Weekend getaway to a writer’s home

I’ve always wondered what a writer’s home looked like. Rooms full of libraries, books that span across shelves, a reading corner, a warm fireplace, something a little reminiscent of the Beast’s library.

Last weekend, I got a chance to see such a home with my very own eyes, to live and breathe the space where a writer once worked.

Let me describe to you every breathtaking detail from the drive up the long winded driveway, to the little speck of dust on the kitchen counter.

It was as if we had stepped into a house that was waiting for us to enjoy its simple pleasures.

The ferns waved at us from either end as we rounded into the driveway, the door swung open with an easy click that opened into a homely kitchen and lounge, and there were cats, all six of them, roaming freely, so that you never got to see them all together at the same time.

After we had settled our bags down and pinched ourselves in disbelief, we gave ourselves a mini tour.

A little note was stuck to the kitchen counter. “There’s pizza in the fridge. Help yourselves.”

We did more than just that.

We cooked in the kitchen. Roast chicken and salad, while my friend prepared dinner for the cats. There was a pantry full of all the spices one could ever need, and drawers and drawers of utensils.

As I recall, my friend got mixed up between the cat utensils and the human utensils. You can tell that the owners were very fond of their cats.

After dinner, we melted cheese on bread and sat outside on the deck that overwatched the sea, and later that evening, we spread ourselves across the warm rug in front of the TV, while the cats joined us, purring contently.

Even though it seemed like an hour, we sat this way for five hours. The house seemed to have its own time.

It was midnight, when we reluctantly peeled ourselves away from the warm rug and entered the cool night, leaving this oasis behind us.

On the drive home, I struggled to keep my eyes open. The next day was a work week, what was I doing out so late? Still, it was the best decision ever.

Yawning loudly, we drove towards a purple-blue horizon lit up by a single streetlight. Lights multiplied by the dozens as we drove on – out of the countryside and back into the city, with just a touch of remorse tainting this lovely Sunday evening.

A jar of quotes

When I was teaching myself how to write, I kept a small jar of quotes beside me. They kept as a reminder of the reasons why I chose to become a writer.

If there was ever a day where I was easily discouraged, I would pick a few quotes out of the jar and read them silently to myself.

Afterwards, I almost always found my courage again.

Today I picked a quote from the jar and it said:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes it’s the quiet voice saying I will try again tomorrow.”

These are the quiet steps taken by a writer. And if not tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow, or even fifty years later, all these words will culminate into something it was always meant to be.

As I close the lid to my jar of quotes, I know that there are many more writers hiding out there.

How do you find your courage to write?

Writing under the shade of a tree

Right now I’m using my break to sit and write under the shade of this big tree. I only have 15 minutes to finish this post before I have to return back to work. So I’ve got to hurry.

Why am I writing under a tree?

Before my office moved to the other end of the street, I used to do my personal writing at the library, during lunch time. Now that I’ve moved further away from the library, I’ve been scrounging around for neat little places to sit down and write.

Sometimes it’s impossible to find the energy to write after work, so I try to write throughout the day, in bits of time between my working hours.

Finding the perfect space to write

Nothing can replace the feel of a nice, soft spot in the library, but if you have no choice but to sit outside and write, then find somewhere that’s partially private.

Writing delves into the subconscious, and if you’re one of those people who can’t think when people are staring at you, then a nice shaded area, dense with trees, is the perfect place to write.

I want to write more but I have to go back to work. I’ll be here again, making use of this private writing spot. I hope to spend more of this time working on my novel.

 

 

 

Insomniac’s guide to falling asleep

It’s extremely hot and I can’t get to sleep. My sweat is sticking to the sheets and no amount of fanning can cool me down from this summer heat.

Normally, I would surrender to this heat until I’ve fallen asleep, but it’s 1am on Friday morning, the last day of the summer holiday and I don’t want to spend it in agony.

So I’m sitting up in bed typing out this blog and wondering what I should do before the day has barely begun.

Remember the singer from Owl City, the one who had insomnia? And how he used his sleepless nights to write his hit single Fireflies?

Not saying that I will produce a hit single, but I could spend it productively, like think about how to interior design my room which currently has nothing but my bed in the middle. Or I could write a poem, plan more roadtrips, read a book, or try to fall asleep.

My sister is awake in her room watching YouTube.

Seems like nobody can fall asleep in this sleepless summer heat.

What do you do when it’s boiling hot and you can’t fall asleep?

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.

How far can you go?

My grandfather walked 156km from his farming village to the city, when he was just a small boy, so that he could attend middle school. A journey like that would’ve taken him days, but he did it alone, all by himself, with nothing but the road signs to guide him.

I learnt about this story on my last visit to see him, when he was lying in hospital, in a vegetative state.

When I asked my mum why he had done that, she said: “He had a vision.”

What she meant was that he was the first of his family to get an education, when nobody else thought to do so. And in doing that, he led our family out of a life of poverty.

My grandfather had such strong blood in him. I didn’t see it then, because he was just a tiny, fragile old man. But I see it now.

He fights and claws at the caretakers when they stick tubes down his throat. He stares them down if they cover his hands with mittens because he likes to take the tubes out of his nose.

He is very much a leader trapped inside a dying body.

But he was strong enough to wait for us to come back so that we could say goodbye.

He was strong enough to walk 156km for an education that would otherwise never have been given to him.

I am not strong like him, but on the day of his passing, I realised he had left a legacy.

So I asked myself, what would I walk 156km for?

What’s in a story?

Tamora Pierce once said that writing is like training for a marathon.

“Don’t worry if you never finish all the stories you start. You wouldn’t expect yourself to run a marathon straight away. You train yourself by running short distances. So keep practising, keep writing, and you’ll build up the muscles you need for the full novel.”

This takes me back to my first few attempts at storytelling. I always wondered why I could never get past the beginning:

In primary school, I set up a beautiful description of a haunted house and then nothing happened. The story just fizzled out.

In intermediate, I was so fixated with perfecting every word, that I never got past the first sentence.

And then somewhere in adulthood, I decided to get one word past the beginning, then one line past the beginning, and then, one sentence!

I can now write two chapters in one sitting. Kind of ok, right?

So, this is what it looks like when you start training yourself for that novel:

When you write often, you begin to see the kinds of stories you care about.

When you write long enough, you begin to use your own words.

When you write everyday, you begin to develop the ability to sit still for hours.

When you write even when you hate your writing, you develop patience and endurance.

And when you write each and every day, you’ll realise how powerful words with direction can be.

That’s what a story is. Not how perfect the words are, but the direction they’re taking you; towards that sentence, towards that paragraph, towards that chapter and finally, towards that last word in your novel.

How great would that feel?