A Typical Day in Taipei

A leaf dances in the wind, a tree waves to the sky.

A child takes her first steps beside a blood bank.

The reflection of a bird flies by on the screen of your phone.

A toothless old woman, beautiful when looked at through selfless eyes, grins at the alien.

Young girls take selfies with victory Vs and Korean hearts, and old girls pose next to monuments. Been there. Been there.

An elderly man sits like a butterfly, day in day out, ankles purple and swollen, bruised and cracked, like an old painting or an ancient ceramic pot unearthed. Every day he waves but never smiles.

His son sometimes sits by him, listening to Buddhist chants on his phone, smoking, and drinking bottles of sugar-free green tea.

A profusion of sounds and colours: laughs and greens, cries and blues. Reds, oranges, pinks and yellows, and the barking of a dog as it chases a rusty squirrel.

The thud-thud-thud of a bouncing basketball, it sloshing through the net.

The crunch of gravel under fallen feet.

Leaves rustle, and lapping water licks.

Families having picnics, children chasing bubbles, climbing slippery rocks.

The mechanical sounds and harsh smells of manmade things: scooters and trucks, cigarettes and fried food. Incense.

Coffee beans roasting, and a wicker basket of wrinkling tea leaves basks in the sun.

A fruit fly buzzes and moans, and a caged bird sings the old song of freedom.

Mosquitos whistle whilst trying their best to pierce your armour.

Weeds between the paving slabs not trying to reach the sun but succeeding anyhow.

A plane flies overhead, below one even higher. A swallow shows off, then returns to its spittle home above your head.

A black cat in the market sits on weighing scales, dozing, with its tiny pink tongue hanging out.

A crying woman is hugged by a stranger—bad news.

A man sits alone on a bench—no news yet.

A scared boy cries for his mum, bottom lip trembling. A tatty street dog puts its head under his hand, and the boy stops crying. It’s not so bad being lost, you know.

Groups of men playing dominoes and checkers in the shade of great banyan trees, while their wives dance with other men.

Dogs in pushchairs, children on leads. Parrots on shoulders.

An old woman, walking with a stick decorated with bangles, yells obscenities to those only she can see. She lives in ruins.

The delicious smell of sweet potatoes in sugary syrup, shiny and golden.

Freshly baked breads with red beans.

Windows filled with cakes that tease the eyes and disappoint the tongue.

The unconditioned nose wrinkles at stinky tofu, and the eyes gawp at pigs’ trotters, marinated intestines, and the hearts of chickens.

A pig’s mask, all flesh and no bone, hangs by a hook through one of its drooping eye sockets. Good for broth.

Vegetarian buffets aplenty save so many days.

The day retires with a sky of purple and pink.

A small black bat shoots through the steam of cooking chestnuts, under the orange glare of a streetlamp.

The moon rises yellow over cold, quiet buildings.

But the city never sleeps.

***

 

On the Verge

Do you ever feel like you’re on the verge

of something new,

something that could potentially be

more you;

something that lets the world see

who you really are?

But the inner waters are choppy

because you don’t know how far

the boat will be pushed out;

the thought of titanic waves scares you,

and the thunder might clout,

but you knew

that you were too big for the shore—

for why else did you ask for more?

You were heard by the songbird

that flew overhead,

and your plea bled

into the ears of the One.

***

 

 

A Mission to Sit

Breathe,

that’s all I’m asking of myself,

to breathe in the moment:

a whole plethora of sounds,

pictures:

someone’s talking,

the wind chime chimes,

the roar of a truck,

and a scooter,

there’s a car,

two of them;

Breathing…

Crazy pictures,

colourful and real,

voices so close,

they take me away with them,

by the hand;

so easy to be lead astray.

Breathe…

A serene moment of calm,

a deep dive into the depths,

an encompassing space,

Then memories long forgotten;

fears not realised,

(the realised ones bring a smile).

Meaningless conversations,

some real, most not,

some I wish I’d had,

others I regret having.

Someone’s coughing.

Breathe…

Straighten the spine,

pull back the shoulders,

scrunch the carpet with my toes,

swallow;

take a deep breath,

let’s see if we can try this again;

Breathe,

that’s all I’m asking of my self,

to breathe in the moment.

***

I’ve been practicing meditation and mindfulness for seventeen years – that’s nearly half of my life. Yet the mind still does what it does best: distracts from the present moment.

If you’re finding it hard to meditate, to quieten the mind, take comfort in the fact that everyone who meditates is going through the very same thing you are.

Just because the mind is thinking doesn’t mean you can’t meditate, or that meditation isn’t for you.

You have a mind—it thinks.

It will make a ruckus because that’s what it does. It’s our job to watch it, not to stop it… just to watch it, and then observe what arises from the watching.

Peace,

Gavin

 

 

 

 

The Flutter-by Dance

Fluttering by.

A seemingly chaotic dance of dips and dives,

of colours and their shades,

without a beginning and an end,

without a known purpose,

to the endless song of silence.

Not questioning the butterfly,

not asking why or when or how or what;

being with the butterfly

we can lose ourselves in that silent dance

and become the butterfly;

not dreaming of being the butterfly,

or wondering if we’re the butterfly dreaming of being a human,

but becoming the butterfly,

inseparable from it,

one with it,

connected in the silent dance.

***

Gratitude.

Gavin

 

 

Dragon Fruit Surprise

Eating a dragon fruit,

with its pink scaly skin and its deep purple flesh,

not checking my phone, nor reading an article,

nor talking to another soul about this and that,

I realised that it was sweeter in the middle

than around the edges, closer to the skin;

that the sun, wind, soil, rain and sky,

and the grower and the picker,

and their long line of family and friends,

and their challenges, pains and joys,

how they perhaps picked the fruit with a smile,

or with a frown,

for maybe something was testing their mind,

and how it all went into getting this dragon fruit,

with its pink scaly skin and its deep purple flesh,

onto my plate for me to enjoy;

and I considered the bugs and the birds

that wanted so badly to get to this fruit,

to grow,

to metamorphose,

to feed their young,

to survive;

and I saw how every seed,

every single one of the tiny black seeds—

and there were hundreds of them—

contained not only a whole world of fruit,

but a whole world,

one that I am very much a part of.

Gavin

Magical Wee Free Book

I saw last night that my free book The Girl with the Green-Tinted Hair has nearly 2000 ratings on Goodreads.

I’m blown away by the reviews. I’m so pleased that this magical wee book is having such an inspiring affect on readers worldwide.

I’ve been looking for a publisher or agent to take it on board, but so far no such luck.

If you haven’t grabbed yourself a copy, please do. It’s only 8000 words in length, and is nicely split into four 2000-word chapters, each focusing on the four seasons.

Here’s the link to it on Amazon (UK)

And here’s the link to it on Amazon (US)

When you share it with your friends and family, or leave a small review or rating, you increase the chance of the book being noticed by an agent or publisher, which then increases the chance of more people reading it and being inspired by it.

I hope you enjoy it.

Peace.

Gavin

Just Get to the End

After several months of wallowing in a dry well of creativity, on the 23rd May I started a draft of my story (the one I’m commissioned to write for the Taiwanese movie director), which I would go on to finish on the 25th June (my birthday).

I finally bloody-well did it.

It’s funny how it works.

You try and you try and you try…

… and nothing comes.

And then… BOOM. Something finally sticks.

It’s like you’ve hit a vein of liquid gold, and the ideas start pouring in, and the characters start talking, saying, yes, yes, this is what we’ve been waiting for.

And then all you have to do is sit there and bleed it out.

The director only wanted a novella! It’s not like he was asking for the next War & Peace. He asked for a novella of no more than 30,000 words.

I got it to 29,000.

But I must have written over 100,000.

(This was, after all, the second version of the story he had asked for. But it’s completely different from the first version, a whole new story, with new characters, for the simple reason that it had to be, because the first version sucked.)

So I’ve written easily over 100,000 words for this one novella.

I’d start a draft, then bin it.

I’d get to 10,000 words, then bin it.

15,000, bin it.

April, and most of May, was a hellish time for me. I thought I’d never get it done. I had my pickaxe, and was attacking the ground, forever hoping I would strike lucky.

I honestly thought I’d have to go to the director, give him his money back, and tell him he’d asked the wrong guy, the wrong writer.

The clock was ticking too (and still is… the story is with my editor at the moment, and then it has to be translated into Mandarin), as there’s a whole team of people waiting.

Why?

Because the book is to be adapted into a screenplay and turned into an animation for the big screen.

Hence the pressure.

But I had to push all that aside.

I had to just write a story that I would be pleased to read as a reader.

Basically: I had to have fun.

And that’s what I started having on May 23rd.

It wasn’t easy. It never is. But it was fun.

Because I found a vein and I bled that bastard dry.

“What you say goes,” was my daily and very useful mantra.

I didn’t plan the story—I tend to write from the seat of my pants—and so every day I would end my writing session with the same question: What happens next?

And the next morning I would sit at my computer, knowing that my mind had been running over the story as I went about eating, sleeping, reading, watching movies, etc.

I would give myself most weekends off, too, which I find helps.

The day after I sent the story to my editor, I started to adapt my first book into a screenplay, as a kind of experiment. I wrote the book nearly a decade ago. It’s strange to revisit the characters. It feels as if they’ve been waiting for me.

(And between January and April I wrote and submitted a comedy stage play to the BBC. I wonder if I’ll hear anything back from them…)

Anyhow, whatever you’re working on, just get to the end. You can always go back and tighten the bolts and sand off the rust.

Just get to that blissful end.

Peace

Happy creating.

Gavin

Quote – Satish Kumar

“We are human beings, first and last. Our religion is our faith in humanity—and there can be no religion greater than that. If we come as Indians, we will meet Pakistanis. If we come as Hindus, we will meet Christians or Muslims. If we come as socialists, we will meet capitalists. If we come as human beings, we meet humans everywhere.”

Satish Kumar

From his autobiography, No Destination.

Which you, being a human, must read.

G

So, having caught the rat…

I was dozing; that place between wakefulness and sleep, where dreams come fast and easy, vivid and crisp, and sometimes disturbing.

My wife had been up, potting her plants, for a good 30 minutes, when she barged into the bedroom.

“We’ve caught one!” she yelled, and then vanished from the room.

I mumbled something nonsensical, rolled over, and dreamt of a big rat. Because I was in That Place, and when my wife said, “We’ve caught one!” I knew that that “one” meant rat.

Having had enough of my crazy rat-infested dreams, I got up and went to check on the wee fella.

There he was, with eyes like shiny black pearls, cowering in the corner of the humane trap we’d laid: a plastic tube, with tasty food (poison, actually) at the far end. To get the goodies, Roland had to stand on a switch, which then slammed shut the pair of wild-west-style doors, locking him inside.

So, technically, we hadn’t caught one; Roland caught himself… because he was hungry. So hungry he would eat succulent poison.

Speaking of succulent, that’s how we first discovered we were having rattish visitors on our balcony; we found teeth marks in our succulents—my wife’s pride and joy. Hence why she declared war on Roland and all of his friends and family, and bought poison and traps.

(Weeks ago:

Me: Don’t get poison. I don’t want a dead rat on the balcony.

Wife: No, this poison just makes them thirsty.

Me: So, what, you’re gonna give it poison and then a refreshing drink to wash it down?

Wife: No. They eat the stuff, and then they need a drink, so they go down to the sewers-

Me: Like Shredder.

Wife: Who?

Me: Never mind. Carry on.

Wife: So they go into the sewers, and die there, instead of up here.

(Meaning our balcony, which is a rooftop apartment on the 5th floor.)

Me: OK. But if we find a dead rat, you’re getting rid of it.

Wife: Yup. Sure.

Jump forward a fortnight. I’m taking the clothes out of the washing machine, and I see something at the corner of my eye. Something brown, wet, still.

Wife: Oh, my god! I’m gonna be sick! Get rid of it! Get rid of it!

(I got rid of it.)

Roland’s sister (let’s call her Rhonda) was trying to drink the water, that had accumulated from the washing machine, near the drain.

Rhonda smelt of gas.)

So now, with Roland, alive and kind of well, in our trap, I was pretty pleased.

No gas rat!

I ignored my wife’s war-like cries from behind the door (“Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!”), put the rat-in-a-trap in a bag, and took it to the local park.

I don’t mean to, like, let it have a blast on the swings or anything, but to set it free.

It took a while, but eventually he realised the doors were open, then pegged it into the nearest bush.

A happy ending for Roland.

Gavin

Writing & Fleming

I have an annoying tendency to edit and reedit as I’m writing my story.

I say it’s annoying, but in actual fact I love doing it and can’t imagine not doing it.

And that’s the problem.

It means I end up stalling at one specific point in the story for far too long, and so the story doesn’t move forward as fast as I’d like it to.

Is this an issue with being a perfectionist? Is it a crazy idea or belief that my first draft will be exposed and ridiculed, and all the doubts I had as a writer will be proven correct?

Didn’t Hemingway do this?

Didn’t he start the writing day by reading what he’d previously written, making edits as he went, and when it got too long he simply reread and edited the last 5,000 words or so—just to get into the story, to get into the mood, the vibe?

Maybe I’m trying to justify my lack of confidence as a writer.

But surely every writer has Those Doubts, right?

(And we continue to write in the face of them.)

Last night I read an article about Ian Fleming, the author best known for penning the James Bond novels.

The article includes excerpts from the book, The Man with the Golden Typewriter (which has been added to me ever-growing to-read list).

He talks about his lack of confidence:

‘I was too ashamed. No publisher would want it and if they did I would not have the face to see it in print.’ 

And the article gives an insight into how he worked…

‘I rewrote nothing and made no corrections until my book was finished,’ he said. ‘If I had looked back at what I had written the day before I might have despaired at the mistakes in grammar and style, the repetitions and the crudities. And I obstinately closed my mind to self-mockery and “what will my friends say?” I savagely hammered on until the proud day when the last page was done. The last line “The bitch is dead now” was just what I felt. I had killed the job.’

But how do you do this? How can you let a hole in the plot stay a hole? Don’t you want to fill it, correct it, perfect it, and THEN move on?

I might give it a go… just write to the end without correcting anything whatsoever.

Or maybe I won’t.

Here’s the article.

Gavin