Monday, January 31, 2011

It Begins with a Dream

I love figure skating not only as a sport that allows me to enjoy the music at the same time while watching the game but also as a window on artists. Because figure skaters' total scores consist of artistry and techniques, I consider them artists like writers. And I like one of the TV commercials during the break: "It begins with a dream and a pair of skates," says the voice-over as a pair of legs on skates appear. Then off the dreamer goes.

Yes, it begins with a dream.

My passion to express myself in words became a dream when I was a teenager in Vietnam, where there was no chance at all for me to fulfil that dream, being a Chinese Vietnamese who read books published in either Hong Kong or Taiwan; publishers in South Vietnam printed books written in only Vietnamese, a language I learned at school but was not proficient. My dream of being a writer was not only deferred but impossible. To avoid being ridiculed, I never told anyone about my dream, not even my mother, nor my good friends back there and then.

I held on to my dream.

Eventually, I saw my dream possible once I resettled in America, a great country that gives people a chance as well as a second chance at chasing their dreams if they have one. Having watched figure skating for years, I've seen athletes/artists, who, after trying for a while without going anywhere, some give up; others keep trying and keep improving their artistry and techniques and finally, they see their dreams come true.

The US man and woman champions of 2011 did, at one point, thinking of quitting, but decided to stay in the games. The woman, a one-time champion, failed to defend her title last year and didn't do well in the other competitions, was on the verge of being written off as a viable competitor; the man, having skated for ten years, was on the podium only once. Not giving up, they both won. And, before another woman skater started her long program, her coach told her, "Believe in yourself." What encouraging words! She became the bronze medalist.

I believe in myself and I am determined.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Shared Experience

I came across a quote about writing by Winston Churchill. He said, "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant." Immediately I agreed, "Yes! That is how I felt, too! Having an adventure as my relationship with the book I work on changes from time to time, from being simply delightful like a child playing with a new toy to getting more intimate and more serious." I know Churchill was talking about writing nonfiction, and I was thinking of fiction. Despite two different genres, he and I shared the writing process.

When I got an inspiration for my novel, I toyed with the idea and was delighted and started writing a book of fiction--my adventure--and of course doing it with amusement. When I finished several rewrites, and the novel began to take shape, I fell in love with it--the stage of its becoming a mistress, the way Churchill put it. Now that I'm recovering from my serious illness but still lack stamina to handle a long work that demands lots of my attention and energy, I reluctantly stall my beloved project and work on a couple of small pieces of writing that I can manage at the moment. My novel, although out of my sight, is absolutely not out of my mind. Just the opposite. I think of it every so often and jot down all the ideas that flash across my head. And, like a man who momentarily being out of touch with his mistress, I miss the writing of my novel, which I plan on revising later this year when I am 100% back.

When I rework on my beloved project, I think my writing adventure will reach the final two stages: my novel will become a master, and then a tyrant. After living in Communist rule in South Vietnam for ten years, I know tyranny, and I know I can handle the figurative tyrant.