It is not easy to write 1500 words a day. To achieve that, I have to listen to music on loop. I have to clear all unspoken communications before writing. I have to set a date and time to do something to get it out of my head, no matter how trivial it is like doing the laundry. There is a level of performance required to concentrate with being intentional. But I am not always successful in my clearing, sometimes I do hit the word count goal, sometimes I get derailed.
I learnt a distinction that has a tremendous impact on my writings: disappearing. When I write not as myself, and disappear my identity, a new self emerges on page. That self is the universal self, and it no longer contains any of my fears or my wants. It contains universality in the form of a language that speaks to all and not only me. If I write as myself, it would be corrupted and disjointed and non linear. It makes total no sense and it is nonsensical. The moment I disappear myself – my fears are gone. My writings are clear. It contains a new found clarity and freedom of expression on page.
When I write not as myself, but as the universal self that connects to all – there is a flow of words that I would otherwise be unable to materialize. I am expressing myself not as my identity, but who I am. There is a difference between my identity and who I am. My identity contains past based experiences and it will come up to survive or protect me. But who I am as my word is a different way of being – it is about holding myself to my word and not allowing my identity to survive what I truly stand and believe in.
“Authenticity is being and acting consistent with who you hold yourself out to be for others, and who you hold yourself to be for yourself. When leading, being authentic leaves you grounded, and able to be straight with yourself, and straight with others without using force.” Being a Leader and The Effective Exercise of Leadership (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1238158)
When I am who I am as my word the self that emerges is a new way of being and acting that is consistent on who I hold myself out to be. To be a world renowned author in 2021 is my word. This is what I am holding myself out to be as my word, and the self that is emerging right now is to be authentic about my relationships. I am keeping myself accountable to my family and friends and them, keeping me accountable to what I am aspiring to be as my word. There is a new found power and freedom of my self expression in this “holding out to be” phenomenon.
In the face of no agreement, I can create new possibilities by being authentic about what is working and not working. I can create new contexts by being an architect of my reality and dreams. I can live anywhere in the world and even if I am physically handicapped, I will still be my word.
When I am in my daily life, daily routines, daily clothes. I am just one of the many people in their usual lives. There is no calling forth, or purpose. There is just an emptiness, a void vacant state of aimlessness.
Today I discovered, after listening to Time by Hans Zimmer, that my being has been called forth powerfully to write for the world and I had been inauthentic by running away from this purpose. I had been inauthentic about myself by enrolling into business school instead of pursuing humanities. I had been inauthentic in my business dealings, and I had closed my consultancy firm as of last year. Although I was a high performing business consultant, it bought me no fulfillment. Although I could travel with no abandon, it bought me no answers. Although I had visited most of the museums of the world, I am not closer to creating my legacy.
As of now, I will write daily with no excuses, reasons or justifications on why I am running from this path of creative self-expression. Eventually, my physical self will decay and what is left is my writings as my sole contribution to the world. There is no one who is committedly listening to the importance of my books, but I will be creating that this is of a high importance to humanity that I pass on my knowledge to the world before my time is an end. My relationships are not working the way it could be, and I am causing through being honest about it to create love, affinity, joy and happiness.
The cause bigger than myself is creating a new context of sexuality for the world. My writings communicate that sexuality should be open and not censored the way it is in the modern world. The new possibility I am bringing forth is an openness in sexuality will result in a decline in violence, war, and depression. My intention will be clearly communicated in my short stories with these themes that I will release by this year.
To achieve this goal, I will write daily with no excuses and work on my books to completion. I will find distribution channels and be open to publicity although I am shy and I have a bodily sensation of running away from the public view. I will do this as my stand for the greater community. Through my leadership, I am the direct cause of others around me taking up positions of leadership to end suffering in this world.
This is my word and declaration as who I am for the world.
There is an advice that I hold close to my heart, which is – “the path of a great performer is to know thyself.”
I am terrible at knowing myself. I make many mistakes when it comes my own life. I say what I don’t mean, and I am just bad with communicating with humans. After all, I only had books as my friends and I grew up almost like a mute. I had no one to talk to as an only child. My maid accompanied me everywhere but she hardly spoke to me. She told me to keep quiet and not ask too much questions. I could only find answers in books.
Teachers could not answer my questions. My classmates thought I was weird. In between my textbooks I would scribble poetry and stories I had invented. I spent hours in the library, consoled my sadness in the joy of reading. I could get lost in faraway worlds and places that I would never have the opportunity to go to.
In high school, my essays were passed around and read out aloud by teachers. They loved my writings. So much so they got them duplicated to be read by the teachers in the humanities department. When I dropped out of completing arts college, I buried in my old identity and renamed myself to prevent anyone from recognizing who I was. For years I kept this blog and did not wish for people to find it. I continued to write, publish and submit my essays for circulation under different pen names. I went by different names in social settings till I lost who I was. I took the most unordothox route to study business and abandoned my education in humanities to seek a different path of redemption. Maybe I am not a writer, I a business person. Maybe I am not a starving artist, but an independent artist. These conflicts plagued my soul and I was further and further away from who I was.
Still I did not know myself, and I am so afraid to say it but actually I hardly have a clue who am I. I had tried all sorts of ways to try to find out my family ancestry, travel, spend time with my grandparents. But this is something I could not get. To me, I am a shadow of myself. There is a blankness when I try to dig out who I really am. My visions turns blank and my voice is silent. In my dreams there is a shadow self that tries to kill me every night and it ends in bloodshed. Sometimes I am drowning in a deep sea with a rock tied on my ankle. Sometimes I am in a dark alley way and attacked by multiple shadows.
On sweet blissful nights I am on the beach with my lover under the stars. The waves are crashing on our feet. We are rolling in the sand, our tongues entwined. The sea sweeps us in under and we are submerged in the ocean depths. No one knows who we are. No one knows where we were. It was just the two of us in this embrace. The next moment, he is torn away from me by the forces of gravity that sinks him into the abyss. He disappears and I am left alone in this universe. I was not defined by having a lover, and having a lover did not allow me to know who I was. He had to leave me for me to discover I am whole and complete as I am.
Why am I tearing at this point? In my realisation it is true. I am born alone, and I will die alone. I will never be understood no matter how much I wanted to be understood. I will never be who I want to be, time will consume me before I could accomplish my life work. I will never know who I am. I am evolving each day and the person whom I knew I was yesterday is gone today. Like a butterfly that takes flight, I am flying without a clue of what I was in the past.
It struck me today – there is no fixed way of being. Who we are each day changes and grows and evolves as experiences colour and coats our actions and speech. Who am I today is determined by one thing only – a declaration of who I am to the world.
I used to have a self-defeating conversation that says, “no I can’t do it” whenever I have to take up a position in an organisation or be part of a society in any form of leadership. Even today I am strangely media shy. I am shy of appearing in public places as myself. I am shy of publicity. I am shy of being identified by fans on the streets. Sometimes I have a spider sense that someone knows me on the street. But I brush those thoughts aside and say, “it can’t be.” Although my YouTube Channel has 100 000 views a month, I wonder in the grand scale of the universe if that’s any impact at all. Probably not.
In my next step to elevate my artistry, I have another conversation which is, “I don’t think I can do everything I want to do before I die.” When this conversation takes hold on me, my shadow self emerges and cripples my creativity. It slithers like a python and suffocates my being before the darkness sets in my eyes and becomes black and white. In the black and white world, there are no emotions. There is no colour. There are shadows of shadows. The shadows have no faces. The faceless shadows roam the black and white world aimlessly with no direction.
I had appeared unannounced at open mics in London and New York to read my poetry on stage, the reception from the audience is great. And when I am not on stage, there is a decay going on in my soul. Although I am an independent artist, there is a part and longing of me to be part of a group of well-established artist. To be part of the mainstream media and recognised for my efforts. But my shadow pulls me away and throws me back into the black and white world. The world of colour is nowhere in my reach, but a mirage of a dream that I aspire to be. In the shadows, I could only say to myself – maybe it is not meant to be.
I want to belong, but I will never belong. I want to be understood, but maybe there is no need to be understood. There is a void within that can’t be fulfilled.
Maybe I am indeed a swan amongst the ducks,
and only by leaving the ducks I can find my tribe.
I had started writing the outline for Purple Python, the third book to the installment of the Hourglass Series. It will be from Jessica point of view, she is half Vietnamese, half American.
As part of my research into the horrors of the Vietnam war, I had watched Miss Saigon at West End in London. I had downloaded a book called Unwanted – A memoir of childhood by a Amerasian survivor of the Vietnam war. His chilling depictions of the final days before the last planes leaving Vietnam had lead me to shake my mind off it and write this post. My hair stood on ends when he wrote about how the last planes left the US embassy without his family in Vietnam when they lost the battle to the communist.
On hindsight, I am very very fortunate not to experience any horrors of war in my lifetime. My ancestors had made a good decision to depart China during the civil war and migrate to Nanyang and resettle to new unknown lands. They contributed to the community by teaching, volunteering at the clan association and resettling other families. They made contributions to the society at large by imparting Confucius ideology for a civil upright society.
Now, my generation enjoys global mobility and interconnection with the world due to technological advancement in communications and accessibility. I had the privilege to study in Australia and attain fluency in English as my native language. It was only in Australia I discovered about Vietnamese refugees and how they were referred to as “boat people” and how they risked their lives to go on boats to seek refuge in Australia. I was so insulated and I had no awareness that this existed till I traveled and was exposed to the world at large.
I am now using Alan Watt’s “90 Day Novel” as my guide to write Purple Python as it has worked so for my first two books. It examines through the process of inquiry to building worlds and characters. A sentence that really hits me now is that, “the story lives fully within yourself.” I had never believed in that, I had thought that the story is constructed outside myself. But now, I had discovered this sentence is true. The whole universe of the Scarlet Queen and Hourglass Series is existing within myself and through a process of rigorous inquiry, that it would be materialized in this world.
I am now on Day 5 out of Day 90. I will be on a cruise for a year end vacation with my family and friends in a large group including my grandparents. On the four day cruise with no internet connection, I will continue to be engaged in the inquiry as it says to “write daily and not stop”.
I had made changes to my diet depending on my productivity for the day. I would notice my food intake when I feel tired, and when I just switch off and can’t think anymore. I have added bananas as my breakfast and seen that it prevents after lunch sugar crash. I would notice how my sleep is disrupted by the effects of caffeine if I had too many cups by the results of my Mi Band. The moment I feel tired about (5 -6pm) I would get up from my chair and go for brisk walking, do a dance workout and get moving.
My conclusion is that our energy and productivity levels are influenced by what we eat. After having a rich yummy dessert with friends on Saturday, I crashed from the overload of sugar and was unable to exercise but sleep it off. I am on a no sugar diet, and any sudden intake of sugar = crash. Most food don’t look appetizing to me after switching to this diet. I no longer have cravings for ice cream or chocolate. I find desserts too sweet, and when it tastes too sweet it gets disgusting and yucky.
My constant craving right now is for coffee. I guess I can’t kick the caffeine habit after living in Melbourne. Melbourne was the cafe capital of the world and the coffee, even those at secluded alleys with no advertisements but a coffee machine – they tasted heavenly. The best coffee in Melbourne was a sandwich shop owned by an Egyptian near Little Collins Street. He had no signboards for his coffee but he sells hundreds of cups a day. I had noticed more people buy his coffee than his sandwiches for a strange reason. There was always someone queueing at the sandwich counter while he brewed a coffee. I had tried every coffee on that street and I made the jump for his. He revealed to me the secret of his coffee is in the beans, his beans are a special blend. He asked if I would like to buy his sandwich shop or recommend a buyer so he could retire.
The randomness of this experience opened me up to a whole new world of hidden coffee culture. I got myself a coffee Michelin equivalent guide to Melbourne and hunted down the top 10 cuppas in the city. I self-declared after that I am a coffee connoisseur after completing the guide and having my own rankings and recommendations for others. In my travels, I am the on the hunt for a good cup of coffee. With the exception of China, where tea reigns supreme and dragon well tea is undoubtedly the finest green tea in the world – I am a caffeine addict.
As much as I had tried to kick the caffeine out of my life, it crawls back to my memories. My grandmother would make a tin pot of coffee using a sock as a filter as she poured the concoction from one flask to another. She would do this every morning before we woke up. My cousin and I drank coffee as kids. Everyone in the household was served coffee from the sock. The bitter coffee beans were from Malaysia and it the coffee was creamy with hints of roasted butter, condensed milk that gave a texture of sweetness and a strong aftertaste of milk. Drinking coffee reminds me of my nostalgic memories of my grandmother, who loved coffee and never drank water.
There is one essential skill I am lacking in my life – control. In a dance, it is all about control of body movements. How good a dancer can be depends on how good he is able to control his motions. In my work, I engage in losing control more than being in control. I lose control to perform in my videos. I lose control to write pages after pages. To me, performance has been about losing control.
But from today onwards, no more.
I had re-defined performance as an act of control. The control of my voice, my movements and my mind. The control over each and every aspect of my work. It has been an insane quantum jump in my usual filming of 5 videos to 16 videos the last session. I intend to bring it to the next level.
I had been working on writing The Prince to completion. I am pleased to say it is almost complete at Part 9. The preliminary drafts are available on my blog, but the final version is elaborately detailed. Researching on monarchs and watching The Crown last night has been inspired me to complete The Prince in a fantasy meets science fiction setting. I can’t wait to release my collection of poetry and short stories on Amazon soon. Stay tuned for the news.
Online communication is an illusion that we know someone, but actually, what we are interacting with is between two screens and it is hardly real. I have to admit my productivity went skyward the moment I started to call, meet and get to know what’s happening on the ground. Things are done at a fraction of the time, and I got to know what is not working or what is working. And I had started to discover that the more acquaintances you have the more lonely you are, and the more close friends you have, the more secure you are. And lastly, closeness to family is what grounds us to who we are.
Tara Keogh is my editor, without her, the Hourglass Series would not be possible. Behind the scenes, Tara is my coach. This is an email I wrote to her after returning from China. As suspected by my reader
This is an email I wrote to her after returning from China. As suspected by my readers, my trip to China on a vacation was to double verify the scenes and themes are accurate as it is today as I last visited China about four or five years ago. Inflation has caught up, and things are not as affordable as they used to be before. A bowl of noodles is about 30 Yuan = US$4.5 in a cafe.
On my trip, I took domestic buses and trains on local routes that tourists would not take. As a result, I fell sick upon my return as the public transport system is not the most hygienic of places to be. I was mostly moody while on the train/buses as it is crowded and people spoke loudly to each other. There is hardly any personal space. There is no much of a consideration for others around them. It is a stark contrast to Japan where taking the train is quite an enjoyable peaceful activity.
Discovering the underbelly of Shanghai was an amazing journey, I completed the novel way one month before I wrote the ending. I just didn’t want the journey to end. It was like a nice train ride in the countryside that I did not want to get off. I finally wrote the ending and handed it to Tara. I used to be unable to complete my projects in the past, and left them hanging and incomplete. But now, I had learnt to let go of the result and just accept that the journey has ended for (me) and the journey for the reader begins.
I am back from Shanghai after a ten day trip spanning Suzhou and Hangzhou. I had uploaded lots of photos visiting places that I wrote in the Blue Orca for double verification and fact checking that these places and customs exists. It is all good. I am so excited for the launch.
In China, apparently a novel costs about 35 Yuan ($5.2 USD) in the bookstore. It seems that it is not a lucrative business for publishers or writers as the book printers and book stores make the most margin from what it looks. I doubt their copyright laws and royalties law justify the amount of work put into writing a book. It is truly out of love that people are writing novels in China. Still, it is my ambition to one day translate the copies of the Hourglass series for publication in China by working with an approved publisher in China. I will look into it once I have three books published.
I found an interesting cosmetic product called “Pearl Powder” while in Suzhou. Apparently the properties of Pearl crushed into powder makes for a good skin care. I am using the Pearl infused products now. Just some trivia to share. But to “high class tai tais” they would prefer western skin care products as it is seem as of a “superior grade” to those manufactured in China.
The underbelly of China’s economic success juxtaposed with the decline of America are the themes I explore in the Blue Orca. I would regard the Hourglass Series as my thesis on the reality of the world we live in today. Pre order now at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MD0K7VJ
She is releasing a novel (Hourglass Series) yearly and weekly YouTube videos. She does experimental flash fiction on this blog, along with song, movies and character analysis using historical and literature references.
One Million Views on Scarlet Queen YouTube (2015)