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?

Wandering without a religion

People always find it strange when I tell them that I don’t have a religion, as if I should’ve been born with one, like the hair on my head, or the skin on my back.

All I can say to them is that I never came with one. My parents aren’t religious, but they’re not atheists either. I always have to add in this last part as if not being religious automatically classifies us in opposition with whatever religion people believe in.

But from time to time, when I feel lost and out of my element, I have yearned for the guidance and support that people in community groups receive.

And the question that sometimes springs to my head is: How do I belong? Where do I belong if I don’t belong there?

Over time I have discovered that I belong in libraries and bookshops, in the comfort of an author’s words. Whenever I need guidance, I turn to books for advice and in them I find solace.

Who’s to say that reading isn’t a religion in itself, when it’s brought me great purpose and taught me how to have an open mind?

Wandering alone in the dark, I found my religion in their words.

Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to them: To find words for what we already know. ~Alberto Manguel.

The hidden workshop

Enid Blyton taught me that summertime is all about exploring, and that if you look closely, even ordinary things can start to look like treasures.

I’ve discovered a workshop hidden right outside my new house. It’s hidden because nobody can see its potential but me. If I were to describe it to you, I’d take away the magic from this place. Instead, I’ll talk about what I plan to fill it with.

Coral. She’ll go in there first. That’s my coral-coloured kayak. It’ll be a proper little home for her. I take her out to go exploring with me during the summer but she hibernates during the winter months. A tarpaulin over the timber shelter will cover her nicely from the harsh sun.

My imagination. It’ll be nice to have a place to store my imagination. These days I daydream from room to room, leaving too much of my energy in bits of places. Virginia Woolf always said that a writer needs a room of one’s own. Mine just happens to be a workshop!

I am happy to have found a small space to occupy and fill with wonderful projects. It’s a way of keeping the magic alive even if I am now an adult.

The one in a million book

There’s a map tucked away in the pages of a book. It sits on my shelf and has done so ever since I was thirteen. The places on the map aren’t real, they’re imaginary places, walked upon by fictitious characters who seem all too real. I used to travel to these places in my mind, exchanging my mundane existence for a more worldly experience.

Before I knew anything about empowerment and mental strength, I would run across the school courtyard, bumping into other kids because I was too afraid to look up to see where I was going. I remember running to class in an agitated state because I didn’t want to be late. Can you imagine? The fear of drawing attention to myself kept me in a constant state of fear and self-confinement.

Why was I like that? Probably a combination of teenage insecurities, anxieties and lack of self confidence.

Something in me changed when a friend of mine handed me a book to read. Bound in a torn and over-handled cover, the book was old and grimy. I refused to read such a book! But I borrowed it anyway, under the false pretense that I would read it.

This lasted a few days because the next week, I had to take part in silent reading. Reluctantly, I fished the book out of the bottom of my bag and opened it up to the first page. It was one of those classic fantasy stories about knights and swords swept up in a tale of adventure and friendship. But for a girl like me, it was the first time I had read a Sword and Sorcery book. I took to it like an old friend.

The book details the journey of a girl who disguises herself as a boy so that she can become a knight.

What did the book teach a teenager like me, who was afraid of my own shadow?

The morning after I had finished reading the book, I got out of bed and went for a run. It was the first run I’d done in a whole year. That moment was significant because I remember feeling good about myself, like I could achieve anything I wanted. From that moment on, I started valuing my goals and holding myself accountable for achieving them.

I wouldn’t say that the change was instant, rather, it was more of a slow and gradual change. Whenever I found myself friendless, I would start to seek out friends. If I wanted to change jobs, I would start by teaching myself new skills.

In my experience, a good book can rewire the neurological pathways of a teenager. It can heal, encourage and empower. A good book can inspire us to change our destinies and restore faith in ourselves.

This is why a trip to the library feels like a dig deep down in an excavation site. What treasure will I find inside a book that doesn’t appear as it seems?

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.

Call of the wild

A few months ago, I had the most epic apocalyptic dream:

I was vacationing on an island, with my mum, dad, and sister, when a huge tsunami swept everyone away, leaving only my sister and I clinging onto the balcony of our hotel.

When we looked around, we saw a giant crocodile statue wrapped around the entire hotel building.

Except that it wasn’t a statue, it was a real crocodile.

And it wasn’t just any crocodile, it was a giant, prehistoric crocodile.

So my sister and I made our way slowly down the building, trying not to disturb the beast, when we noticed something interesting.

Tucked away underneath the foot of the crocodile was an old box. We opened it and found an old casette player and a tape inside, so we played it.

A man’s voice crackled:

“Mayday! Mayday! This is M.C. Mcdonell. I’m on an island, and there’s been a huge tsunami. I’m the only known survivor and there’s a giant crocodile wrapped around the hotel-”

The tape stopped playing.

We all stared at each other.

“You mean to say,” my sister said, “that this has happened before?”

“I’m afraid it’s happening again.”

And that was the end of my dream. I really wanted to know what happened next, but I woke up and never got to finish dreaming.

So I went on a dig down at the library to satisfy my longing for that dream-like apocalyptic feeling.

And there, right in front of me was an old classic, rewrapped and rebound in new. I’d never read the book before, but there was an image of a prehistoric beast rearing its head on the front cover.

It reminded me of those old adventure movies I used to watch, like Indiana Jones, and The Mummy, and it had the faint whiff of my dream, so I stood there in the middle of the library, reading the first few pages:

For it is only when a man goes out into the world, with the thought that there are heroisms all round him… that he breaks away from the life he knows…and ventures forth into the twilight mystic land where lie the great adventures and rewards.

Which is why, in following the author’s advice, I ventured out, or rather, up, onto a mountain, 50 metres above ground, with Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World in my mind.

So next time if you have a dream, answer the call of your dream. It might lead you to discover one more awesome book and if you’re willing to follow it, it might lead you to the next part of your adventure.