Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wasted Juice/Curse of the Four Track

You can probably guess from this blog that I aspire to write. And the phrase 'aspire to write' really means someone pays me cold hard cash (or hot roasted peanuts, at the very least) per word or per article (I don't care dammit, just pay me) about any given topic that catches my fancy - like my love for a particular font or the joys of using a manual toothbrush as opposed to an electric one. This blog thing is what I call 'writing in the trenches'. That's because I feel like I'm writing in this trench and lobbing these literary grenades out of my little hole not knowing whether anybody reads, enjoys, hates, or perhaps even masturbates to them over a quicky dinner (this would be a climatic event for me as a writer, and I strongly believe simultaneously for the reader as well). In fact, there's no explosion or even the sound of a heavy object rolling and thumping along the grassy literary landscape in Malaysia or anything. Sometimes I feel I write mist - it's somewhat tangible and conceivable when I'm writing it but the moment I post it up, it fades away into the warm humid air, as if it were never written, never even thought about.

So if you are interested to know how failed writers go about their craft and why they never write anything worth publishing by a publishing house, read on. In terms of preparedness I think few can rival me. I am, at any time, thoroughly prepared to catch those transient fantasies, those elusive ideas, those potent concepts that would serve as springboard for other better ideas, stray thoughts that would lead to other more fruitful paths, that novel argument that seemed imbued with approval from the divine. That's because I have with me, not just the basic pen and notebook (latter has got to be a credible brand too - nothing but Moleskins for me. This is in keeping with the Melayu creed of Mutu Tada, Gaya Mesti Ada which translates too Quality Don't Have, Style Must Have. The pen doesn't really have to be branded though and in fact, haven't one is equally counterproductive as a very cheap notebook. I like using the Uniball Signo Broad (UM-153) Black Ink Pen. This baby is so smooth I call it smoot).

I also have with me a brand new spanking Dopod 838 Pro which has a very convenient and comfortable slide down QWERTY mini-keyboard which is of course loaded with the stripped down Word program for my word processing fetishes. And if I feel writing is too much of a problem (as it sometimes is because I type so much better and faster than I write and I can't even read my own writing these day. This is one of the side effects of input being made through the keyboards - handwriting suffers), then I can type it. But I don't like using it to type too much because it is tiring for long pieces.

If I don't like that, then the Dopod 838 Pro also has a recording function so I can just talk my ideas into it. That way I don't have to type or write it and can even put down my ideas while I'm on the move or when both my hands are occupied. Brilliant. Except that I'm not comfortable with putting down ideas this way. That superb idea that sounded so great in the confines of my mind immediately turns putrid the moment I speak it using my voice. People commonly talk about things lost in translation, but they miss out on the more important problem in translations - such as bullshit insidiously invading the translation. Some ideas immediately turn into bullshit the moment it hits airspace.

And perhaps if the idea or concept were purely visual, I was lucky that not only did the Dopod 838 Pro also have a camera built in with which I could take not only photos but videos as well. Well, if the resolution was not good enough or I wanted a better quality picture, I could use my highly portable Canon Ixus 850 which I carry around everywhere. Art and inspiration can happen anywhere. This is also in addition to my laptop which I carry around as well so that whenever the inspiration invades me, I can immediately put it down. Strike while its hot, so to speak.

So you see there's really no excuse why I cannot catch this inspiration of mine. I'm hoping for the rain because I've got all my buckets lined up. I may have not counted my chicks before they have hatched but I've already estimated that I would get some and made some preparations. I have all the nets that would be able to catch those little gems of wisdom and pearls of good fiction along with all the attendant bullshit. Sometimes when I walk around with all these equipment on me, I feel invicible - as if no great idea or thought will ever escape me, no matter how fleeting or resistant to record.

And this is the irony that I am confronted with - when I have all these things with me, I am unproductive. I cannot come up with damn thing worth putting down on paper. Everything sounds juvenile, cliched or just plain amateurish. But throw me in a place where there are no recording materials, and my mind, as if suddenly being told of the lack of recording sentries about, goes wild. It comes up with the most exciting fiction ideas, sexy characters, novel plots, those head nodding one liners which you couldn't wait to try out on your friends. It spins off ideas with wild abandon as if that would be its last hurrah. I get business ideas, short story ideas, novel ideas, legal ideas, all sorts of ideas. But all this can only happen when I have absolutely nothing with which to record them.

I call this the 'Curse of the Four Track'. I know it sounds strange that I should name this evil curse using equipment from the music industry, but this curse applies (especially relating to me) where all art is concerned. See I used to be in a band. Our lead guitarist, Justin, had a four-track recorder which we would use on occasion to record our cacophony. He usually kept it but when I felt the mood or was inspired to write some songs I would request for the four track. But after he delivered it, I lost all inspiration. Those songs I had kept in abeyance until the four-track came sounded like shite when I put it down. So it would end up that I would hold it without coming up with anything until somebody else wanted it. And when I delivered it to the house of whichever bandmate wanted it, they too would find themselves similarly creatively paralyzed. Whoever possessed Justin's four-track would also be inflicted with the 'Curse of the Four-Track'.


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