Viewing: writing

What’s missing

Lately I’ve been really stressed out about production. My boss, who used to play the role of senior production manager, resigned over a month ago with no replacement in sight. That and an unusually large number of production projects (as opposed to purely graphics-based) have left me picking up the slack and doing most of the production work myself.

Although I realized I’ve learned a fair bit about production since I started this job over a year ago, there’s a lot that completely escapes me, like costing and scheduling. Juggling all the nitty gritty grunt work of production with my creative responsibilities has left me stressed and anxious. I’m antsy for someone to come over and take the lead; while I’ve professed my eagerness to learn the ropes, I don’t want to be (and I don’t think I am equipped to handle) being the sole responsibility for production.
There have been many, many times these past months that I wished I could drop the “/producer” half of my job title and go back to being “just” a writer. Especially during times when an important creative proposal deserves attention and I am bound to spend half the day ringing up all the car rental services in Singapore until I find a red convertible Mini Cooper for a shoot at the end of the week.
Mostly I have been feeling that I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like, or giving my writing (when I am called upon to write) the time and effort that it requires.
So yesterday I finally gave in to the urge to write. I picked up an old book that used to belong to my mom, called The Right to Write by Julia Cameron, where I remembered seeing writing exercises and prompts. The first exercise was simply called, Begin. And the result of that exercise was what I posted last night.
For the past few months I’ve been feeling that writing was missing from my work. And just last night, I realized that I don’t have to rely on work to supply what’s missing from work.
That’s what life is for. :)

At home

I am at home with my husband, on an uncharacteristically chilly night. It was sunny all day, the only spot of sunshine in two straight weeks of rain, chill and gloom. I was half-expecting the anvil to drop, in the form of a thunderclap or a sudden burst of clouds. And at half-past six, it did.

That sudden, thunderous downpour of rain rang in my head like the dismissal bell on a school day. I quit my work and immediately dropped my good intention of going to muay thai. I rang up my husband and five minutes later, I was in a cab picking him up from the covered walkway at the Somerset station. We cuddled all the way home. Rain pouring down the windows and a certain nip in the air can do that to you.

And now I’m sitting at the dining table in a pair of velour pajamas, with a hot thick mug of Swiss Miss Dark Chocolate beside me. In front of me are the dining room windows, where I can see a reflection of the paper lamp in the living room. Behind the soft yellow glow of the lamp, the shadowy curve of Marlon’s head as he reads a comic book on the day bed. One of the things I love about us is how we can just share space, each doing his or her own thing, not talking to each other or not even in the same room, yet still be completely together.

I prepared a cup of tea for him, a blend of green tea and mint tea in a rather precious hand-sewn, loosely-woven cotton tea bag that I filched from the hotel room at the Fullerton Hotel, where we celebrated my birthday weekend three weeks ago. I added a dollop of honey at his request, and put the mug in his hands with a kiss. Such are the little pleasures of being a wife.

The cat is padding around in the shadows of a room whose door has been left ajar. She does so in silence, which I’ve come to equate with contentment. Now and then the tiny silver bell on her collar tinkles as she moves her head in little bursts of curiosity or restlessness, but on the whole she is quiet and satisfied to have us home, be well fed and to have had her early evening dose of affection.

There is nothing to think about tonight but how to while away the time until eleven or son, when we finally turn in for the night. The choice is a lazily decadent one – do I write or draw or watch television or read one of my many books that are waiting to be read? The luxury of free time is one that I enjoy so much more because of the number of interests I have, although it does get raucous in my head when all of my interests simultaneously yammer and complain that they are starved for attention.

Tonight I choose to write. Write purely for myself, with no deadlines except the very end of this blank page. Write purely for fun, not to convince or sell or illustrate or anything like that. If I am writing to convince anyone, it is myself – to prove to myself that I can still fill an entire page purely for the pleasure of it, that I still have “it”, whatever “it” is.

And it is a good choice. Even better, I think, than deciding to leave work the very moment the rain first began to fall.

Score one for Itaewon

i set out on tuesday determined to find at least one store worth writing about for my article. after the beautiful dud that was the beautiful store, i had started to worry about getting lost all day and finding nothing good to write about in six days.  doomsday scenarios for a girl writing a shopping guide!

luckily, seoul delivered! my first find was a cute little boutique in itaewon, a shopping district known for its international community (which i would discover much later) and bargain shopping. with colorful, funky displays and salsa music blaring out the front door, it wrested my attention away from the other shops in itaewon, many of which were the “wanna louis vuitton? genuine imitation, you see…” variety.

one thing i really like about writing on assignment: being “forced” to engage with people. so very different from writing for corporate or blog purposes. sometimes the story isn’t in a place, but with people. after buying a really cute dress for 49,000 won (about US$49 — a nice easy conversion there, just drop three zeroes), i unleashed my chika powers on the store’s funky manager, jina, and her assistant ayumi. jina’s atrocious english made for a rocky start, but once i had gotten it into her head that me = overseas publicity, she and ayumi instantly loved me! 
 
then i discovered a few shops that sold itaewon’s best-known secret — designer clothes made in korea but for some reason or other do not pass muster with quality control, identifiable only by their slashed tags and whatever fashion stock knowledge you have.
i was tempted to buy a dress that i saw hanging in an itaewon shop (i now realize it was a short version of the evening gown worn by riyo mori, miss universe 2007! and it’s gucci!) but didn’t. a week later, i see oprah wearing it on perez hilton.

i think it’s safe to assume that she didn’t get it at itaewon. 
i discovered to my shock, horror and rage that i had run out of cash — and that marlon’s atm card didn’t work at any of the half-dozen atms i tried! i returned to the hotel on the warpath with the universe. i found it ironic that a girl writing a shopping guide would have so many thwarted attempts at shopping — first the dud that was the beautiful store, now the atm! 
in hindsight, the universe may just have been trying to stop me from succumbing to this temptation at victory town.  
i know, i know. i live in singapore, what the heck would i do with a silver leather jacket?
before i left itaewon, though, i spotted… a first-world kariton! when the street vendors want to pack up and go, they literally close shop and tug it all the way home.

dinner was at a restaurant behind the hotel in the business district of gangnam. 
we would be joining marlon’s multifunctional team, adding pinoys to a table with an indian, thai, brit, pole (as in person from poland vs piece of infrastructure), and several japanese. it was the second time i would be sitting down with a gaggle of p&g’ers (including members of the leadership team) for dinner. the first time was a year ago in mumbai, during which someone at the table called me “incredibly brave” for coming to dinner.
then, i was the only girlfriend to come along for dinner; this time, i was the only wife. but who cares when there is… korean barbecue!!!
and lots of soju (korean sake) which i didn’t like. marlon drank my share, but the brunt of the soju-drinking fell to young umeki from japan, who ate like a horse and giggled, red-faced, through the tail end of the meal. 

i wondered if this electric fan was for exhaust purposes or if it had had too much soju.
at 10:30 pm, kaisy was still raring to shop, so we hit doosan tower (doota) in dongdaemun. jon, i think this is one of the 24-hour malls you were talking about! i asked one of the stall owners (who spoke decent english) what time they closed and he just twirled his finger around in a circle.
doota was great — the ubiquitous kukur was augmented by lovely handmade shoes and clothes from young korean designers. 
wouldn’t you know it. fifteen minutes into my shopping paradise, i discovered that i was wallet-less! after putting some cash into my wallet, marlon had left it in the hotel room l instead of returning it to my bag. 
as you can guess, we had an awful fight about it… after i bought a pair of lovely gold-brown leather shoes on sale. but we made up quickly enough. who can stand to be mad when there’s too much fun to be had, an article to complete… and more shopping to be done?

Thank you for your order

well, that was quick.

i stopped complaining and after a quick conversation with my husband, got over various compunctions (not least of all cost-related) and did something about it.

what finally did it: it wasn’t even the concept of “i am a professional, i need a tool that works” (marlon’s two cents). what finally got me was the possibility of writing as a fun, portable, inspiring and pleasurable process once more. not the technology-induced struggle/drama that would inevitably pop up before, during and after writing, like it’s been lately.

i merely had to think of being able to write by the poolside on a nice day (even by lovely riverside cafes like maya does) and my knees went weak. just to enjoy writing again, i would surmount the special brand of guilt that comes along with getting something you really, really want. and surmount it i did!

the more complex underlying choice finally made with a smile, in the end it all just boiled down to two options: wait a month till the PC show at suntec and hope for a good deal on a mac — or that a PC show will even have macs — or click the checkout button on the apple online store for a refurbished macbook.

i think you can figure it out.

i’m still a bit giddy, but i can’t wait for my new baby to arrive at my doorstep. and when she does, i think i’ll welcome her with a nice sunshiny afternoon by the pool.

All hail the beauty regime

merriam-webster is quite clear on this, and so am i.

re·gime (n.)
rā-ˈzhēm, ri- also ri-ˈjēm
a: mode of rule or management
b: a form of government (a socialist regime)
c: a government in power (predicted that the new regime would fall)
d: a period of rule
i.e. “The Philippines was placed under martial law during the Marcos regime.”

versus

regimen (n.)
ˈre-jə-mən also ˈre-zhə-
a: a systematic plan (as of diet, therapy, or medication) especially when designed to improve and maintain the health of a patient
b: a regular course of action and especially of strenuous training
i.e. “Her daily skincare regimen includes at least five different whitening products.”

i think somebody forgot to tell the singaporeans. not only have i heard “regimen” being swapped for its politically-oriented sound-alike in conversation by the locals (“swimming is good exercise regime, lor“) , i’ve seen it published in more beauty and fitness articles than i can count on both hands. i guess it’s easy for the average joe to confuse the terms, but i would have expected more from editors, particularly of some of the international glossies they have around here.

my mental nitpicking has finally found a voice simply because my first assignment for a local mag involves writing about a skin “regime”. yep, that word appeared on my job brief. and now i am faced with an interesting professional dilemma. do i:

a. sell out and use “regime” just to fit in? (the very thought makes my scalp bristle)
b. avoid using the word altogether? (a truly creative exercise as it is a skincare article)
c. use “regimen” and meekly await the inevitable striking of the n?
d. use “regimen” and eagerly await my chance to educate an editor? (we all love to be right, don’t we?)

i feel like i’m going to get spotted and crucified by a local for criticizing locals, so i’ll say this as well: i’ve found extremely brilliant beauty writers in singaporean magazines. the type who’ll leave copy editors and writers with their mouths open, or drive housewives out to the nearest department store without having to drop the ubiquitous word, “must-have”. (i happen to be both a writer and a housewife, so i know what i’m talking about). they may have to share space with the barely concealed press releases, but they exist nevertheless.

now if you’ll excuse me, i’ve got a regime to attack.

All tressed out

a freebie hair treatment from the kerastase institute last friday = an article that came out in the philippine star‘s ystyle section today.

All tressed out
By Deepa Paul
Friday, September 28, 2007