Category Archives: To be, Or Not to be
This whole rigmarole, of being myself is a pain.
I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended.
Please be patient, I will get to you shortly.
Net Junkies Anonymous
The term was probably first coined by my online mentor Robert Genn. In 2010 when a few many artists were troubled by being overwhelmed by the many thousands (millions?) of images online. Nancy wrote, ‘ An evening can be spent wandering around cyberspace and enjoying it immensely. But very often, the next morning, entering my studio, I’m utterly paralyzed. My husband has noticed what online exposure does to me, and he thinks it’s making me nuts.’
Awake in the night
paper and paint collage by Nancy Bell Scott
Robert explained, ‘It’s all about procrastination. Hanging out at a cabaret or hanging on to a computer, artists will do anything to avoid going to their room and going to work. Fear of failure and fear of success are just two of the issues that lead to escapism. With the quality and variety on the Internet, today’s painters face a hazard like never before.
Net Junkies are the new alcoholics. Artists who allow the Internet to take them where it will, throw in the towel of creative individualism. Too much non-directed exposure to the work of others humbles, discourages, and sullies our own best efforts. The result, if you stay at it long enough, can be rudderless dilettantism. But there’s help. It’s called NJA.
Net Junkies Anonymous knows that artists procrastinate in the name of research. They get hooked. The solution is to make research a process-driven activity. It starts with the Notebook. Attend to your pencil before you go near your machine. As you think of your needs, jot down the points. Let your work tell you what you need to study. When the time is appropriate, take your list to the machine. Be efficient and cagey. The Internet is a great slave but also a cunning master. You have to go there on your own terms.
blame it on the stars…..
I have to blame it on someone for the ugly delay of my beloved project. This blame is no excuse, mind you, I can submit real proof.
Rewind to a few months back – I get the first printed version of the poetry book and present it to Him – SURPRISE!!! And the look on his face was nowhere close to any expectations I might have had in my present or former life. Nice guy but he totally hates surprises; he hasn’t in 20 odd years even tried to learn ways to deal with creative people – that pretty much speaks about his capabilities, and the fact that he does not know any other way of living but of a military, out-of-the-rule-book-pattern.
My partner was sincerely offended and hurt, reason being that IF he was the suppos-ed and lucky receiver of this creation, then why was he not part of the planning, creating, decision-making process? does his opinion not count? Blah, blah. why is the designers’ ideas given priority?
Make peace baby, give me all your opinion, and I’ll see how to put it in.
There! I mean, cant you be sensitive towards a piece of art made purely for love’s sake?! You are supposed to say the right things man- its amazing, it’s beautiful, thank you, I am overwhelmed!
No sir, we spot mistakes cover to cover, right down to the size, the shades, the title, the text is abstract even outrageous, the drawings not appropriate, the loopholes in terms of marketing this book, the acknowledgements not proper enough to appeal the potential publisher…..blah
You see, his complete logical sense is convoluted and confused. If I had to put in all of that, snip and tuck, make it fancier, with a certain twist that you feel would create the desired effect, it would become your book, not the thing that I was creating.
Ok, I admit to a certain extent maybe the abstract pieces, loose connections might need to be tweaked up…just maybe, not necessarily.
But the point is, I missed the joy of receiving a proud look ( aah, the things we do for love’s sake….) and I sighed at the tasks to be done before it becomes a bestseller, which it will not anyway. IT gives me immense happiness just lying here by my bedside, almost done, a few sheets sticking out.
All blame’s in place, guess I can get back to work on it.
My day is packed with things to do, important and mundane. Let me strictly confirm the harsh fact – the important things remain important and have decently placed deadlines, and the mundane are always necessary, and can create an emergency if not accomplished at the designated time. If I want to get down to the real tasks I want to get done on a particular day, I Better get the list of mundane & extremely necessary things done…starting with
Get the kids to school ( dress, breakfast, lunch boxes, drop off)
Cook , and while working on the menu check on the husband, parents, other family members & the pets, make sure all are fed)
Run errands ( if you don’t want one or more of the family people or kids getting into trouble at job or school – e.g get the Halloween dress in time, drop/pick THAT suit to the dry cleaners, and the like)
Return calls depending on whose calls I missed the most number of times, and how panicky that particular friend is – I don’t want the police/fire squad come in search for me.
Take it easy. Easy? I must not not shout at all those desperate & disturbed , confused, housewife lady friends from the coffee club, who just have to call to share the juicy gossip or their age-ing problems – forgive them, they have no idea that their actions are making me as mad and wasted as them.
To not forget my own Vitamin B or C, lest I am found drained & unconscious at the grocery store – that is a confirmed day of NO work.
Get the kids to the swim/dance/craft activity in time, you’ve paid the advance.
Do at least a bit of planning of the forthcoming pool party/family gathering, jot down some quick smart points so that I don’t feel guilty in case the coordinator calls on me.
Please the husband, keep a nice dvd ready for a Friday family movie time, or plan something for the weekend for ‘us’ time.
All the above mentioned tasks are during the weekdays, which are also my work days. My official working week ends on a Thursday night and I juggle with a different set of activities with no control over their time frame/ schedule, earliest I can find my normal self is around Tuesday noontime.
Did I mention the cleaning, clearing, changing bedsheets,grocery, fruits, watering the plants/gardner and my own workout time here. I think not, they have to be squeezed in between the 2 categories i mentioned above.
I mean, after all this drama, I am not sane enough to do the tasks I thought I wanted to get DONE TODAY!
This is what happens when you are a freelance writer who makes the mistake of announcing aloud, I work from home!
Oh, and several assignments decide to pour on me all at once. Just when I wasn’t bothered chasing after them. Becoz it was approaching autumn holidays. Uughh. So now after doing all that, I need a writing schedule! Or else, I lose those assignments, maybe even make a bad name in the market, even before a get known. More Uughhh.
Is this free? I’m forty now. And wondering what’s happened to my capital L Life? The one where I had to shelve my grand tour of book reading & signing event, because the award winning ceremony had to be preponed , becoz the gliteratti etc, etc, etc….the one where I preferred to blog special pages from the Hawai islands, blah blah The expectation that this big step in life is one day going to show me to be the Stienbeck or Hemingway or a Bukowski of our generation.
Except I don’t write much. Trying to match the School calender , and spouse’s travel plans with my own dates, and bills & family investments, and food, grocery and sports and summer have all got in the way of actual writing. But I have the thoughts! Oh yes. I am a thinker. Just get a few drinks down and I can blurt the complete script in a go! Got any coke? I need a break before I start some real writing.
One of the an/other hazards of living an expat life, is the fashion scene that I have to keep coping with. It has been proved earlier enuff, that my learning generally doesn’t follow anything that can be called a curve. Guess, that goes pretty much like my personality – either I learn the ropes, or not; either a yes, or a no! This way, or that!
Simply put, I am not good at learning a little of a lot many things, and so it’s difficult to blend into a new group (where people behave or dress or eat in a similar way) group easily; I have a tendency to always stick out!
When we were in process of planning our move back to China (this time SZ city), I took out my carefully stacked mandarin learning books & worksheets. After a gap of 2 years, if anyone expected me to swing back to the sounds n tones, they got to be kidding! As expected, I was behaving deaf & dumb again; even the words/phrases I was completely comfortable with, failed me. I was wishing for some miracle to pop the words out of my mouth, when I needed………just once, ONCE, to make me feel better, to save me from humiliation, that look my spouse gives ( my company spent so much on your mandarin lessons – and u cant even convey this much!)
No sir, miracles havnt happened to me all these 39 years, I am sure miracle fairies don’t visit my side of the world, ever!
And if not speaking the language didn’t destroy my confidence, the local fashion scene very much did. Take the ferry across the border ( to HongKong) and you’ll know where all the influence is coming from! Women take their appearance very seriously here. They swear by trends, brands, cosmetics, hair salons and waist sizes. I appreciate that, but I have none to boast of.
I must be really thick, that living in fashion conscious cities since the last 9 years hasn’t changed me much. I am reasonably well dressed when going to the supermarket or to the doctor or anywhere in public.
For sure I struggle to not succumb to the temptation to join the slob parade – No old sweats or baggy shorts or T-shirts proclaiming I’m still hot. It just comes in flashes now. I am decently covered, I buy my correct size, carry a lip gloss, and wear a smile, always! That is fashion for me. No sir again, my idea of fashion and being well dressed is way off the mark!
And this here, is sheer torture. It makes me want to weep. My jeans aren’t tight enough, my heels not high, my clothes not trendy enough, my lips not plump enough, my hands not manicured enough, my . . . do I need to go on? I think you get the picture.
Sadly, I will have to accept this state of affairs because trying to jazz up my appearance would require too much witchcraft. It’ll be a task for any witch, or fairy, you bet. Maybe I should get a T-shirt with this slogan I Took the Road Less Traveled, and Now Where the Heck Am I?
No amount of showing down will change me. Once get around here, I’ll find like- minded friends, like-dressed too. Or some who can understand me, and don’t mind my sartorial.
Squirreled away in your apartment, typing all night, sleeping all day. Go out once in a while to stock up on groceries, then back to the grind. You are creating genius work. You are the stoic writer, alone in your world of insight and creativity. Who needs friends? When you are done, your work will shine above all others.
In your dreams….!!
In the real world, successful writers are part of a community. They meet other writers, develop support networks to help them through the struggle that is each screenplay, maintain healthy relationships to provide balance and perspective on their work. As their careers begin to develop, they befriend development execs and other professionals. In short, they are part of the world of writers.
Believe me, it’s a struggle to reach out, hold yourself out openly as a writer, celebrate your chosen path, and draw to you people who support that part of who you are. But it must be done!
I have also heard about the fun & inspiring trivia that creative artists share , while writing together at the coffee shop, or arguing about colour schemes over a beer. After craving for years to move around in such groups, I have a little friendly team, my support network – a wierd artist, 2 photographers,few designers. Developing a community that supports me as a writer is not just a lifestyle choice. It is necessary to my work.
Some one has said it before.
“Most of what ails us and holds us back can be fixed by ourselves.”
Today Robert wrote to me about ” The Basket List”.
It is the list of things we need to try in our work. My own lists are most often of newish observations made in nature, or creative ideas, but they can also include motifs and techniques noted in the work of others. He says if I don’t keep adding possibilities I might become a basket case. which means my art will stagnate.
He further explains – Each one of us looks out into the world and sees our next step. No matter how pedestrian the observations seem, we need to make them our own. It’s one of the great principles of making art: “Name it and claim it.”
well, it’s easy for him to forward such advice since he has dared to do new things for a long time now – tried, tested, failed and revived. Not easy for novices like us who worry almost every night – am i creative enuff? and fiddle with what if? what next? and who are scared to dare?
Inspiration is not something that floats in the air like some radical gas to be collected in fairy nets; it is more effectively generated by a basket of practical ploys. Further, for flawed individuals like ourselves, it’s easy to see something, have a vague idea that it’s something special, then pass by and forget it. The written list and the quick sketch nail fleeting wisdom to the intransigent brain. “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” (Jack London)
Juliet was a life saver. Professionally, she was an assistant to Madhav, but in truth, she was our everything. From phone calls to office directions, food ordering to foot massages, hair cuts to bargains, she was the answer to all our worries – the how’s, why’s, where’s, when’s of our daily life in Shanghai. The company wouldn’t have been up and running successfully if it wasn’t for Juliet. How she came to be part of CII, is also a mystery, but we’ll talk about that later. Oh, but before I forget her English was amazing, just the best I have ever heard from any Chinese, cool.
I was closely working with CII, at that time, the year of 2007, when every multinational, wanted to set foot in china. Our Indian business houses were not behind – the Godrej family, Ashok Leylands, Kirloskars, Ranbaxy-pharma groups were exploring eagerly for ventures, with the Tatas , videocons, and the steel tycoons already in place. To support trade, Madhav (from the CII group) had planned a consultant seminar. It was basically designed to encourage the big (moneyed) shots to help them understand Chinese trade laws and be able to invest in Shanghai & around. A team of consultants (from varied backgrounds and experience) was to speak over the 1 & ½ days workshop, and a mix of important industrialists/investors , Chinese and Indian, were invited. Lot of good food, excellent hospitality and catering services by the Mariott, and lot of intended deals/plans by the end of the seminar took place.
Second day evening, we sat together, happily enjoying the winding off coffee, just the three of us, Madhav , Juliet and I, telling each other we did a great job.
Madhav and I have a very limited vocabulary of mandarin, mine happens to be tucked into that dark corner of the brain, which tends to get paralysed, more in times of need. And the way the words get tangled/tassled/twisted with each other is another horror in itself.
Madhav was recalling how impressed all the invites were, and how much they appreciated his efforts. He asked Juliet, “hey why was everybody saying – do syair, do syair nin? What does it mean? Juliet replied , “Sanx” in her Chinese accent English. For a few seconds after that madhav and I went totally silent, didn’t look at each other at all, but kept staring at her quizzically. She looked at us, once at him, then me, must be trying hard to understand why are we acting like such morons, and we tried to think, what in the hell is she thinking right now? She must have thought we need more explanation, she said – “mani mani sanx – it means”. Believe me the “n” was quite inaudible, and we heard, well, sex. Madhav went searching for words, it seems all the way to Jupiter, the only sound came out of him, from that far, was “oh”, pause, and then, “oh, but why?”
“Why?, why not? They all wanted to thank you, for all this, we did.” She was definite by now , we sure can be morons at times. We got it. It thundered upon us , the word – thanks. I sighed a sigh of relief, madhav turned and smiled at me – “oh, I heard something else, you did too, right?” “Yeah, right.” Now it was her turn to look at us strangely. Madhav kept on grinning till the end of time, it was upon me to explain, “ umm, well actually, we know only one word for thanks – xie xie. This is new.”
Moron I was, living in Shanghai for 3 years, it never struck me to find out why the Chinese speak English the way they do? Why the simple English alphabets sound like ancient latin coming out of a Chinese mouth. Because they learn the latin alphabets through their knowledge of pinyin. Spell out the letters of your name in common English, and no one understands you. Every single time I have travelled, I reach the Hotel and confidently say – I have a booking in the name of Mrs. S Ghose. No Sir, the booking only reveals itself after the 3rd protest. I have learnt the art of protest and patience. I didn’t know earlier, they go hand in hand.