Not normal

Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from
— Jodie Foster

For most of my life and without realizing it, I tried my damnedest to fit in, to blend in, to be perceived as normal (or at least live up to the perception, rightly or wrongly, people had about Chinese/Asian people — i.e. book smart, docile, non-confrontational, amenable), at the urging of my parents and to those I admired, respected or wanted to be friends with.

As I grew up and became an adult, I came to understand that fitting in, being normal, blending in with everyone around me was something that came at a price. My self-esteem took a beating. My place in the world, in society, was put into question. My value as a human being was under scrutiny, too. The opinions of others superseded my own opinions because I thought they somehow knew better than me.

Now, it’s clear that they don’t. Yeah, we’re all in the same boat but that doesn’t stop certain individuals from pretending they know everything. Everyone is trying to work within a set of parameters that have been constructed by someone else. (Patriarchy, I’m looking at you, you fucking piece of shit.) Everyone is trying, but that’s about it.

I’m more comfortable being the outsider, unable to truly fit comfortably within a set of parameters set up by some idiot who thinks I’m some sort of social and emotional chameleon/contortionist. Fuck that. You want submission? Bend over. I’ll give you a taste of submission. There might be a colostomy bag waiting for you after I’m done with you. I don’t imagine it will be fun.

I went to the monthly writers group meet-up over the weekend and I was reminded by my mentor how much my writing had changed once I gave up trying to follow his instructions. Apparently, he didn’t know how to get through to me during the early days of my developing my storytelling skillset. It wasn’t that I didn’t listen to him. I was. But the end result of my writing exercises/attempts were stilted and far from what I believed I could do and it left me frustrated. He arrived to the same conclusion.

Eventually, I said fuck it and I went off script to figure out the writing thing. As soon as I did that, something clicked. It was something that surprised him. Me? I wasn’t concerned if it surprised him. I was just thrilled that I was off and running. To paraphrase my mentor, the change was akin to letting a colt off its halter and letting it bolt around the pasture to find its legs, to explore the world around him and to taste a bit of freedom.

I appreciated his use of an equine analogy. It reminded me of my horse, Chaplin, when he was still alive and the leader in his little corral. He was the boss. Thankfully, he had a wicked sense of humour. But he was the boss. None of the other horses ever forgot.

My mentor said we both learned something from me going ‘off halter.’ I’m not sure what he learned but I learned that following tried and true constructs doesn’t work for me. Doing that leaves me frustrated, angry and homicidal. I have to get to the same place as everybody else by taking a very different path.

Is it juts a case of learning differently? I don’t know. I think it’s a case of looking at something differently, figuring out the approach from that perspective and running with it.

I don’t remember what I did specifically that was different, to be honest. But I think the difference might have been trusting my intuition and following my gut. My mentor believes that to be true. He believes the ease with which I access the right brain — when I do it my way and not follow some prescribed method — is a big reason for the shift in my writing and the way the story for my second novel has evolved.

I guess following my intuition might not be the norm? If it’s not, good. There is nothing ‘normal’ when it comes to creativity. Normal is a killjoy. Normal is a soul-sucking, non-life affirming way to live.

Fuck normal. I’m all for doing things my way.

In pursuit

Anyone in the pursuit of art is responding to a desire to make visible that which is not, to offer the unknown self to others — Hettie Jones

Anything that I have done, that would be considered in the realm of art, was done in the pursuit of self-expression, self-acceptance and maintaining some semblance of sanity.

That’s how it was with flamenco and piano. And that’s how it is with writing and photography.

Doing things to please anyone other than myself has always ended in eventual disappointment for me. For the others, not so much. The disappointment is something that everyone else fails to see or doesn’t want to see. Or if they do see it, they either ignore it or start shaming you for being for not being selfless enough. They want to ostracize you. They decide that you’re socially dysfunctional. They decide you’re not nice enough, not friendly enough. What they really mean is they decide that since you haven’t done enough to bend over backwards for them, you are not a decent human being.

To borrow from Darth Vader: Your lack of self-sacrifice and commitment to some form of servitude is disturbing.

Three words: Go. Fuck. Yourself.

In the personal pursuit of self-expression, self-acceptance and my version of sanity, I forget that there are folks I know who have read my writing (specifically the first novel), and who are asking me if there is another book in the works.

I was asked that question last week. Judging by the looks these three ladies gave me, they seemed to be chomping at the bit to read anything I produce. Instead of feeling daunted by their expectations, I still found myself surprised that anyone would want to read a bunch of words I string together in an effort to tell a story.

I told them they would see something eventually. They asked me politely to hurry it up. I guess I’ll have a meeting with my boys and the rest of the crew from the next novel about that this week.

I’ve come up with a general idea of when the next book will be ready. Can’t be more than that. Let’s just say the possibility of it being ready is a more tangible concept now than it would have been six months ago.

Now, if I can only get the rest of my life to co-operate with my plans…

On the crooked and winding trail

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view — Edward Abbey

Telling a story populated with interesting characters is just as much fun as actually traveling to another part of the world. With my current writing project, I have been able to do both.

I have to admit the last three field research expeditions have been eye-opening, awe-inspiring and in a number of ways, deeply personal. The trails and roads I’ve followed on these expeditions have only made the trail I’m trying to make for myself as a writer all the more crooked, winding and dangerous. If you were wondering, I mean that in a really great way.

The more crooked, the more winding, the more dangerous, the better. Just a different kind of adrenaline junkie.

Sure, there’s a ‘lonesome’ component to it. But I wouldn’t call it ‘lonely.’ I think of it as solitary. If you’re thinking of solitary confinement then there’s no amount of explaining that can be offered to make you understand the appeal of being on your own.

To me, these kinds of expeditions are best done by yourself. You get to follow your instincts. More often than not, if you bring along another person who really doesn’t have an integral role in the research, you won’t discover as much. The other person is a distraction. That’s one reason. Another reason would be the other person really doesn’t get what and why you’re doing what you’re doing. They may understand it theoretically. They can be empathetic about it. But unless they’ve done something like what you’re doing, there is no true understanding. They will be a distraction. And that is another reason I travel alone. Get more shit done that way.

Let’s be honest, there are only a handful of people who I would willingly have as a travel companion. Outside of that group, there are certain expectations I have to meet. Yeah, no thanks.The politics of relationships, regardless of the type of relationship, are hostile and confusing enough for me to remain a lone wolf.

Maybe one day, this lone wolf will find the perfectly imperfect mate. At long last, I’ll have a companion who won’t annoy me during my expeditions. But I highly doubt I’ll find this person. Lived long enough to know any legitimate opportunity to be in a romantic relationship worth fighting for, has always been slim to none.

So, I will travel the road and blaze a trail with friends who I trust and who will be there for me when I need them.

Anyway, I’m chomping at the bit to continue writing since life makes the annoying habit of interrupting it. I suppose with Christmas coming next month, things will get a little more hectic. Plus, I have a crazy list of movies I need to see in the theatre and a couple of books I need to read. Where the fuck do I make the time?

Oh well, I’ll figure it out. Maybe I’ll start rationing my time. Hmmm. That could work.