The state of emergency is over

WEDNESDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 2011

A state of emergency has ruled my life for the past five years. This existential condition dictates that I should … that I need … that I am absolutely obliged to first make money before I can afford to spend any serious time on my writing again. This implies that writing is a luxury I cannot afford in a time of emergency.

Well, I think it has become painfully clear that the state of emergency is not working. So, I am going to let it go. (Or do I need the state of emergency to get myself to do something that may eventually make money? I think: No.)

What does it mean in practical terms? It means for my first shift of the day, from after breakfast to dinnertime, I am going to work on writing projects. Second shift, after dinner to bedtime: business, including English classes.

I have a good idea what I should do with my business projects. But if these projects require so much work that I don’t have time for anything else, it will mean I am biting off too much. In such a case I will simply have to pay other people to do some of the work. If I can’t afford to do that, I’ll have to let it go.

Fact is, without my writing, I am just a guy trying his best to make money. Sometimes this guy fails, and sometimes he succeeds. And the rest of the time he reads his history books and he watches TV. Is this me? Maybe in five years’ time, in all honesty, or ten. But I will be doomed, if not damned as well, if I allow my writing to go to waste.

“But you do work on your writing – kind of,” my imaginary interlocutor of many years might say.

Not really, I’ll answer. The bits of work that I do now and then can be compared to the dry crusts and bones someone feeds to a dog under the table. It’s not enough. It’s not enough to keep a dog that is supposed to be on guard alive.

I don’t choose my writing above attempts to make money, or as I like to call it, “business”. I choose both. I know what I have to do. I am doing it. I don’t have to worry about it all the time. And I certainly don’t have to believe that I have to impress some money god with how hard I try.

I repeat: I know what I should do; I am already doing it; and I will continue to work on it six days a week. But the time has come to give more attention to something that goes beyond just money.

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Time is running out

MONDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2011

This evening I saw the news that Gary Moore had passed away yesterday.

This afternoon, while watching the video of “End of the Line” by the Traveling Wilburys, I made two decisions:

1. I need a business partner. Additional capital will be nice, but it is more for the critical voice that will not be impressed by another “fantastic” idea. “Convince me,” I need to hear.

2. I am almost 40. I reckon I have at most five years to do something with the writing I produced in my twenties and thirties. If I do something with it, my vocation as a writer of semi-unique material will continue. If I carry on with my writing in the same vein as the last five years – with every now and then a move in the right direction only to lose momentum … I can forget about it. It will be over and done with.

Gary Moore died yesterday. But as I listen to his masterpiece “The Messiah Will Come Again”, I realise: he made music, and his music is his legacy.

[Eleven days later, on 18 February 2011, one of my favourite Afrikaans singers, Lucas Maree, also died. It confirmed the importance of the thoughts of 7 February 2011: If you have something to say, if you think you have something to contribute, don’t procrastinate.]

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Hoping for a better income system, and a few other things

WEDNESDAY, 2 FEBRUARY 2011

The average foreign English teacher in Taiwan’s income system has four disadvantages:

1. The work is boring and repetitive.

2. They work for people who sometimes make bad decisions that make their work more difficult, and they can’t do much about it.

3. Their income system is linked to specific places, which means they need to spend anything between 30 minutes and two hours on the road every day, probably on a scooter, and sometimes in hot, humid weather and/or heavy monsoon rains.

4. Their income system is not sustainable – in many cases they cannot still do this work in ten or 15 years’ time, and there isn’t much opportunity for career growth.

That being said, I sometimes envy foreign teachers with a reasonably full schedule their income system, because of one advantage: they have to follow a set of rules every day of the week, Monday through Friday, and the end result is about NT$3,000 [approximately US$100] per day. Three thousand new Taiwan dollars. Per day. Five days a week.

THURSDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2011

I hope to become less enthusiastic about taking a position on something without considering all the angles, as well as less eager to inform others without delay why I think someone is wrong, and why I am right.

I hope to become a better listener, because even when someone is wrong about one thing, they can still make valid points about something else. And even if someone is wrong in your opinion, their arguments are still coming from somewhere, and it is always better to understand where a person is coming from than to not understand it.

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Doing my own thing, not sure if I’ll survive

WEDNESDAY, 8 DECEMBER 2010

1. Many people cling to their salaried positions for all they are worth, and place their hope on god’s grace and mercy if they lose the position.

2. Take any business with, say five employees – including the manager, and lay everyone off except the manager. Then take 90% of the business’s working capital away, and tell the manager that he must simply do without it. Then tell him, “Do your best. I’m sure you’ll be okay.”

TUESDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2010

“I was once free. Now at least I have money.” ~ from a daydream

THURSDAY, 13 JANUARY 2011

I wouldn’t like to put up a poster on my kitchen wall that says, “Death to all new ideas!” but let’s just say it would be better, especially in the next few months, to rather produce something to sell, for example, than to make more notes on how to produce something to sell.

FRIDAY, 14 JANUARY 2011

I hope to raise a decent amount of money over the next six months with a schedule that looks something like the following: ten hours a day, four days a week; or ten hours per day, five days a week, three weeks per month; or five hours a day, six days a week.

One thing is certain: I will never again make the mistake of allowing commercial endeavours to become the focus point of my existence.

FRIDAY, 21 JANUARY 2011

Ricky Gervais said an interesting thing this morning on Piers Morgan’s show on CNN: “Do your own thing, and see if you survive.”

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To stop living like a fugitive

MONDAY, 17 JANUARY 2011

I live like a person who has escaped from somewhere and who’s now in hiding.

– I have a work permit, granted on the condition that I work at least 11 hours per week at a specific school. Actually, I only work three hours per week at the school.

– I don’t have a driver’s license, although I regularly ride a scooter, for which I need a license.

– I don’t have a National Health Insurance card, which makes me the only legal resident of Taiwan of which I am aware that does not have one. Which means I always have to explain why I can only present a residence card when I go to see a doctor or a dentist.

– I have been renting an apartment for seven years, but I have never signed a lease. I don’t even know what the owner of the apartment looks like.

– I don’t live in the apartment anymore. I use it as an office and storage space.

– My phone bill is in the name of one “Ma-li-ou Ma-ka-ne” – the sinified name of a South African friend of mine who left Taiwan five years ago.

– The residential address on my ID card indicates that I live in the school where I work. Naturally I do not live there.

A few years ago, I spoke of rehabilitating myself for entry into the socio-economic middle-class. Before I get to that phase of my life, I can think of quite a few benefits I will enjoy if at the very least I can manage to no longer live in apparent fear of doing things right.

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