The writer’s life outside of writing…

….is chatoic.

Dear Readers, while you watch this video, pretend the Squire is me.

Today, this was how I felt–fury a la Squire Western [He’s from Tom Jones, a wonderful book btw] 

Everything was going wrong, starting from the moment I woke up [I was dead tired from the night before, rushing through my fifth essay this week to submit before midnight, then catching up on my readings] to when I got dressed [I didn’t know what to wear so took half an hour rummaging through my wardrobe] to when I headed downtown for class [the bus came late and was jam packed, then the subway was delayed for more than ten minutes] to when I rushed to the library to print out my essay [all the computers were being used on the first floor, so I had to run around the library looking for any computer use], to when I printed that essay out [the essay formatting was all messed up], to when I ran to lecture [I was half an hour late], to when I tried to hand my essay in after class [the prof said I had to hand it in to my T.A. who wasn’t to be seen], to when I tried looking for her [I peeked into each tutorial room but couldn’t find her], and then finally, to when I decided to read over my essay one more time [my essay was the non pareil of an epic fail].

So, at the end of this all, I sat down in the park for half an hour before my next class, completely exhausted, frustrated, and angry. But then, after glaring down at my lap for a minute, I looked up and observed the nature around me. Dry yellow, brown, red leaves blanketed the grass. Leaves, caught by the wind, drifted off their branches and danced around me. The air was crisp. The sun warmed the cold earth. I remembered a passage from my writing, inspired from reading The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci:

Her mind, as a painter once put it, became a mirror, taking the colour and images of the objects it reflected. There was no longer any room for self-pity in the grandeur around her.

After taking some time to breathe and reflect, I reminded myself that university is not the be all end all and that the reason why I’m in university is to learn, to fill my head with knowledge, so that it might add more depth to my novel-writing. And I am learning. So, whatever the outcome, as long as I do my best, I’ve accomplished the purpose of why I’m where I am.

But truly, there are some days when you wake up, and you just know it’ll all spiral down from there. That’s why I think it’s so important to take a moment and reflect–because upon reflection, I realize that the hardship of my day is contained all within my head. And, in the end, the gratefulness and joy for just being alive outweigh the troubles of the present.

Writers, do we speak as well as we write?

I was somewhat low spirited this week.

I found myself in classes filled with very intelligent people. So I constantly felt the need to say something super mind-blowing. My pride wanted to prove myself,  to make my mark, as a smart young woman. But in this attempt I only ended up saying something unintelligent, something trite, while others would bring up comments that actually contributed to the discussion. So, while I kept my cool, in my mind I burned with humiliation.

I began to feel a bit…stupid (I sound whiny, but bear with me; I haven’t written this to wallow in self-pity).

I kept wishing that I spoke better, that I could process my thoughts better before speaking. You would think that a writer would be more articulate; but for me, that isn’t the case. When writing, I’m alone in my own thoughts, not conscious of the audience. My mind relaxes and blooms with words. But when I’m with people, I tense up, my mind goes blank, and I blurt out nonsense. I told my mother this on the phone and she said she’d email me her response. The next morning I received an email titled, 14th letter (yah, she has started to track the number of emails she sends me. I think it’s adorable). I translated it from Korean so it’s a bit awkward:

I am looking at your painting which hangs by the dining table.

As I observe this painting—of a lady who sits by the lacy curtain, dressed in a purple gown—I wondered how you managed to paint such a portrait. Was it a creation of the hand, or the mind?

Even your paintings are inspiring, so I got curious as to how much more moving your novel must be, filled with words that have poured out from your heart and soul. 

June, there is no need to trouble yourself for not being as articulate as you desire, because you speak through your writing, you move the heart through your writing.

Thank you for creating so many lovely paintings for me.

-Mom

My mom’s words encouraged me so much. I guess sometimes silence is enough. She helped me realize that I don’t always need to say something intelligent, inspiring, thought-provoking, etc., to prove myself. Because I’ve proved all that I need to prove. My book stands as my personal witness: I do have a voice, I do have strong beliefs and opinions. Isabelle Burwell, in my book The Runaway Courtesan, captures the essence of why I love to write so much:

Because writing is my only means of expressing my mind and heart. You see, I’m never able to say what I wish and am never able to say what I should when I ought. But when I write, everything stored up in me is let out and read by others. That is why I write. So people might read my works and see the woman who I always struggle but fail to be in life.” As if satisfied with her explanation, she smiled triumphantly and played with her necklace. “Yes, that’s it. As diverse as the character of mankind might be, diverse is also the means of communication.

While I  have my own explanation, still, I do wonder. Writing and speaking: both mediums deal with words… If an author has a strong command of the language, naturally, one would expect them to speak well. But it’s a fact that not all writers are eloquent. Why do you think this is the case?  

Speaking of….speaking, here’s a trailer of the movie I want to see BADLY:

A Hollywood Moment

A pitiful confession: My camera was mainly focused on the policemen, rather than the protest itself

 1) Call me ridiculous, but I love the thrill that I feel before and after a dangerous moments. Though I turn into a total coward in the midst of it, I continue to throw myself into such situations, like a moth to a flame. And so, on the week before the G20 meeting in Toronto, knowing there would be proptests that might get out of hand, I went downtown. Even though I wasn’t feeling so well. I planned on calling a friend over to join me in our wannabe-journalist-adventure. But the city was so…peaceful…that I ended up just going to the library alone. I found two very intriguing books, began reading it, but the moment I heard shouting outside, I dropped those books and ran out with my camera. There was a parade of people going down the street, protesting, while they were surrounded by the police(*swoons*) . Anyway! The protest was very peaceful, the speech two of the protestors shared was quite moving.  After I followed them for half an hour I went home.  

It was my SISTER who found herself living a Hollywood moment. She and her friend were shopping at a mall when a lockdown occured. Her friend went nuts because she had to leave soon to catch her flight. So they slipped past a security gaurd and ran out. The man continued to yell out at them: “Ladies! It’s dangerous out there!” But they didn’t believe him. Danger was not something to be expected in their ordinary lives. So they were heading down the street, surrounded by the sound of protestors crying out their grievances–when suddenly a gunshot blasted through the air, triggering everyone into screams. My sister said there was literally a stampede headed towards her as three more gunshots rang over the shouting and screaming. She ran and ran and ran with her friend, to keep themselves from being run over, and to get as far as they could from the shooting.  

I was on the phone earlier with a customer and she was telling me about these anarchists from Montreal that had come to Toronto and had begun to smash windows and such. So I’m assuming this abrupt turn from a protest to a riot might somehow be associated with this group. We’ll see. I’m sure this story will be on the front page of tomorrow’s paper here in Toronto.   

UPDATE:   

Black-clad demonstrators burned police cars and smashed windows with baseball bats and hammers when rioting broke out at the G20 summit. 

Some protesters hurled bottles at police after they prevented them approaching the perimeter of the economic summit site. 

Heavily-protected riot police responded by firing tear gas 

‘A relatively small group of people came clearly with the intent of damaging property and perpetrating violence. 

‘They’re criminals that came to Toronto deliberately to break the law.’  

The city’s police chief Bill Blair admitted police had struggled to control the crowds, and had used tear gas on one occasion, after warning people to stay away from trouble spots. 

‘We have never seen that level of wanton criminality and vandalism and destruction on our streets,’ he told an evening news conference. 

‘There are limits to free speech, and these limits really end when it infringes on the rights and the safety of others.’ 

At least 130 people were arrested, including some Blair believed were ringleaders of the rioting that started when several hundred anarchists broke away from a large, peaceful demonstration against the top-level meeting. 

 

 

 

Photos taken from here 

I found myself shaking my head as I read about what occured downtown. What was going on in the heads of those who burned down police cars and smashed the windows of shops? What do they think they’ll gain from such violence? While I was amazed that this occured in our rather peaceful Toronto, I also found myself laughing, because suddenly, it seemed all so childish. Those car-burnders and window-smashers appeared to me like a child having a tantrum. Violence is not the answer. It only makes a person less creditable and heightens the reason for others to ignore their grievances.

2) On Wednesday Agent#1 emailed me! I waited a full half an hour, preparing my heart, before I finally opened the email. It turns out that I must wait a bit longer. The agent wrote to inform me that my manuscript has been scheduled for a final read in the next two weeks, and was asking whether my book was still available. (I’m not too sure what she means by ‘final read’–Can anyone explain?)I replied that it was–in a most professional manner–though the fingers that were typing these words were trembling. Two weeks now, my friends, before we find out whether The Runaway Courtesan will be offered representation or not.  So keep dropping by my blog, because it is here, to you dear readers and bloggers, that I will tell first the good or bad news. 

3) Be Still My Heart. I’m on chapter 10 of it. And am royally stuck, plot-wise. I just need to find some good inspirational soundtracks to boost me out of the rut.

Swan Lake Ballet (through the eyes of a Philistine)

Philistine:  A smug, ignorant, especially middle-class person who is regarded as being indifferent or antagonistic to artistic and cultural values.

My oil paintings at my parents' place--they won't give them back to me

Being an artist (a writer and a when-I-have-time-which-is-almost-never painter), I wish I could say that I had swooned and had nearly died from ecstasy because I been so enthralled by the ballet—but the truth is, I am a semi-philistine. I was somewhat unmoved by the performance. The last time I watched a ballet was when I was twelve. So when I watched Swan Lake on Wednesday night at the Four Seasons Centre I didn’t know what to expect—but was super excited, nevertheless. I watched performances like the Phantom of the Opera and was expecting something like that where I would be watching with wide-eyes and a gaping-mouth. But instead I oooh-ed and awww-ed and drowsed a bit. I found it so odd that the ballerinas didn’t talk. I couldn’t get myself used to that. I was so focused on the plot that I found myself somewhat disappointed. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be wow-ed by.

However, I blame my initial reaction to the performance on the panic attack I was going through. The moment I sat down, and the lights began to dim, I suddenly realized I had to go to the washroom. I kept watching the ballet, waiting for the intermission, and getting annoyed as the ballerinas continued to prance around the stage. It was only AFTER I went to the washroom that I was able to appreciate the ballet a bit more. Rather than focusing on the plot explicitly, I tried to read the emotions in their movement, and in the music. It was then that the story came alive to me—somewhat. And by the end, as Odette mourned over the death of her beloved, tears burned in my eyes and my heart felt strangled.

I think I’ll be able to appreciate Swan Lake a bit more if I watch it a second time, maybe next year. One cannot watch a ballet while expecting it to be like a play. Expectations must be restructured. But still. There is something haunting about Swan Lake that sends a tremble through you now and then. It bewitches the unconscious. Each time I listen to classical music, there are ballerinas dancing in my head.

I’ve wanted to watch Swan Lake ever since I watched BILLY ELLIOT as a kid. I looked like the dad (the bald gentleman) in the scene below each time the dark, ominous, heart-wrenching theme was played (op.20 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky). Turn up your speakers when watching!!!:

This was one of my favourite scenes in the performance:

And because I watched the clip below before watching the actual performance, I had to cover my mouth to muffle my laughter:

Maestro, music please!

Listen to this WHILE you read my entry. You’ll understand my feelings better : ( This is one of my favorite pieces. I always tear up listening to it.

 

I’ve been a Whiny Writer of late. Two of my twitter/facebook updates reflected my feelings exactly:

Mr. Writing is my forbidden love, Mrs.University is my wicked stepmother, set on tearing us apart

I miss feeling alive. Writing a book brings me to life, makiing me observant and sensitive to the beauty of life, of nature. But right now the gentle wind and sunlight has been blocked out by stacks of dusty, scholarly books I must research. Oh, woe is me. 

I realized how much I missed writing yesterday as I walked around my university campus. After attending my European history lecture, the weather was just so lovely! While taking my stroll, I listened to Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No. 7 in A major, Op.92, II. Allegretto. Listening to Beethoven, while surrounded by 19th century architecture, made me feel like I was in the story I have yet to write. I’ve recently become obsessed with this new idea I hope to base my next book on. In fact, I even dreamt of the first chapter, which was heart wrenchingly beautiful—and so I woke up and jot it down in my journal—only to wake up the next morning to realize I had written it down in my dream. I was devastated. And for the next half hour, lying in bed, I tried to remember it and am still trying to remember it. I wonder if I’ll turn out to be like the musician in Music & Silence who spends the rest of his life trying to recompose, to recapture, the vague but haunting melody he heard in his dream while travelling back home in a carriage—only to realize before his death that the melody belonged to one of Beethoven’s symphony.

One thing I’m worried about while working on my next book is that I’ll try to step out of my genre and try to write literature. What, you might be wondering, is the difference between genre fiction and literature? This is a question I ask myself time and time again. And my answer is debatable. For example, I do not consider my book The Runaway Courtesan to be literary. The best way I can put it is as a “meaningful romance” but it isn’t literary. Literature to me would be a book that can actually contribute something to a person’s life–not offer escape from it. Because that’s what romance novels are–they are one of the keys to escapism. 

I’m not at all ashamed to call myself a romance writer. I see no shame in writing about love—the world’s greatest mystery. And yet when I listen to pieces like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, I want to leap out of the romance genre, and “try” writing a literary book. A historical “fiction” rather than a historical “romance” (yes, there is a difference), based not only on romance, but also on the clashing of politics, of battles, and something on the grand scale like that. But I tried this before and failed miserably. I end up getting a painful writer’s block. And when I try to spin up plots on such a grand scale, my dear critique partners know I’m trying to hard. For me, I’m the sort of writer where, if it does not come naturally, it isn’t the story my heart wants to tell. So I must remain content as a romance writer. I don’t belong in the literary sphere yet.

My mum says: Someday, when you’re older and wiser, you’ll probably move out of the romance genre. She might be right. And yet, at the same time, I think maybe I would be happy to write love stories all my life.

Ehm. I think I went on a rampage about literary and genre fiction because I just finished reading If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things by Jon McGregor twice within five weeks. I read it once because I need to write my English paper on it, then I read it again, because the story wouldn’t let me alone. I actually didn’t like it at first. I’m ashamed to say that one of my twitter update proclaimed Jon McGregor to be a Cormac McCarthy-wannabe. Yet the story haunted me throughout the day after I finished reading the last chapter. I cracked the book open again a week later and began rereading. It was on my second read that I realized that the reason why I hated this book was because even by the end of the story there was still so much things unresolved—but I realized that that was the beauty of the book. Its almost poetical mystery. It’s like life—there will always be questions unanswered. And it’s only after you consider events in retrospect that things make sense. So my second read was like a retrospect on all that occurred in the novel. Really stunning work of art. You guys should add it to your reading list.