Today, I’m posting one of my warm-up sessions, unedited. Do you warm up before you start writing on your #WIP ?
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.
(P.S: I got in 1056 words after my warm-up, which, though not scintillating, is still much better than nothing)