Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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I didn’t realize it was 10 years later that I wrote to another one of my favorite authors. It was none other than the master of suspense himself, Sidney Sheldon. As usual, being 32 without having much success of getting to see my book in print was not very encouraging. I kept thinking to myself that I must be doing something wrong. The publishing opportunities in Malaysia was still very slim so I tried sending my works out to the US and other countries but there was nothing but rejection letters. I even sought out literary agents but with just a messy compilation of short horror stories (which was known as Bedtime stories from under my bed then) and a mystery suspense horror manuscript entitled Something about the Moon, they just weren’t good enough to land any deals.

Again, I needed some kind of approval to know that I was publishable or at least I had some writing skills. If you notice the change in my name it was also about this time I was going through my own transitional period with religion, identity, career, and a whole lot of questions about where I was going with this life.

It would take another 16 years before I am finally published for the first time by MPH. My first book Bedtime Stories from the Dead of Night finally saw the light of day after years of getting stuck in a publishing limbo.

The advice about not leaving your day job while pursuing a writing career only made sense to me when I was older. And the all time favorite advice to write, write, and write is the only way for any aspiring writers to go. With all the ups and downs, doubts and self-deprecation, disappointments and lonely nights, writing is a pilgrimage and an adventure. It may seem like an impossible dream at times but no matter how long it takes, it is well worth the journey.

It took me a long time to get published because things were different back then in Malaysia. There were very few publishers who would take on works by local writers and generally they preferred nonfiction to fiction. Unlike what writers can do today writers from the pre-internet days had very few options. It was either self publishing, which cost a bomb, or … wait a minute, there is no ‘or’.

There were no local writers I could ask or talk to about pursuing creative writing not only as a career but as my entire lifestyle. Like any other young and emerging writers, I needed some kind of approval or sign to let me know that it was okay to be a writer. That I was not fooling myself with my head in the clouds. That I would be able to get by. That I could cheat death and survive the writing world. With only western world writers to look up to, without hesitation or doubt I wrote to Stephen King. I was 22, I was a little desperate, and I wasn’t expecting a reply. But lo and behold, Stephen King sent me a standard form respond card and some photocopied articles. I mean, who does that? The King of course.

This small act of acknowledgment has taken me a long long way to be where I am today. It may seem like a negligible matter, but to one who has always loved writing with the hope of getting published some day, it meant the world to me.

 

What a fun, hot day at the Dataran.

I remember back in the day when writers were advised not to self publish for a whole lot of reasons. But these days self publishing, especially eBooks, has taken publishing to a different level altogether. I also remember making movies was all about getting investors and funders to back the project and self funding was also a no-no. But with cheaper recording devices, YouTube how-tos and the boom of the one click communications everyone is producing their own films without much hassle.

Creative people are usually advised against investing in themselves even when they have the money to do it because as the perception goes a creative person is not a business person. But these days some creative people managed to chart their own successes pretty well. And because of the incredible ease of the cyber-world anyone can learn how to do it. And not only that, there are also sites that guide you, collaborate with you and will go the distance with you.

I’m sure many of us asked that same question at some point of our lives. Do we dare invest in ourselves by putting aside some money and time for us to write that novel, make that movie, record that album or stage that performance? Are we confident enough to take the risk or should we invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, fixed deposits and other money making schemes instead?

If we can’t invest the money, we could still invest some time for the things we love. But getting there takes a whole lot of love and faith especially if you are leaping from a comfort zone. Time and again when someone asks me the same old, I keep telling them the same old, it’s about how much you believe in it to want to make it happen. 

Question is, would you do it even if it is against all odds? Would you dare invest in yourself and work at it until you finally see it coming together?

When I had my first teaching job the students whom I taught had no art or creative experience and they were underprivileged kids with difficult backgrounds.

And the best part of teaching was the discovery of their talents they never thought they had. They surprised themselves and even me when most of them took to painting, desktop publishing, photography, designing and other creative assignments as though they had been art students all along.

Those who didn’t excel in it were mainly uninterested, not that they didn’t have what it took.

Teaching these students for the next five years taught me how to see the potential in every single one of them regardless of their abilities, knowledge and origin.

But as I progressed to teach in bigger and more reputable art colleges the lesser I got to discover potentials and I started seeking for perfection instead. The marking system became more and more complicating, sometimes involving an entire department just to gauge a student’s progress.

Needless to say the best time of my life was fading away with the ridiculousness of measuring a student’s artistic flair and creative ideas with a set of rules.

And at some point of my life I lost that potential-seeing-person that I started out to be and became a perfection seeking individual instead.

It was not until a few years ago when I met a movie director who gave me my first break to write a TV movie script. The only portfolio I had was a movie script I wrote that I showed him. Since then I have written over six movie scripts both for TV and the silver screen, mainly with him.

When I asked him later why he gave me that opportunity he said, not in so many words, that I had the potential.

And then I wrote my first full length play and passed it to a stage director to review it. He was immediately keen to stage it even though it got a thrashing from the actors who did a reading for it. I began to feel a little doubtful of my work but he believed in it so much he told me it was the potential that mattered, not the perfection. So, with that, I went back to rewrite the play as best as I could for him so that he could stage by the end of the year.

Recently, I sent in my manuscript to a publisher and the editor liked the first chapter. She said it had potential and if I could rewrite some of the bits she would love to consider it for publication.

Then it all came back to me when I remembered how I loved discovering my students’ works and get bowled over by them. Those directors and editor brought me back to the place where I used to be when I saw potential in everyone by giving them a chance, perhaps a little motivation and a few words of encouragement. Potential, the way I see it, is a stepping stone that helps us realize greater things which are just around the corner. To expect perfection is to wait for the muse or the genie to appear and shower us with inspirations and wishes which, of course, will never come.

I don’t know where it all stems out from but we know that there is no such thing as perfection and yet we undeniably go look for it in products and services, friendships and relationships as though all we can ever accept is just that: value for our money and value for our ego.

A tribute to all the writers, artists, adventurers, dancers, performers, believers and everyone else who did what they loved against all odds.