Word of the Week #155:

Esse

Last week, we tried to answer an important question that people tend to ask us: Why do we write?

But there is another question, one that is arguably far more important, that comes to mind that one must try to answer.

Why do we live?

In a way, I am glad it does not come to my mind too often, for there is no simple answer I can offer.

Should life be more than the mechanical execution of our mundane routines, the fulfilment of our fundamental needs? Should life be more than just a checklist that we have to complete before we run out of time?

Should life have some sort of meaning or purpose? Should we need a reason to get off the bed every morning besides our bladders?

What about us artistic types who live in our own world and are unencumbered, at least relatively, by the mundane? Do we live to write? Or do we write to live? Are the two mutually exclusive?

Well, the later is absolutely true for me, and I believe Stephen King would agree.

“Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

Stephen King

So, why do we live?

Does our life, our existence, make a significant impact on the grand scheme of things to warrant the effort we have to exert on a daily basis?

Directly, probably not.

The simple truth is that too few of us will achieve greatness in our lifetimes. And even if we do, that too is fleeting.

Every year, over 60 players join the NBA; so far, only 111 players have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. 111 players in almost 70 years… And I would be surprised if you can name 5 of those players who were inducted before your parents were born. Hell, I would be surprised if you could name one.

Too few. Too fleeting.

Not every scientist will be the next Newton. Not every writer will be the next Shakespeare. And I highly doubt that too many carpenters can claim to be the next Jesus.

But you can definitely earn a footnote in someone else’s discovery that changes life on this planet, and possibly beyond. You can always hope your stories inspire one child to see the world in a different light. And you can absolutely provide someone the comfort of a cosy armchair after a long, hard day.

If you think about it, we are the grand scheme of things, and it is a cumulation of every single thought, word and action of every single being that creates the world as we know it.

Life must, therefore, contain within itself the potential to change everything in the entire universe. And possibly beyond…

But that is the answer to a different question altogether.

The question remains, why do we live?

My answer is actually quite simple. ‘Cause it is all we know.

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Word of the Week #154:

Bohemian

Why do you write? 

As writers, we have all been asked this question, have we not?

In interviews, in queries, in casual conversation, we have always been asked this question.

And more often than not, we would respond with some words that make some sound like the perfect combination of an artist and a scholar. That is how we want to be seen, right? That is what benefits us. 

Why do I write? 

The answer is actually quite simple. I write because I do not know what else to do.

I have long believed that in humans, and perhaps in all sentient beings, along with an ability to understand arises a desire to be understood.

Some among us may be blessed with souls that are lucid. Clear. 
Some are cursed with darkness and discord.
But if you dive into the deepest of our depths, you will see that it does all make some sense.

So, why do I write? 

Why do I write ten thousand words and pray ‘t be worth the price?
To see a method to this madness, ten words would not suffice.

Word of the Week #137:

Proposition

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I am currently in the process of querying, and for the first time I feel like I am actually doing a good job.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the term, querying refers to contacting literary agents and hoping they like your work enough to want to work with you.

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that the process is eerily similar to asking a girl out.

Think about it.

Firstly, you always present yourself in the best light. You talk about yourself and what you do, and hope they like what they see.

You learn about their interests and preferences, and modify your approach to convince them how you can cater to those.

You adhere to their rules, even if you do not understand or appreciate them.

“Double-spaced manuscript? Sure! Why? Well, this is not for me to ask, is it?”

You start feeling good about yourself. Why wouldn’t you? You’re nice. You have worked hard all your life. You should have confidence in what you bring to the table.

After you have poured your heart on the page and hit the send button, however, you find every single thing you would have done differently, from that one comma before a conjunctive adverb to that shirt you wore to your high school graduation. What teenager appreciates Pink Floyd! Well, there is nothing to be done about it now.

And once you do send it, you are consumed by your curiosity. You cannot possibly just sit there and wait for a response; you have way too much on the line. Unfortunately, that is what you have to do. You cannot keep badgering them.

“Did you read it? Did you like it? Did you like me? Say, want to make this official?”

You may keep thinking that the whole day, but saying that will get you labelled a creep. You do not want that, do you?

And if, as is quite likely, maybe you get a rejection. And not even a thoughtful, well-crafted rejection that tells you what you did wrong or what you could have done better. Nothing that shows you that they respect the efforts you made. Just, “Yeah, I don’t wanna…”

Obviously, your heart sinks. You are devastated. You want to ask, “Why? Why not me? What do I lack?”

It is true. It is natural. But ask yourself this, is that the kind of men you want to be? Really, are you going to be that guy?

Surely, there could’ve been many reasons why you did not make the cut.

Maybe they’ve never seen a guy like you and don’t want to take a risk. Maybe they’ve seen too many guys like you and want something new. Maybe this is just not the right time for them. Maybe they are already with someone. Or maybe they believe you are just not ready.

All understandable reasons, you would realise.

So, what do you do now? Well, you cannot keep wallowing forever, right?

Maybe you work on yourself a little more. Understand what sets you apart, and what holds you back. Present yourself better. Maybe trim down on some of that mass around the middle.

You keep improving, and you keep looking. Because you know that once you find the right now, together you are going to build something magical.

In the end, that is what makes this endeavour worth it.

HWAITING!

Word of the Week #132:

Bide

Think of a profession. Any profession.

No, I am not going to guess which one you are thinking about. That is not what I do here…

No, think of a good profession, one that you wish was yours.

Okay, turns out, I will be guessing…

I guess a common answer would be a professional athlete. That is fun, after all, right?

Well, I agree, playing for money does sound fun. But think of it this way. Is every aspect of the profession fun?

Being able to take the pressure, the weight of expectations of your fanbase may not always be fun, but some people are still better equipped to handle it than others, right? But I am not talking about the mental aspect, right now.

No, the parts that nobody would enjoy are the more mundane ones. Things like the incessant travel. Nobody wants to take a cross-country flight after every game. But, it is something you cannot avoid.

It is the same for musicians, singers, comedians and such. You have to travel before you get to perform.

Lawyers have to do lots of unglamorous things, like examining briefs and filing motions and visiting jails. It is not all courtroom drama.

Now, I don’t know what part of being a doctor is fun… I do not understand that profession, to be honest.

But, you see, that is how all professions work. You need to do some of the annoying stuff in order to do the stuff you love.

It is like eating on orange. Nobody enjoys peeling an orange. But if you like eating an orange, you have to endure peeling it.

Being a writer is the same. There are so many parts that drive me so crazy: Editing, querying, marketing, dealing with publishers… None of it is really fun.

But you are done with all that, you get to do what you really love. Just sit back, and keep writing all day.

That’s the dream, right?

Well, I look forward to the day it comes true, once again…

Of course, I remember a time when my Mom would peel the oranges for me. A convenient system, you know.

If only I could find an agent to handle all the peeling for me, now…

HWAITING!

Word of the Week #130:

Facsimile

Let me start off by asking you a question. Did you know what Fax actually stands for?

Well, not much anymore, right?

Such cheap shot… I know…

Anyway, let me tell you something I really do not like. No, I’m not talking about copy machines. I have nothing against them. After all, the ability to copy dozens of chapters worth of notes in a matter of hours is nothing short of divine.

Do you know how many of the 50 highest grossing movies of all time are not an adaptation, sequel, prequel or spin-off of an existing piece of art? 5!

Sounds ridiculous, right?

Well, of those five movies, three were created by Disney, one of which was inspired by Hamlet.

The other two of those five, which also happen to be the two highest grossing movies ever, were Avatar and Titanic, both written by James Cameroon. And even Titanic was based on real life events, right?

So, how many of those 50 movies can be called truly original? 3? Is that not insane?

Still, I can accept that adaptations are more than just copies. They do add a lot to the original artwork. After all, Hermione was always a memorable character, but Emma Watson’s performance made it unforgettable.

What I truly cannot stand are these reboots and remakes that keep popping up and ruining something wonderful. And this is especially palpable among live-action adaptions in animated series.

Let us take an example. Have you seen Death Note? Well, for the uninitiated, let me just say that Death Note is one of the best anime series ever made. It follows the life of a young boy with extreme intelligence, ethics and discipline, and how his acquisition of a divine object leads him down a dark path.

Good story, right?

Now, Netflix decided to make a live-action adaptation, and they had to make a few changes to the plot to make it more palatable to American audiences. Is that difficult? Apparently not. Eliminate the intelligence, ethics and discipline from the protagonist, and you have an American-style plot ready for production.

And this is still not the worst of the worst. But let us not go down that particular rabbit hole, or we will be here all night.

Let us just bunker down, and prepare to weather this torrent of faecal remains of the things we know and love…

What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

— Ecclesiastes 1:9

Word of the Week #108:

Volition

So, yesterday, I tried on a new pair of shoes, for the first time. Good shoes, objectively speaking. They just seem a little more tough, I would say. The sole is somewhat harder.

And as I played wearing them, I could feel the subtle difference under my feet. I could feel the few extra fractions of a second I gained in my air time, as well as the slight additional strain that accumulated each time I landed.

It was, as most things in life are, a trade off.

In its essence, that is what life is, right? The cumulative consequence of all our choices…

You choose a sugary drink over the risk of dehydration? An additional inch of tummy over the week should not be a surprise.

You choose to repair your old vehicle instead of buying a new one? Well, it may just break down again in a month or two.

Choose to follow your passion instead of seeking an ordinary, though reliable job? That is not exactly the path to financial stability, is it?

Yes, life is all about choice… Choices which we are forced to make without sufficient understanding of the consequences.

Sounds cruel, one might say. And I’m not the only one…

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken