on dreams

I’m on the last leg of BLOOD PROMISE. The final chapter. I’ve leapt over the hurdle that is the climax of act three, and am now reeling in the aftermath, much like what my characters are doing. And maybe it’s because I’m just about ten pages to the end that I’m feeling the pressure to make the resolution as gratifying as it should be.

This book has taken quite a while. Since its conception as a short story of the same title, which I wrote last February, I’ve been struggling to get it right. Writing, rewriting, ripping out pages, ripping out scenes, even shifting the climax from the first act to the third and final act. Making sure each character sounds consistent (I’m writing from three first-person point-of-view. Yes, I’m aware of how ambitious that is), making sure the story trots along at the right pace, making sure no phrase sounds awkward or clumsy or distracts the reader from the story, making sure not to give away too much at the beginning but not play coy either.

There was the saggy middle that I experienced, like many authors seem to as well. The mid-story goblin that strikes around page 150 or so invariably seems to elbow its way between the writer and the story, so that you gradually feel detached from it, and can’t seem to get back into the zone. The first and last 100 pages are always exciting to write; it’s the middle portion that’s terrifying, because that’s usually when we usually start to lose momentum. But if we can get past that, the rest comes really easily and we – or at least, I – tend to fly through the final act.

And after completion of the book, all I remember is how fun it had been to write it. And I go back and do it again.

Yes, it had been agonising to write this one, but I love it when the story takes on a life of its own, grows a mind of its own, and takes over the reins. I love being led along by it and discovering a route that I didn’t think to let it take me, because that’s when the better stuff comes out. Too much planning, for me, kills the story. Since I already know what’s going to happen, I’ll feel like I’m just going through the motions, writing what needs to be written. Sometimes, letting go a little yields something unexpected.

I wish the same can be said for my real life. Because it’s all well and good to talk about letting go and losing yourself and finding a part of you in the process. It all sounds romantic and idyllic and noble, to fight for something you want.

But when reality gets in the way, and there are expectations to fulfil, there’s only so much you can do to fight for your dream. I’m just going to say it right here: my ultimate goal is to be a best-selling full-time author. Guess that isn’t news to many. But most people think I’m just kidding. They either don’t believe that is my real dream, or if they do, that I need to grow up, pull my head out of the clouds and assume some responsibility already. I guess it’s true I need to realise that I have to earn my own keep, achieve something, be somebody.

But I don’t understand WHY I have to do it the “conventional” way, by doing what everyone expects a graduate to do: get a white-collar job, report to work at 9am everyday, check emails, go for lunch breaks, answer to an equally frazzled boss, knock off at 6pm, and repeat that cycle for five days a week, then on weekends go shopping in a packed mall, squeeze with everyone else in a packed train, and dread the coming Monday and look forward to Friday.

The proverbial rat race, defined as an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit by Wikipedia, is exactly what I don’t want to leap into. When I was in secondary school, I worked hard to get the results I wanted for O’levels so I could get into the junior college with (in my opinion) the nicest uniform (yes, I was shallow even then). When I was in junior college, I worked hard to prove to the people who had high hopes for me – teachers, peers, family members – that they hadn’t misplaced their belief in me. When I entered university, I started to wonder what I’m doing all this for. What do I really want out of all this. What am I trying to prove to myself and the people around me? That I can? What if I can?

I’m not saying education is a trap. It would be too huge a logical leap to think that. I’m grateful for the education my father has worked hard to provide for me. I enjoyed learning the stuff I did in uni, as I mentioned before. But when I think of my life after uni, all I feel is dread. Dread that I’d have to become a pack rat, join the rat race, keep pounding on that treadmill, striving for that promotion that people expect me to get, that marriage, that 2.5 kids and the white picket fence – instead of working for that dream that I’ve had since I was 13: to write fiction for a decent living.

Here’s a quote from David Foster Wallace, an American Pulitzer Prize-nominated novelist: “… real freedom … is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.”

May we all be in conscious pursuit of that infinite thing.

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