It’s an hour before midnight, and I’m sitting in the first-floor lounge of a hostel in Tokyo, alone with a couple of cans of Kirin-brand chuhai and my laptop. Well, there was the Middle Eastern guy who sat at the same group of tables, but he left promptly after finishing off his Christmas Eve dinner of convenience store-bought chicken and rice. This year was a long and uneventful year, at least when it came to writing, which is why there were only two blog posts. It was also a long and eventful year when it came to relationships, which is also why there were only two posts and also why I’m sitting here, writing this blog post on Christmas Eve. I don’t like talking about my personal life, especially on a public forum (regardless of how little traffic this blog gets), but I’ve realized quite a few things this year related to writing.
Thoreau wrote, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood to live.” Says the guy who retreated from society to live a couple years in the middle of the woods. I would consider my daily life to be similar to his albeit very loosely so, an urban wilderness with a pond comprised of alcohol. For the previous four years, I was mostly alone. Aside from work, which is rarely more than a couple of hours a day, I have minimal social interactions with the people around me. I’m constantly surrounded by people, strangers, and they mostly leave me alone, which I appreciate. The times I drank with others was infrequent, rarely more than once or twice a month, and I avoided dating almost altogether, to the point that some would openly question my sexuality. There were some intermittent occasions when something—or I should say someone—fell into my lap, but those relationships ended almost as soon as they started, almost always with the girl accusing me of not having any room in my life for anyone else. I never argued that it was not true; I would usually just tacitly agree and let them leave.
While there are many varying reasons for my anti-social behavior, the fact was that it worked for me. More importantly, it worked for my writing. I need time alone to write. I’m very easily distracted. I distract myself very willingly but resent it when the source of those distractions is external. I am a creature of habit, and I’m fiercely protective of this comfortable lair I’ve built up in which to write. Unfortunately, it’s not ideal for relationships.
But that damned Thoreau quote eternally haunted me in the recesses of my mind. Have I stood and lived enough to actually write? In that sense, the memoir was easy. All those years ago, I was forced to experience something unusual, and to put it down on paper, all I had to do was to kick-start this rusty memory of mine. Back then, I thought that writing novels would be much easier. Instead of trying to remember, something which I’m dismal at, I would be able to simply let loose my morbid imagination and the ideas would come spilling out. However, relationships play a big role in my next novel, and one thing I realized is that I don’t really know much about being in a relationship. The longest relationship I had been in was debatably six months, depending on who was doing the calculating, and the mode was a measly month. This was the part of life that I hadn’t really stood up to live.
Without going into too much detail, I started the longest relationship of my life this year. It barely topped my record by one month, again depending on how you calculate things. It was the cliché emotional roller coaster, and after a while, I had to get off the ride. During the seven months, I did very little writing, either because she demanded my time or because I wasn’t in the right emotional state to focus on my writing. But now that I’ve been able to start writing again in earnest, I realize that it helped me to remember what it was like to be in what can be called a relationship, something I had long forgotten. It has given depth to the story I’m working on, something I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
She still contacts me frequently, which stresses me out but I endure for reasons I won’t get into, and so I decided to do the less than mature thing and run away and spend my winter vacation in Japan. Why, you ask? Because, in East Asia, Christmas Eve is for lovers.
For the first week, I stayed with married friends, one of whom is an alcoholic, because I make very little money from my day job and writing and I wanted to keep expenses at a minimum. In general, drinking with married people is not that fun. When things are good, they talk about their kids and go through their phones and show you all of these pictures that really should only go on Facebook so people can pretend to care from a distance. When things are bad, they talk about their marital strife. I never share it but I always think, “I’m so glad I’m not married.” Actually, sometimes I share it. But this time, hearing those kind of things actually helped me because the character in the book I’m working on eventually gets married and I had no idea how to fill in the plot.
I’ve learned a lot this past year from my interactions with other people, and hopefully the novel will be better for it (although it’s still at the garbage first draft stage). But I still prefer my solitude. Even if it means that I’m spending Christmas Eve alone in a hostel lobby, just me and my alcohol. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.