181. Keep Trying

This day in history:

27th January, 2013. There’s a reminder in my phone: BOD 7.30pm.

The invitation came earlier that week from a man I’ve come to know as mentor and friend. They needed a group of people to come together and brainstorm for stories, and more importantly, to put words on paper. When I arrived, there were soft drinks on the table, and someone brought pasta. I sheepishly explained that I didn’t know I was expected to bring something, but they told me it didn’t matter, as long as I put words on paper.

The director gave us the premise for the evening’s writing session: to adapt two folklores into family-friendly stories for a June show. One of them involved a talkative turtle, and the other was about a king who could turn into a crocodile with the help of a magic sarong.

We got writing, and I put words on paper.

This would later become my theatre debut. Joseph Ng, writer of short fiction and TV episodes, would use the materials written in this session to create The Talkative Turtle and Other Stories, and with that, can honestly write in his bio that he has written for theatre.

One thing leads to another, and writing for The Talkative Turtle and Other Stories led to me writing for the November show, The Flowering Tree, a story of jealousy, betrayal, and reconciliation between two sisters.

(I swear I came up with the story before I knew anything about Disney’s Frozen)

It’s interesting how one open door can cascade into an unending series of other doors. Even the invitation to the writing session was only possible because of a contact I made in February 2012, when I attended the first writing workshop I have ever attended in my life. It’s true, then, when they say that success is a matter of doing the right thing at the right place at the right time.

It sounds devilishly simple, but really an oversimplification of a nigh-impossible task. Kind of like telling someone who’s dying, “Why don’t you, you know, just stop dying?”.

Who can tell the flow of time and tide? Who can see beyond the door until it’s opened? It’s like clearing the fog of war in an RTS game – you don’t really know what’s hiding in the impenetrable darkness of the future until you discover it, or more often, crash into and stumble over it, then landing with your face-first into the ground.

This is why the best advice one can ever give or accept is to “keep trying”. Keep opening doors. Keep discovering the future. You will trip, you will fall, you will fail more times than you think you will, and most of the time things won’t turn out the way you want them to. Sometimes the most well-thought out plans crumble at its foundations. Sometimes haphazard decisions turn out better than you ever dared to dream.

Keep trying.

As I wrote that day concerning the talkative turtle, I thought it’d be fun to throw in a blind wolf, who relentlessly hunts the turtle by the sound of its voice. When that got stale, I threw in three wisecracking, mischievous rabbits. To aid the turtle, I gave the story two bantering parrots. I made things up as the story went along, the whole time reminding myself to just keep putting words on paper.

And everything turned out better than I could have ever imagined.


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