Waiting for the River to Flood

Hoping by the river

A River in Flood

I wake up in the morning and the day lies stretched ahead of me like a gorgeous creature, waiting to be seduced. I forget the dreams of the night and indulge in those of the day, promise myself that today I would finish this project or that, I would write a notebook-ful of words.

I’m not sure what happens between the promise of morning and the utter despair that hits before I head towards the bed: no matter how much I try, I reach the end of the day empty-handed, or almost.

A small writer’s life is like a river, it brings a series of droughts and floods.

I’m waiting to become a Ganges or Yang-Tse or Misssisipi one day, so I can flood when necessary, but never dry up in drought.

For the moment, however, I could do with another flood.


Rick Mobbs’ Writing Prompt: Yemaya’s Children

RIver fish swim in the air above the ocean
Kenny’s fish: Yemaya’s children


Blog-friend and fello-blogger Rick Mobbs has put up painting prompts for me, and if you want to really appreciate them and his other work, do visit his blog.

After the last one I’ve been travelling and generally going crazy with life. But today, I had no excuse other than  slow internet, so here goes.

(Rick, as usual, I’ve done a spur-of-the-moment thing, and beyond a cursory fact-check and spell check, this is pretty much scribble-practice. One of these days I’ll really hunker down and produce a long piece that does your painstaking work more justice. In fact, the character below is from one of my short stories set in an aquarium. The fish in your painting must have nudged him awake! Thanks again for being so generous with your excellent work.)

Quit swimming in the air, Kenny tells them, air is no place for fish.

But they refuse to listen.

During the day they forage amid the plants in their aquarium, driving him crazy most weeks because no sooner than he puts in a half-decent plant in their aquarium they set about ripping it apart. The Singapore Aquaria, set above the sparkling, man-made Sentosa beach, likes each of its aquariums to look as neat and well-groomed as Singapore parks, gardens, people and government. If Kenny, a Filipino, is to survive here he has to make sure the Blue Tialpia behave.

But the Tilapia do not know about the obsession for order that hovers about them.

Each moonlit night they rise from their aquarium, and before Kenny’s helpless eyes, they rise into the blue ether, taking their time.

Quit swimming in the air, come back here, Kenny orders them, or they’ll fire my ass.

The Yemaya will protect you, the Tilapia babble in a chorus, like precocious children. She is the mother of all us Orishas, the most powerful guardians of old, and of the lands, the rivers, and the ocean. She is our mother and yours, too.

I know who is my mother and she is back home sleeping in the Philippines, come back now or I’ll lose my job and she’ll starve, pleads Kenny, hiking up the pants that have slipped below his belly.

We’re the children of Yemaya, the now-faint fish voices rain down from the moonlit sky above the blue-black ocean, and the red-rimmed moon is our home.  Our job is to send dreams and desire to all creation, mate day with night, turn up in the dreams of newly-weds on land and in the sea, multiply the children of Yemaya.

If you’re so powerful, why do you swim about like a bunch of common fish in an aquarium? Come back down, air is no place for fish.

If fish do not belong in air, do you belong in this country of another, cleaning muck where you could have planted fields back home?

Kenny has no answer. The Blue Tilapia rise and fade till he can see them no more, they go home.

The next morning, Kenny does the same.

Daily writing exercise, flying in the river

A river is made for floating, not flying

Dream-flying in a river

They fly in the river, these people.

Because life comes slow to them, their massive wings, and the water lifts them but little, they have to let their sinews bend and twist, work hard at keeping them aloft, far above the bottom which is a sort of destiny and death.

Each of them can be anything, a straight line, a dusty horseshoe, an exploding seaweed, a violent flower, a taxi upturned, a vertical road, a bashed-up song, a thought without a ladder, a dancing boat, a frequency of being, an empty corridor.

But they choose to be in their bodies, the atoms of their being imploding with effort, forever trapped in a rigid path, swimming on the seams of the ocean, where they could be the blue fabric that builds it instead.

Their wings tire, those things of vapid effort, each bone and feather contracts and revolts, yet they hold them together, trying to rise, forever looking down, afraid of falling.

They do not know all they have to do is surrender.

Not fly, but float, not think, not feel, just be.

Then falling and flying would be the same, life and death will mingle, fear and exhilaration would be the water itself, and they could be inside of their winged bodies or out, it would but matter little.


219 words, 10 minutes. Random words, lines, an exercise in timed writing based on a picture prompt. Daily writing exercises can be such a fun, unwinding, unraveling time. Just a river of words, simple.

Writing with Random Writing Prompts and the Versaces

Donatella with Gianni Versace

GIanni Versace with his sister Donatella

One of the things that has helped my writing in the past two years is letting loose on random writing prompts: take any word, phrase, sentence and just run with it, time myself, and see where it takes me.

I usually find myself in unfamiliar territory.

It is like running in the woods that you knew in childhood, and suddenly you’re in an area you don’t know, that could be anywhere, not even in your woods. Maybe you’ve even time-travelled, or space travelled, but this is not where you’ve ever been before.

So for today, I decided to pick up the search terms that have brought in the most visitors to my blog this past month I’ve been napping. They are ( and I kid you not):

gianni versace 169
blood splatter 112
donatella versace young 61
bizarre 58
blood spatter 55
rivers 49

And so, here goes, completely at random.

Gianni Versace goes for a walk, and why not, we all like to go for walks. Well, the slightly less sedentary amongst us do. And instead of the Miami Beach, he walks today in the Malaysian tropics, a tropical jungle, if you like.
Why, you ask me?

Well the reasons are clear enough. Firstly, that is one of the spots I’m familiar with, and I’m the writer and I can write any old crap I want, and secondly, he is dead, and from what I know was murdered, and maybe still wanders, as victims of homicides are rumored to do from time to time. Nothing remotely unusual about that.

So Gianni goes for a walk, calling out for Donatella Versace, for she is the only woman in his gay life, his sister, his muse, his daughter by proxy, the one who inspired crazy creations and the one who inherited his glittering empire. Perhaps he wants to ask her what she is up to with is empire, are the slashed-to-the-waist dresses selling well? Does she still do bling-bing handbags ?

And why is she looking more alien than human? What has she done to her body, her face, her eyes? No matter what she looks like as long as she can hold on to that trashy chic for her brand, he’s happy. There is the matter of the blood spatter to clear up though.The one in front of his mansion. He still sees it every time he goes there, and doesn’t recognize a single one of its bizarre inmates.

But she fades away, she was only asleep and dreaming when he called to her. But now she has woken up. And unlike him, she still can only be at one place at a time. She probably dreamt of talking to him in a tropical jungle somewhere, looking pale, his eyes bloodshot, a red hole in his forehead.

That red hole bothers Gianni, he can feel it, and he would like it to fill up. Like in the days when he was young, and his brow smooth. He might look at himself in some water, jungles are not the best places for mirrors. Sure ironic what people come to. From a life of mirrors to one where there are none. A lake then, a pond, a river. Surely there are rivers in jungles?

Gianni potters about looking for the river, forgetting why, because that hole in his head has affected his memory. He hears water in the distance, and comes to a small waterfall overlooking a pool of still waters. And he looks down at his reflection. There in the pool is Donatella, La Donata, the one given by God, playing and laughing, a eleven-year old in pigtails.

That is when the timer ran out, and I have a strange piece of writing exercise :)

But meaningless exercises like this warm you up to your actual writing for the day, be it a boring long article or the chapter of your upcoming novel.

Gianni Versace finds Malaysian waterfall

Gianni Versace finds Malaysian waterfall

I’m off to do what I call my bread-and-butter writing now, all charged up and raring to go!

Writing About Being like a Pencil.

Read one Paulo Coelho and you’ve read them all. I have read three, but it is basically the same thing the chap is trying to say.

Being a Pencil

Paulo Coelho's "Like a Flowing River": Be a Pencil

But once in a while, I like reading over extracts from his writing, like this one from from Like a flowing river”:

A boy was watching his grandmother write a letter. At one point he asked:
‘Are you writing a story about what we’ve done? Is it a story about me?’

His grandmother stopped writing her letter and said to her grandson:
‘I am writing about you, actually, but more important than the words is the pencil I’m using. I hope you will be like this pencil when you grow up.’

Intrigued, the boy looked at the pencil. It didn’t seem very special. ‘But it’s just like any other pencil I’ve ever seen!’

‘That depends on how you look at things. It has five qualities which, if you manage to hang on them, will make you a person who is always at peace with the world.’

‘First quality: you are capable of great things, but you must never forget that there is a hand guiding your steps. We call that hand God, and He always guides us according to His will.’

‘Second quality: now and then, I have to stop writing and use a sharpner. That makes the pencil suffer a little, but afterwards, he’s much sharper. So you, too, must learn to bear certain pains and sorrows, because they will make you a better person.

‘Third quality: the pencil always allows us to use an eraser to rub out any mistakes. This means that correcting something we did is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps to keep us on the road to justice.’

‘Fourth quality: what really matters in a pencil is not its wooden exterior, but the graphite inside. So always pay attention to what is happening inside you.’

‘Finally, the pencil’s fifth quality: it always leaves a mark. in just the same way, you should know that everything you do in life will leave a mark, so try to be conscious of that in your actions.’


Cliched and very Hallmark , like most Coelho, but there can be no argument against what he says in here in Like a Flowing River. Nice.

Crocodiles in the Sarawak River

Crocodile at a Fish and Crocodile Farm, Kuching

Crocodile at a Fish and Crocodile Farm, Kuching

I had no idea the Sarawak river was home to big crocodiles, up to 15 feet long. Here, a crocodile stalks its food at lunchtime at a crocodile farm.