Chaos is good

I sometimes start keeping a journal about the writing process itself. Particularly when I get the ideas, and I am trying to brood over the chaos phase. In writing a novel, you really have to brood over a lot of chaos of ideas and possibilities
— Sue Monk Kidd 

I have never kept a journal about my writing process for any of my writing projects. If I did, it would probably be a jumbled collection of meanderings which is partly why I think this blog site exists. However, only a tiny percentage of my meanderings, as it pertains to the writing process, ever make it here.

If I dumped all my writing process meanderings here, there would be a good chance some folks I know would never speak to me again. Reasons for not speaking to me again? Let’s see… way too fucking honest for my own good which is way too uncomfortable for some people; my slightly nihilistic musings might be a little disconcerting; and my geekiness, my obsessions, my fangirling might be a little intense to be around. I’m sure there might be more but I think those would be the top three. And to those who would choose to never speak to me again, I have only one thing to say — Adiós, baby. We were never meant to be friends so I won’t be shedding any tears over it.

The chaos phase where ideas and possibilities collide and threaten to turn into a frat house party gone wrong is always fun. I enjoy brooding over the ideas. I also enjoy brooding over what scenes I feel I’m missing while I’m tapping away at the keyboard.

With regards to the current writing project, yes, I have the scenes I need to the tell the story, written down on file cards (scribbled in point form). I don’t know about anybody else, but it is inevitable that I will discover that I’ve forgotten or overlooked a scene that needs to be written, to help set something up for future events for the characters. I don’t care how well you think you’ve plotted out the chain of events that will lead to the end of a story, there will always be something that pops up like a whack-a-mole and you need to address it, otherwise it’ll keep taunting you until you do something.

So, I’m in the process of doing that now and will fall in out of that process until I’m done writing the story. The sooner you catch them, the better off you’ll be in the long run. Personally, I’m one of those people who enjoys the process. From beginning to end. Every freaking aspect of it no matter how onerous it may be. It’s about creating something, it’s about telling a story and wanting to make it the best version it can be.

Plus, I love spending time with my characters. And I’ve been spending a lot of time with them in the last month. Or maybe I should say, they have been spending a lot of time with me. Regardless of what I may be doing at any given moment, they pop into my imagination without much warning, demanding my attention. I’m not sure where they picked up that behaviour but I consider it a good thing for my writing. Their presence fuels what needs to be done. It’s a reciprocal synergy that makes everyone involved happy and eager to get shit done.

And believe me, shit is going to get done.

Sometimes, you gotta represent

It’s hard as a young person of a different ethnicity or background to look at the TV and not see anyone who looks like you. Representation is very important — Zendaya

I’d like to amend that quote by saying that it is not only young people of a different ethnicity or background who find it hard to look at the TV or a movie and not see anyone who looks like you. Representation is important to everyone who is of a different ethnicity or background, young and old.

While striving for positive representation of people of different ethnicities and backgrounds on TV and in movies has been an ongoing topic of (ocassionally heated) discussion, it came into the supernova-bright spotlight with the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story because of its multicultural/multi-ethnic cast.

My Dec.19 post, regarding my love/deep appreciation for the movie and my declaration that it was the best film to come out of the Star Wars franchise, focussed on the fact it subverted the idea that a movie’s protagonists always came out of a conflict alive and still standing to fight another day. That a happy ending isn’t always the best ending.

I really didn’t dive into the diversity of the cast in that post because I was still processing what I had seen. I’ve probably ruminated long enough to make somewhat lucid remarks on the subject. I also admit to being encouraged and spurred on by a tweet Rogue One actor Diego Luna shared last week regarding a Star Wars fan’s Tumblr post. The post made an emotional impact on him. In it, the woman shared her experience about the time she took her Spanish-speaking father to see Rogue One and how the fact that Luna kept his accent for the film, made her father proud to be Mexican instead of being ashamed of being Mexican. The tweet went viral resulting in media outlets in the States and from Mexico wanting to speak to the woman and her father.

Her post struck a chord with me. I can be outspoken on a lot of things but diversity/representation hasn’t been a subject I felt the need to weigh in on until now.

I grew up in a multicultural environment. In school, from kindergarten to university, my classmates were Indigenous, Filipino, East Indian, German, Italian, Ukrainian, Portuguese, Argentinian and so on. We didn’t quite resemble the United Nations but we did resemble the United Colours of Benetton ads that were almost ubiquitous back in the ’80s. There was an easy acceptance of our physical appearances that tied us to our individual ethnicities.

If any racial slurs or jokes were made, they were most likely made because the person making those slurs/jokes didn’t know how to verbalize whatever was gnawing them and lashed out over something that was obvious but was never really the source of the problem/issue.

When I was growing up, in the handful of times where racist slurs were made at me, it was confusing and hurtful because I never did anything to insult or harm the taunters. They would never tell me what I did wrong. They always ended up making themselves the victim and me the bad guy. I suppose when you think that way, you’re fucked up. No getting around that conclusion.

Over the years, I have come to understand that those who throw out racist remarks/slurs are people who need to exert some sort of power over someone else because they feel a degree of powerlessness that makes them uncomfortable and maybe, a little panicked. So they pick on someone who they believe won’t call them out on their bullshit. Of course, there are other who were taught racists views. You’re never born thinking that way. You’re taught labels and use them as a way of making sense of the world. Let’s be honest, labels are never that helpful. Labels box you in.

Unfortunately, because Asian people, in particular, Chinese and Japanese people, especially Chinese and Japanese girls and women, have been stereotyped as docile and passive… perfect doormats for verbal and physical attacks.

I do not have a Chinese accent. But I have a Canadian accent (whatever that is supposed to sound like). That’s because my family came over to Canada when I was four months old. But the lack of a Chinese accent hasn’t kept the odd and questionable human being from making remarks about slanted or slit eyes and talking with a really bad Chinese accent because they think it’s funny. Dumb fucks. I blame most of that behaviour on sheer ignorance. If they truly disliked me, for whatever reason, it’s easy enough to stop interacting with me. It’s that simple, is it not?

Despite the unpleasant moments, I have to say that for the majority of my life, I have been fortunate enough to be around people who look beyond my ethnicity, who are never distracted by my ethnicity, who accept me for who I am as a person.

In my current job, I am the only person with Chinese ethnicity working in my department. It’s been that way for years. I never think of it unless an older relative brings it up. Fortunately, I can count the number of times on one hand where I’ve had to address the issue with a relative. And since I’m bringing it up, yes, representation at my workplace is lacking but I’m not looking to change anything because my focus is elsewhere… somewhere I believe I can make my own little mark on diversity and representation. Honestly, my ethnicity is a non-issue at work. If it is, no one has said anything to me. I was hired for my skill set, not because there was some invisible quota that needed to be filled regarding diversity or the fact that I’m female.

While my ethnicity seemingly is a non-issue in my professional life, I do think it has been a shadowy issue in my romantic relationships. Not in every relationship but there are some that probably wouldn’t withstand the microscopic scrutiny I would put it under right now.

I’ve met men who will only date Asian women because they’re not ‘aggressive’ or ‘possessive.’ Sorry, but I see nothing but red flags when I hear shit like that. Quite frankly, any guy who thinks I’ll be docile and passive in a relationship because he thinks I can manifest his stereotyped assumptions/dreams about Asian women, is going to find my steel-toed boot up his bleeding arse and his car tires slashed.

But I think I’m digressing by talking about relationships.

Anyway, representation is something I never thought to put down into words until I saw Rogue One. Aside from the premise, another reason I love the film is because of its talented multi-ethnic cast. While Mexicans are thrilled Diego Luna is the male lead in the film, I love the fact Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen are also in the movie. And let’s not forget Riz Ahmed. Sure, he is British, but he is also Pakistani.

How great is it for children and adults — who share the same ethnicities as these actors — to see themselves reflected back in a movie that doesn’t have them portraying stereotypes? Pretty fucking great, I’d say.

And you know what? They all have accents, folks. And you know what else? You understand what they’re saying. The fact that accents are treated as normal and not something to be made fun of, or is seen as an obstacle to understanding what they are saying, is fantastic.

Personally, I love listening to accents. Accents are great. I’ve never regarded accents as something that got in the way of understanding the dialogue and what was happening in a scene. Makes me wish I had an accent even though I apparently have a Canadian accent. Again, I don’t even know what that means or what it’s in reference to.

Right from the beginning, when I started writing, representation has been something that has found its way into my fiction writing. With any long-form or novel-length projects I’ve worked on or are working on, there has always been some form of representation with regards to my characters. I’ve never forced it. It just is.

Through writing, diversity and representation have become important to me. There is this need to manifest it in my creative life, in my writing life. Again, I’m not forcing it. It’s just there and there is no way I’m going to dismiss it.

This need to show diversity has manifested itself in other ways — who I follow on social media, the kind of music I want to listen to, my small but significant interest in social histories and a desire to explore beyond the Canadian border and the North American continent. I love how this is subtly and positively infiltrating my life and my choices.

I long for the day where the entertainment media, or the media in general, stops running stories about representation or the need for representation because it’s been normalized. As it stands, it’s not normalized. As long as there are still adherences to using ethnic stereotypes to tell a story, we won’t be any closer to being rid of them. And so, the fight for representation continues. I stand behind this fight. There is no other way for me.

Representation matters.

Welcome, 2017

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves — Bill Vaughan

Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a lovely New Year’s Eve. I stayed up until midnight to see the new year in. But I also stayed up to make sure the old year left, too. I guess you can be an optimist and a pessimist at the same time. It could be viewed as having a balanced perspective, perhaps.

For New Year’s Eve, I was a homebody. Parties don’t cut it for me anymore. To be honest, New Year’s Eve parties never really did anything for me. Even when I was in my 20’s or 30’s. Just not my jam.

So, New Year’s Eve consisted of reading, writing and eating dim sum leftovers (from lunch) with a glass or three of sparkling wine while watching Elysium on Netflix. I wanted to watch Mr. Pig afterwards but I went back to working on my writing instead. Yeah, I’m definitely a party animal. I plan to watch Mr. Pig in the next 24 hours. It’s all good.

I suppose I should say whether or not I liked Elysium. I liked the storyline. I bet that didn’t sound entirely enthusiastic. Here’s how I see it. Matt Damon isn’t an actor I follow with any great interest. But I have watched the Jason Bourne movies and I quite liked them. Plus, I have to admit I watched it because I knew Diego Luna was in it. Then much to my surprise, I realized, while watching the movie, that Wagner Moura (Pablo Escobar from Narcos) was in it too. Seriously, I love that man. What a fantastic actor. He certainly didn’t disappoint in this film.

I suppose the only reason I might sound like I’m saying ‘meh’ to the movie despite Luna’s and Moura’s appearances in the movie is because of Jodie Foster. I like her. I do. But I can’t get past that blasted accent/affectation she used in the movie. If she was consistent, I would have been okay with it even though I still would have scratched my head over it. But she wasn’t consistent with the accent or whatever. It came and went throughout the movie. It drove me bananas. She spoke french beautifully in the movie but the accent wasn’t French. I couldn’t place it. Eastern European? No. Spanish? No. How about Danish? No. A mash-up of different accents? Who knows. Maybe it was supposed to be how a rich person sounded (those with a superiority or entitlement complex). Damned if I know.

She threw me off. And gaping at Luna and Moura didn’t help. Damon did an admirable job and his Spanish speaking skills were muy bien. Doesn’t hurt to have a wife who speaks the language. I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed over the fact I was more interested in the secondary players than the leads in the movie. Well… I don’t feel like apologizing for that, anyway.

Didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions because, in short, I know what I need to do and want to do. Don’t need resolutions to help me keep my eye on the prize.

It’s 2017, folks. Let’s see what we can make of it.