What Moves Me (1): Rewinding Time

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. 

Lockdown, Reading Promotion and Time Usage

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.

Moonlake as a person and random life update

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. 

Gaming and writing

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. 

What Moves Me- Summary from My Latest Personal Reflection Spell

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. 

What my Favourite Characters tell me about Myself

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. 🙂

Forgiving and Closed Doors

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.

 

 

What I learnt from the ePub (1)

Even though I ultimately decided that I’m a bad match for the Excursions epub, it has been a fruitful and educational enterprise for me across multiple areas. In this post, I would like to document all of the things I’ve learnt about myself as a writer and a person and about communication and collaboration. This is both for personal reference and general sharing.

Moonlake as a Writer

  • I am less a short story writer compared to a novel writer even though I had yet to finish a novel to date but had at least had a collaborative piece published in issue 1 of the Excursions from the Citadel and finished the first draft of my serial story Thread. I’ve always suspected this but through this epub, I actually find out exactly why: A short story is best matched to a single tight plot but I have a personal penchant for thinking up and preferring to write complex stories with multiple plot lines running parallel to each other AKA I’m Miss Complexity.
  • Some writers can write very fast and believe in writing very fast. I don’t. I like to work at my own pace and occasionally let things simmer so my speed fluctuates. But bottom line is that I am a slow writer overall. Sometimes I wish I’m faster but mostly I don’t. I like taking my time with things. It’s part of my life philosophy.
  • While I tend towards planning before writing (in fact, I just cannot completely wing it, I really need to plan somewhat before I can start writing anything), I still often under-plan. Part of this is an inability to completely imagine myself in the scene 100% of the time.
  • I’m very inflexible when actual writing starts deviating from m plan.
  • I really need to do pre-writing which I did for my stalled novel where I expand each scene out almost completely before I write actual words for a story. I discarded this completely for Thread, my solo serial for the epub and now things are in a mess in terms of revision.
  • I insist that I can’t function as a writer without feedback but I also need to balance this eager embracing of/chasing after feedback with an ability of reconciling feedback with my own author’s vision for the story where they differ. For Thread, the latter became an issue but luckily, I asked another contributing author for issue 2 for help and she very correctly encouraged me to pursue my own vision as the author.

Moonlake as a Person

  • I’ve always classified myself as mild-tempered and this is also my public image. Also, I’ve always abhorred conflict, whether it’s being involved myself or even just observing it. But when it comes to something I really care about, then my real temper can show and it did show for this epub. While it had led to ugliness, I celebrate the fact that I had stood for myself and my genuine feelings.
  • I still hold back too much, especially my own emotions. This only gives them a chance to fester, leading up to explosions later and grudges being built up with long shadows.
  • My intuition is strong and I should learn to trust it more.
  • While I tend to get along with everyone, there are certain communication styles that I dislike. I should accept this aspect of myself and remember it for future reference.
  • Internet friendships are to be taken cautiously as there are little that they are based on other than the words you write on a keyboard to each other. I shouldn’t have the expectation that they would be as steadfast as real life friendships. While this might not be true of and for everyone, I should again accept that this is just my nature.

Giving

“If you think you’ve given other a lot but they are still unhappy with what you gave them, then you need to start thinking about whether you’ve given what they want/need.”
~dialogue from the Hong Kong TV drama, Between Love and Desire.

Does this resonate with any of you? It certainly does with me, especially in light of recent events.

I’ve put in oblique references to these events before in earlier blog posts but let me talk about them directly here to provide the context for how this quote relates to me on a personal level. But before I do that, let me start at the beginning, which is the collaborative epub venture started at the Citadel – my chosen virtual writer’s home, a site for writers and gamers (or most likely writer-gamers). It started some time towards the end of last year and we released the first issue of Excursions from the Citadel on 1 March this year. We are now working on issue 2 and I will exit this enterprise as a writer after the publication of issue 3.

Why am I exiting? The predominant reason is that I find myself a bad match to the enterprise which needs a writer that can produce a short story that’s ready for public eyes within a set time period of about 3 months. I am just not that type of writer. I talked about this before but what I’ve never made clear explicitly is that there is a secondary reason that has at least 20% weighting in terms of pushing me towards the decision of leaving the venture that I had helped to build from the ground up and invested substantially in both in terms of time and emotion. By the way, I know this to be true of the original circle of 3 who were the only contributing authors towards issue 1 of Excursions. And yet despite this common passion, periodic rows always erupt between me and a specific person out of my two collaborators. Both of us had exploded at the other, one each across the two issues respectively. Big and small disagreements and arguments have peppered all throughout our collaborations and it just made me absolutely exhausted. But this is not a rant post and I will stop here in terms of talking about contexts. Also, the good news is that despite this personal disagreement, I parted from the epub and this particular collaborator of mine in peace.

Now, onto the actual meat of this post. I’ve been reflecting on this rather nasty turn in the communication and relationship between me and this collaborator of mine (who I actually considered friend at one point). There were multiple contributing factors of course but I really feel that the crux of the matter lies in the opening quote. I think that each of us believe in some sense that we had done a lot for the other that was underappreciated (he specifically said this in one correspondence between us and I must say that I echoed this sentiment too and told him so in my own way later on). I would say that we are correct in thinking that we each had given a lot to the other in terms of support in our respective creative endeavours and tolerance of unintentional bad choice of wording etc. But what I now feel is that each and both of us should take the opening quote to heart as the lesson to be learnt out of our disagreement and parting. When we peel back all of our emotions and just examine cold hard facts, I think we will find that we have each compromised on the other’s behalf but what often happens is that we ‘forget’ this about the other’s efforts and sacrifices in the heat of our emotions and unconsciously revert back to demanding having what we each wanted fully. But this means that we each become stuck in our subjective realities and that’s not a way we can operate on a long term basis as collaborators. The opening quote gets me out of this unhealthy mindset and now I would share it with everyone.

Anyway, this is the end of my own reflection. What about yours? Care to share below?

Words hurt

Recently, I’ve had a first hand experience of how words hurt though of course I didn’t do anything so dramatic but I admit to not being on my best behaviour. It’s more or less over with me now but I still feel for the original author who wrote this. Secondly, during this incident that I’m referring now, me and the other person have been alternating between aggressor and victim and now I think that both of us should have read this post.