In order to tell, first one must listen .In order to write, first one must read. In order to share, first one must collect. In order to die, first one must live.
1. When I was three, I had an imaginary tiny friend. This friend didn't have a name or a gender, I just knew that this friend was always with me wherever I went. I set aside a bit of water when I bathed, and the friend slept on one side of my pillow as well. I never talked to my friend out loud, so no one ever suspected of an imaginary existence, but I clearly remembered trying to take good care of this friend in any way I could.
I used to think about a crystal house all the time, too. A house with all the furniture made of crystal, sparkles in the sun. Even my clothes in a crystal wardrobe were made of soft crystal that didn't break when I wore them. Same with towel, toothbrush, even toilet paper. My obsession with sparkling stuffs started really young!
When I was ten, I thought about Doremon whenever I was late for school, wishing I had him as a friend so he could use his "freeze time clock" to make everyone stop. Before an exam, I thought about his time machine, which could help me go forward to see answers given after the test. When I was fifteen, I thought about Harry Potter, wondering if someday an owl would bring me a letter as well whenever I got fed up with this ordinary world.
Some time later, I don't know when, I stopped thinking about them all together. Not only I no longer let my imagination run wild, I also forgot my life-time favourite "modern fairy tales". Trees no longer waved at me, flowers no longer smiled at me. They started becoming just trees. As simple as that.
2. The first time I realized, and was recognized, as having some writing skills was in a class-contest in grade 3. It was a free-style composition, whose topic was "describe a typical morning in your school". All students were divided into groups of four, they voted for the best in their groups, these again were voted until the best three were found. I was awarded a pen and a paper made medal for the first prize. Throughout school, I often received good marks in essay writing, but mostly because I memorized lectures well and managed to consume many volumes of books.
My first poem was published in a local newspaper when I was in grade 6. My family threw a party bigger than I expected to celebrate the occasion. I had poems and short stories published on the same newspaper throughout secondary school, but I believed that newspaper really lacked content and published whatever was sent to them. Poems seem less of creativity than a play of words, as long as you know how to put a right word in a right place and follow certain rules, you have a little poem.
At ten, while reading a short piece of writing in my Vietnamese literature text book, I told myself "a writer is defined as someone who makes the ordinary beautiful". Somehow this sentence formed itself, and rooted somewhere deep down in my mind, only surfaced many years later in university, third year "culture and society" class, when I found out that George Simmel, a few hundred years before, said something very much a long the line: an artist is someone who isolates an object from its background and makes it special.
So I knew I wasn't alone in that wandering thought.
3. A blog on yahoo 360 was trendy in grade 11. I used it carelessly, obviously thought no one would be much interested in a random girl's rambling about usual teenage problems. To my surprise, strangers stopped by, not only they read my "online diary" once, they actually came back. I still remember the first reader who wasn't already my friend in real life, it made me feel special, even powerful, that I could attract someone totally unrelated by means of writing about my own life, which in the first place was none of their concern.
I was thrilled whenever I logged in my blog and saw a new comment. I became so addicted. I checked the page view every ten minutes. As more and more strangers became interested in my writing, the blog no longer served as my diary alone. The line between writing for myself and writing for others was blurred to such a great extend that sometimes I wondered if I wrote in one way because I actually thought so or because people would like it. During university years, I would wake up in the middle of the night so often that I began to always go to bed with a pencil and some pieces of paper, because once a good thought appeared, it didn't leave me alone until it jumped out of my head to be born as words on paper. I wrote on my hands, on napkins, on the back of my notebooks and some random places I can't even recall now.
But one thing I came to grasp, was a great satisfaction when I completed a piece of meaningful writing. How did I define "meaningful"? It was when I felt relieved and fulfilled after finishing the process of writing itself, even before sending it to the great void out there. It came from within, and there had never been anything that resembles such feeling a bit.
4. In a four hour chat this evening with Trang, I told her about a story telling group I briefly joined three months before I left Peterborough. They meet once a month in the basement of the public library, a place hardly meets any requirement to be a gathering spot for story tellers. Despite the cold floor, the bright neon lights, the hard plastic chairs, we sat in a circle and lost ourselves in stories, told by professionals and amateurs alike. My friends in Canada always tell me Im a good story teller, but I didn't know until then there exists such profession, you can tell story and earn money. When a group listen together, personal boundaries cease to exist. They all participate, become a part of the story, yet at the same time, each and everyone has a unique picture of the story in their heads. Words brought me back to imagination. We laughed and cried, low and high, stories sprang to life.
In grade 5, a teacher told her class, which I happened to be sitting in, that "a great story reflects the common story of that generation". If people find some pieces of themselves in your writing, then you have succeeded. Great legends are passed on because they are the most common truth or wishes simplified and encoded. People keep telling their children old fairy tales because these tales contain in them what is applicable to all, at least in some parts of their lives. And from times to times, friends share with me what keeps them coming back to my blog is seeing their thoughts in my words. Sharing my personal ideas attracts similar individuals, which shows I am not alone, as long as I speak out my words.
5. Trang, a passionate salsa lover, shared with me some day she wants to open a cafe where good Latin music will be played. And I, naturally, shared with her about my dream of a space where good stories will be told. I will tell great legends from all over the world, an ordinary story, my own story, your story, someone else's story, or just a spark of daydream that escapes my consciousness too fast. People will come, they will listen, and they will tell. Together we will let our imagination run wild, our imaginary friends will come back, leaves will once again wave at us, flowers will smile at us, and we will become one in our different versions of a same story.
Humans understand and react to reality. Only God* create reality. To tell a story is to create a new reality, no matter how temporary it lasts. To participate in a story, to live in another reality, is to reach out to our inner god-like quality
......or to be crazy.
* By God I don't mean any specific figure, but any super-natural beings higher than humans, from fairies and witches who can materialize objects out of thin air to religious gods. Even as Buddhism preaches about the "desired heaven" as nirvana - nothingness, only the Buddha and those reach enlightenment can achieve this complete void, which can be argued to be a different form of reality as well.