October feels stretched out and long this year. Does it mean then that the veil is thinner, being all pulled at the edges and shivering with tension like a held breath before the confession of a long secret desire?
I try to slip a limb into the mad rush towards the too-loud, too-bright, too-manic excitement of Yuletide and I wince.
Yesterday right in the middle of being sane and productive and reasonable I felt something shut off inside me and I had to take myself to bed.
I used to be able to glimpse the shimmer of doorways even though I never could get close enough to get in. I was always just ten thousand lifetimes short of being invited.
Now my eyes are only seeing the flowers but not the heart from which they grew their hungry thirsty roots.
But I have become so good at thinning myself into invisibility that no one notices even when I try to be seen. I've always found safety in my shell but lately I find that too much safety can also hurt.
There is a person across the ocean trampling through my wildforest and does not see me even while his hand presses upon the ancient tree that carries a vein of my spirit pulsing upon his palm. He flits and fleets through the paths, making play of slipping in and out of his world and mine. He never realises that he steps into another Place, only that something changes inside him, an unexplained question shaped into a wordless longing.
The Stories are ripe and heavy on the branches, skins starting to burst and wanting to fall to the soft waiting earth blanketed with leaves as bright as fireworks.
A pumpkin waits and wishes to become a magic carriage instead of a jack-o-lantern.
Yesterday was not a good day. Especially towards the afternoon. I was listless, restless, bothered, irritable, exhausted. Mostly I was exhausted. And I wanted to sleep but couldn't sleep. I was agitated, anxious, angry for many reasons.
For a moment I thought about stepping out, with a list of errands, to force the energy of the seemingly irrational mood into something functional. But I stopped myself. I knew I would likely end up spending more money than I should, after the errands were done, too unhappy to care, only wanting to find any means of solace, any hint of solution to the chafing, choking feeling thrumming somewhere in the core of myself. A discomfort like something stuck in the passageways of thought and heart and tongue and hand.
I stayed with it instead. That sharp-edged cloud of sadness wrapped around me, the weight of unnamed sorrows, unacknowledged longings.
This is how it was like. Like staying in a dark room despite the noises that smelled of danger, even when the exit door is ajar and street noises beckon with their oblivion. Like staying still and silent while burning, long enough to realise that the fire was coming from your heart, and that becoming ash and cinder was optional. Like not running away as the hissing and growling approached from the shadows, even when you begin to feel a hot cold breath drip down your spine, to keep your own breathing calm, to keep your eyes open.
In the darkness and the stillness, in the staying instead of going and running away, in the space I have made of woven sighs and simmering discontent, the words started to arrive.
Old words, new words, strange words. Familiar words. Changed words. They were tentative at first, unsure of whether I wished to be helped or rescued, or if I, perhaps, would like to swim back into paint. To avoid words because they peel the truths more finely and sting more exquisitely. Because when the words come even the paintings are made to account for themselves, to not be tricky with meanings but to be clear even in playful obscurity.
So the words came. And when I allowed myself to write them despite my sense of inadequacy and foolishness, I started to feel better. The sharp-edged cloud softened. The heaviness flowed from my core to my hand and into the page.
There have been Things happening beneath the surface but even while I have been painting a lot, my language is more than colours on canvas. I don't know why I have been keeping the words at bay. Or maybe I do know, that naming Things confirms the Thing's existence, and existence require responsibility, presence, attention. Particularly when it is love. Particularly when love itself arrives in a story even more difficult than the ones you've had to tell before. Ever more fantastical. Ever more impossible.
But at least the words got me out of the moods, took me back to the heart of things, the heart of me.
So the poems are coming back, and intentioned writing (no longer the sideways offhand manner I've been doing for many months now, playing it safe and only scratching surfaces). I think it's time for the painting to work with the words, as well as the other way around, with the words working with the painting.
Twitter turned out to be a wonderful space for poems. An open sketchbook for my words. Anonymous and known at the same time, secret and brave.
In case you are new to this blog or have already forgotten, I started an illustrated poetry book in April. It's very work-intensive and somewhat elaborate. Each page is painted and handwritten. My plan was to scan and then layout and then print -- but have it done by professionals because of the colours and textures that I want to keep from original to print, and I have no Photoshop skills, and I know that colour printing is more complex than plain black & white printing.
Here are snapshots of a couple of pages I've finished so far (I've done almost a dozen poems already) :
But as in my previous post, the expected inflow of potential funds from employment did not happen. So I've had to park the elaborate book for a while and do more work on designs and products that I can sell on Etsy and Society6 on the short-term (such as the 100-day project). I've also had to do a full re-plotting of my creative journey in an attempt to make it more sustainable.
But I want to push through with a (self)published book this year. Especially since I've been repeatedly promising it to myself for the past five years. Yet I also don't want to compromise for the sake of simply having something published. Then recently an idea came to me --
-- A chapbook that I can self-print and self-publish. Simpler in the sense that I won't be using my usual wild-coloured palettes but instead I'll be using sumi ink with which I have recently fallen intensely in love with (with inky strings attached to a hundred associated scenes and stories in my head and which led into a series of red-sunned paintings). I may use one to two other colours for accent but the paintings will be mostly of the black petrichor-scented ink.
A few poems may overlap with the original book but I will use mostly recent and new poems. If fortunate, I may even be able to launch it simultaneously with the art exhibit, and thus hit the proverbial two birds with one stone. We'll see. I will certainly try to make it so. I'm thinking maybe a dozen or so printed books -- home-made and hand-stitched. Or I can do it like a boxed set of loose-paged poems that can be kept or given away. Hmmm.
Let me end this post with a poem I will include in the collection. This one was written in early July, and very much tangled up with the seeds of the Red Sun painting series and a new painting series still brewing in the background.
I am in an awkward phase of becoming and creating at the same time. There was a trail that was a rabbit hole and I am not Alice but the Queen of Hearts yet I am the one running late for tea and the cards refuse to say my fortune.
There was a trail that was made of bread crumbs and I followed the crows who gobbled them up instead, who led me to a house made of stitched-up noodles and inside was an empty begging bowl. I took the bowl.
There was a trail that led to an ocean at the end of a lane. And the ocean flowed into the country that grew boys out of flowers. But my feet are fins and my voice not worth a trade, so I watch from a distance while I drowned in my own despair.
A person is a country. Though not even its owner has fully mapped itself out. Many shadowed forests and too deep seas remain off limits. Boundaries are oftentimes arbitrary depending on a thousand variables like the weather, for instance, or whether the angle of sun rendered a face too beautiful for mere words.
How does one fall in love with a person? How does one seduce a country of multitude moods and tempers and wants? How does one break through the borders of a heart without a declaration of war?
How come it feels like I am the one that has been occupied? When did that cavalry of wooden winged horses come?
Imagine a small plot of earth. Then imagine planting a seedling at equal intervals until the whole plot is evenly dotted with seedlings. That is how I read. I need to have a few or several books going on. Since last weekend I have been progressing through:
- Journal of a Solitude, May Sarton
- First You Have To Row A Little Boat, Richard Bode
- In The Dojo, Dave Lowry
- A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness (finished)
- Rules For A Knight, Ethan Hawke (finished)
- Seveneves, Neal Stephenson
- Divine Fury, Darrin McMahon
- Art, Inc., Lisa Congdon
- Consolations of Philosophy, Alain de Botton
Today I started on Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. And in a few days' time I might start on Marcel Proust's Swann's Way.
At some point I will start making notes or copying passages into index cards which I will categorise and then alphabetise in my box of index cards. My very own card catalogue of wisdom and creative seeds.
I have been traipsing about in the shallows with my art-making. Puttering about without accomplishing anything significant. i am walking the roundabout way into diving deep, unable to cut a straight line through the brambles of distraction and the fog of anxiety.
I refilled my waterbrushes today. Two with water and two with inks. Refilling means I used them up, which means I did something, and something was done.
In less than two hours I will be off to the mall to meet up with a college friend visiting from the US. She placed orders on the art shop and we are meeting up to make the exchange. I have made a list of to-dos to make the most of the trip as well as the fare spent to get to the mall.
I will be spending some cash today out of necessity, and I am bracing myself that I won't have enough for next month. But at the same time I am optimistic that there will be enough for next month.
I don't like writing like this. Like a death march. Like a school essay. I don't like it that I am weighed down with heavy thoughts and heavy emotions that drag my words out with heavy chains and slam them to the ground in ugly dreary composition.
Perhaps I need to re-read a Gaiman book. Or two. The well is only ankle-deep. I need to fill it to the brim. Not with just any water. I need to fill it from the source that flows from where we are true.
I wish I could write more happily. More cheerfully. Even when I am happy my words sound like they are wearing iron clogs. What do you think?
My journal writing has taken a shift in the past few days. First, there was a period of almost nothing. I filled up the space of my days with painting and reading. Then when the words started to trickle back in they were distorted, and I ended up drawing and doodling on the page. Then the drawings took on more life and the words slipped in various forms.
I used to pre-design my journal pages with printed images captured from the internet. I used them as inspiration, idea triggers, and practice pegs. I also used them as illustrations to represent the images constantly moving around in my head, symbolic substitutes of my dreams, wishes, trails of pursued thoughts.
As the new drawings and words poured out with unusual forms I suddenly found the pre-designed pages cramping. I tore out the pasted images and drew over with my own. Then finally I started getting into a rhythm, and both images and words started to flow with better harmony.
It seems to me that I have shifted into a next-level state wherein I need less borrowing of other people's images and ideas, and become a bit more confident in expressing my own. I am still continuously inspired by the works of other artists but the stage of imitation and modelling is perhaps slowly transitioning into individualising my own work.
The drawings also seem to nudge me to explore another path with my art. This style has been springing up but I have been ignoring it as I felt it was not "ripe" enough. But maybe it is now.
This new way of journalling is helping me merge my words and images better, something that I have been striving to do in the past weeks for my poem-paintings. I have had a few promising paths open up but I am still not satisfied. So maybe this journal breakthrough is telling me something I am simply too stubborn to see.
If you haven't, read this post first. It's the first part of making. This post is for using what you made.
I have been busy re-crafting the draft of a novel I wrote in 2012. I have also been busy compiling poems that I plan to publish as an illustrated book.
In the process of sifting and searching through my notes and my journals for material, I stumbled into an old rabbit hole and found a Wonderland that has eluded me for quite some time.
This was what happened.
For quite a few years now, since I left my regular job in 2010 and have had more time to write for myself, I had started to get frustrated at the general difficulty of finding and accessing my own information when I need them. My selves have been scattered across too many forms, platforms, and storage systems. I have not had the proper time nor strategy to pull it all together into a coherent, accessible, useful system that would help fuel my daily movement forward, and that would put all those writing commitments and efforts to continued practical and creative use.
(You see, I believe much in the idea of having a direction, even a loose one, for any writing and creative endeavour. Everything is a potential seed, and I like the thought of all my tiny daily steps accumulating into the semblance of a whole. When I practice, there is a purpose behind it, no matter how light or small. I have suffered the regrets of absent-minded actions, default actions, half-baked habits, and doing things just for the sake of being able to say you did them, without a clear idea of why exactly you’re doing it — and no, the answer "because everyone else is doing it", or "because it’s really cool", does not count in the long run.)
The problem of this "full writing access" has been more pronounced with my digital files -- which are composed of notes from various apps and some that have repeatedly migrated from older (even obsolete) systems and softwares. Despite the current efficiency of Evernote, there was just something slippery about working with data purely on screen. The forms and layouts change as softwares and apps change, distorting many pieces I’ve written before if not altogether corrupting them. Not all the apps I like are available across all gadget types. Every phone I’ve owned had gone through a mysterious reset that lost me pieces of writing. Faulty cloud syncing sometimes end up with missing portions of files. And if the internet connection is wonky like it has been for the past few days, well, you get the drift.
In the past few days when I have been seriously rewriting a novel draft, I keenly felt this need for a simple straightforward system that I could use regardless of whether I had the computer on or not, or whether I had internet access or not. It had to be a system that could integrate literally almost everything — writings, notes, even sketches on scratch paper, photos. All in one place. And must all be editable with marginalia, and re-arrangeable, and I should be able to add or subtract pieces while keeping a specific order to the information. And the whole thing should allow me to keep track of all it contained and can easily integrate anything I add to it with the minimum of fuss.
After having tried too many possible solutions, I found myself going analog and old-school. Simple, straightforward, tactile.
So — Hard copies. I want to see and feel the physical weight of my output rather than looking at megabytes and file counts. Physically moving bits of paper around. Post-it markers. Highlighter pens. Literally pasting things. Punching holes. Multiple mediums but all boiling down to a single accessible system that remains unchanged until I desire to change it, not subject to the whims of software and hardware developers, not subject to the availability of gadgets, electricity, and internet connection. Computer-crash-proof. Organic and open to playing with — a garden of all my selves.
It is essentially my digital files translated into my paper notebook journals. The way I have always liked it — layered, colourful, limitless, textured, mixed media, changeable yet also retaining the original spirit in which it was made (the type and aging of paper, ink smudges, handwriting, images used, erasures…)
The other advantage of this physical form : it works better with how my “mind palace” works — that is, how my mind processes and stores information. It may be showing my age but my mind works better with visual AND tactile counterparts. I can better recall which notebook from a year ago had what post more than I can recall which folder I saved a digital file yesterday. As I have said, slippery. (Interestingly, I have a similar experience with reading via Kindle versus reading paper books. I recall more details reading from paper than from a screen, and I am better able to keep to the thread of the story longer if I’m reading it in paper book form.)
A Rough Guide On How To Do It
I knew it would not last. Not forever. A long time, yes, and if we never rest from our careful watch over every sign, then it could last a very long time.
These are the opening lines of a story I am telling. I started it in 2012, finished a horrible rough draft in a month during the NaNoWriMo challenge. Then I dipped in and out to edit in the following years, but never enough attention to put it into any real better form.
Late last year, though, I caught myself in a state that allowed me to revisit the story and to begin a serious recrafting. I got as far as three thousand words.
Then I was spun away again, by duties, obligations, and the soothing dark depths of ink and paint.
I am beginning to realise that I sometimes use painting as an escape from writing. I conjure up the images so I would not have to say the words, even if only on paper.
I am somewhat afraid of my words. I find them too strong sometimes, unforgiving, not holding back. Stinging, solid, and sharp at the same time when they slam into me, breaking skin, breaking bones, breaking heart.
I am afraid of the story being shaped by my words. It feels too true, notwithstanding the presence of dragons.
It is the first story I dare to tell, pulled from the strange forests of the world hidden inside me. So much of myself scattered in pieces across the chapters. Too many provoking thoughts. A lot of hidden hurt in broad daylight. A lot I have not even yet admitted to myself, but only observed. It is a story that is also a wish. A thesis of a world presented to the universe. Could it be? But honestly, really, it all boils down to: could it be me?
I am babbling in this post. I have not been open for the past week. I have been clogged up and blinded and out of breath, as mundane mortals tend to be. For a while I lost my bearings and I was walking around in circles, knowing I was lost but too tired to care. Only for a while.
Something in me finds a way, without fail, to shake me awake, trip me up along that empty cycle of days. A jolt that arrests my heart. A memory. A fairy tale. A dream laboriously stitched together and fed into my sleep. When I am particularly poisoned I am given prophecies. Glimpses of possible future paths if I get myself out of the rut I am stranded in. Promises of joy, promises of love.
I will go back to the story today. Despite my inner terror of it. I will endure its flaying scrape over my soul-skin. It begs to be told. It needs to be told. For reasons known only to itself.
And I can feel that it is transforming even as I come towards it. Eager to show me what it has been up to. How much it has grown, how thick and strong and deep its roots have become, how much it needs to be helped to burst forth into leaves and flowers and sweet, sweet, bittersweet fruit.
I am feeling the edges of loneliness today. The story can sense it, and in response it opens itself up to me, coaxing me to let myself curl up in its searing warmth, never mind the scars afterwards, to find comfort and hope in its possibilities. It urges me to write my way into an ever-after, because sometimes it is truly the only way.
A journal is not just for writers. A journal does not have to be just writing. It is not just a Dear Diary thing filled with secrets or a repository of gripes -- although it can be that, but it can, and should, be also more than that.
I have always kept some form of a journal since I was in high school. My practice had always been spotty. Surges of intense filling out of pages and then long periods of nothing. I accumulated quite a lot of unfinished notebooks, empty pages yellowed with time. My life had often felt uneventful, sometimes even unworthy.
I started with rules I picked up from no one in particular - that writing was the only option. That every entry must take up more than one page or else it was not a "valid" entry. That it had to be neat. That it had to be secret, in fact, because somehow it would contain things that one was not supposed to think or feel, like love and anger and hate and fear. When I read them I would feel shame and embarrassment, and even more awkward with myself. Or I would feel bored, and horrified with the smallness and meaninglessness of my life.
In 2012 I read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and was introduced to Morning Pages. It did not take me long to modify it and turn it into what I called Daily Pages. The way I wrote journals changed in many significant and dramatic ways since then. The journal became an aid and an ally to both my daily life and my creative life. It became a refuge and an anchor in the midst of every kind of storm I had to weather through. It took me to places I never knew existed within me, and it was also a safe place where I can examine my own life and discover its own gifts, powers, and meanings, and thus taught me, eventually, to become the person I love and trust (I have also learned to accept and forgive my old, often foolish selves, and I have grown to love them too).
How Daily Pages/ Journal-Keeping Works For Me
Daily Pages can be done at any time of day, as long as it is done at least once a day. It can be a short or long entry. It can be more than once a day. It can be written, drawn, sketched, painted, calligraphed, collaged, photographed, or any combination of these.
It has to have its proper space -- meaning I have to have a dedicated notebook or sketchbook for it. And it has to be something I can imagine being found when I am dead and gone and people would marvel -- not just because it looked pretty or interesting but because it would undeniably be a work of art on the self. It is the record of a life that has been examined and explored and given meaning. It is the witness of a life that dared to live by design instead of by default. I have to give it its rightful power -- to inform and to inspire, to set an example, perhaps. I have to treat it with respect -- meaning its purpose and authenticity. When I write on the pages it is not for show, but to show, to express, to share. Lessons and wisdom. Experiences and epiphanies. Not out of righteousness, but out of love for a certain way of living, out of joy, out of generosity.
It is a place that I shape with my hands - with words and images. It is a world in itself. It is a portal. It is safety. It is a refuge. It is a mirror. It is both kind and harsh. It is a time-traveling machine. It is where I create myself, among other things and pieces of art. It is a map. It holds and will hold all the X's that mark all the spots you will ever need to find.
I used to work a lot with "borrowed" images and words. This meant cutting out photos and magazine pages, and copying quotes. These were very useful for providing way-signs, inspiration, and guidelines. But a point came when I knew it was time for me to give back and to figure out my own and to express my own. Alongside the borrowed pieces I now have my personal contributions -- my own drawings and words, my own sketches. This has translated well into my paintings too because I am now able to construct and translate the images in my head whereas before I could only approximate with cut-outs and poorly-modified imitations of already existing works. I realised I want to have my own unique voice and style. It had frustrated me for quite a while. It was a very long process and when I was employed I rarely had time to really get into it.
I have only ever achieved this "identity" with my poetry but my daily pages helped me expand this creative self into other mediums. Soon it led me to the realisation that I want my poetry illustrated. And then it led me to that mad dare to myself to write a fantasy novel. And then to try watercolours. And to resurrect a fascination for calligraphy and lettering.
It may seem like a short time, since 2012, to have suddenly achieved many realisations and to have acted upon them. But I was unemployed (by choice). And for a while I had a bit of money to allow me to spend days figuring things out (and then there was no more money and I had to figure out how to juggle a dayjob with a creative life). But do not think it was easy. In many ways, grappling with my selves on the pages caused me frustration, despair, depression, rage. The patterns of my life terrified me, pushed me to the brink of wanting to escape in various permanent ways. I ached, I was in pain, I wept, I cursed.
But because I persisted, and I did not give up on it, the pages started to heal and help me. It started showing me ways through. It started giving me clues to solutions. Within that painful process I was also being taught to See, and to Know, and to Discern. If you do this you have to Stick To It Until The Sh*t Clears.
Now when I read my journals I feel a sense of safety and reassurance. The patterns in my life now make up a map by which I could navigate my days, with better awareness of my strengths and weaknesses. Writing my Daily Pages has become so ingrained in my routine that I feel untethered when I don't do it. And it is easy to do now because I have my rules impossible to break -- even a single sentence can be a Daily Page, a single word if that is what it takes for me to write something down. And usually, in the end, I actually manage a decent amount of writing done because I give myself every chance possible and no excuses.
What I Actually Write About
Anything, really. But that is no help if you want a specific point to start with. So --
- a "report" of what happened in the day and how I felt and thought about it
- an outline of what I intend to do for the day or the next day or the next week, and how I feel and think about them
- threshing out a problem or a puzzle that I need to resolve, including decisions I need to make; this often takes more than one entry and spans more than a single day; the act of writing it down helps clarify elements of the situation and lets me see possible solutions
- ranting; and this often leads me to a realisation that I cannot keep doing it without doing something about it
- an account of my dreams during the night; these often become creative seeds for poems, stories, and paintings
- an account of real-life dreams and how I think I could achieve them; these are often repeated exercises as circumstances and opportunities change
- at-the-moment thoughts and feelings that I sense to be significant or connects to a previous matter tackled on the pages
- ideas for creative projects and how I think I can do them, the materials I need
- fears and doubts, mostly about where the money will come from for the next month
- prayers addressed to the Universe or whichever divine being felt close at the moment
- a mind sweep, during which I pour on paper every single thing that I need/want/must do in order to de-clutter my head; then I often sort through them and realise what's really urgent and what's just white noise
- thoughts and feelings on specific subjects that called my attention for that day -- very varied, from books to people to philosophical statements, to memories of things past, to random observations
My Current "Web" of Daily Pages
Since I have been an avid practitioner of journal-writing, I evolved it in ways that would make it nearly impossible for me not to write. I now work with a "web" of writing/note-taking/event-capturing platforms that I collate and put together in hard copy (essential for review, reference, and record-keeping) -- so in my tiny studio I have a collection of notebooks plus binder folders with printed hard copies of writing I do by computer, phone, or tablet.
- Journal Notebook (Recommended : Leuchtturm1917, Copelle Grid, Alunsina Handbound, Traveler's Notebook a la Midori)
- Planner Notebook (Recommended : Leuchtturm1917, Moleskine)
- Manual Typewriter (output trimmed to paste into journal notebooks, or filed as is into the binder folder)
- Twitter (for the sudden, short, snippets, output linked to collect in Evernote)
- Evernote (which collects posts from other social via IFTTT, and also serves as a writing platform)
- iAWriter (distraction-less writing app, output copied into Evernote)
- OmmWriter (distraction-less writing app with nice ambient music, output copied into Evernote)
- Hanx Typewriter (distraction-less typewriter app in iPad, output copied into Evernote)
- Instagram (output linked to collect in Evernote)
- Blog (sometimes blog posts stand in for the day's entry especially if I feel strongly about it, each post copied into Evernote)
So this is what is working very well for me now. Let me know how you do yours.
Dream-traveler, Cartographer of Missing Worlds, Finder of Ways.
I am a seed of Hope, rising from ashes.
I am the exception to every broken rule.
I am Story Teller, Magic Wielder,
Wanderer and Wonderer.
Collector of Coincidences, Seeker of Serendipities.
I am a lover of Thresholds and Portals,
of Parallel Possibilities, of Diverging Paths (I took the one less traveled by...)
of Long Courtships and Labyrinths.
I have a penchant for patterns,
and distorted circles, dizzying spirals (Fibonacci-flavoured), and of course,
the symmetry of honeycombs (something queenly about it).
I can be lured by ephemera, especially those still carrying
the ghosts of bygone times, and by pretty glittering, shiny,
shimmering Things (but not that which is every girl's best friend -- how utterly...common).
I mean the flash of sun on water, of raindrops and dewdrops and teardrops,
the sparkle of yet unnamed precious stones, scented with earth and liquid fire,
the flicker of stars in the deep pools of night-sky eyes,
the pinpoints of light caught by a grain of sand,
or stardust on the skin beneath a full silver moon,
and of course, that unmistakable aurora of magic, lingering on the edges
of a breath, of words, of fingertips.
I am kindred to both Shadow and Light,
to both Order and Chaos,
dancing along the eternal tightrope of the Golden Mean.
Queen of Marvels,
a universe being born.
And when he is, Things tend to come into sharper focus, despite the fact that their edges shimmer and flicker, being that they are mostly dreams, following the illogic of dreams, and riding the stormy seas of Sleep. (There are many kinds of Sleeping -- but that is for another Story.)
There is Time, and then there is Timeliness.
And always there is the Story, with its Unfolding, and Chapters, and Small Deaths, and Small Beginnings.
There is time, in its usual pace and pattern. Then there is Time. Weaving and wobbly. Spiral and labyrinthine. Permeable and translucent, really. Always dripping with anomalies and aberrations, always stained with magic, barely hidden yet rarely noticed.
The question of When is at the root of all tales. Even the ones that only we can tell.
The question of Why Now has only one answer. Because it is When it must.
Once again upon a Time.
There was a King.
And there was I. An overlay of possibility. A sliver of thorn stabbing through the cold. A knife of light through the mist. A trick of the Night. A gift. A hidden hope. A truth waiting to be spoken. A dream of a Dream.
I was a desert that sprouted nothing until the King Of Dreams came to me.
Partly in mortal form, a hint of himself, enough but not sufficient. Not for having.
Then mostly he scattered himself in pieces for me to follow, crumbs in a mighty forest, within a vast mythology being born, chained to this time and space, this particular shade of night.
Since then I have been haunted by skies and constellations, stammering in the language of stars.
I have looked for him in the dead ends of too many love stories that never were.
There was a time I escaped into the blissful oblivion of being simply ordinary, in a perpetual loop of make-believe wakefulness. I traded my sleep for money. I stopped seeing the night sky. There was only eternal daylight and flickering screens and the prisons of powerpoint. I convinced myself that it was enough. That it was all there ever would be.
Until I could not do it anymore.
Then I fell into a deep sleep. There were no dreams. I was dead. I was a shell of myself. I was a ghost.
I was once again a desert, this time littered with bones and streaked with the ashes of hope.
But there were seeds, from long before. From the time when the King of Dreams allowed me a glimpse of something he made me forget immediately after.
The seeds stirred.
I woke and I was someone else becoming.
I gave birth to poems and paintings and half-finished fairy tales. I am not yet done. There is a grand event yet, for which everything else has been preparation.
I am myself again, almost, somehow. A truer self, perhaps.
I still cannot remember that which I was made to forget.
But I can feel the memory twitching, somewhere close.
Images from The Sandman Overture, The Deluxe Edition.
These were my last thoughts last night before I fell asleep, after a long period of struggling to sleep while listening to a playlist titled Circles & Labyrinths. It was cold and my mind was wintering in its own way, and somehow sought warmth in old, comfortable fantasies. A Raven Boy was the closest at hand (at heart), and there happened to be a love song playing and the tail-end of a storm was making the night so very cold.
So I let myself be carried away to an imagined future of a fairy tale ball, only that it was my fairy tale creative exhibit as well, and that somehow along the way of getting to that convergence point of a happily-ever-after, the Raven Boy and I had crossed paths and crossed hearts.
Even as I was busy dreaming this love story there was a part of myself also busy piling up sketches in my already crowded head. Sketches that I have yet to learn how to make. Seeds I have to coax to grow. Seeds that must bear the work that will make that fairy tale creative exhibit come true.
I revisited an old draft of a novel, that was written in an intoxicated state of hope three years ago. It has been nagging for a rewrite as soon as the hangover hit one year later. But I have been pre-occupied with other things and I was not sure how to go about it. The other day I finally opened the dormant file and a whole new perspective on how to tell the story again presented itself.
I loved someone once. Many, many years ago.
Last night I finished this complex big piece -- trust me to subject myself to complex and big at the same time -- and I am generally pleased with the results. Will keep on experimenting though until I hear that unmistakable click in my head of having gotten it exactly right.
I am ripe for falling in love today
I have put down the book I have been reading
Unable to bear the sharp outline of my loneliness
Against a fairy tale going in a direction I have yet to go
In some vague future, a diverging path from the now
That seems to be going only in circles.
A kindness will easily earn a kiss today,
Assuming, of course, that you are
A believer of magic, better yet, if you
Have it in your blood, and your nursery rhymes were
Chanted spells learned from your mother’s lap.
Assuming, of course, that you are
A lover of art, and of poetry, and of books --
The kind that time-travels to what-ifs more than what-was,
The kind that is comfortable with the greys,
And the other awkward colours in between the blacks and whites.
Assuming, of course, that you are
A king of your own kingdom, no, not a prince,
A queenless king ripe for falling in love,
Who has slain enough of his own monsters,
Who has made some level of uneasy peace with his demons.
Go, send forth your knights, your djinns, your ravens,
Send them to find me, I am waiting.
I am missing a shoe, I have been sleeping too long,
The apple’s poison is seeping through my veins,
I cannot find my voice. I am here, cursed in an old woman’s form,
Running after a moving castle.
- Marichit Garcia
I am in search of the beautiful words. I am waiting here, mouth half-open in anticipation, pen poised over paper. I will the words to come to me, to flow through me. Lovely strings that coax life from all that blankness.
See how my own writing is stiff and put together like an awkward ensemble of clothes that are not really my style but which I have to wear because it’s what I have been taught I should wear. I don't like how my prose sounds most of the time. I sound boring, and trying too hard. The effort shows, and the pain of all that effort. I can feel that pain.
Often I don't have the time to just let the words flow, awkward and all until I get to the point when I am just cruising and the writing is happening for real. It takes a while for me to get to that point unlike when I draw or paint. It is very frustrating.
I don't like how my story-telling sounds and feels like a report, without soul. I am a witness but I am unable to convey the truth of what I see. My words are stilted and self-conscious, stiff and clumsy at the same time.
I want to release the true words that are inside me, to get at the core of what I can and need to write. I want to break the walls of the poems and let all the hidden narratives come out, spill over, flood. From being so contained and controlled to becoming a raging storm.
I am pleased to share three poem pieces.
I have no valid excuse not to write -- if I can't write my novel then I will write poems. I have every good writing app installed everywhere and I always have my journal and pen case. There is no excuse. My old typewriter is ready and waiting, willing to work even by candlelight. There is no excuse.
Lately I write in bed, after I wake up, my first action is to write something, with my hands and my head still dewy with dreams. When I am about to fall into a nap in the afternoon I carry my tablet, open to a blank page, ready to write a few lines while I settle my tired body into bed, before I slide completely into sleep.
I write my journal -- by pen or by keyboard. There is no excuse. I have more than enough paper, notebooks, nibs, inks, pens in all shades and shimmer. There is no excuse.
There is always time. I know it because I have done it before, claiming time in moody bursts and deadly determination. All I need to do now, really, is to be constant. To be true. To be committed.
Everything builds up, gathers, forms patterns, makes a whole. Then the whole evolves, transforms, transcends.
There is no excuse, especially if I say that I want it so badly.
I've got stories in my head, swirling in storm clouds or burning like a thousand suns. I never really thought about getting them out, putting them down on paper. But after satiating myself on a lot of young adult fantasy series I began to feel the hankering for similar stories but with more adult characters. I found a few good ones but I want more. Also, I am hoping for even more adult characters, not just fresh-faced nearly perfect specimens of twenty-somethings. I want a bit of wear and tear but not yet on the downhill path. I want once-again-upon-a-times, second chances, and late bloomers. Think Sarah Addison Allen crossed with Tad Williams/Neil Gaiman with a dash of Nick Bantock/ Barbara Hodgson. So yes, romance with lots of magic accompanied by visual art and illustration. Starring characters in their mid-thirties or even older, but still having adventures and epiphanies and life shifts and changes of heart. I want older characters who get a chance to save the world, preferably without dying, and having a better-late-than-never happily ever after.
Basically I want a book that speaks smack into my life right now. If any one of you can suggest a title based on the description above that will be great I will definitely check it out.
In the meantime I read somewhere that you should write the book that you want to read.
So in 2012, I joined NaNoWriMo and succeeded in writing a horrendously rough draft of a book called The Thirteenth. It is in editing limbo right now. It was a story with dragons and elemental magic and, of course, a romance that I never really figured out how to end.
In 2013, I participated but did not make the cut, running short of about ten words and then the time was up. The book was called The Other Place and I have been at it, off and on, waiting for something. It felt somewhat thin and one-sided and there were things I wanted to put in but could not find the plot space to do so.
In 2014, I thought about participating again but the story idea I had was way too raw to be ready for even the roughest of drafts. I decided to skip it.
In 2015, the story idea from the previous year has ripened, and revealed itself to be the something missing from the 2013 story.
So I signed up to write this year, next month. And as a boost and cheer I made a book cover for it although the title is still not final. I like how the words look though. What do you think?