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Two Hours

(This was an exercise in writing done in 2014. I find that many of the things I have written then remain true now.)

This is me writing.

Or trying to.

For two hours I will stay with this endless blank page and combat the blankness with words. I will not think about hidden meanings or intent. Not yet. First I set the bricks of words where the meanings could inhabit. I have too many meanings in my head searching for somewhere to dwell. The words have to come out first. Awkward and ugly and pale. Weak and thin and breaking apart.

I need to find my voice. I have read that a persevering practice can coax it out of the depths of who we really are. The true voice. The fearless voice. I am still uncertain if I have it, and if it will ever come out. Sometimes I suspect it slips through at moments when I finally lose myself in the simple act of creating and crafting. Too quick moments blessing a few paragraphs that I will treasure and hoard like rare gems. My collection is too few. Not enough to break through the deafening babble of everyone else. Not enough to break through the babble and the occasional genius who would, without even trying, eclipse any effort I could put out there. Imagine releasing a poorly folded paper plane in the largest and busiest airport in the world. In the midst of a heavy rain.

I feel very small and negligible. I counter it by feeling brave.

My best friend's question: how do I do it? It rings in my ears, echoes in the recesses of my thoughts and underlines every decision I make that cast doubt on the soundness of how I am conducting my days.

Four years of living on faith. Recently I realised it has also been four years of loosening and lightening, of losing the heavy weight of pre-defined structures on how to shape my life, of unraveling the thick skeins of obligations and expectations that bind my steps within specific boundaries. Four years and I am barely moving because the barnacles of duty and definitions were encrusted deep. Only a few days ago did I come to the point of not feeling guilty when I turn down a money-making opportunity that would consume too much of my creative time. Many times I have told myself: enough, no more of getting into these compromises and these lopsided agreements where I end up paying more and gaining less. But it took four years for me to even begin to really see what it means to exercise that resolve.

I have a dream of a fairy tale love story buried so deep that I cannot even say it exists. Not out loud. I am embarrassed to admit to have such a dream. It makes me feel desperate, somehow. And sad. I don't like the idea of sadness in my life. It's a downward spiral that is difficult to escape from.

Meanwhile these are the things I claim about my life. I am a writer who paints and draws. I am one who dreams of long vacations by the sea and going home to a country cottage that grows a portion of its own food. I am a believer of magic even when my day-to-day life does not seem to be a good example nor manifests its supposed effects.

I love solitude and independence. But I also love the possibility of someone who can be with that solitude and independence, who can override all my built-in defenses and yet affirm and respect the fullness and strength of my otherness. More than the possibility, I would love for that person to exist and to recognize me through the failures of my outer shell to conform to the familiar and expected shapes, colours, and size currently idolized and dictated by society. 

My world is small. I often feel it has become smaller in the past four years. What I want to believe is that my inner world has grown wider and deeper. Yet I frequently feel that I never have enough words and ideas to capture the big thoughts in my head and to paint the scenes of unfolding stories streaming through my mind. I want to be able to pull out this bigger-on-the-inside life and manifest it. Into stories, into poems, into paintings, into inky sketches. Like windows, hundreds, thousands of windows --- whether paper or canvas, in various sizes, whether singular images or bound pages of words.


If the devil is in the details then so is god, in whatever form it strikes his fancy to take. It is even possible that the devil is god in disguise, tinkering with his creations like an artist obsessing over a masterpiece.

It is the end of the week. Another save point. I review my past five days and I mark the murky progress of my creative journey through the messy meandering of bad habits. I need to pull myself tighter together. Not in the same way as before, but in the way that serves the creative purpose I want to fulfill. I have to make myself see that it is a different kind of binding, that it is not like the old one that constrained expansion. I flinch at the slightest sign of being stilled into place. I begin with this writing, two hours committed to the blank pages. I am through with one hour and eleven minutes. I have spewed out one thousand one hundred and ninety-seven words. Two hours today. Two hours again tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. Carved into my days like a tattoo. Two hours minimum. I can write more. But the two hours must always be there. I will keep track. Like a novena. After a certain number of days, I might receive a sign of roses that would mean my prayer has been granted.

This small life, I wonder how I can magnify it into fullness. This quiet, introverted, solitude-loving life. So easily lost and swallowed up by the noise and aplomb of people who shout and scream loud enough for ten more people. Bright big splashes drowning my tiny drops of presence. I crawl beneath the shadows cast by sparkly bubbly personalities and try to find my tribe. Hands out into the blinding fireworks of the increasingly commercialized and marketing-motivated exhibits in the free-for-all of cyberspace.

Two hours of writing...because I feel it will play a role in my bigger works of art later on, and also in my book-making. I find myself being rather specific about that. Book-making. Not just writing books. I want to make them, by which I mean playing with the layout and the design and the illustrations. I have been playing with the idea of doing a series of artworks based on imaginary book covers with imaginary titles (which, who knows, could later on become real books with stories inside). Perhaps that would be a good start. Five hours of the day designed for creativity. Five hours of basic, potential-to-be-boring repeated practice. Sticking to it even when everything that comes out on the page is crap.

I am one and a half hour done. I remember that quote from Joyce Carol Oates about how finishing a draft is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a dirty floor. I would not even get as far as finishing a draft. Sitting still for a predetermined amount of time to do only one thing --- this is already like pushing a peanut with my nose across a dirty floor. I have to cleanse the habit of the associated drudgery of work. I must shift my mind and emotions into the recognition that this creative effort is work. That maybe it does not look like any finished product now but every word is a progress, every minute spent writing is a movement forward.

I started on Anais Nin's diary last night and I was frustrated with myself for a while. Of course, the published diary has been edited and polished. But still. Those words, those turns of phrase, that crafting of a single sentence. The metaphors and the descriptions and the insights. I believe it was the insights, the depth of them, the value and the universality. I felt inadequate and pretentious, daring to call myself a writer.

There is no word on the dayjob rush project that popped out of the blue yesterday. I feel somewhat relieved, for it means I can have a full weekend, without fussing over tasks that have to be completed by Monday. The money to be made is very small, but not bad given that I would only have to spend less than three days to earn it. My rational self would say, how many people can make that much money in three days? There are more people that can only make that money in a month.

I should not feel guilty that I can make that much money in three days while others have to toil a month. The moment I start feeling guilty that's when I start taking on jobs that derail my creative life because I start thinking how could I not take it when others would probably give an arm or a leg or a sibling to be able to do what I can do? And then I take a job and somehow it becomes an apology and then I suffer through the work and that is part of the apology because if others toil and labor then I should too. How could I waste my talent and my skills? How could I not take advantage of it? How could I have given up that life of financial abundance four years ago?

I guess I am still convincing myself that I did nothing wrong. That my selfishness was not a selfishness, or that it was justified and that it follows a higher purpose. The only thing we can really contribute to the bigger world is the value of who we are and what we are meant to be. These are what carry the seeds that will help the bigger world grow and evolve. When we become, when we transcend, that is when our lives have meaning. Be alive on our own terms. And I don't want to hear shit about people being themselves and becoming serial killers or megalomaniacs. The true self is always good and towards life because life will always want to preserve itself. There are deaths that are in the service of life and those count as life too. Anything or anyone not serving the promotion of a good life is not being true to itself.

Everything is context, everything is relative, everything is individual. Everything is connected too. Separateness connected by language and symbols and that thing called love. It's all about finding the frequencies of those closest to who and what you are. Finding your tribe. I want to find my tribe.

I want to find my true love.

Five minutes left. Two thousand one hundred and ninety-four words.

I feel little clicks inside me. Like tiny bones stretching, unfolding. At the same time, an expansion in the landscape of my mind and the ocean of my heart. The walls of my perception quiver, like a still pool touched by a feather tip. Portals. Everywhere. Edges gleaming, tightly shut.

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