Family matters

I want to dedicate a tiny section on this blog to some cultural things that I want to share with who ever is interested in some Chinese culture.

My parents were early immigrants from Hong Kong. They moved to the Netherlands in the 1960’s to settle down. As a result I, youngest of four, only child born in the Western world learned to live a double life. When I was out with friends I was Dutch. At home I was Chinese. In my early years it was quite difficult to find a balance. As I grew up I started to found a way to live with it.

Although it sometimes was difficult to live between two cultures I do cherish the Chinese traditions and I’m grateful my parents insisted that I should know my roots.

Chinese traditions contains many ridiculous things. But most of the things have a background story. And that background story sometimes intrigues me very much.

Let’s start with family matters. Few weeks back a nephew of mine became father of a baby girl. As I am his aunt (his mother is my cousin so he is next generation) I am thus the baby girls great-aunt. Believe me, I’m not that old!

My daughter (8) is very happy with her little niece. The little baby is so cute that she couldn’t stop cuddling her. But most of all she’s more impressed by the fact that she has become aunt! She proudly announced at class that she is someones aunt now. Where as her classmates all look impressed at her.

Why is my little girl aunt of the baby? In Western terms the relationship between my daughter and the baby girl would be called nieces. But my daughter is of the same generation of the baby girl’s father, hence according to Chinese tradition she has to be called aunt by the baby girl.

Nowadays we all ignore the complicated family relationships. We are all just uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces to someone. But this ancient Chinese rule to call family members by their rank is still very interesting. Why is it so important to make clear the relationships? Why does the older generation still insists the young ones do it right? Well, it’s because in Chinese culture family is very important. You have to know your family and you have to help your family when it’s in need. Bloodline is sacred.

The other thing is respect. The younger generation has to show respect to the older generation. That is the first thing a Chinese child will learn from his or her parents. If you know how to show respect you will be a good human being.

Family and respect. The basics of life.

Don’t think. Create!

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity.”
~ Ray Bradbury

From the moment I finally took action to write I’ve been teased with blocks of which I don’t know how to get rid of. What to do if you just don’t know how to go on with your writing? Well, I found out the best remedy is really to keep on writing.

Even though you think the things you write during a block might be crappy it is best not to stop. The worst thing  that can happen is just some bad text on the screen. Big deal! What’s so scary about that? The best you can get though is that you might have some real great stuff that you’re not yet aware of! And you can always rewrite everything! But if you don’t write you have nothing!

The thing about blocks is that we let our ego get to us too quickly. Ego will tell us that the things we write is not good enough. It’ll think about the logic, about order, about realistic life. But come on! Art is not logical, most of the time art is chaos and it certainly is not realistic! Writing is art!

It is still very hard to ignore that little voice in my head but I’m aware of its presence. It still gets to me most of the time. But I’ve become real good in catching it. When I’ve banned the little voice that’s the time that creativity can really flow freely. You can’t really get rid of it but you can learn how to deal with it. Just let him be. Don’t listen to it and keep up your good work!

So, please, don’t think! Thinking is really the enemy of creativity. Just let it flow, Write everything down and keep on doing it even though some little voice tells you it’s not good enough. Just write, because you can always rewrite.

The Voyage of Writing

“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
~ Marcel Proust

Over the past year I had learned about writing techniques. I’ve read dozens of books and watched hundreds of videos on the internet to acquire the knowledge of writing.

I learned about structure and about building characters. I’ve read that a writer has to use different words to describe the story to draw the readers attention. I gathered valuable information about writing techniques from well known writers on the internet. With all these knowledge I started writing my first project, a screenplay. It was then that I start to struggle with the story!

How do I develop a story? I couldn’t find much about it on the internet! Well, sure! I had ideas! I did have parts of the story in my head. But how do I connect all the loose parts and mash it into one smooth story? I felt a bit lost…

So, I took some time to let all the information subside. I went out for a walk to get some fresh air. After a short walk I bought a cup of coffee and sat down on a bench to enjoy my favourite drink. I watched people walk by. Dogs sniff at everything. Small children try to walk away from their mothers. And clumsy mothers who try to catch up with their runaway toddlers while carrying heavy diaper bags and pushing baby-buggies. And suddenly I realised that I can find stories everywhere. All I had to do was to open up my senses and observe everything around me!

Last Friday while I was waiting for the metro I picked up a conversation of a group of students. One of the students held a tripod in one hand and while talking he used his free hand to show his friends how a motorbike passed him closely when he walked on the curb that morning. His friends all gasped when he showed them how close the motorbike passed him. He was furious about the incident as he was almost hit by the two-wheeled vehicle. He used almost every part of his body to describe the incident. When he flung up his occupied hand the tripod almost hit a woman who stood a bit too close to the group. The woman did a step back. The talking student’s cheeks turned red when he realised he almost hit someone. He apologised immediately. The woman smiled and walked away quickly.

I was surprised that I described the whole scene in my head with words. Before I started writing I would watch the incident and didn’t pay much attention to it. But now, I observe the actions and overhear the conversations and I try to think about how I would tell the story, what words I would use and how I would describe the situation.

I guess that’s the thing with writers. They observe and write at the same time. Good thing I always have a notebook with me. So, I can write down all the details and things that I see. Or smell. Or feel. All the things I need to build a story.

Try to have new eyes on every journey you take. Whether it is at home or at the supermarket or a busstop: there’s a story everywhere! But you must have the right eyes to see it and an open mind to let it in.

Hear, see & do.

“I hear and I forgetIMG_5122
I see and I remember
I do and I understand”
~ Confucius

Confucius was a wise man. I would very much like to learn from this master. Fortunately, we can still find his quotes on internet more than 2000 years later.  These quotes are of very invaluable value and they inspire a lot of people for sure. At least, I’m inspired by them.

I hear and I forget.
It’ll struck almost every person, not just writers, that one will be hit by a sudden thought and it’s so important that one has to remember it. And like almost every person, one will think: that’s okay, I can remember that for later. But, by later, that thought is most likely disappeared. Gone. Vanished!  It happens to me a lot. That’s why I always keep a notebook and a pen with me everywhere I go. I literally write down everything I hear and see and save it for later.

I see and I remember.
Nowadays most of us have cameras on our phones. The camera app is the most frequently used app on my phone. I take pictures of every interesting thing that cross my path. It happens to me everywhere; when I do groceries or have coffee with a friend or picking up my kid from school. When I look back at the images I will relive the moment when I took that picture. If I stay in that state of mind, creativity will flow like streaming water. Very useful to write stories.

I do and I understand.
This is the moment that I bring the above two into practice. When I get home with a bunch of new notes and pictures I will sit down and start to structure them. I keep a folder on my computer to put all the stuff in it that I want to keep and I will delete the things that I don’t want. Because, too much info will confuse me. So, I just keep the special things. Then, when I get back to my work , I will look into the folder first to find the sources I need and continue my writing or start a new project.

What are your tricks on writing? Please share with me!