This post is the result of a conversation I had with a long-time Internet friend. I was telling him about my personal reflection spell last July/August and how one of the most potent memories that crept up on me had to do with my high school group and peer pressure. I found out I was still angry at them even after all these years. At first, I thought it was because what they did ran counter to my life philosophy but then what came out during the conversation was that actually it had far more to do with lost opportunities to stand up for myself.
So I’ve been always quite peace-loving and conflict avoiding, which are perhaps two sides of the same coin. Like a few years after I graduated from Honours (which is at least 10 years ago) there was this incident that two of my colleagues were arguing in the secure data room and I literally hightailed it out of there. Why? I hate scenes, even if it was just me witnessing one.
I also hate any public scenes aka arguments with complete strangers in public. My default reaction is to not even talk to the person. I thought of it as my dignity but I think most people took it as submission. Like several years ago, one day after work, I arrived at my tram station and I was just walking to the front when out of the blue, a guy just accosted me. I stopped thinking he was a staff from the tram company flagging me over due to some safety concern or something. But then it turned out it was just some racist guy verbally attacking me for no reason. And I stood there dumbfounded (part of the reason is that I have very slow reactions, whether physically or emotionally).
Mostly I just brush off these incidents but sometimes I do remember them a few days later and concoct a different outcome where I did say something in response, in moments when my mind happened to be idle.
Having said the above, I still don’t know how I should react next time something like this happens. Perhaps I will go on as before or perhaps I will send them a withering glance. Hmm… food for thought.
Happiness has a slightly different meaning for everyone. Recently I had this really resonant one that came to me (or rather it was a rediscovery, I think I re-discover things a lot. I’ve recently thought about my core personality and it hadn’t changed from when I was a teenager) so I thought it worthwhile to record it here.
So what is my personal definition for happiness? I can basically sum it up in exactly four words: loving what I love. Coincidentally, its Chinese equivalent is also exactly four Chinese characters and the wording would be more or less identical.
So what does loving what I love entail exactly? For me, it’s the following 3 things:
- Loving myself every day
- Doing what I love every day
- Loving who I love every day
I am a simple person who has simple pleasures and having the above already makes me full. Once in a while, I get a bit more ambitious than usual and my mood goes up and down. But this personal definition of happiness is my anchor and brings me back every time.
And how does my current life tally? I’m hitting it on all 3 counts. Upon reflection, I tend to hit it on all 3 counts for most of my life so far. And I hope that I will continue to keep this in my sight and continue hitting it on all 3 counts in the future.
That’s my short share for today. Feel free to let me know in comments if you feel up to sharing your own definition of happiness.
In general, I don’t tend to display my emotions openly. In fact, it was my wont to suppress tears. But there are some exceptions so I thought it would be a worthwhile pursuit for me to record the sources behind such rare moments.
I’ve previously blogged about the fast food consumption aspect of my reading. And yet surprisingly, there was an online novel author whose work had brought tears to my eyes on multiple occasions when I couldn’t really remember a single published work that had done so (I think this is more of an artifact of the fact that I read more widely for online novels and perhaps the specific life situation I was under when I read them). So in this post, I want to dig a little into what was it about the author that moved me such.
Let me start by summarising/recapitulating my life situation when I first came upon this author. Basically, this was after I broke off my phD and became unemployed. I became a little lost as to career direction and all that. And to be honest, before that point I was always envisioning life as a linear path and also lived life that way. But then, suddenly my status quo went up in flames and I think at that time I had a deep yearning for having it back for comfort and security. And that’s when I chanced on a body of Chinese online novels where the main characters were given a second chance to live, specifically the opportunity of having their lives rewinded to their youth and basically take another go at it. So due to empathy with the main characters, I had a spell where I was devouring such novels and I think I still maintain a taste for similar themed novels to a certain degree now.
Now amidst such work, the one that really stuck in my mind was about a main character who had originally died in poverty after her husband who went from a nobody to a best actor award winner ditched her for another woman in his fame. The actual story was about how after finding that she had gone back to her teenage years, she made entirely different choices and eventually became a famous actress who won a best actress award for herself. I think one of the reasons this story really stood out for me was I felt a bit of empathy for the main character with regards to her situation with her mother. The main character was basically estranged from her mother in the previous life when she married that actor but in the second life the estrangement never happened because she avoided that actor like the plague. In reality, I was on the verge of becoming estranged from my Mum after I broke off my phD- well, we had a bit of a Cold War going on. But now it’s all water under the bridge between us and we are much more open about many things, including the large extent that we both love each other.
The week before last, I blogged about how the lockdown and working from home is having an adverse effect on my writing. But surprisingly, it’s promoting my Kindle reading. Specifically, I’ve been able to consistently read one Kindle chapter per day on one of my broadening horizon reads for this year (they are both Kindles). Contrast that with before the lockdown when I spend 3 hours every day on the train and I tend to turn to reading Chinese online novels on the train instead of books I borrow from my local library, not just Kindle reading but reading comes out ahead at home compared to before.
And that makes me put in light of time usage in April. So yes, I did whittle away some time from actual processes to do with writing. But as I was talking with one of my FB writer friends today, writing is so much more than the explicit processes to craft a particular piece of story (outlining, drafting, editing etc.). Instead, it’s everything that allows me to write including filling up my creative well with life experiences, stories I read/watch/learn through gaming even. So in that perspective, I think my April is actually spent well in a sense.
And my writing is also getting back on track. After about a week’s inactivity, I’ve gotten back into free-writing for a protagonist. I’m not good with free-writing in the sense that it does not come easily to me to do (I somehow have a writing block that’s specific to free-writing that I find it hard to conquer unless I find the right prompt). So for a whole week that did not happen but I’ve hit it this week and I have some left to spare. My new short term goal is to finish sorting out what to work on for my next decimal draft- draft 0.8 by June and I will finish draft 0.8 by the end of this year. So wish me luck and I will keep you updated on my progress.
Ever since the Corona virus lock-down I’ve been working at home and I have to admit that it’s testing my self-discipline (then again, it’s coinciding with the structural edit on my WIP that I realise I have to do and I have to admit that I’m procrastinating because I dread the amount of work I have to do). To be honest, I’m just very lethargic towards writing right now. Today, I completely ran out of ideas of what to write about and in my infinite boredom leading to FB surfing, I took a “which 2 animals summarise your two sides” quizz with the following results:
You got: Eagle and Owl
You are intelligent and wise beyond your years. Your intelligence is vast, and you have common sense along with book smarts. Above all, you have perspective that always allows you to see the bigger picture.
And this inspired me to write about myself because this should be the easiest thing to write. And let me start off by saying the quizz result above is a relatively good fit for me on an intellectual/mental level. Relationship-wise, I’m loyal and guarded, tending to stick with a small social circle with a few who are very close to my heart but otherwise being very slow to warm up to new acquaintances (Internet excepted). My love life is non-existent as I’ve mentioned before. My medium/long term ambition is to debut with my first Chinese fantasy series and I’m currently working on book 1.
And this is all I want to share today. See you all next week.
I am someone with selective taste and that extends to the number of genres I read as well as my hobbies. I’ve previously blogged about jigsaw puzzles, I constantly blog about reading and today I’m going to talk about my gaming hobby and how it figures into my writing.
Firstly, I do two different types of gaming: PC gaming which are mostly hidden objects but sometimes include match 3 and time management games. I was very into roleplaying games but I had given up the PC variety because they were too time consuming. Nowadays, I only play in roleplaying games of the dice-rolling variety (ala Dungeon and Dragons or Steve Jackson & Ian Livingstone plot-your-own-advenutre/gaming books for those who don’t know what I’m talking about) and that is confined to one weekend session every week.
So how does gaming figure into my writing? Well, it:
- Fills up my creative well by exposing me to ideas about character, plot, elements of magic etc.
- Similar to the above, I do need a little pure leisure time for a balanced life and gaming fills that spot
- For the roleplaying game, I have hopes that it would eventually feedback into improving one of my shortcomings as a writer which is in characterisation. I often have difficulty getting into my characters and my weekly session gives me an opportunity to become another character for 4 hours every week so I’m hoping that eventually I will be able to apply such role-playing skills in getting closer into my characters so that I can write about them.
What other hobbies do my writer followers have that figure into your writings? I would be interested to hear about them in comments.
As promised, I will start off this year with a post summarising my take-away from the personal reflection spell I alluded to in my last blog post last year.
But firstly, let me describe what happened that brought it on. Well, the main culprit was this mainland Chinese dating show that I stumbled upon that I could watch like TV drama (I’ve always like watching TV drama due to the fact that it’s something I can follow over a period of time, I like immersion in a story, same reason why I prefer series to a standalone book). I got a bit addicted to watching it to be honest. At the same time, my WIP has an anti-romance/romance plot that I was trying to figure out and I was majorly blocked because I had always been single.
Then, I don’t know why but from some time in July I stopped being able to go back to sleep when I woke up in the middle of the night. Instead, my mind was somehow concocting mini-stories of how two particular guys on that dating show found their matches. And why these two men on the show stood out was because they made me feel I could potentially befriend them. This was special because:1) I am quite selective in who I want to befriend as a rule and 2) I had never wanted to befriend someone out of the blue in my 37 years of life (actually I was 36 when I had the personal reflection spell but I digress). I had known my best friend ever since we were both 14 but it was she who was perpetually taking the initiative in keeping in touch. From the start, she was the one pursuing my friendship and it was clear that she would be doing this and willing to do this for her whole life.
Anyway, I had no idea how it happened but I was really into the love stories I was concocting in my sleepless brain, so much that I was crying in bed. The form of crying where I had to blow my nose as well as wiping away at tears. And I don’t usually cry- somewhere during my teenagerhood I decided I would never cry again, ever (I only relaxed this after I started visiting a psychologist to sort out my phD fiasco and he told me that I shouldn’t have created this rule because it’s not healthy, much better to let the negative emotions flow out with your tears. Still, you are not going to catch me crying in public or admitting to it, at least.). So this is just a bunch of strong emotions that suddenly got sprung on me. And it didn’t help that the female characters in these two stories were too much me, too close to my core personality and values. So essentially, my personal reflection was triggered.
I suffered from a period of lack of concentration (due to sleep loss) and negative feelings as bad memories re-surfaced during the personal reflection phase. But the following are my overall takeaways from this experience:
- I managed to clear some cobwebs to do with bad relationships. They were basically stuff about my biological father and cousin, both of whom I had decided to completely forget and remove from my world. But apparently my memory or heart was still harbouring something about them in a dark corner. So it was good that they got pulled out into the light again and I could examine them and truly lay them to rest or burn them out of my system.
- It made me realise how precious my friendship with my best friend really is. So much that I was moved to tears thinking about her (and she’s the only one out of people I actually know in real life who could do that to me other than Mum). In addition, it provided a point of contrast for me to put into my perspective the relationship I had with my cousin who I grew up with and used to love like a brother. We had lived together under the same roof for more than half of our lives at one point but ultimately he chose to let our relationship just go. In retrospect, that made my love for him feel like an attempt on my part to force him to love me (that was never my intent: I had never even wanted him to love me in return. What I really thirsted for was just him as a play-mate. Me and him were both an only child so I was lonely. I had not always loved him even though I was very close to. Then I was 14, I was learning about inner circles in health, I realised I was so close to loving my cousin- literally one step away. For multiple reasons, I decided to take the plunge into loving him). Meanwhile, my best friend had a great desire to be BFF with me from the get go and had already given me a friendship that had lasted for more than half of our lives up to now.
- I was forced into re-examining the role of romance in my life which I’m not sure I really appreciate but perhaps it’s just due. To be honest, this is one aspect that I’ve neglected for as long as I can remember. Like, ever since high school and until uni, I was of the attitude that I would never marry and never even date. Reason? My core personality contains being serious. That means if I ever allow romance into my life, I want to be serious about it, treat it with a serious attitude. Anyway, long story short is that I had convinced myself that if I never intend to marry, I should never date because that is not being serious enough about romance. Then I think I reconsidered and told one or two of my friends that I change my mind about romance that lasted maybe a couple years. But then I started doing a PhD and I’ve always had the attitude that I won’t date when I’m studying. So then things got back to square one. Then I had the career change crisis after the phD fallout, the rediscovery of fiction writing as my passion, the return to FT job, job change etc. As of currently, I’m juggling between a FT job and trying to write the first book of a debut set of 3 novels. So I’m feeling time constraints keenly and just don’t feel that I have the spare time for a boyfriend yet and truth be told, perhaps never. Or maybe after 50. Absolutely no idea to be honest.
The previous two posts have all been about my writing so I thought I would change the pace a bit by talking about a topic that leans towards the reading side: a reflection of the attributes of my favourite characters and what they show about me.
Firstly, I like a female protagonist who is proud. I mean, I like Mr Darcy too so it’s not just female necessarily but I definitely have a special fondness for female protagonists who are proud so Lizzy Bennett is of course high on my list. As for connection to myself, it’s probably obvious but I am proud (though most probably won’t guess it) and I like being proud. That is not at all the same as being arrogant, just saying but you get the idea.
Secondly, I have a fondness for characters who are a bit ‘bumbling’- that’s the closest word I can come to. I cannot think of a good well-known example in fantasy example for your clumsy mage archetype and the ‘duckling to swan’ female protagonists that are more prominent features of women fiction. In similar veins, I like characters who are a bit odd in some way or socially awkward. For example, I’m rather taken with Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, a female sleuth who has a general people issue that crops up in many areas including relatives, romance and when she works on her cases.
Finally, I have a preference for characters who are morally good. If you wonder how come I’ve never given an example in relation to my favourite genre of fantasy, well, this is where it comes in. In at least 80% of the fantasy I’ve read and enjoyed, they are good triumph over evil stories so you get the picture. Having said that, I think I’ve come to appreciate grey more than black and white as I age so my definition of good has changed or relaxed. But I’ve never been interested in a ‘fallen into the darkness’ story such as how Anniken Skywalker became Darthvader. I think this reflects my own moral stance but also I think it’s just part of my reading taste in general.
And there you go: I think that’s a pretty neat summary of myself at your disposal. 🙂
To an event experienced yesterday and the one who sent me the email:
Forget and forgive,
I’m not ready for you.
Fully aware of my own faults,
I was nevertheless hurt.
I’m applying the best cure for my wounds:
Time and Distance Away.
On a more uplifting note, concurrent to the above event I remembered the following from when I first got my graduate job after being one of the latest of my Honours cohort to get an offer:
Don’t lament Closed Doors,
They are often the wrong ones for you.
The Right Door will open
If you are Patient and Persistent.
Continued on from my post last week, here’s what I learnt about communication and collaboration from my involvement in the epub:
- Never speak to each other under the influence of emotion. This doesn’t mean you push your own emotions aside or never speak up for yourself. Just wait till you feel you are calm before you start compiling your email responses or in the case of chat, just say “I’m not calm now, I don’t want to speak any more, we carry where we leave on now another day”. But make sure that you do actually come back to it with the other person promptly otherwise it’s like leaving stuff on the burner without attendance.
- Words can hurt and there’s no means to undo or take back hurt. It doesn’t matter that your intention wasn’t to hurt and the other person misunderstood your intentions. If someone actually tells you that they have issues with your words/conduct, acknowledge their feelings first and then explain about your original intention. Please don’t rush to dismiss the other’s feelings (remember that all feelings are valid, you can disagree with other people’s opinions, you can’t disagree with other people’s feelings) and justify yourself by saying that the other person is just over-reacting or have an agenda against you.
- To fulfil the purpose of real communication, both parties need to be assertive as opposed to aggressive or submissive. It’s not good enough that you intended to communicate but phrased things so aggressively that the other person gets offended and you effectively say “I’m just being yourself, I’ve always been like this, if you understand my true intentions, why are you taking me up on phrasing issues?” Well, if you really mean to communicate, the basic idea is to get the content of what you want to say across to the other person, not some negative tone underlying your words which then triggers adverse feelings in the other person who then closes down in intellectual comprehension due to such feelings. So really, everyone please read over your own emails before sending them off and when someone reports that they are upset over certain phrasing of yours, just acknowledge this as being valid.
- This is specific to my own personality but it is almost a prerequisite for me to actually work out some basic premise of the conditions surrounding the collaboration before joining rather than jumping on board based on emotions and specifically friendship. I already had a taste of this when I automatically agreed to be my best friend’s bridesmaid but then pulled out upon further consideration. I’m happy to report that this didn’t end up blemishing our friendship but instead made it stronger. But in terms of the epub, this jumping on board on my behalf has been entirely disastrous. I actually wanted to discuss between all collaborators at the very start so we can work out differences or just compare notes in visions. But one collaborator of mine convinced me and everyone that we have an experimental enterprise and it’s better to fine-tune things as we go. And then it’s basically constant warfare between me and him because of our differing visions. Again, this is specific to me and him but I think in general, working out common grounds before a collaboration even started is a good strategy for ensuring group harmony.
- When disagreements occur, don’t go for compromises. Instead, go back to square 1 and actually try to find the lowest denominator of agreement between the two of you over the issue and start from there.
- Trust each other as collaborators. Don’t hold back when you encounter problems. Notify each other promptly. Especially don’t hold back with the view that you are sacrificing for the common good. If all of you are true collaborators, no self-sacrifices are needed, that is just some excuse you make up yourself because you are conflict avoiding in some way. And you can’t trust yourself to hold onto such a martyr attitude for the long term.
- If you genuinely believe yourself to be incompatible with a collaboration, gracefully exit. No matter of your emotional attachment, if you’ve been genuinely accumulated a large stock of negative emotions associated with a collaboration venture and you just can’t resolve this with your collaborators, then just cut your ties. It’s really not worth your time, effort and emotional attachment to stay in a collaboration where you can’t work with people who share the same values with you.
That’s all of my self-reflection on the epub and it’s probably obvious that I went through some intense communication and relationship problems during the course of the epub. But I’m happy to report that I still feel that I gained more than I had lost and I have much more promising collaborative creative writing projects planned ahead with my other collaborator who co-wrote Empress with me in issue 1 of Excursions from the Citadel. I won’t be appearing in future issues of the Excursions beyond issue 3 but I’m not disappearing as a writer. You will continue to hear about writing updates from me so stay tuned.