Conversation outside the box: football and writing exam questions

February flowers3 copyI include below excerpts from a recent casual social conversation between a reader-R (in her forties), a child-C (around thirteen) and me-M. The goal is to encourage thoughts outside the box about starting a (money-making?) venture like writing reviews or doing something interesting and useful for their own specialty lifelong hobbies.

C: we never have enough money. Mom’s earning is like below the market rate for her qualification and experience. We are classified as living below the poverty line.

M: ok. tell me what you like to do and what you are best at? (addressing R)

R: i like reading. my only talent is reading.

C: but reading cannot generate any money!

M: yes, you can. tell me, can you write something?

C: mom cannot write one word. her mind is full of numbers and horror fiction stories (she is a graduate in economics, with professional qualification in accountancy).

M: can you write something, anything, just jotting down your thoughts as you read?

R: i cannot. i don’t know how to express myself in words.

C: she has never done it!

R: i can write good english. i scored high in english language. i have never tried writing reviews. i don’t know how to do it.

C: (started yelling in the background that her mom cannot write, will not write,  and is not interested in writing words at all as she does not even want to communicate with her in words except shouting repeatedly a few short commands-all negative, for her to carry out).

M: (addressing the mother) ok. i suggest you start by reading others’ reviews. just do it. read and learn how others write reviews. since you have read so many (perhaps thousands) books, read good reviews on those books you like. start writing something about why you like or dislike in a book. write something from a different angle. your angle. read others’ reviews gives you the perspectives, structure, and essential contents of a review. send your reviews to me. i shall help you along the process. ok?

M: (addressing the child) ok. what can you use your best talent or interest for (in terms of making money)?

C: well, shall i start a blog? i am right now interested in stuff that cannot generate any money. i am not in the main stream. i like stuff others rarely like in my environment.

M: such as?

C: Well, i like football clubs that are way out here and i don’t quite like the local club. i have nothing to say about them.

R: the local sports writer is lousy. he writes poorly.

C: NO, MOM! he is good! he writes good sports writing! he is a good reporter!

M: ok. why don’t you start writing too? anything about what you know?

C: i can’t. what i know is noway compared with so many good football reporters/writers know. there are many many who know so much more than me. i cannot start a blog when there are people out there who know more.

M: there you are wrong. you don’t need to compare or compete or measure yourself with others. you measure yourself with yourself yesterday, one day at a time, always progressing in steps. today you are doing better than yesterday. at thirteen you know more than at twelve.

C: ha? i can do that!

M: from what you have been writing (poetry and short commentaries on football matches), you are pretty good at them. you have natural talent in the use of language and creativity in thoughts and perspectives. your imagery is rich and vibrant. i have always enjoyed your hidden sense of humor behind your sharp and accurate observation. you will make a good teenage sports commentator. send me your reviews and reports and i shall work through them with you. ok?

P/s While I was sending my visitors off at the train station, the avid reader suddenly remarked that she would write mathematics examination assessment books! What an insight! On the other hand, the kid thought of her own social media blogs with a more focused goal-targeting her own niche of one particular language speaking group of teen girls like her. The hurdle is she needs to further improve her communication skills in that language. On return from the station, I found a newly arrived email advising me of a job vacancy Associate/digital media/football in a global group in sports and entertainment. Certainly this is interesting and not a small coincidence. Of course I am not applying. But it does give relevant information and the kind of job opportunities for young people in the world of digital media.

more about the choice to write or not to write

a white flowerI do not choose to write. I just do it. It’s like breathing. Or crying. Or laughing. Or eating. Or loving someone. Not really a matter of choice. I can discipline myself not to do something which is normally done autonomously at a specific time or space. But It cannot be halted beyond a certain appointed limit. If anyone holds one’s breath beyond the limit she or he is conditioned to, she or he will expire. If writing is natural like a breath, it should be easy and relaxing. The body is preprogrammed and pre-conditioned to do a lot of activities which preserve its survival. On the other hand persisting abuse too conditions the body to do harm to itself. For example, subjecting your body to alcoholic or drug or other obsessive addictions. Easy to do but it does not mean good to you. What about writing? Is it good to a writer? The reward seems good, including monetary reward, recognition and esteem from others, a sense of self-achievement, a fulfillment of dreams, cultivating a good habit of using words and languages to communicate, self-therapy as an emotional outlet, counseling those who matter to you, positively speaking through writing to build up yourself and others, and many more (including telling someone how you really love them). For me? I started writing as a child as a venue to continue my story-telling habit (which started around the age of of four). I had lots of stories inside which demanded to burst out or I would explode. The newspaper got hold of them and paid me for writing serialized stories. I received fan mails from readers who did not know my real age (around 13-15 year old). Those who knew wanted to be my friends. A few classmates of the opposite sex volunteered to copy my handwritten stories so they looked presentable before I posted them to the editor. My family members treated me like a special guest in the house and exempted me from housework. I had the extra money to buy books to read and keep. I got to travel to another bigger town to sight-see. I can recall many benefits for a young person as a writer. Was it ever a deliberate choice? How did I know I could write? I do not remember choosing writing as a career. I wanted to be an architect. Later I chose two entirely different consecutive professional careers ad made a success out of them. In my real profession I write too, usually work and industry related factual scientific analytical papers, reports and even manuals . I did not know that I could write until grade four. One day I read an article written by my sister who is six years my senior and in grade 12. She wrote well. I thought to myself I too wanted to write like that. So I did. Thus I started my lifelong habit, hobby and lifestyle as a writer. My peers, teachers, and editors affirmed and liked what I wrote as a young person. Their recognition and positive encouragement gave me the motivation and momentum on this narrow path. I started by writing stories and later poetry. As a young adult I reverted to fiction-stories again. I have been an avid reader all my life. That helps too. Come to think of it, I cannot remember spending any day without reading and writing. That is why I equate writing with breathing. You do not choose. You just do it. Likewise, a flower does not need to be told to bloom. It just blooms.

p/s: I had a few editor friends who willingly published my work without question. Later a new acquaintance read something I wrote and asked to read my whole published portfolio of newspapers clippings. She then took the initiative to show them to the chief editor of a big publishing firm. The editor immediately called me for an interview and this introducer accompanied me to see the editor. The rest is history.

foundation laying in Spring

Spring nearA friend sent me a series of audio lessons on the ministry of words. Focused teaching on how to be a profitable and successful ghost-writer/commercial copy-writer/editor/consultant/writing for fund raising etc. I am thankful. Occasionally I get invited to write for a church or a non-profit organization the appeal letter or web pages for donations to good course. The lecturer started as a humble unknown script and ad writer and went on to join a Christian organization to be their pamphlet and online web-page writer for sometime before he was finally given an opening to ghost-write an autobiography for a world famous evangelist. he has since been commissioned to write more books under that big name. He is of course now lecturing and having his own consultancy for others in the same writing industry. Will any of the others get this kind of exposure and opportunity? I have no answer. I have forwarded an article of his to another person struggling to raise funds for the Christian charity organization he is currently attached to. Knowing and actually producing results are two different things. I know from my own experience. One trusted way of learning is hands-on practicing what we learn. I am thankful for the exposure and opportunity I have personally encountered. My advice to my readers is, “Hands on and press on.” My personal conviction: Never look down on even a small opening. I never know what the next turn will bring. I like the analogy of building a house. I start by laying a foundation. A small opening is like adding a rock to the foundation. It counts.

Zechariah 48 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying:
9 “The hands of Zerubbabel
Have laid the foundation of this temple;[a]
His hands shall also finish it.
Then you will know
That the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.
10 For who has despised the day of small things?
For these seven rejoice to see
The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
They are the eyes of the Lord,
Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

the choices of a very young poet/writer

a road not takenA very young member of my extended family has been selected to attend a young writers’ workshop camp in the best university in her country. She is elated. So we all are. In my family I have been the lone writer for years and now it appears she has become a sort of successor. Quite a comforting thought. I pray that she really learns something useful and decides to make this a serious hobby even if she wishes to become a scientist and not a linguist as I have suggested. She had to submit six written pieces for the qualifying selection. I believe she wrote some poems and proses/stories. When I recall my writing life I realize that I started writing stories and poems around her age too. When her grandad passed away, while preparing to go back for the funeral, she told us (in the family chat) she had written a poem for her grandad. I told her to take a picture and send via the chat. It was a well written and touching poem. I was surprised at her gift in expressing the grief and yet Biblical hope and assurance on this occasion. She will make a young writer with promising potential. Pity she wants to become a scientist or an engineer like her grandad. I too made the choice of taking another road when I decided on my own career. I did not choose literature or art stream. “The Road Not Taken” remains my favorite till today. But I did not choose that road. “It is a poem about the necessity of choosing that somehow, like its author, never makes a choice itself—that instead repeatedly returns us to the same enigmatic, leaf-shadowed crossroads.”(David Orr) Did I ever make a conscious choice and consider taking literature as my lifelong pursuit? I did until I turned twenty-one. Then I became distracted by other roads. Young as I was, I could not see beyond the bend of the road. Even though my first love was literature, like Robert Frost, “Oh, I kept the first for another day!” At that crossroad again…

we don’t have to understand all

20140815 traveling perspectiveWriter of biography or even memoir has the dilemma that she or he must know all. I have made the same mistakes. One thing I now realize and accept is that I do not know all. I cannot know all. I do not need to know all. If the person who tells the story of her life has selective recalls of her past, it is her choice. If she does not know how to tell but she is willing, I can still extract the facts and reflections from her. But if she chooses to forget, discard and retain segments here and there, and the end product cannot be whole, it is still her story. As writer we may try as a good and conscientious craftsman or a portrait painter. At best we piece together the broken fragments of her life and put them together by putting in lots of filler parts to make it appear whole. What are the filler parts of a persons life? Often we run out of facts, assuming what we hear from the interviewees or read from historical records preserved by persons are accurate historical recalls, even after interviewing many of her friends, relatives and people who used to know her in her past. What do we do to fill in the blanks? A good writer is like the script writer, musician, camera man, sound effect man, director, producer all in one. She puts in other scenes. Related or unrelated. Add richness to the plot. Colors. Interests. Drama. Background music. A book of memoir is like a movie in many ways after all. Some becomes epic. Some a mere storm in a tea cup. As for me, I flow with the flow of time and space. I listen to the wind that blows at the time. I watch the passion or passionless presentation of a soul who wants to bare and recall her pain and joy. I record the heart and not the face. Does it become an epic movie? Not my concern. I merely copy (a person’s life) and write (the person’s book). In a way I am a traveler. I travel through another person’s story and perhaps leave my momentary fleeting mark. Perhaps fixing up the stage props and then I shall move on.

Isaiah 60:15 “Though you were once despised and hated, with no one traveling through you, I will make you beautiful forever, a joy to all generations.