Writing with intuition

So I bumped my head into the car door yesterday and now I’m left with a nasty bruise near my temple. It hurts to yawn and chew, but the writing must go on.

Luckily, I’ve discovered that writing depends a lot on intuition, and when my head isn’t overthinking it, my intuition comes out to play.

This past week, I’ve been working on a story for my zine, Where the wild stories grow, and as an overthinker, I’ve changed the story three different times.

Here’s the rough illustration of the cover:

Each time I come up with a story, I end up thinking: it’s not good enough, it sounds too simple, or nobody would like it. Perfectionism really is a curse for achieving nothing.

So I’ve decided to leave my brain out of the equation and stick to the first story I came up with. It’s simple, but intuitively, it creates the feeling I wanted.

These are the draft opening lines to the three different stories I came up with. Even though I won’t be using two of them, I can still save them for another day:

Story number 3:

I met my friend on Christmas Eve. The day I met him, I thought he was my Christmas gift. That was because I had always wished for a friend. Every candle that I blew out, every shooting star that passed by, every firework that lit the New sky was for him. Or her. It turned out to be a him. But you know what they say? All wishes are double edged, so be careful what you wish for.

After reading it again, I realised this sounded a bit too chic lit for me, which was not the tone I was going for. I think I wrote it because I missed not hanging out with my friend.

Story number 2:

Wild stories grow in the back of my neighbour’s garden, where the weeds are cut too long, and the hayfever makes my eyes itch. I brave the elements and carry with me a shovel and a small, tin can, and make my way up through the overgrown weeds.

This sounds too much like a literary story. Again, not the tone I was going for.

Story number 1

Ginny Cooper had been writing all night when she accidentally knocked over the bottle of black ink.

It splashed all over the pot plant beside her, and as she mopped up the spilt ink, the flowers began to grow.

This was the first story I came up with right after I had drawn the illustrations for my zine. Because it was the spontaneous result of what I had drawn, I’m going to stick with this story.

What do you think? What story suits the tone of the illustrations?

I know it’s quite simple, but I wanted to create a story that I could make before Christmas. And since I’m designing the cover and illustrations, I didn’t want this to turn into a complex novel. I thought it would be a great gift for a friend.

Since it’s turning out to be a rainy day today, all plans are cancelled, so I’m going to spend the morning finishing off the majority of the story, using my intuition and getting things done! Then I can sit back and get ready for Christmas.

Writing is like having a conversation

Writing a story is like having a conversation with a friend who has stopped listening to you. It’s like writing them a letter about all the things you wish you could say, and then halfway through, those words turn themselves into a story.

That’s the wonderful trick with writing. You can finish all those unfinished conversations you never had, say the things you always wanted to say, and get to be right about everything. All these things can be achieved through writing. 

I first discovered this when I started writing a letter to a guy who I liked. There were certain things that I wanted to get off my chest and the more I wrote, the more I started creating stories that made me forget about my own problems. I think my childhood-self gave me this idea. I used to write notes to my dad whenever I had upset him and I’d leave them on the dining room table for him to read. 

Over the years I’ve discovered that writing is my soft spot, the place where I allow myself to become vulnerable. In the safety of words, the best parts of me shine, and in my words I can trace my emotions back to their roots. My characters are the carriers of my emotions and through them I find a way out. That’s what storytelling has always been for me, a way to tell someone how I feel.

But wouldn’t it be nice if one day I didn’t have to write letters to people anymore, what if I could just tell someone how I felt and they would stay there and listen.

Where the wild stories grow

After a fever-induced week of dizzy spells and delirious thinking, I took a day off work and spent my sweet time writing. Since I’ve been trying to create some zines for a while now, I thought I’d use my sick leave wisely and do something a little more creative.

There are a couple of weird looking plants around my house, and on that particular day, they were starting to look a tad bit stranger than usual, (probably brought on by my deliriousness). I kind of fell into a strange twilight zone while staring at them, which inspired me to draw this wild thing:

Now, I’m not a great drawer, but it kind of looks like a forest with giant flowers. Am I right? I’ve been trying to work off of this picture all week, coming up with a story for my zine. I imagine it to be a place where wild stories grow and… I’ll come up with something wild. 

The title for my zine: Where the wild stories grow.

That’s all there is to my zine so far. But I’m going to push myself into productive mode to get it finished. So, here is my zine-making to do list:

  • Come up with a story
  • Finish the illustrations
  • Lay out in InDesign
  • Print out the zine
  • Distribute to friends and family or online

I’ll keep updating this blog with my zine-making progress. Since it’s my first time making a zine, it might take me a while. But here’s to hoping that wild stories can grow out of a frenzied state of mind.

A room of one’s own

My bedroom floor: scraps of coloured paper, half-torn pages and sticky glue – the place where my ten year old self unleashed her creativity without any inhibitions.

My bedroom floor was made of carpet, the worst material to carry out any type of craft work. But I produced some of my most creative pieces right here on this very carpet:

bearstories-fashionmodels-e1542006195361.jpg
Bear stories and Fashion Models, unpublished titles I produced at ten years old.

Bear stories, Fashion Models, titles unknown to the world, but instrumental to my ten year old creativity.

As Virginia Woolf once said:

“A woman must have money and a room if she is to write fiction.”

At ten years old, I was already planning my future as a writer. I had a room, (my bedroom), but no money. So I did what any ten year old did to earn pocket money; I diligently practised the piano, something that was akin to doing chores. By the time I was fourteen years old, I had amassed a fortune of $500.

money and a room of one's own
Me at fourteen years old with a fortune of $500.

Sixteen years after my unpublished titles first saw the light of day, I have everything I need to write fiction: a room and a job. 

So I’m continuing the legacy I started at ten years old: writing and producing books from my bedroom floor.

I wonder if my carpet still bears the old stains left by a ten year old me. Can I still see the worlds galloping by? Are the horses, kingdoms and stories still there where I left them last?

After all, I’m doing nothing new, just bringing the craft of fiction back to the bedroom floor, where many of us created our very own, first works of fiction.

A letter to the universe

At some point in my life, I began collecting diaries. I believed that if I wrote down the things that I wanted to achieve, then I’d be putting my thoughts out to the universe and somehow they would come true. It was like writing a letter to the universe. That’s why I own 30 diaries and counting.

But when the universe was busy reading someone else’s letter, I grew complacent and made a few mistakes. It all began when I started daydreaming about becoming a writer. I’d spend evenings working on my writing skills and mornings working on work. I thought I had a good balance going, but then came the big complaint at work.

An email came through just as I was about to go home. A few words in and my heart sank. Disappointing, she had commented. For the next few days, everyone tried to find out how I had made those mistakes. Stupid, really, it was just a lack of common sense. But it had a domino effect. Every small mistake I made was now viewed as a big mistake. I didn’t even trust myself anymore.

That was when a friend invited me along to a science conference by Michio Kaku. I’d never heard of him before, but I thought I’d give it a go. I was glad to spend my thoughts away from my mistakes and enjoy being in the company of my good friend.

Michio Kaku looked like a Japanese Einstein. He had the iconic, shoulder-length white hair and he was no doubt, just as smart. He talked about all these big ideas: the universe, string theory, Elon Musk’s BFR and the future of mankind. A little stab of panic rose in my chest. Was everyone this smart?

When he opened the floor for questions, the intelligence in the room was overpowering. “What happens when muons bend and time slows down? What happens to the junk in space? Can we download our data into avatars, and what is a soul?” were just some of the big questions directed at the mighty scientist.

Somehow, someone in the audience struck up the courage to ask Dr. Kaku a ‘slightly unrelated science question’: “Dr. Kaku, how did you sustain your passion long enough to carve out a great career?”

This peaked my interest, because I thought it had some relevance to my life.

The mighty scientist seemed to love this question. He himself had asked it many times before, to the 300 scientists he’d interviewed on his radio station. He began by telling us about the ten year old story.

He said that all successful scientists began with the ten year old story. It was the age when they received their first telescope and saw the night sky for the first time. They remembered the feeling of joy at seeing something so vast right before their eyes. Remembering the joy, was what sustained their passion throughout their career.

At the end of the talk, my friend turned to me and said, “See, you don’t need to have common sense to be successful.”

I nodded. Three hundred scientists can back up his sentiments.

The thing is, I keep trying to be like someone else, but in the end I always fall back into myself. Like stars collapsing in the universe, that’s when we shine the brightest.