Write (or create) what’s right for you!

I often discover new things about myself through my writing. It’s definitely an ‘AHA!’ moment when I realise what I thought I was writing about is just a cover or distraction for the real issue. In other words, the main character is not half as important or interesting as the supporting role of the ordinary girl.

Case (post) in point!

When I began this blog post it was about how after reading the book, Big Magic,’ by Elizabeth Gilbert (the writer best known for her international bestseller, ‘Eat, Pray, Love’) I saw similarities between creativity and love.

It somehow morphed into something completely different, so I ask that you just bear with me and keep reading and enjoy my ‘monkey’ mind jumping around. I’m not apologising, simply saying it how it is.

So, with that in mind, let me proceed!

‘Big Magic,’ is all about living a creative life for yourself, rather than for the exclusive happiness and approval of others. Although it’s focus is creativity, I was surprised to find myself thinking that the same principles that can be applied to creativity also apply to love. Hence, I needed to read this book, because I haven’t had a lot of faith in that whole ‘L’ word since last year.

Gilbert talks about being afraid of rejection or being criticised, misunderstood or ignored. Yep, it applies to how I feel about love right now.

She discusses the idea that there’s no point in pursuing it; yep.

She mentions the whole process as being thought of as a waste of time; yep, my friends tell me to stop pursuing something that isn’t worth it (according to them).

It goes on with possible reasons or excuses for not trying and yes, I am worried about what my family will think (my mum in particular), I am worried about what my friends, ex-colleagues and current ones will think about my state of mind, I am most definitely afraid of facing my own shit through a relationship, I’m afraid of making the same mistakes again and basically, I’m just…

FUCKING SCARED.

Sometimes someone appears, just like Gilbert says ideas do, and you’re not expecting it. They’re nothing like you imagined and yet, you have a choice. You can say yes, or no.

Last year I was approached by love in the form of someone I would never date. Never.

But I said yes. I gave it a chance because someone on the other side of the world planted a seed of an idea in my mind that began to grow.

They said, “Give him a chance.”

So I did.

Now, this is where love and creativity meet and where I received my ‘AHA!’ moment.

Last year when I was in a relationship, I did some of the best writing I’ve done in years. Granted, some of that was actually before we started dating, but I felt as though it got even better and more emotional and real afterwards. I can’t be sure if that’s true because I don’t really have a way to measure it, but in mind it has been… until now.

After we broke up, I wrote and wrote and wrote and used all that sadness and anger to write some good, some bad and some plain-fucking-awful-kill-yourself-after-you’ve-read-this, stuff. A few weeks ago, I finally got sick of my own shit (Gilbert discusses this too) and thought, fuck, if my own depressive shit is pissing me off, imagine all those poor souls who have been reading it! It certainly was a wake-up call.

I’ve been moping around for months thinking that if we were still together everything would be rosy and yet, that was not the issue at all (and definitely not true if we were together either!). I’ve also been feeling a little stale with my writing and have been looking for a new project/projects. All this time, I thought that the issue was about love and it’s not at all. I’ve been pursuing love as a way of trying to rekindle the creativity I had last year.

And why would I do this?

Because my ex loved my writing. He approved. He told me how great and heartfelt it was. He told others how good my writing was.

So what? you say. Ah, but if you read Gilbert’s book you will understand all of this. Gilbert talks all about the ego and how it loves to be stroked. She talks about how being creative for the sole purpose of others leads to us stifling our creative flow.

I finished the book with the feeling that I thought I was reading it because of my interest in creativity, finding something about love and then drawing my own conclusions and truth about myself and my creativity. How’s that for full circle?

In the process of reading it and then letting the words marinate in my soul and mind for a few days I suddenly knew:

Yes, emotions and experiences are indeed powerful things for creativity and are definitely worth pursuing and using as inspiration. But, and there is a but, I have learned there are two things you need to keep in mind.

 

  1. Do not allow those emotions to dominate your creativity. You are not your emotions and your emotions do not need to colour everything you do. In other words, do you work but do not allow all your work to be about these feelings. That not only makes you a slave, but also makes you start to believe that without those emotions you will not produce good work and that is absolutely not true.
  2. The second and perhaps the most important thing is not to attach your self-respect, self-worth and worst of all, identity and creativity with the object of your affection. Believing that without their stamp of approval on your creativity that it isn’t worth your while is an extremely dangerous and negative thought pattern to be trapped in. It is one of those that will only result in a downward spiral.

 

I could keep going on and on here, but I’ve cemented what I needed to, not only in my mind so I can begin creating freely and happily again, but also in words for others to read and hopefully identity with.

Creativity is a strange process and we make all sorts of excuses for why we’re not doing it. I’ve been doing it, but half-heartedly and not with the right intent. My intent from now on is to write (and create) what’s right for me and no one else. If someone likes it, great, but it has nothing to do with me if they don’t.

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for writing something that can be applied to all facets of life, not just creativity, but something that can also help you to recognise why your creativity (and lack of), is the way it is and how you can change all that.

Amen.

I’m off to create some Big Magic.

🙂

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Are you man enough?

People often ask me why I’m single.

“You’re too picky!”, they tell me.

No I’m not picky. I just know my worth and I also know how strong-minded I am. I’m yet to find someone who is a match and THAT’S why I’m single.

Finding someone as equally strong-minded as me (i.e. stubborn), who knows what they want and who is secure enough in themselves is a very difficult task. I’m not saying I want a “macho man”, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth, but what I DO want is someone who has guts, determination and passion: for me, for life and for their work.

This article from Huffington Post got me thinking about what it is I REALLY want and so I scribbled down the following notes:

  • I like direct people who tell me how they’re feeling and who are prepared for me to do the same. If you want something from me or you want to know something, ask me. I am not into playing mind games.
  • I also demand respect as a human being. Every person deserves honesty and in a relationship, I expect commitment. I will not enter a relationship if I am not prepared to stay faithful to one person. I believe that if you want that, you should remain single. DO NOT FUCK me around.
  • I want someone who constantly strives to make themselves a better person and someone who gets to know themselves well enough to know who they truly are.
  • I want someone who likes intelligent conversation, but who also doesn’t take themselves too seriously and can make me laugh.
  • I want someone who isn’t intimidated by me and who has the courage (i.e. balls) to approach me in the first place.

And perhaps ultimately, I want someone who I consider to be my best friend who I just happen to love having sex with as well.

If you think my list is too much to ask, great, keep your opinion to yourself. I believe that unless you know what you want and you aim for that, you will always get second best. Don’t short change yourself, whether you are female OR male.

Perhaps my favorite thing about the Huffington Post article was that it wasn’t written by some feminist on a rant, it was written by a male who just happens to have the balls to fall in love with a strong woman. You go dude!

My Favorite of Favorite Books

I’m an avid reader who will read literally anything and of any genre, be it fantasy, crime or even non-fiction.

I can also count on one hand how many books I haven’t liked in my life and out of them, even less that I’ve never finished. Generally if I’ve started a book (and even though I hate it!), I’ll try to finish it because I don’t like to start something and not see it through. In other words, the book has to be REALLY bad for me to actually put it down.

On the other hand, I don’t have a single favorite book, but many, which I’ve read so many times that my copies look like they’ve been through the ringer. Because I’m someone who HAS to read at meals (even if it’s only the cereal packet), the pages of my books are often stained with something I’ve accidentally dropped because I’ve been so absorbed in my book I’ve missed my mouth. 🙂

Therefore, in honor of my favorite books and favorite authors, here are my Top 10, in no particular order.

1. Anything by Robin Hobb, but particularly the ‘Farseer Trilogy.’ This fantasy series is one I’ve read over and over again. When I pick it up for the millionth time and open to the first page I can feel myself grinning even before I read the first line. I am completely in love with the Fool who is just one of the many memorable characters in the series. Rather than a single trilogy, this series then goes on to another two trilogies but you can read the second or third series within having read the previous one/s.

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2. ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C.S. Lewis. One of the original and best fantasy writers of all time, C.S. Lewis wove a tale of a wicked snow queen who had the land of Narnia under her wintery spell. Perhaps it was this book that inspired a friend of mine to convince me that there really were magical lands to be found in your wardrobe. For this reason I can remembers years of pleasure and many hours spent quietly playing in my room, pushing magical buttons (in this case, stickers) on my doors, pretending that I was being transported to different worlds. And not an electronic device in sight. They were the days…

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3. ‘The Odyssey’ by Homer. I first read this in senior high school when my Ancient History teacher recommended that I read some primary sources for my research assignment. I’m so glad she did, because I have now re-read this countless times and still think it’s a wonderful weave of both fantasy and non-fictional events. Personally, I think the Penguin edition is the best. I have read others, but have found the English in them particularly hard to read because of the amount of prose that is used and of course, the different translations.

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4. Anything by Kylie Chan, but particularly ‘The Dark Heavens’ Trilogy and the subsequent trilogy. Kylie Chan is an Australian author who is married to a Hong Kong National and her knowledge of mythology and martial arts is second to none. She does a lot of research for her books and having lived in Hong Kong she knows the area well and is able to describe it realistically in her stories. I also have a signed copy of ‘Red Phoenix’ that I picked up in (of all places), a local supermarket! 🙂

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5. ‘1984’ by George Orwell. I first read this book in my senior high school days when my English teacher recommended it to me. I can’t quite remember why or how she convinced me to read it, but I’m glad she did. For those lovers of dystopian novels, this is one of the first and personally, I think, the best example of a genre which has become so popular today. Orwell was WAY ahead of his time and used world events and people around the time of World War II to inspire his works. Now as a teacher when I hear students talking about the TV show, ‘Big Brother,’ I like to introduce them to the original Big Brother.

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6. ‘The Hunger Games’ series by Suzanne Collins. A past student in Australian recommended these to me long before they became popular and way before the movies. The best way I can describe them is imagine if the reality TV show, ‘Survivor’ was mixed with the reality TV show, ‘Big Brother.’ The result: a game show where contestants battle for their lives and kill each other, while a totalitarian government watches on.

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7. The ‘Divergent’ series by Veronica Roth. Another dystopian series, but this time it revolves around factions in society where once you choose, the decision will change your life forever. There’s romance of course but unlike many of the other books in this genre, it’s not all happy endings. I find this refreshing because life doesn’t always run smoothly and I think this series is more realistic because of it.

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8. ‘The Millennium’ series by Stieg Larsson. What can I say about these books? When I finished them I was devastated and literally didn’t know whether I could read anything else for fear that it wouldn’t meet my expectations. Lisbeth Salander is the PERFECT female role model and I was and still am, completely in love with her. The books are particularly gruesome as they deal with sex crimes but revenge is sweet and Lisbeth fights till the very end. Interestingly enough, Stieg Larsson used many real-life characters in the series and his sudden death is cloaked in rumors. Do a Google search and you’ll see what I mean. Fascinating reading! The movies, surprisingly, are also very good (the Swedish version of all three, the Hollywood version of the first book with Daniel Craig).

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9. Anything by Joanne Harris, but my personal favorite is ‘Chocolat.’ The movie stars Johnny Depp and I guarantee that whether you read the book, watch the movie, or do both, you will be very, very hungry for chocolate. The story focuses on a woman and her young daughter who come to live in a small French village. They open a chocolate shop and manage to transform the lives of the villagers with their magic and charm but the village priest is on the warpath. I know it’s a good book when I find a character (in this case, the priest) who is so infuriating that I want to throw the book against the wall, but yet, I can’t put it down because I want to know what happens. The best word to describe this book: enchanting.

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10. ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ by Arthur Golden. This true account tells the story of the life of one of Japan’s most famous geisha and is highly recommended for those people who have an interest in all things Japanese. For those people who think ‘geisha’ refers to a prostitute, you need to read this book. Geisha are entertainers and their skills belong to another age. Today geisha are becoming a thing of the past; a hidden beauty that needs to be preserved.

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I do have a number of honorable mentions for books and these include, the ‘Harry Potter’ series (obviously!), the ‘Tomorrow’ series by Australian author, John Marsden (I have never read anything more terrifying in my life and I still have nightmares), the ‘Twilight’ series (yes, I do admit to reading these and I literally did not move from the couch for two days) and… cough, cough… the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ series (I know, I know, please don’t judge me!) 🙂

I’m a human rice ball

Today I was flipping through a paper copy of ‘The Japan Times,’ that was on my desk at school and came across a very interesting article. I was supposed to be searching for examples of present continuous and future simple tense, but I was so eager to write down my own thoughts and questions about what I’d read that I abandoned the other task. It could wait.

The article was twofold. Firstly it highlighted the idea that your favourite food signifies your desire and secondly, it posed the question: in what order do you eat your food if several dishes are on hand, one of which is your favourite?

My favourite food, which of course, is Japanese, is onigiri. In English, these are rice balls filled with various things such as salmon or tuna and mayonnaise. They are commonly wrapped in nori or seaweed and can be both a snack or part of a meal.

How does that relate to my desire? I must admit, I did laugh. An onigiri is both a perfect example of me, and also what I tend to be attracted to in guys.

Although I do tend to be fairly transparent as far as body language and facial expressions, the ‘real’ me takes far longer to discover and is hidden away, deep inside of me, just like the filling in a rice ball. If you can’t read kanji or at least, some hiragana, there’s also the possibility that you’re never really sure what you have in your rice ball until you get to the middle.

As for the men I usually like, I have two main types: the shy ones who won’t reveal how they really feel until they are totally comfortable or the confident, almost arrogant type who have a tough outer ‘shell,’ to cover their insecurities.

Onto the second part of the article; the question that was posed about the order in which you eat.

Now my friends at my favourite café know, I always leave my favourite thing till last. That way I can finish the meal feeling completely satisfied and it’s something I look forward to the whole time I’m eating the other components on the plate.

According to the article, the order in which you eat something reflects how you treat your craving for something you want. The options that were listed are shown below.

1. Eat favourite first.

2. Take each dish in turn.

3. Save the best for last.

4. No thinking involved; eat whatever.

The writers attributed the order in which you eat to how you do your shopping and so:

1. Bad shopper. You grab everything and are impulsive.

2. Buy sensibly.

3. Inclined to resist but you may find that what you really wanted has sold out when you finally submit.

4. No consideration. You end up with things you don’t want.

I’m hoping this only relates to shopping, because if it relates to relationships, it could mean that I’m resisting love (or at least, avoiding it at all costs), either consciously or unconsciously and that when I do decide I want it, there will be no one left.

I’m going to err on the side of caution and change my ways starting from now. As Brené Brown suggested, I need to ‘dare greatly’ and reveal my vulnerabilities to those people who have earned the right to see them.

My new favorite book

I talk to one of my very close friends who lives in Australia every single day and our conversations revolve around the usual topics: life in general, work, our struggles and of course, love.

A few months back we were talking about the concept of vulnerability and I said that I don’t like people to see me cry, nor do I like exposing my emotions freely. When she asked me why, my answer was simple:

I see vulnerability as a sign of weakness.

Or more specifically, I see my vulnerability as a weakness which people will judge me on. I don’t have a problem with anyone else being vulnerable and I certainly wouldn’t regard theirs as a sign of weakness. Hmm… interesting I know and very, very contradictory. It seems I have double standards when judging myself or when I compare myself to others.

To cut a long story short, my friend suggested a book she’d recently read called, ‘Daring Greatly,’ by Brené Brown. This book, she said would challenge me and most probably change my entire view on vulnerability.

She was right.

I had trouble finding the book in Japan, so when my mum came to visit recently she brought it with her. I started reading it straight away and am now more than halfway through it. I must have been focused so intently on what I was reading, I didn’t notice that I was “hmming” and “haaing” to myself. My mum said, “I haven’t seen you so interested or focused on a book in years. You’re really enjoying it!”

I posted on Facebook the other day just how much I loved it and many people commented that it had sparked their interest and they were now going to check it out and read it.

Here are just a few things I’ve discovered about myself since reading it and also, some quotes I’ve found particularly relevant to me and perhaps, life in general.

– In order to cultivate love, I need to show people my vulnerability. Rather than running away from it, research has shown that someone will love you not despite your vulnerability, but because of it!

– I can now see that I am attracted to people who are vulnerable. Interestingly enough, most of these people are ones who don’t show their emotions freely and I see myself as someone who can ‘crack’ their hard shell/armor to get to the ‘real’ person underneath.

– Connected to the point above, my friend suggested the ‘shadow’ possibility, meaning that I see my own self, mirrored in these people.

– “Fear and vulnerability are powerful emotions. You can’t just wish them away. You have to do something with them.” p.98.

– “Remembering that shame is the fear of disconnection- the fear that we’re unlovable and don’t belong- makes it easy to see why so many people in midlife overfocus on their children’s lives, work sixty hours a week, or turn to affairs, addiction…” p.109.

– “It’s not what you do; it’s why you do it that makes a difference.” p. 147. So when I go to do something that could ultimately be self destructive, I now ask myself: Does it nourish my spirit or is it a temporary ‘Band-Aid’ that stops me from thinking about difficult emotions that I don’t want to deal with right now?

What I like about the book best of all, is that despite being written by a research professor, she allows herself to be human and shares stories of her own vulnerability. She doesn’t sound ‘preachy’ and best of all she struggles with these things daily, just like the rest of us. It’s nice to know we’re not alone. 🙂