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.

 

 

 

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 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?

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.

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.