Monday, April 19, 2010

Part Three: Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.

Hey all,

That quote by Franz Kafka, really says it all for me. And when I went on my writing retreat, I was able to do just that... Fall into the abyss of my dreams and imaginings and really get some work done.

Once Jonathon left, I did just that. But I had to let him go and that was really hard. I hate being apart from him, one of the reasons I'm here in Singapore in the first place, but I really wanted to try and finish the book so we agreed to give the retreat a shot.

So off we went to the bus station. Omar was our cabbie again and when he saw how upset I was at Jonathon going away, he went out of his way to make sure I was okay. He took me to his wife's favorite material store and helped me wheel and deal for some beautiful silks. Helped me feel better and I think he had a great time doing it. In fact, he was so sweet he did something really unexpected. When I told him I was going to use the material to make native dresses, he drove me back to his house and talked his wife into giving me an outfit to use as a pattern!! Can you believe that? How generous is that?

And he didn't stop there. When he remembered I had a daughter, he grabbed one for her, too! So I have two handmade Malaysian dresses not only to use as a pattern, but to wear and remember him fondly. In fact I wrote Jessaca and told her she had a new honorary Uncle Omar. And when I get back, I'm going to send his wife some materials like calico to thank her for allowingOmar's generosity and not knocking him up alongside his head! LOL

But I finally had to go back to the resort. There, I had my first and only run-in with the staff. See, Jonathon had made a special effort to let them know any housekeeping had to be done by the time I returned so I could jump right into writing. He knew I wouldn't be in great shape and would want to hole up. And it wasn't much. Just a couple things that needed to be fixed in the room. A sheet was torn and it desperately
needed to be vacuumed.

Well, it wasn't done. And I let them know I was NOT HAPPY. Very politely I told them they had fifteen minutes to make it right and when they saw how adamant I was, they moved really
quickly to get it done.

They were all smiles when they finished, but those smiles turned confused when I told them I wouldn't need any housekeeping while I was there. I would ask if I needed towels or anything else, but other than that I wanted to be left alone. I think when they left they were whispering in Malay about how eccentric that white woman was. LOL

A shower and a beer and I was ready to start. But first, I had to get myself ready. If I was going to spend time at a Malaysian seaside resort, I would do it in style. So, I took the desk Jonathon had bribed the workers for and I moved it to the window where I could look not just to the sea, but the restaurant as well. I love to people watch. Anyway, I got myself fixed up and then I sat down to do some writing.

I'm not sure if I can explain to someone who isn't a writer how wonderful it is to be able to sink in and immerse yourself in the world you are creating. No TV. No kids, pets or lovers. No interruptions at all. It's only you and your characters and you can delve so deep into the abyss you don't want to come out. It's wonderful and fulfilling and honestly, it was the best time I've had in all my writing career. I'd do it again in a heartbeat if I could.

The days there were wonderful. As I mentioned in the first blog I got 85+ pages done and really got into my characters. I wasn't able to finish, but I got close.
I spent so much time inside my character's heads I forgot where and when I was! LOL

So, whenever I'd swim to the surface it usually took awhile to come
back to reality. As the days went by I fell into a schedule. I'd get up around 8, shower (always cold--remember, this is a primitive resort) and go down to order breakfast. I'd bring it back up with me and eat while I went over the writing of the day before. I'd continue writing until between 4 and 5 where I'd need a break.

Then I'd go out on one of my rambles. Taking a notebook with me, I'd write in shorthand as I walked around the resort. The staff got used to me muttering under my breath and wandering through the corridors. There were times I'd run into a wall and they'd point me in the right direction and get me going again. LOL

I'd wander through the halls and out to the road. Even the people around the neighborhood--farmers and cows mostly--got used to me walking around. Monkeys, jumping spiders, birds and a snake or two were things I saw each time I rambled.

Since I was the only semi-permanent guest, the staff got used to me. They learned my schedule pretty quickly and knew when I wanted a drink or snack and when I wanted dinner. They'd meet me coming back from a ramble with a ice cold drink. I tried all the juices they had available, but my favorite overall was the watermelon juice. OMG... it's made with fresh watermelon blended with a small amount of water and sugar to taste. And in the morning, they'd add milk and that too was wonderful. Give it a try. You'd be surprised at how delicious it is.

With cold drink in hand I'd head back to my room and work for a few more hours. I'd transcribe my notes and then write a little longer until about 8 when I'd head down and eat my dinner. And what dinners they were!!!

I know I mentioned how delicious the food was. But I'll say it again. I've eaten seafood at some of the best restaurants around the globe and hands
down, the dishes in this tiny resort were the best I've ever tasted.

Fish, cuttlefish, crab and many other seafood that were beyond yummy. My favorites were the little baby squid and steamed crab. I also loved the steamed and curried fish and the rice dishes. I tell you I had to leave just to keep from gaining 20 pounds!!!

I finally got them to add veggies to my
meals. I had them start cutting up cukes and tomatoes just so I could eat a more balanced diet. I think they thought I was a weird type of rabbit, but everything was just so delicious. As far as breakfast
breakfasts were concerned, they had a selection of rice and noodle dishes available. I usually ate the seafood rice along with my watermelon and milk drink., but a couple of days I just had a plate of fries. Whatever I ate, I rarely could finish it all, the food was so plentiful.

Now, just so you don't think I'm ridiculously rich, the food here isn't only delicious, it's cheap. The squid dish you see above was less than 3 dollars! Usually 10 to 15 dollars in the states IF you can get them to make it. Baby squids aren't common on a menu.

And the crab you see above? Well, I'd get three of them for only 5 dollars. And this type of quality meal can be 20 to 25 dollars in the USA. Plus. I don't think they ever charged for the wonderful vegetable dishes they kept making up for me. Now you see why I could eat so well. LOL And it was the same anywhere we visited in Malaysia. Great seafood at totally inexpensive prices.

So, well fed and happy, I'd wander around the resort after dinner to walk off my meal. There would be people there fishing or families visiting, but most of the time it was just me and the sea. And of course the wildlife. In fact, the first night we were there, the river otters came out and sang their chirping songs to us. It was awesome to see and hear.

After my walk, I'd head back to my room, take my shower and get ready for bed. This was my quiet time. I'd read, dream and finally sleep the sleep of the content.

And the next morning, I'd start all over again. A few times I got up early enough to see the sunrise. And it was one of the prettiest sunrises I've ever seen. I made this into a background picture for my computer. Just lovely it is.

And the sunsets, while not as dramatic, still weren't anything to sneeze at...

So, before I end this blog, let me introduce you to a few of the staff members who took such good care of me. In fact they were such a help, I'll be dedicating the book I worked on to them. For those of you who are curious about the book, it will be my first Asian offering. A sea fantasy about a woman who thinks her life is over and the merman who gives her something to hope for. It is called The Merlion, in honor of my time here in Singapore. An adventure romance it will have all the signature heat and emotion I'm known for with a great taste of Asian flavor.

I couldn't have done it without them. Their care, their courtesy and their help made the book come to life. And on my last night, I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with several of the crew and just talk. We talked about everything. School, politics, work , space and literature. We talked about my books and about their families. More came and joined us as the night went on, and it was my best night there because we were able to work through the communication differences and learn about each other.

If anyone reading this ever has a chance to go to the Tanjung Piai Resort, please do. It's not fancy, but it's got great ambiance, fantastic food and a staff that will bend over backwards to please you. It was beyond wonderful, and I hope with all my heart I can go back some day.

Now, I'll apologize right off because while I had one of the staff write down all the names for the book dedication, I was so worried I'd lose it, I stored it away, and now I can't get to it. So, I don't have names for those in the pictures that are to follow. But these guys are the ones I saw the most often, spent time with and who mostly took care of me. And to them all I express my thanks for all they did.

These three I had the most contact with. The young man on the left was one of the junior managers, the young man in the center was a waiter/bell hop/johnny of all trades and the young lady was a server and also part of housekeeping. I think they all did whatever was needed whenever it was needed. LOL They were the best!!!!

The young manager is on the left, and the next man in the pale blue shirt worked in the kitchen. He was the one who made most of my juice drinks. I bowed down and worshiped him and they all thought that was a crack up! LOL I just hope it wasn't blasphemous or something.

The next two young men were kitchen help, servers and general staff and of course my other good friend on the end. These guys were always around when I wanted something and I felt pampered and very well taken care of. Thanks to all of you!!!

So there you have it. A look at what I did on my writing retreat. I can't say enough how wonderful a time I had there, both writing and resting. I would love to do it again sometime. A little room to myself, a great view and people who took care of my every need. Talk about feeling like a queen!!!!!

For you writers reading this blog, if you ever have the chance to do what I've done and take the time for yourself, do it. Get past the feeling of your being selfish and just give yourself the gift. I will always be grateful to Jonathon for pushing me to do this time away. Next time I won't fight so hard to let him do it for me.

So, now Lucas (my computer) and I will bid you adieu. It's back to the daily job of living life in a hotel room in a foreign city. That's just enough stress that I'll remember my days in Malaysia very fondly. But only a couple weeks left and then Jonathon and I are off on yet another epic adventure. Traveling through Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand! Whew!!!! I'm tired just thinking about it! LOL Jonathon says I can only buy enough souveniers to fill a backpack. Little does he know they have huge backpacks on wheels these days.

Anyway, I'll be back on Wednesday with another guest blogger, the awesome Selena Robins. Come see what she has to say about meeting that other part of yourself...your crit partner!!!

Take care all,

CJ England
Follow Your Dreams


Phylis said...

You must have been in heaven CJ! I can't imagine the time to write like that...with no interuptions, children looking over your shoulders...hubby wanting wanting attention! LOL Congrats! I'm a bit envious! When I was let go at my one job, I got a taste of it because when kids went to school and hubby went to work, I had peace and wrote my first fan fiction!

CJ England said...

It was wonderful, Phylis. I loved every second. I tried not to feel guilty and usually managed. LOL


Anonymous said...

Hi CJ,
...Sunrise, Sunset... [SuperSigh]
It sounds more like 'heaven on earth' than 'cold abyss'!
With no veggies, how did most of the staff stay so thin?

I'm hungry and it's your fault ,
Sara J.