Whenever I describe what I intend to do with my life to the members of the public outside of the artistic community, they invariably remark something along the lines of, “Oh, so you want to be the next J.K. Rowling?” or “Oh, you could write the next Harry Potter!”
Yes, even mom and dad.
What follows is usually a lengthy explanation on my part that no, I do not intend to be the next J.K. Rowling. Yes, we are both writers, but we are so vastly different in styles of writing and our choice of genres that there is virtually nothing else relating the two of us, except for our choice of profession; and this in turn is followed by a blank face in response to my clarification. These days, I just shrug, laugh, and say, “Yeah, I guess.”
I personally love the Potterverse with a passion. Having picked up the books from the time The Goblet of Fire came into publication, I have immersed myself into the world of magic (despite my mother’s insistence that the books were written with the intent to entice young, impressionable children into practicing black magic), and devoured even the auxiliary materials that were a part of that universe. I was so excited upon completing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone that I had doubled back and memorized the names of all the spells, their functions, the Sorting Hat’s song, and even Snape’s Riddle.
What I don’t mind about “being the next J.K. Rowling” is the part about making a grand fortune out of my writing, and being the executive producer for the film adaptations of my stories. That, and the part about being beloved worldwide, the universal acclaim, and being the standard for future writers.
(I hope that some time in the future, some aspiring writer will make a blog post titled “The Next Joseph Ng”, a rant on how she HATES to be compared to that Malaysian writer)
What I do mind, however, is having a mold that people already expect me to fit into. I don’t have to care, of course, but it bugs me that people immediately want me to be the kind of writer that they want to be – and this extends to the people who are within the artistic community as well. When I joined the 48 Hour Film Project in Kuala Lumpur last year, I had teammates who wanted me to write like the late Yasmin Ahmad (bless her soul). Which I obviously couldn’t; because, y’know, I’m not Yasmin Ahmad. I’m not J.K. Rowling. I can neither write with the gravitas of the former, nor the imagination of the latter.
I write with a unique blend of whimsicality, geekiness, oddity, and strong emphasis on characters and themes – something that no one should expect J.K. Rowling to replicate. We are our own, unique sort of writer, and that’s what makes the literary world a continually fascinating place to dive in to. So here it is for everyone whom I will encounter in the future: no, I do not want to be the next J.K. Rowling.
I want to be the first Joseph Ng.