Defining a writer

There’s nothing more painful than reading success stories, while your unfinished project remains open for the fifth year.

It’s probably best not to read into how J. K Rowling’s success came out of the blue, but I suppose there’s some inspiration to take from it. After all, if we don’t believe we can get somewhere, then there’s no point in doing anything at all.

I’m forever flicking through countless articles of what makes a writer a true writer, but in all honest, most of them are filled with over the top money making schemes that takes away what is essential in the art of writing – personality.

What is the point in trying so hard to work out the ways of the novel? What do we benefit from taking lessons on how a certain character should act? Not much, in my opinion. There’s a delicacy involved when creating your own world. It is literally taking a part of your self, and bleeding it into electronic ink so finely, that you can call it your own. Taking away the creativity and adding in structured lessons you found online, is just taking away what makes you a true writer.

Yet, there are other issues I need to face other than originality. Patience and determination is just a few amongst dozens of others. But perseverance is the most important. One day, I’ll get there, and I’m sure it will be awful and lacking of all correct structure and dialogue. But it will be mine, a part of me that I plucked out so carefully, and crafted it into something worth my own time.

As usual, I’m babbling, but I hope there some form of clarity to be found. Don’t define your stories based on what other deem useful. Write about what you want, not what you think is essential.

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The Final Angel

I hide behind my hair to stay away from the view. I can hear my mother’s frail breathing as she gulps down the air, only for her to find that she needs even more. I dare not look, as I’m afraid that a single glance will be the last. I’m afraid to even listen, but my head is forcing me to cling onto something, even if it pains me.

“S… Sarah?” I hear her forever tiring voice call out my name. I’m frozen in my seat, so much so that I don’t think I’ll ever stand again. She calls for me another time. I shudder, but refuse to look up. I know what is it come, but I don’t think I have the strength to say goodbye.

“Sarah, sweetheart, please…” My father’s comforting voice appeared just beside me, along with a reassuring hand. I can hear the hurt in his voice; can almost hear the tears forming. I shook my head defiantly.

“Come on, now, remember what we talked about?” He stroked the back of my head. I could feel myself falling towards him, desperate for the safety of his embrace… but nothing would be enough to make all of this fade away.

This morning, my father knelt down beside me, his hands on my shoulders, smiling so delicately it told me something was wrong. He told me about “The Final Angel”, as he had always done since I could remember, and how she was there to take care of us all once we had reached the end of this life.

I remember asking all sorts of questions all those years ago: “Why do we have to go?” “Is she an evil Angel?” “Is she coming for me?!” My father would always laugh and hug me, saying “No, sweetheart, she’s not evil; she’s just there to show us the way. She’s like a light in the dark, a lone flower in the dessert. She’s there to make sure we are safe”.

Safe… I think to myself over, and over, and over. How can she make sure we’re safe if she’s taking us away from those we love, allowing them to be alone forever.

“Sarah…” The pained voice of my mother came once more. Come on now, Sarah…  be brave… you’ll regret it if you don’t go over…

I force my hands away from my knees, and part my black hair, pushing both sides behind my ears.

Thank you.” I heard my father whisper in my ear as he gently kissed my cheek. I stood up, my legs trembling. I was surprised that my feet held my body up as I stepped forward. The steps were shaky, but they were brave.

“There’s my sweet girl.” My mother turned her head to the left to see me as she smiled weakly. She was so beautiful, even now. I tried to speak, but my voice croaked. “Shh, shh, don’t worry, I’m always here.” She was just able to lift her arms up to signal a hug. For a moment, I hesitated, finding myself stuck once more, but a word came to me yet again. Brave.

As quickly as my feet would move, I leapt forward into the arms of my mother, burying my head between her shoulder and neck. The tears finally emerged, and my, were they more defiant than I.

I could hear my mother shushing me, trying to calm me as he hugged me as tightly as she could, which wasn’t very tight at all. She was weak. She needed help… She needs taken care of…

My mother broke from the hug rather suddenly, as though she were sick of my presence.

“Don’t go…” I managed to say as I rubbed my already red eyes.

“I’m afraid I must.” She smiled at me, this time strongly as though nothing had even been wrong. My father held me from behind, wiping away the tears I had missed. “I’m proud of you.” He sniffed as his tears began to fall.

“Sarah,” My mother giggled, which took me by surprise. “Would you believe it if I told you she was here?” My mother grinned, pointing to nothing.

“Who’s here?” I asked, looking into the empty space.

“The Final Angel!” She beamed. “She’s come to take care of me.”

It was then that everything made sense. My mother wasn’t sad, she was happy. She knew that this wasn’t the end, so, perhaps she’ll be ok. After all, she’s not alone.

 

Learning Success

LadderAs an aspiring author, nothing is more satisfying that receiving a good review of my work, and I’m sure you’re the same.

This article doesn’t just apply to writers, but to everyone. If you’re someone who has a passion for doing absolutely anything, then read on.

It took me years to figure out what I was good at. From a very young age, the idea of being an author seemed like a good one, yet, I didn’t know exactly what that was – yes, I knew it meant writing, I knew an author was someone who created a book, but I had no idea what the ingredients were for being a writer.

It wasn’t until Year 9 (you must forgive me, but I don’t know the US Grade equivalent)  that my teacher pointed out just how creative I was. I was always pretty bad at English, both language and literature, but I always loved creating thing. At Primary school, even creating a new game entertained me for days on end. In year 9, it was pointed out to me that I had a talent for creating stories.

Naturally, this excited me more than anything else. Finally, I thought to myself. Yes, finally! Finally, I was good at something… at least I thought I was. Little did I know, that I was far from a good writer at the time.

I remember speaking to my cousin about writing. She pointed out that the best way to become a full-time writer was to enter competitions, to get myself on the map. That certainly is one way of doing it. So, we found a competition known as “Wicked Young Writers”, and the best thing was that the deadline was only a week or to away, so my waiting time wouldn’t be too long.

I immediately go to work on my very first story, “The Baby In The Winter”. The word limit was only 750 words, but that was enough for me. I finished it within a day, and the feeling I felt was second to none. Finally, I was a writer. I had finished something I set my mind to, and the emotions were very rewarding.

Alas, I didn’t make it into the final. My emotions were dragged down to the depths of my heart, turning cold and sour. But I didn’t give in. Next year! I thought to myself, and indeed, next year, I tried again. This time, I tried something a little different: I wrote something similar to a previous winner of the competition – a fan fiction. It became apparent to myself that I had a fascination with dark literature, bleak, cold and unforgiving.

The story I wrote that year was was a much deeper and darker version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. I saw a huge change in my writing style. It was fuller, bolder, and far more descriptive than the last. I had learned what a paragraph was (somehow I missed that lesson in school…), and I understood the fabrics of a story.

Alas, that year, I didn’t get in again. I began to lose hope. Maybe my writing simply wasn’t good enough? Yes and no. My writing was solid, but it lacked originality. I understood how to write, but I was missing the one thing that makes a story stand out – NEW. I was missing my own ideas, failing to see past the curtains; there was a good story there, but it wasn’t what wanted to write, no, it was what I thought others wanted to read.

The third year soon came by, and this time, my story was strong, original, what I wanted to read. I persevered. I had hope this time. I had actually sat down and thought it through, it was my own story.

That year, and the year that followed, I got into the top 20 in the country. I didn’t win, but it was something.

Dedication. That’s what I learned. Most people fall at the first sign of failure. I almost did, but I didn’t let myself fall. I took it upon myself to never accept no as an answer, and it paid off. Now, my mind knows no limits.

Failure is the sole reason we persevere. If we succeed in everything that we do, we’ll never learn anything. When faced with failure, know that it isn’t a step back, but a ladder. It’s not going to be easy to make it to the top, it will take time, a very long time, but the end goal will never change, so long as you learn from your last step.

Scared of The Dark

Have you ever been afraid of the day that is to follow?

I have. I am right now.

Tomorrow is a day which I cannot mess up, or else my days will grow worse.

It’s human to feel this way. But it’s hard to tell yourself that, hell, even I struggle to tell myself that. Worrying is what gives us that sense of wanting to achieve or impress, that desire to do something good, even if the outcome may not be that bleak.

Rejection. That’s what we fear. I hate the word. It sounds desperate and cruel, but it’s the most accurate word for the situation. I’m scared that I may be rejected as an author, scared that I may be rejected back into education should that day come.

It haunts us, but there’s no need to be scared of the dark. Rejection can be resourceful, if one knows how to harness it. Let it drive you. Only you know truly what to do, no one can tell you otherwise. They may advise you, yet that cannot control you. your thoughts are as free and as wild as harsh winds that plague the world.

Fear rejection, and you will know how to overcome in. Picture it like this: You are aware of what it is that you have or haven’t done for this terrible, daunting outcome. So, by definition, you know what you should have done. Well, what’s stopping you?

If all you need is a little push to change the tides, then there’s nothing stopping you doing anything.

Glass Houses

This short story was written for Wicked Young Writer Awards 2016, was I was placed in the top 20 of the country.

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“This one is Hillary. She lives on her own, but she doesn’t mind because she loves dancing in the snow.” Jordan explained to his mother for the fourth time this week. He tugged and tugged at her hand attentively to make sure she was paying attention.

“She’s an ice skater, mammy, did you know? Look at her skates!” He pointed out the sharp-looking blade at either end of the tall, silver woman’s feet. Her face was even less than a blank expression, but she was happy in her Glass House. She told Jordan she was!

“Oh, really?” His mother ruffled his short golden hair, smiling at him as she pretended she hadn’t been told this several times before.

“And this one is Adam and Chelsea. They’re best friends, but not boyfriend and girlfriend.” Jordan had to cover his mouth to hide his giggling. Adam and Chelsea were dressed in the same colour clothing: they both wore a thick red coat with black buttons running down the middle, black trousers and light brown boots with black laces. The only difference was that Adam’s hair was short, and Chelsea’s was long and tied up. Adam wore a blue striped woolly hat, while Chelsea wore a pink striped woolly hat, both had a fluffy ball attached to the top.

Jordan leant in to take a closer look at them, letting go of his mother’s hand so he could gaze into the dome. He didn’t like to shake the Snow Globes for fear of scaring the people who lived inside. He may have been only six, but he had a large heart. He loved to collect Snow Globes and share his own home with the residents he called “small people”. As his mother brought a new one home for him, he would carefully place it next to the latest Globe, and instinctively know both their name and story.

The latest addition to the family was Marvin and his Border Collie dog, Gavin. They sat together on a park bench and smiled as they watched snow drifted by freely.

“You guys must be cold!” He said to the pair.

But of all the Glass Houses that Jordan had, one of them was his favourite, and he moved on to inspect it closely, this time without dragging his mother over to visit; this globe had a shiny glass dome and a light blue base decorated in tiny specks of glitter of various colours, and in the centre, through the thick of the white, was a boy who stood alone with his hands deep in his pockets, his head down and hood up. His navy blue coat was exactly like the one Jordan wore almost every day, and he was around the same age. Jordan knew he was, because he just knew.

Jordan’s mother often found her son talking to the boy that Jordan didn’t name. He would often talk about his day at school, what was making him happy, what was making him sad, and most upsetting to his caring mother: how he wished he had friends – and he did this almost every night. However that night was different; she found Jordan kneeling on the carpet in the living room in his red pyjamas, sobbing his eyes out whilst hugging his favourite Snow Globe.

“What’s wrong, Jordan?!” His mother instinctively ran over and clutched Jordan close to her, wanting nothing more than to make it all better. But she couldn’t this time.

“I just wish they would wave back at me.” He wept as he slowly waved his tiny hand at the small boy inside of the glass house, who kept his hands in his pockets. Jordan thought the boy’s hands were even deeper in his pockets than before.

“Come on,” His mother began, wiping the tears away from Jordan’s soft cheeks. “Let’s go to bed. You can stay in my room.” She smiled down at him, and he smiled back. And for a moment, he felt better.

Jordan then carefully placed the small boy back in his place amongst the others, and left the room hand in hand with his mother, closing the door behind them to head off to sleep.

But just as Jordan had turned his back on the Snow Globes, the small boy lifted his head, took his right hand out of his pocket, and waved goodnight to Jordan just before the door clicked closed, just like all the residents of the Glass Houses had done every night since the first day they were brought home.

 

Where To Go From Here?

You might be sitting at your computer, or sat hunched over your phone, thinking a multiple number of things. Is one of those thoughts about you growing up? Finding a partner, starting a family, having a successful career?

No? Well read on anyway… please? I’ll pay you in cuddled.

I remember sitting at the desk one day, writing away at a novel that I had invested at least three years of my life in, comparing my life to those of my characters. One in-particular stood out – it wasn’t a happy story line, but it was a typical one. The typical, man and woman marry, have two children kind of story. You get what I mean?

I remember sitting there, twirling a pen between my fingers mindlessly, thinking about how my life would turn out like that. I wasn’t “dreaming”, I was simply pondering the thought. And something popped in my mind – do we dream about what we are expected to do? Think about it carefully. Perhaps I’m mad, in which case, please tell me because I’ve been wondering that for years – I mean, I don’t trust people who put the milk in tea first. But just, think, just for a moment.

Your parents were likely married, or maybe not, but either way, they were likely a man and a woman who decided to have a child. You. You grow up a little, go to school and learn about the Nuclear Family, about how you’re expected to contribute to society by slaving away from a fraction of wage that your superior gains. Is it really the right thing to do? Or are we just encouraged to let go of our dreams?

Now, I’m not saying that everyone you encounter will be trying to whip you into a good adult, but why doesn’t the education system help you discover something other than the academic curriculum already set in place? Maybe your teachers pushed you down the road of your talents, but I certainly know mine didn’t.

I’m babbling on here, but there is a point to it all, just bare with me… ok? You’re still there, right?

The point of this is all is to try and encourage you not to be a sheep. You don’t follow shepherds, you find your own farm! They say “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want”, but that should not be applied to everything. Do what you love, even if you’re told not to. I was told that I’d never become an author, yet here I am, writing a novel. Why? Because I don’t let tradition define me.

Once a month, ask yourself, “Where do I want to go from here?”. It’s risky to play by the book. You’re encourage to read the text carefully, to take care of the book so that your children may follow. No, you shouldn’t do it by the book, you should rip out the bloody pages and find the book that you want!

Perhaps this post makes no sense, which I doubt it does, but you never know unless you try – and that’s my point. Try stepping outside the box and draw your own path. It’s your life, your rules, you’re not playing anyone’s game.

 

Take care everyone! 🙂

A Jobseeker Journey

Well this went t*ts-up quickly, didn’t it?

After a failed year at sixth-form, I ventured down the path of apprenticeships – a great way into a career for both, but a nightmare for me. What a surprise!

I won’t go too in-depth with the boring details of a career path that was worse that putting the milk in first for a cup of tea (seriously, I don’t trust anyone who puts the milk in first, like, who even are you?), so I’ll skip straight to the first time was on job seekers – yeah, the FIRST time, the second time is worse, and still on going… anyone who wants to pray for Liam?

At first, the fact i was unemployed didn’t phase me too much. For the first week, I spent every second of my time writing up a new best selling novel… don’t laugh, ok? I was four years ago, I was young! It was at this point where I suddenly felt free; I had just got rid of a dead-end relationship, and now, I was free of a horrific job that made me go deaf in both eyes and blind in both ears.

But soon the writing came to a halt, and the realisation that money is even more important than food hit me faster than my money hit the counter at Waterstones. So, I began the dreaded job search.

I got a job within a month – and may I add, it was an incredibly long month. But, a job is a job! Anything that pays the bills and keeps Death behind a door is a positive thing.

Now, I went from one job directly into the next within a year. I was finally happy in the role that I had found, as I was finally allowed to tell people off without getting a court order for assault… to clarify, I’m a good boy…

But, that role fell through, as thus JSA welcomes me back like a puppy, just not as cute or as wanted. This time around, it’s hard. By God it’s bloody hard. Within the space of a month, I had lost the best relationship I’ve ever had, and another job. Nothing more could have gone wrong, right? Wrong. I’m sure you’re familiar with money, and how it allows you to buy and keep things?

I own a pretty cheap but nifty car that I relied on for commuting to and from work, but now that I was unemployed, I couldn’t afford the petrol nor the insurance. The worst part of this was the fact that being without a vehicle makes is 1000% more difficult to find a job.

There’s only so much you can take. When you’re sitting on a job search website, throwing your CV out to anyone with a pair of eyes, you feel less of a person, having to reply on had working people’s money in order for you to literally survive. (To all of you readers who are tax payers, I thank you on behalf of everyone going through my issue for allowing us to have another chance. We’d literally be underground if not for you).

As the months strolled by, it became clear to me that this was not going to be as easy as the last time. The mind can only stretch so far before is break, and believe me, mine is near its maximum pull.

Yet, there is a tiny, very hard to see silver lining. In the darkness, there is hope, just like how in the light, there is fear. The time taken for me to find a job has given me a further, more complete understanding of how the world works, how sometimes the innocent is punished, and the grotesque rewarded. Yet support is there for both, whenever needed. It’s a bitter sweet thing to realise, but I hope that for those of you who are going through the same struggle as I am, can find and share a likeliness between you and I, and know that there is help when it’s needed, no matter how dyer the situation seems.

For anyone who feels like they have no one to turn to, or no voice to speak up, I encourage you to contact myself at: liamalexlaing3@hotmail.co.uk  and put the subject “Notebook – WordPress”