Credit to warriors who make mistakes.

Critics are worth absolutely nothing: all they do is point an accusing finger at the moment the strong suffer a defeat, or when they commit a mistake. True credit goes to those who are in the arena, their faces covered in dust and sweat and blood, fighting on bravely.

True credit goes to the one who makes mistakes, who fails but little by little gets things right, because there is no effort without mistake. He knows great enthusiasm and deep devotion, and spends his energy on something worthwhile. That is the true man, who in the best of hypotheses will know victory and conquest, and in the worst of hypotheses will fall, yet even in his fall he is great, because he has lived with courage and stands above those small-minded souls who will never know victory or defeat.

(Part of a speech that Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States, gave at the Sorbonne in Paris on the 23rd April 1910)

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Emo-centric writer at heart.

My friends laugh cause I take up my day, listening to “emo-songs” and posting my findings on FaceBook. It helps my writing. Stephen King listens to heavy metal when he writes and Mitch Albom plays in a band. Writers express themselves through their writings but draw strength and inspiration from the things they love. For me, it’s emotional Indonesian or Korean love songs. I love the music videos that accompany these songs cause it tells the story and they are great sources for stories.

What these songs do is generate the “What if?” questions and these questions spark the quest for an answer and the telling of a story. Stories and plots can be driven by the quest for an answer and I see this pattern in Paulo Coelho’s books.

So it could be horror movies, baking cakes, eating burgers by the roadside or just listening to big-band music. If it’s inspires you to write the stories you enjoy writing, so be it. Whatever that inspires you to write use it to your advantage and make it your strength.

Happy writing!

There’s a story in every moment

You can sit on a plane or at a (boring) meeting and there may be a story lying in wait. All you have to do is turn, smile and talk to those around you. Every one has a story, has a phrase that sticks, has a tale to tell and places they’ve been. All you need to do is turn, smile and start talking. Do not be afraid to strike up a conversation with the ones near you. And above all, after asking, listen to what they have to tell and take note. You never know when that phrase would seem appropriate when you are writing conversation or laying down a plot.

There’s a story in every moment.

Too many times we try too hard to fomulate a great story. We labour over ideas that HAVE to be spectacular, mind blowing and out of this world. We fashion large words and create outlandish worlds to plant our single dimensional characters.

But stop and talk to those you meet on the bus or a plane or sitting at a coffee shop and you’ll gain a wealth of stories. Real stories with real people, living real lives with real problems and moving in real time. You then take on the role of scribe and thus, chronicle the lives of everyday people. It doesn’t have to be outlandish or spectacular, just honest and true.

Try it. talk to someone and listen to the story, yet untold.

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The Reclusive Writer

I am quick to admit that I am a very reclusive person. By nature I am painfully private about things in my life. There was a period in my life where I sought to fit in but that was as successful as trying to drown fish in water. I have since come back home to being the recluse that I am. Yet in being reclusive, intoxicated in my own reality, I find the well-spring of creativity. I imagine the lives of other people. Living and breathing the air of the characters that populate the world of my mind. It is a world undisturbed by the harsh reality of this world.

There is nothing bad about being shy about yourself. In looking myself, I realized that I have a lot of acquittances yet only a handful of close friends. People with whom I can be vulnerable with and comfortable to share my thoughts and ideas.

Yet it is in my own quiet retreat, I am able to write and spin the tales that flash within my head. I put on my beenie, wake up my iBook and type away. Some stories go unfinished, some take flight yet others remain empty pages waiting for another visit.

I sometimes shun writer gatherings for the very reason, I prefer to write alone. I am not saying writer groups are bad. No. By all means join one if you feel it would help your craft. All I am saying is, it may not work for me. I enjoy writing alone. In the comfort of my own thoughts and the quietness of my own space. Do what is best to express your craft. Don’t compromise on what makes you a writer.

If you are a reclusive writer like me, don’t worry. You are in good company.

Depression and this Writer

I never thought I would fall into this state of mind but it happened. I was depressed and this was the reason I had turned cold towards my writing. I did not know it was depression and instead blamed other factors such as work, commitments and people as the reason to why I couldn’t sit down long enough to write a sentence. Yes, within the period of depressive foggy-ness, I did managed to churn out several short stories (most appearing on this blog) but my main project merely sat on the sideline.

Depression hits for no reason and your mind just fogs over and your motivation to do the things you love just evaporates, leaving you with this perpetual sense of emptiness. In the end, you feel as if you are merely a shell and life has ebbed it’s way to the twilight zone. Nothing seems right, you become sensitive and needy. Needy for attention or someone to understand but you full well know no-one can fully understand the state of mind of a depressive person. My mind and heart were locked in a bind of negativity. Nothing seemed positive and optimism became a curse word.

There were evenings I spent walking in my backyard, devoid of thoughts and merely walking. I viewed things with an emptiness, a detachment from what was real or fantasy. In this state, plants looked alive and the world just seemed a shade of gray. It was bad.

Yet, I knew all this and I am glad I had friends I could just talk to. People I could open up to and vent. And I also had my writing. I realized the most passionate of my writings were done when I was in this state of clawing myself out of my emotional black-hole. The stories were real and the emotions raw. Sometimes our very weakness is the source of our greatest strength. Our insanity is the root of our creativity, the source of the logic for which we write about and our readers get transported to.

In my depression, I wrote about the need for love, the strength of hope and the desperation of one who has reached their end. Maybe it’s good for me to walk in that dark alley called depression, if only to gain the stories but not to dwell in it.

Am I out of my depression? I don’t know because its a part of me, yet I know I can keep it in check and continue to write with passion due to it.

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My short depressive state of mind

I’m going through a bout of depression. Just feeling “blue” over some incidences that happened last week. But it has given me cause to read up on the whole matter of Depression and it really is an interesting subject. I can clearly see why so many people with chronic depression choose to commit suicide. It is a really bad state of mind to be in. I realized, I’ve learnt to cope with this trait of mine in my late teens so I am able to function better now as an adult.

I think it was due to the fact I changed my thinking pattern and embarked on a quest for self-discovery at the age of 18. I came across Edward d Bono’s book – Lateral Thinking and it changed the way I thought about things. This coupled with the fact I took up meditating on Bible verses could have been the reason for my ability to cope with depression.

Being depress is not a good thing and no-one can really understand how it is, unless you are also a sufferer. For me things just become very slow and mundane. I do not enjoy doing the things I like and I end up sitting in a chair pondering or sleeping. I have since learnt to slow down my thoughts and to enjoy the simple things in life. To not take everything seriously and to know that life is worth living. Depression robs you of the joy for living and creates an unrealistic world where nothing is right and everything is wrong.

Yet, in this state of gray paint; I have found emotions to write. I find it easy to write about someone down on his luck and about living for hope or someone entertaining the thought of suicide. These emotions and thoughts are real to me and I merely chronicle them down onto paper for an audience to read. It can be said that my depressive state of mind is also the well spring from which my inspiration flows from.

My insanity is the cradle of my creativity.

So folks, our (perceived) weaknesses may in fact be our greatest strength as long as we learn to harness it to its full potential and shape it into the form for which we like. There is nothing wrong in being depressive as long as you can turn it into the reason why you love life with full zest.

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Noodles in his hair – Short Story

NOODLES IN HIS HAIR
by Maclean Patrick

There were noodles in the little boy’s hair and he chuckled as he reached over to pick them out. His son must have been playing too close to the entrance of the 7-ELEVEN convenient store just down the street from where they stayed. He had warned the young boy, not to pick through the garbage-bin when the customers left the store. The opening of the door would most certainly push him into the agape mouth of the garbage-bin and swallow his tiny head.

His son stirred a little, shifting to the right as he removed the last of somebody’s meal from his tangled hair. There was a bit of coal on his left cheek, which he gently rubbed off with his thumb. His son had been playing by the exhaust vent of the Chinese restaurant, two blocks from where the two normally bedded for the night. It was clear, he had not heeded his warning.

One day he’s going to get his eye-brows burnt, he thought to himself as the last bit of coal came off.

His son was naughty but he was a good kid in the pure sense of the word. Short for an eleven year old and skinny compared to the rest of the children living on the street. Too much junk food and the onset of a poor diet contributed to this gaunky stance. A hot complete meal was hard to come by in a city where the divide between the haves and have-nots was glaring like the noon sun. Last night’s meal was still tucked away in his siphon bag. It would last them another night or two and then he would need to find another meal.

Where am I going to find the money for that? He leaned back and exhaled. His gentle sigh went un-noticed by his sleeping son. He’s too young to face all these things. What can I do? I’ve got no money, barely can hold on to my job and there’s barely enough food for the two of us.

He buried his head in his hands and rub the lines on his forehead. His hair was receding at an alarming rate, soon he would lose it all. But loosing his hair was the least of his worries.

He was now a skeleton of a man compared to the chubby self of his younger days spent frolicking in the highlands of his village located several hours away from the capital of the Philippines, Manila City and nested in the mountain range that divided the province into two.

Village life was simple but tending to cows and harvesting pineapple from his father’s land could not curtail the lure of the city and one hot July afternoon, he found himself on board a jeepney heading for Manila City. He would find work, he would make his fortune, he would buy a house, send money back to his parents and be a man of the city. And he did become a man of the city minus the money and the house and everything else in between.

He met a girl from Mindanao, dancer at a local club he frequent after his hours at the construction yard, who moved in with him and a few months later she surprised him with the news.

She was pregnant. Add child to the the list of things in his life.

In the beginning, the prospect of life as a family man seemed welcoming, romantic even. His life seemed complete. Almost.

Then 1997 came along and everything seemed to ground to a stand still. Work became scarce and construction projects came to a stand still. He lost his job and worst still, his de-facto wife ran off with a sailor from Myanmar, leaving him with a young son and a perpetual migraine.

Why?

There was no point to rue over spilled milk but most mornings he could not help but feel sorry for himself. What else can a man do?

Yellow neon lights flashing CAESAR CASINO reflected off the dark tarmac in front of him. The sound of drunken laughter startled him. Drunken revellers with money to spare and time to pass streamed out of the casino and he wondered if they would walk down his way and give him a tip.

Not today, the group walked the opposite way, maybe tomorrow night he would have better luck.

There was movement from down the street and he knew that his neighbors were waking up. They would be making their way towards the water faucet to clean up before making their trip to the outskirts of the city. HIs neighbor looked in his direction and he gave her a slight nod. She returned the nod and managed a smile. Thanking him for allowing her first claims to the water. She gingerly brought her daughter to the faucet, turned the water on and gave her a cold morning bath.

His son knew how to count and could spell out his name, somewhat better than him, who neither knew how to count nor spell. But he knew the city and the roads and the people who called it home. He knew who lived on which street and who owned which water tap and who had first take on any food served out by the restaurants. There was respect for each other and noone cross the other for they had no need for quarrel. The city was big enough to support them. No-one would go hungry if they stuck to the unwritten code shared among those like him. They were the hidden nation, aliens in a strange land where they were citizens yet lived apart from their countrymen. They exist in silence, invisible yet visible to the populace. Often times only acknowledged when it came to festivities like Easter or Christmas. Often times, a means for corporations to gain additional tax-cuts from the government. They lived on the charity or kindness of people, whether sincere or not, it didn’t matter. All they needed was food to live another day. Motives mattered little.

His son stirred from his sleep and rub his eyes. The weiry father managed a smile. Start the day with a smile, keep their spirits up and maybe something good would come their way. His son smiled back and ran his small hand through the rough patch of hair on his head.

His father rub his back, much to his delight and quietly told him it was time to freshen up. It was their time at the water faucet by the street. The little boy sat up and watched as his father gathered their belongings and rolled up their bedding. The cardboard box had served them well and it was time they replaced it with a new one. The little boy had found the box by the 7-ELEVEN store and proudly showed it to his father. It had a bright red chicken painted across it and he found it funny that the last thing he saw as he slept was a smiling red chicken with a thumbs up sign that seems to say everything was going to be alright. The previous night his father had amused him with stories of the chickens from a place his father said was located in the mountains. One day, his father had promised him, they would go to that place in the mountains and he was sure he would find a bright red chicken living among the pineapples, giving him the thumbs up sign and telling him everything was going to be alright.

His son shivered as he poured water over his head and it washed down his chest, cascading over the form of his rib-cage and down his thighs.

“Cold?” The father asked.

“Cold,” his son replied.

“You got noodles in your hair. Stop playing by the store.”

“I just wanted to get the noodles,” he replied, wiping the water from his face. “Miquel almost got them before me.”

“Did you fight Miquel, again?”

“No. I took the cup and just ran.”

“Stay out of trouble. Fighting is not good. We don’t fight, we share as much as we can. Live at peace with everyone. You hear me?”

“Yes, daddy.”

“Good, we need to go early. Better be there earlier so we can start first. Remember what daddy told you we are looking for?”

“Cans and bottles.”

“Good boy,” father smiled and combed his son’s hair with his hand.

They packed their box with the smiling red chicken under a staircase and walked slowly down the street, hand in hand. This little boy and rough middle-age man were going to Payatas where hopefully they could make two dollars today. Two dollars to keep them full for another day and enough to keep his son out of the 7-ELEVEN garbage bin and no noodles in his hair.

Note: I spent 5 days in the Philippines last year and walked the streets around my hotel. I was struck by the human story I saw around me and the image of a father and son sleeping on the street never left me until today. This story is dedicated to the unnamed father and son I found sleeping just yards from the 7-ELEVEN store, where I had breakfast one morning in June of 2007.