Undeniable need

The greatest poverty is not to live in a physical world – to feel that one’s desire is too difficult to tell from despair — Wallace Stevens

One of these Mondays, I’m going to miss my self-inflicted deadline of posting a blog. It’s just a matter of time. Not that I have a ton of people waiting every week with baited breath for whatever kernel of silliness that comes spilling out of my mind.

But I like to be diligent and keep my commitments. Things are starting to ramp up over here and I need to implement my game strategy for the next three or four months. Short-tempered, short-fused or sleep-deprived might be adjectives you could use to describe me in the coming weeks.

Hmmm, I should balance that out with short intense moments of decompression, i.e. laughter with folks who know how to make me smile and anything else will make me let go and be in the moment. But doing a little field research will net the same results, as well. Oh, how I love field research.

This past week, I watched three films (in the theatre and on DVD) — Call Me By Your Name directed by Luca Guadagnino, God’s Own Country directed by Francis Lee and Leon: The Professional, a 1994 film directed by Luc Besson. All three films had me thinking a lot about story, setting, character, action/reaction. It also had me thinking about how each director’s values, sensibilities and aesthetics guided the way they told their stories.

I’m still unpacking what I saw. Actually, I’m unpacking a lot of things where the art of storytelling is concerned. In that regard, 2018 has been interesting and in different ways, intense.

I think in a future blog post, I’ll discuss Call Me By Your Name, God’s Own Country and perhaps, Moonlight, and why these films and its directors and actors have so deeply affected me, forged and reinforced the way I think about the art of storytelling and make me want to be a better storyteller.

It will probably be a long read. But if you’re willing to put in the time, you are welcome to read it once I lucidly form my thoughts and opinions about those films and what they mean to me in the bigger picture, creatively and artistically.

I used to gripe about being under-stimulated. Now, I’m just stimulated. But there’s always the threat of over-stimulation that can put anyone into a tailspin and result in a loss of focus.

The next couple of months threaten with unwanted opportunities that could easily lead to scattered thinking. I can’t let allow it to happen. The prize I’m eyeing is too tempting to lose sight of just because the swirling winds of semi-organized chaos created by others are trying to distract me.

God, I hate getting sucked in by the chaos of others.

The need and desire to learn, absorb and dream is strong and undeniable. Nothing must prevent that from happening. Ever.

Road trip

Stories exist to make you feel, to make you think. To challenge the status quo. Any good writer looks at their available choices and tries to surprise, if not delight, the reader. And sometimes, the writer is playing a longer game and will hurt you before they provide relief — Delilah S. Dawson

I’m not sure if any of my writing delights anybody. But I do believe stories — whether they come in the form of books, movies or theatre plays — should make you feel and make you think.

All I really want to do, is tell the best story I can, given the skillset I’m developing. Ambition will take you pretty far, but a solid skillset will take you farther. I’ve just passed the halfway mark in writing my first draft. I gotta say it feels weird. It’s going to feel weirder when I finish it. I’ll expand on that later after the novel is finished.

I am comfortable and happy with the choices I’ve made for my boys and with the choices my boys have made for me. I’ve lost track the number of times the boys and the rest of the characters have made decisions about their story arcs or their roles for me. They may not be real flesh and blood beings but they come from my flesh and blood, therefore they are real to me.

Granted, the last half of the novel hasn’t been written yet but I have the road map. I have all the interest points marked on the map. I even have a pretty good idea on how I would like to get from point N to point Z. But, how I move from one interest point to the next will always be up for negotiation between me and my boys. As long as we hit the interest points, I don’t care how straight or winding the roads are. The road taken will always be scenic.

I’ve already had an interesting trip with the first half of the road map. The rest is going to be a blast with my boys.

There is nothing better than a road trip.

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.