Exile, part three



Lately four wicked constellations have positioned themselves above my planet: Loneliness, Bad Weather, Too Much Work and Too Little Money. Any of these constellations on their own can have a negative effect on my mind. But good weather or a good work schedule, or enough money to entertain myself usually compensate for the negative effects of whatever malady is plaguing me at that moment. Even if two or three of these constellations take position at the same time, one of the others’ opposite incarnations can still have somewhat of have a balancing effect. If, for instance, I am lonely, and the weather is bad, and I have too much work, it would help if I have enough money in the bank to spend on something that would make me feel better. But if all four factors cast their dark shadows over your doorstep at the same time, like your four most hated acquaintances simultaneously knocking on your door, well … then you’re in trouble.

The writing process

What method or process do I prefer when it comes to writing? I have identified three methods to which I have either given preference in the past, or that I currently prefer, or that I believe might be successful in the future, under certain circumstances.

One method is what I call the 1995 Method. Features include the luxury to be responsible for, and answerable to, no one; to get up when you wake up and to go to sleep when there’s nothing left to watch on TV. In other words, to have a routine that can be varied at any time, and to write when the desire strikes. (You can of course be more disciplined and write every day, even if the desire is not with you.)

The second method is the Johannesburg Method. It involves working full-time, to have what would appear to be a relatively conventional work, social, and domestic life, and to spend your evenings writing until midnight. This method may not produce as many aimless fragments you scribble on pieces of paper while you lie on your back, but precisely for this reason your writing may be more productive. You will focus on one main project, and perhaps one or two secondary projects. Problem is, your working days may fill you with such anguish that you sit around till midnight before you can get yourself so far as to look at a pen again, or to venture even close to a computer.

The third method is the one which I am using at the moment, namely the Taiwan Method. I work an average of four or five hours a day, earning a respectable income, and I have enough free time to spend behind my computer.


The other thing is that a writer is not a machine. Writers live and work in their own little worlds of needs, feelings, frustrations, small pleasures and fears. My little world is very unsatisfactory at the moment. I am alone. I am overweight and I don’t exercise enough. In short, I am not satisfied with what I see in the mirror or in the reflection of shop windows when I waddle past, and this is compounded by the total absence of intimate contact. Oh, and I believe I work too much. And I’m broke.

And the weather is terrible. It’s the worst when you take a nap in the afternoon, and you wake up with a sticky sweat clinging to your body. Then you look in the mirror, you see your forehead glimmering like a polished table top, and you know it’s not just from sweating but from all the fat that your body stores so feverishly. And your apartment doesn’t have enough windows for fresh air to flow in like fans at a rock concert. And while you’re staring at yourself in the mirror with all these thoughts dancing in a haze in front of you, you are reminded yet again: You’re alone.

A routine question



This brings us back to the real reason for this survey of where I am in my life right now: EXILE. The term has always referred to the belief that this is not my real life; that I am staying away from another place for an indefinite period until I am ready to return, after which my life can begin with all the fanfare it deserves. Perhaps it is significant that even in the extended blues in which I currently find myself, a lifting of my exile in the conventional sense does not get much attention.

The real exile in which I find myself at the moment is rather one of being on the outside of an environment where I would find my own value, where I will feel I belong and where I can dedicate myself to something. As was the case in Korea, it is about people. But the environment in which these significant others can be found doesn’t necessarily have borders, and are not necessarily defined in terms of geography.

* * *

Back to the immediate reality. Because I spent the last hour writing, I don’t have enough time before my next class to do my laundry. Which means I would have to spend another night between sheets that are affecting my health – and as it turns out, my morale.

And it’s still hot and humid, and the freakish sweat still clings to my overweight body. The fresh air is also still screeching to a halt outside my apartment, like someone who’s suddenly come across a dead ox. And I have to pinch my New Taiwan dollars. Until next week. Until the proverbial tomorrow comes.

The four constellations are hanging like low-budget movie decor over my planet, and unless a renegade army of comets storm headlong into them very soon, I’m still going be on this Planet of Exile tomorrow. Meanwhile I’d better keep the sweat of my soul, and do my laundry very soon. Because, as I always say, if everything goes wrong in your life but you’ve at least got clean underwear, all is not lost.