Belated Greetings from London

Hello from London!

Well, specifically, from Greater London since I am now currently entering Week 2 for my 4 week film directing course. After months of fretting, worrying about the course and agonizing deeply as to whether I’m a writer or a director – well, here I am, on Week 2 on a film directing course, and starting to speak with all the directing lingo. Oh yes, I can speak dirty to you – but what I mean by dirty, I mean, a reverse shot off the shoulder dirty medium close up shot.

Coming back to London to do a course feels very strange. It is the anniversary of the first time I set foot in England to study. Of course, back then I was a wide-eyed, naive and cocky 18 year old, ready to do Economics and ready to become an investment banker. Sometimes I wonder if I were to meet that same 18 year old, would that 18 year old be ashamed to meet the 28 year old that she had become? Would she be disappointed? I would like to think that 18 year old would be kinda pleased that 10 years on, married and all, she is still rebelling and doing things her way.

Ahem.

I am sure some of you are curious as to how the course is going. I had blogged earlier that I had been rather ambivalent about the entire thing. It had taken me ages to accept that I was no longer in finance and despite not quite liking a career in the corporate world, it was difficult to accept myself without a suit. It was only this year I was brave enough to tell people that I am a writer and now to go on a course, where I fully embrace creativity…to be frank, it was terrifying. My parents are not the sort to force any of their kids to do anything that we wouldn’t want to but having said that, I always describe myself as Asian, embracing rather Asian values without my parents forcing me to. Yes, that included wanting to do something mathy, something science-y. But I rebelled. I did not do accounting. I did economics. Aha, see the difference? See the rebellion?

The first few days was very difficult for me. I’m not used to fully accepting myself as a “creative” as they say. Most people find it pretty effin’ weird that I would even give up what I had done i.e. finance to do something well, as some people have cruelly put it, unsubstantial as filmmaking or creative writing. So for the most part, in Malaysia, I find it very difficult to talk about it being creative, always couching the words writer with terms like “business plan” or “consulting” as opposed to “I write fuckin’ screenplays!”

On the first day, I remember, I was actually quite angry and upset with myself. I felt like I was struggling to find my footing, on where I really stood and I envied all these young people who were so sure of themselves. And I envied the confidence they had, years of working and struggling have certainly taken a toll on my confidence.

But as each day went on, as I started to direct and started to learn about film, it suddenly became…addictive. I would go home thinking about movies, thinking about each scene and about editing. I meet David on Wednesdays (despite only being in London for two weeks now, the two of us have quickly established a routine: Cheap and Cheerful Wednesday) – and on the first Wednesday I said that, “You know what? I’m genuinely happy. I’m genuinely happy I looking at scripts, I’m genuinely happy I’m looking at stories. And I’m genuinely happy I am being creative.”

And I am. I watch TV shows with a more critical eye, but at the same time, I feel more humbled on how difficult it is to collaborate and become creative together. The director may pull it all together, but without every single person, like the sound guy, the director of photography, the make up, the costumes, the props, the actors – it is not going to work. And each of these roles are incredibly creative in their own right and so, to coordinate everyone is a difficult task.

I really enjoy the intellectual challenge behind interpreting each script. I remember in some of my writing courses, my tutor used to bang on about subtext, or reading between the lines and despite her hardest to explain, none of us quite got it. I vaguely understood even as I wrote that what I write on paper, is not quite what is being said – but it never crystalized properly until I did this course. Suddenly, good movies like American Beauty become a work of genius and again, I am awe-struck by the depth of Alan Ball’s script and the clarity of the message he was trying to put across.

That is not to say there are not any bad days. While I am very comfortable in interpreting scripts and in writing, I struggled with things like editing and in the first few days, camera positioning. Editing for me was extremely difficult and when I got things wrong – it was rather demoralizing as I’m the sort that strives for perfection. But as I keep telling myself – it can only get better with practice, so I try not to get too upset.

But best of all, being in this course, is of course, being back in the UK. In the first week, I was feeling terribly homesick and awkward and then all of a sudden, it was like I suddenly remembered how much easier it is to be myself here in the UK than back at home. I am free to be me, there is no expectation on how I ought to behave or how I ought to react. I am Adlina here, just plain Adlina. There is no Adlina the Malay girl, Adlina the ex-economist, or the Adlina the-throwing-her education and life away by deciding she wants to be a writer-. Actually, I’m Adlina future Malaysian film director, which isn’t a bad thing to be. My classmates ask me that maybe I would like to come back to the UK to live here and work here – and I start to remember how much I adore this country.

The only thing missing on this course, of course, is the husband. I’ve been away from him for two weeks – and frankly, instead of time soothing the soul, I miss him more and more. I look forward to going home to see him, but frankly, I would rather if he could come here and be with me. Still, on days that are difficult and very cold, I imagine myself at the Qatar airport, waiting to catch the connecting flight back where I will be with him again.

Another two weeks to go, and hopefully, another two weeks of a life changing experience. I am glad I came on this course, I am glad I broke the bank to fund my stay here and I am thankful, very thankful for this opportunity, for my parents to push me into doing this, for my husband for supporting me and encouraging me and my in-laws for helping me find accommodation to stay. And very thankful to God, for somehow, making all the dots connect in the best way possible for me.

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Sacrifice

One of the best things about being part of a small family business is our family coffee time. My family have an obsession for ‘tea’ and what I mean by ‘tea’, I actually mean a time in between lunch and dinner where we have coffee, tea, cakes and lots of cakes. Sometimes it is just lots of coffee.

Of course, the idea is that we discuss business during these coffee hour but most of the time we end up talking nonsense. And now that my family had discovered Iced Australian Coffee from Ben’s, which, incidentally stocks coffee from Market Lane, currently the place in the world to go for coffee, we end up talking more nonsense. See Ben’s have these little placards that is intended to help the conversation. So we browse through them and pick a topic and see where we go from there.

There tends to be far away from work as possible.

Yesterday’s question was “If you could write a book on any subject matter, what would it be?”

My answer was the same. Still writing the damned thing.

Before I got married, a lot of women warned me that I should try and delaying getting married for as long as possible. Marriage takes up a lot of your time, you will no longer have any time for yourself and do whatever it takes to achieve your dreams before you marry.

It sort of makes it sound as though marriage is a death sentence.

Well, now, one and half years later – the assessment is not quite true. If I had a non-supportive husband, marriage probably would be a death sentence for dreams. But I do and I’ve written about it countless of times that I have a husband who actively encourages and supports my over optimistic ambition of being an author and screenwriter.

Having said that however, you really don’t have that much time post-marriage. We live on our own, and even though we’re fair with the household chores, the house takes up a lot of our time. We are unfortunately, not well off enough to afford a variety of robots to take care of the house and despite my best attempts at training the cats to mop the floor, the only thing they would do is catch roaches. Which is good I suppose but since the house is pretty clean, it has left them redundant. Nowadays they assume their job is to frolick on the carpets and they do a damn good job at that I tell you, based on the number of times we have to vacuum the floor and carpet.

And here’s the thing. Between your real job of paying the bills, and busy household work, it is easy to let what you really want to do down the wayside. What you really want to do takes time, effort and a lot of tenacity. Tenacity you don’t quite have when you’re working a job and being a responsible motherfucking adult because really, after you’ve cooked and cleaned, all you want to do is fall asleep in front of the TV as opposed to sitting in front of the PC and cranking your brain to churn out at least 500 words.

When I decided to rewrite my novel, a very difficult and painful decision after working on it for so long, I set myself a timeline of when I would complete it.

That was of course, months ago.

In nearly 8 months time, I will be 2 years married and I am nowhere near close to my deadline of finishing my novel that I’ve been working on for yonks. And it is disheartening. My mum, the efficient android, opined that it was because I did not have the discipline to do so. I was very hurt by her remarks but it probably hurt more because it was true. To admit to myself, that despite doing all the things, I was still not doing enough was tough.

The thing about dreams is that frankly, it requires sacrifice. Nothing good ever comes easy. I lost weight this year, about 10 kilos. That required me giving up food and trust me, I love my food.

So if I want to get this done, I have to sacrifice something very dear to me.

Two weeks ago, I opted to sacrifice sleep.

You have no idea how much I love sleeping. I love taking long naps, getting into my pj’s and pulling the covers over me with the aircond blasting cold (sorry environment). Heck, I can even sleep in the warmest of weathers with just the fan on, I just love sleep and I try to make sure I get my 8 hours every night.

But let’s face it. I am not disciplined enough to write in the evenings after dinner. Besides, I also want to spend time with the husband. It’s not fair on him that instead of spending time with the wife, I’m working in the study. And frankly, I’m not that good at doing that either because I keep bugging him to come over and to show him a picture of a cat in a bowl. See? Cat in a bowl. So cute.

If I wake up in the mornings however, Eizwan would be asleep and there is very little distraction (save for Nadal the cat who keeps whining for me to ‘Feed meeee! I’m hungryyyyy!’) to work on my novel. So every morning, I set the alarm to 5:30am and I wake up, brush my teeth, dance to SuperJunior’s Mr. Simple before I do a bit of writing in the study before I go to work.

There’s something peaceful about waking up early in the morning to write. The mornings are very quiet where I live and it’s a relief to be working outside in silence. No one is online save my sister who lives in Scotland and so there is no one to pull me in different directions and there is no need to attend to any matters. There are no chores to be done at 5:30am, just one thing and that is writing. In a way, it is the only time that is possible for me to have time just for myself and I am starting to treasure these quiet and private times.

Is there a downside to this writing in the morning?

Sleeping during lunch.

*

Four days and counting.