no longer  want to leave notes for someone who, who knows when, will slide down the same track. All I’ll do is live in the now, feel my hand, my pencil, my writing, the glass, and let thoughts and sense take care of themselves.

I think I’m ready for the dark half of the hourglass.

On Days When I Don’t Want to Listen…


….I write quite a bit, because:

Writing to Shut You Up

Writing to Shut You Up

This is true. When I keep writing, I don’t really have to listen to anyone other than me and the characters in my head, and that is a blessing for those times when listening to real people in real life becomes tiresome.

Do you ever write to shut out the noise?

Writers, Has Microsoft Word Changed Your Writing?


Writing on Microsoft Word

Writing on Microsoft Word

John Naughton at Guardian asked recently: Has Microsoft Word affected the way we work?

“—has word processing changed the way we write? There have been lots of inconclusive or unconvincing studies of how the technology has affected, say, the quality of student essays – how it facilitates plagiarism. The most interesting academic study I looked at found that writers using computers “spent more time on a first draft and less on finalising a text, pursued a more fragmentary writing process, tended to revise more extensively at the beginning of the writing process, attended more to lower linguistic levels [letter, word] and formal properties of the text, and did not normally undertake any systematic revision of their work before finishing”.

My hunch is that using a word processor makes writing more like sculpting in clay. Because it’s so easy to revise, one begins by hacking out a rough draft which is then iteratively reshaped – cutting bits out here, adding bits there, gradually licking the thing into some kind of shape.

I never learned to type on a typewriter, I began writing on Word. But I do draft my fiction on pen and paper–it is a kind of more visceral, organic experience.

I like Word, make no mistake, it Is Very convenient—but a keyboard is less sensory for me than the pen scribbling on paper. Besides, I like using various colored pens, and notebooks of different sizes, with papers of different texture. Besides, it is easier to unhook myself from the internet, and focus on writing, if a notebook and pen is all I’m carrying.

Recently I started writing pen and paper letters to writer-friends, and that is a whole different ballgame– I like it, and have stuck to it for a few months now.

I don’t know if Word has influenced my writing in any way– I continue to write by hand almost everyday–but I’m aware I’m in the minority. I use Word for my work writing and for revising my fiction, and that is all there is to it.

Has any of you written on typewriters? Do you write with pen and paper? How is it different from writing on Word? Has Microsoft Word affected Your writing?

Writing on Guilt, and Breaks


Someone, I don’t remember who, said: “I like myself better when I’m writing regularly.”

I’m that kind of person.

But for the last few days, I haven’t been able to drag myself out of bed at ungodly hours to do my writing, and daytime has been reserved by life activities, and revisions of stories already written, especially the A-Z ebook. (By the way, I’m officially thinking of calling it A-Z Stories of Life and Death)

So the upshot of it is I’m going to bed guilty each night: how could I not write a single good line all day, and still get on with life?

I need to relax a little, I think, and not haul myself over the coals every time I miss a day or two of writing practice.

We’re all allowed our breaks. (Aren’t we?)

A Wheelchair Reminder


A few days ago I saw the inside of a hospital from a wheelchair. A first for me, and definitely ‘enlightening’.

The way people look at you when you’re in a wheelchair. Some meet your eyes with concern, some with indifference, and the very worst, those who look away.

I realized I’m one of the lookers-away when I’m among the walkers.

I didn’t have much wrong with my leg (I hope, I’ve to wait for the tests though)…but for the first time I not only thought about but Realized what it is to not have the use of my legs and feet, those parts of my body I largely ignore other than the odd pedicure session, or the wearing of  heeled shoes when in a dress.

I take my mobility for granted. I felt a chill at the thought of living without it.

This was a reminder to be grateful, I think, and to actually see the little things in life and celebrate them, to take nothing for granted, not my body, nor health, not even life.

For the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time simply being grateful.