Updates from Singapore Writers' Festival 2015

I was really excited to be part of an SWF panel! Especially since I've been attending and learning from the festival for many years. Seeing myself in the programme booklet as a presenter felt like reaching a milestone.

At the event, I had a good time exchanging ideas with fellow creatives. Especially fellow panellists Melissa Viswani, Darel Seow, Soumya Ayer, Levene Wong, and moderator Andy Chua. Learning about their work was inspiring and motivated me to do more.

Reconnecting with Roger Jenkins at Singapore Writers' Festival for families, which he co-curated with National Arts Council, felt special. It was almost 20 years ago when I acted in Project S.H.O.P. directed by him, staged at Victoria Theatre. I felt really nostalgic watching his storytelling session at the Asian Civilisations Museum (which was just behind Victoria Theatre). It reminded me of the time he asked us to dramatise a poem as part of the audition. Ah, memories!

Of Presence and Distances

Recently got to know two young artists, Benny Teo and Zhang Fuming, who asked me to write up an essay about their works for their upcoming exhibition.

Although I am an avid reader of art writing, it's my first time writing about it formally. Grateful to them both for the opportunity and freely sharing what they did with me. I had a lot of fun learning about their creative processes and concepts, and of course, observing them and their art. 

Check out their upcoming show here

Dreams and Persistence

Dreamt of attending a literature-cum-chemistry class at Yale, no less. Concluded something about Popularity of a literary work being a function of Genre + Target Audience. And that parallel lines won't remain parallel because they are positively charged. Huh, right?

Maybe it's related to this link my friend sent to me about Tom Sachs. Which led me to this video: Ten Bullets, which is worth a watch (20+ mins).

My favourite? Bullet number 10. 

Was at a gallery on 9 Apr 2015 and made some new friends, of whom there were two ladies whose contacts I didn't get, Ms Rebecca and Ms CS (and sorry if I got your initials wrong). We were just talking about art and what I do and intend to do, and they were generous with their encouragement and confidence. Thank you for your encouragement. I will press on!

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
— Calvin Coolidge (or Ray Kroc?)

Book launched on 14 March 2015

Yes, the Spider with Seven Tau-geh Legs was successfully launched! Thanks again to library@orchard for hosting us and all who arrived to support!

Some other photo highlights here

Please follow my facebook page for more frequently and timely updated news. 

Photos by David Teo (www.davidteophotography.com) 

Random good links - 16 May 2014

Working late...

It's 1.30 am and it's the Nth night in the past weeks that i'm up working so late. I haven't been waking up late either, for I've been waking up to a brain buzzing with a list of chores and errands.

i'm tired and I've been neglecting my writing because it's too difficult to write creative or complicated stuff when the brain is being wrung like a wet rag.

So what have I been up to?

Admin stuff. Administrative things, like planning projects, budgets, proposal, timelines, etc etc. For a while, it bothered me like how it used to bother me when I was working in a corporate office. ZZZzzz.

But friends helped me realise that this is all part and parcel of my work as a writer/artist. It's the "un-glamorous" part of every art project, but also one of the most essential parts.

And look, my friend A said, Isn't it nicer, better, infinitely more meaningful to be doing the administrative things for projects that I believe in?

Well, yes, indeed, i suppose it is nice, better, and infinitely more meaningful.

Admin really shouldn't bother me like how it used to bother me when I was administrating senior management's political spew and hidden agendas. 

And besides, I'm actually quite good at admin, which is why i could rise up far enough into the corporate offices to see the vomit and recognise the smell. It was just the purpose and the smell and the sounds people make when they puke shit that made me gag. 

Now that I'm administrating my own puke-shit, admin shouldn't bother me.

Now that I'm doing admin just to make my dreams come true, I might even come to like admin with time. But then, does that mean i'll be working even later into the night?! 

Random good links

No time to go into details, but thanks to friends who shared all these things:

  • http://zenpencils.com/comic/128-bill-watterson-a-cartoonists-advice/
  • http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/03/12/austin-kleon-show-your-work/
  • http://www.acc.umu.se/~coppelia/pooh/stories/ch8.html
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5J3gX47rHGg&feature=kp
  • https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=424334691012108
  • http://www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2009/may/13/shaun-tan-eric-story-pictures

Pick one.  Pick two. 

Thoughts on saying no...

‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.
— Charles Dickens, rejecting an invitation from a friend (from https://medium.com/thoughts-on-creativity/bad7c34842a2)

A. sent me an article about creative people being able (or needing) to focus on their work and avoid distracting tasks: https://medium.com/thoughts-on-creativity/bad7c34842a2

I do find it very hard to say no to people. Since writing is a self-motivated undertaking, the general consensus seem to be that I can be very flexible with my time. But the truth is, I really need a huge, isolated mental space to contain my works in my head and to develop them... if i come out of my retreat, say, over the weekend or the festive season, I really have to put in days to reboot my brain. it's really not like how when I was doing corporate work and I can just come back to a document two months later and get started immediately. it just doesn't work that way for me.

A few months ago, G commented that Singapore is so small that we get to see our friends, relatives, very often, unlike how things would be if we lived in a bigger country, and we'd just up and go to a different city and live and concentrate on our work. Perhaps because of this and the connectivity, it's really hard to carve out that block of time and space.

And perhaps it's because we're Asian, and somewhat, typically collectivist, that I feel obligated to honour social expectations and priorities over my own? but maybe it's not an Asian thing after all. according to the article, it seems that western individualists also find it difficult.

Perhaps because writing is an occupation that's commonly associated with employment and work, people tend to think it works like a job. But, really, it isn't. Writing is more like self-employment, like motherhood, it's an obsession which consumes and demands one's entire attention. Actually, I can imagine that it's somewhat like taking care of a child. If I don't see a 2 year old child for 2 months, and straightaway want to carry him in my arms and teach him his alphabets, he may reject me violently (or noisily), for he might no longer recognise me. I'd have to play with him, cajole him, get used to him again, before i try to teach him something interesting.

But mothers seem to find it easy to say no. "No, i can't stay back to do more work, i have to go home and breastfeed." or lawyers and accountants or bankers or whoever else also seem to have the have the right to say no to social functions, "No, i gotta prepare for a big meeting tomorrow." "No, i'm fighting for a promotion so i gotta work hard these few weeks." and students studying for exams find it easy to say no. "No, i got a test tomorrow." Exams and promotions are so important that it even allows these people to say no to...family obligations. in fact, entire families will retire early from social functions if one of the kids have a class test the next day. Why?

Or i am being presumptuous? perhaps they don't find it easy to say no at all. it's just that there are more of them around to make an impact on the rest of us, they've collectively changed the consensus, and people now find it acceptable for people to say no for these specific reasons.

Indeed, A. suggested that maybe because nobody really understands the demands of creative work and its processes, so nobody can properly empathise with the creatives.

Since people think writing or artistic pursuits works like a job (at best), which is typically something somebody likes to get out of as soon as possible, people think that it's the same for me. Actually, the opposite is true, since i gave up a full-time job's pay to concentrate on my writing, i really enjoy spending as much time as possible on my work. Which ironically suggests to others to think that writing or artistic pursuits are like past-time/hobbies, which should not be more important than meeting up with people who care about you? After all, there are those who still think that my creative pursuits are still acts of a spoilt child refusing to get a proper job, so anything i say remotely like, "i got to work", invites snorts and stifled sarcastic retorts like, "(oh please) what do you have to work on?" (with the silent "oh please".)

Whatever the possible reasons, saying no remains difficult. At the end of the day, it comes down to this, is it okay to just focus on my work and perhaps have no friends or social life? After all, maybe that's what full-time mothers, overly-promoted lawyers, accountants, bankers, and parents, who care a lot about their children's examinations, feel compelled to give up.

I haven't found any way about it. I'm just trying to explain things to one friend at a time, which may end up taking more time than just saying "yes" to whatever request, and... just hoping it'll work out in the long run...

Recommending... 百家讲坛 《苏轼》

su shi su dong po picture.jpg

苏轼, pronounced Su Shi, and also known as Su Dong Po, was a thinker, poet, public servant, etc, from the Sung dynasty.

He is my idol and my favourite poet, so I found and watched a 百家讲坛 series of lectures about his life and philosophy. I enjoyed the series very much and just want to share the link with you: it's here.

百家讲坛 (Lecture Room) is a Chinese TV programme that invites scholars to lecture in their area of expertise. As I find listening to Chinese easier than reading, I really enjoy learning about Chinese literature and history through these online lectures. 

On a personal note, Jq, you and I talked about the things that had happened in the public service, and how my idealism and behaviour were like of a cartoon character (Gintoki Sakata). Su Shi is the guy I messaged you about. His behaviour was also very idealistic and absurd, and since he's a real historical figure... it kinda affirms that my idealism is really applicable, liveable, and protect-able.

And also, to Shir. We talked a bit about my cartoonish idealism too. But see, it's not just me! haha. Anyway, do check out the 百家讲坛 series when you have time in the US, especially since you may miss having some "Chinese culture" around you.