sleeping with a notebook 

no, about to fall asleep – you, not the notebook – with a pen in hand
exhausted but kept awake by the flashing light in your head
that keeps you scribbling pages and pages
you notice this happens a lot on planes, or when you can’t do the other work that you’ve been in the belly of for the past two, three months or longer, usually
in times like this, after a drought comes
a hurricane of near illegible characters
as when you’re half awake and trying to pour your recent dreams into reality
unfortunately illegible doesn’t translate well
doesn’t help that you usually write with your eyes closed
now you really can’t sleep

6. I looked out to the quiet night

I looked out to the quiet night

and thought I saw the One

But Nature did turn on the light

and lo! my love was gone.

The same way does the tick of Time

unveil the ugly Truth

Yet Love prevails above all odds

That is, if it is pure.

A poem from 2012. ‘This one was inspired by an entry in ‘Emotions’ from the book ‘Why the Toast Always Lands Butter Side Down – the Science of Murphy’s Law’ by Richard Robinson. This book tries to provide a rational explanation of the more trivial – or not so trivial – things in life.’

A Wild Character Appears!

I went for a short walk at noon, mind filled with advice from famed writers, most notably Ernest Hemingway:

‘As a writer you should not judge. You should understand. … You should be able to go into a room and when you come out know everything that you saw there and not only that. If that room gave you any feeling you should know exactly what it was that gave you that feeling. Try that for practice.’

The elevator stopped on the 17th floor, where a cauliflower-haired woman was waiting. She looked at the floor indicator by the ceiling, peered inside the lift, and made a few hand gestures before squirrelling in and inspecting the floor buttons. ‘Yes, that’s right…yes…pineapple,’ she said, and returned to tapping compulsively on her phone. The lift went down a few more floors. She continued her tapping, almost rhythmic but not quite, right index finger pressing into the screen. She sighed, paused, and turned to look at me. I was already looking at her, and she quickly turned back to her phone before checking which floor we were at. Nope, she couldn’t get out just yet. She shook her head and sighed again.

Then there was a man with droopy eyelids in an oversized white T-shirt, plodding across the plaza, head down, with uneven gait.

Then there was the boy at the supermarket- perhaps 5 or 6 – tenderly grasping a turtle soft toy by its neck as he waited in line with his sunglass-touting mother.

And then there was the amateur scrabbling for her notebook, awestruck at the wealth of characters around her that she had neglected for so many years. Such is the ignorance of youth.

I’ll revise this later

Even though I’ve been continuously bleeding thoughts into Evernote and my crinkly unlined journal, I’ve not shown anyone any of my writing. That means it’s often sloppy, and I don’t revise my work. Any thoughts of revision involve revising it later, which has not yet happened for any of my 1000+ digital diary entries, let alone the ones on paper. I’ve been editing this entry for almost an hour. The one piece I did publish (my testimony, which was only posted on Facebook and included in a booklet to a small group of friends) I revised every day for two weeks. It would’ve been longer, but that was all the time I was given. When formally writing for CoCoon HK and when writing marketing copy, I spend hours anxiously revising emails and interviews like a mad squirrel. Help!

My point? Revision is great, but it takes some getting used to. I bought a copy of ‘The Elements of Style’ for a friend this week, and took the opportunity to re-read a few pages. The differences between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ examples were shocking, and gives a taste of what careful revision can do.

Try to read Orwell’s deliberately drained translation of Ecclesiastes 9:11:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels this conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account.

Compare that to the original (King James Version):

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.

(No words can describe this.) You don’t even have to add specificity or vividness to improve a message. By changing a few words,

Applicants can make a good impression by being neat and punctual.

is transformed into

Applicants will make a good impression if they are neat and punctual.

How beautiful is the gift of clear, living language! Here’s to writing and revising better every day.

Is this good enough to publish?

‘Will this create social good? If not, surely it’s not worth publishing?’

This worry is the main reason I stopped blogging. Not only that, if I thought my friends wouldn’t benefit from hearing about e.g. what I’d done over the weekend, I wouldn’t talk about it. Recently, I wrote a few articles for other blogs and fretted big time because I wasn’t sure they were valuable enough to be put online (more later).

I soon realised how horrible this obstacle was for me and for my friends. Thankfully, I also realised how much I enjoyed reading good writing, quirky stories, and indeed anything from the heart. And I never disliked writers for publishing pieces (hateful works excluded), regardless of quality. It was a classic case of applying one set of standards to most people, and applying another set to myself: Everyone could write and publish online, except for me, because my work wasn’t good enough. Though this way of thinking undermined my ability, it was oddly arrogant in treating myself different from others.

So while people are wary of others offering free content because it takes precious time to create, here I am sitting and worrying that my work is not good enough to occupy a shack on the practically infinite street that is the Internet. That’s not creating social good – it’s burdening me and preventing people (me) from exchanging ideas, sharing experience and gifting constructive criticism.

So with that, here’s to blogging again.