Elviza’s "Writer’s Writuals" Assignment

Elviza Michele Kamal of the Write Away blog – now here is one self-confident and talented writer who happens to be a lawyer. She’s also a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend to those who know her.

I don’t really know about the other aspects of her life, but if they are like her writing, then she is more than worthy of a place in Malaysia’s “Who’s Who”. No, not necessarily that one catering to “high society” but to “the real people” – you and I. The fact that I have included her link here, plus RSS her blog at the Cendana Blues: Addicted to Politics site despite it “not being a political-centric blog” (and have RSS it in my Firefox browser too) shows how highly I rate her.

It’s hard to get me to write posts here even if someone were to pay me. And I’m not joking, for I don’t treat this Recovery site like I do Cendana Blues. This isn’t to say “everything that is posted here is of high/exceptional/outstanding quality”, no. But things that do come out here come about “because I want them to; because my heart says `Write it’ and I really want to”. And for this one – “Elviza’s Assignment” – I really want to. Which is why I’m leaving the continuation of that last post for the time being and am doing this one first. I’m just sorry that I had not done it sooner, due to my being caught up with quite a number of things.

So what is this all about? It’s from a post at Elviza’s blog titled Writer’s Writuals on Sept 25. It’s rather flattering and an honour indeed that she had tagged me as one of the seven people to continue with this “Tag”. And besides her self-confidence, she’s feisty and vivacious too. Who would have dared to come up with this line upon tagging the seven victims: I found the tag at Writer’s Retreat and I hereby tag Mat Salo, Mat Bangkai, Jac, Puteri Kamaliah, Pak Zawi, Ahmad Cendana, Thetha, Kak Teh and Tunku Halim – only if he’s not too busy writing the new book. You don’t have to do it, but you will do it anyway because you love me.:-) ElvizaPrtSc350

Yes, I’m doing this because I do love her; in the sense of her writing and her spirit – she is one of the people I “know” from the blogs who embodies “living, living life, enjoying life, responsible life…” (like a couple in Kuantan I’m fortunate to know of) And her writings? Oh my!… Just have a look for yourself.

No, she doesn’t use the “carpet bombing style” in her writings – of `giving weight’ to her posts with words that would require most readers who had never studied at Oxford University, or having lived within a few miles radius of Buckingham Palace, to reach out for the dictionary (actually quite common with some writers as a bullying way to camouflage their lack of real substance). Or in my case, that excellent digital dictionary and thesaurus, WordWeb (something that I’d recommend to people I really like; if they don’t have it already). And I love Elviza for that.

To me, Elviza is like Puteri Kamaliah of kata kama. KataKamaPrtSc It’s only quite recently that I had discovered the latter’s blog (a few days before Raya) despite having heard (or “read”) of her name mentioned here and there (But then, it’s only since mid-July 2008 that I finally had an Internet connection at my beck and call since 2002). Both seem to have that same effect on me – their writings reach deep into me (And I’m still stuck with some inner turmoil having read her very first post of the “When Love Comes A-Calling” series. Which part and why is another story for this site here, “when the time is right”).

Anyway, with Elviza, I came to know of her site from “Mat Bangkai’s” very posh What! No Tea and Scones? (By the way, I `had cheated’ by going to see what Mat Bangkai and Puteri Kamaliah had written first. Have to add that I sometimes feel small and inferior when I read the writings of people like Mat Bangkai, Zaharan Razak, Sakmongkol AK47 and my American friend, David R) (Incidentally, both Elviza and Mat Bangkai use the same “Cutline” theme in WordPress. And I like their writings. And my blog here is on WordPress too. So maybe I should also… NO)MatBangkaiPrtSc.

Mat Bangkai came to my knowledge through reading Susan Bakar’s excellent blog which is filled with writing/writer-related material, resources and links; and I knew Sharon through David R’s e-mail from South Korea last March, when I had just gotten this Acer Aspire 4315 laptop (“The mysterious David R again! When will you write about him?”, some may ask. “In its own good time”.)

So back to this “Writer’s Writuals”:Pinkfloyd_TheWall I feel quite odd being included in this. For one thing, there is still this part of me that wants “to stay in the shadows”; as in Pink Floyd’s The Wall double-album … to be anonymous.  But another part says “It’s time to seek others’ company; to open up to others, to know them, to let them know you…” And since you are seeing this post, the latter must have won this time.

CAPTION: Among the Pink Floyd songs that I had heard hundreds of times (might be `thousand’, for it was “very often”) since 1978 that are etched in my mind and psyche are the haunting “Time” , “Breathe in the Air”, “The Great Gig in the Sky” and “Brain Damage”  from the “Dark Side of the Moon” album (1973). In “The Wall” (1980), `the extraordinary ones’ are “Hey You”, “Comfortably Numb”, “In the Flash”, “In the Flesh?”, “Waiting for the Worms”, “Vera”… Might as well name ALL, no?:-) []

Actually, I feel a bit like a fake when being referred to as “Writer”. In my mind, this should be “author” too (as in “has written a book”) – of people like Fyodor Dostoevsky, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Frederick Forsythe, John Grisham, A. Samad Said, Shahnon Ahmad … this type (Zaharan Razak has, and I think Puteri Kamaliah too. As has David R – with his 20-plus). But since it also covers “A person who is able to write and has written something“, being WordWeb’s less stringent definition, I’m going to oblige Elviza.  

Q1. Where are you?

In a village about four miles from where the nearest English language newspaper is sold. Mohd Zawi of Pasir Mas: The Land of the Golden Sand and Life As I See It knows its exact location. I’m in the living room of a “rural-Kedah-style” wooden house on stilts (which was once mine) 11 feet above the ground, which is on a slope with the mighty Kelantan River about 20 metres away. Only bits of the river is visible from the house due to mangosteen, durian, duku and coconut trees plus two bamboo groves on the different sides covering the view. By the way, I resolve to get this house back. How? “I have a few plans”. Whether they work or not is another matter. But I have the ambitions and hopes fermented in Gambang and Kuantan and I will try.

Q2. What are you writing with?

If it’s not by directly typing to the laptop, I usually use an examination pad or/and exercise books. The pad and book that I’m currently using have sentimental value – they were sent by my father to Pusat Serenti Gambang (PSG) around February 2006, which I had taken to Pusat Khidmat AADK Kuantan in September and `back home’ (where the heart is. But then so is PSG. So how?). The pad is by creative products (CP) with mostly olive green cover, and the paper is the “just right” 70gsm. The exercise books are your regular thin, brown-cover Buku Latihan of 200 pages by NM Paper Converting Sdn Bhd in Province Wellesley South, Penang (the owner is likely a diehard Anglophile, and one the Umno and “Bahasa Kebangsaan” extremists would love to hang from the nearest rambutan tree. Oops! Forgot that politics should never be mentioned here). Anyway, as sort of to make it up, the “CABARAN WAWASAN 2020” AND “FALSAFAH PENDIDIKAN NEGARA” are printed behind.

As for writing instruments, I use ball-point pens – Staedler Stabilo, Reynolds and Bic are my favourites (but NOT the thin Kilometrico please; of which PS Gambang seems to prefer!) I used to have Parker and Sheaffer fountain pens (the lower end models), but have stopped using these 15 years ago. One reason why I’m not so enthusiastic with pens is because my handwriting is quite poor. But strangely, after coming back from Gambang, I’ve discovered “how to write better”! My handwriting is a lot better nowadays, but I tend to lapse into “the old mode” when in a hurry or tense.  

Q3. What is the oddest object in front of you?

Cheap “tembakau darat” (village tobacco) and thin phonebook paper to wrap it with. I rarely buy cigarettes since seven years ago, and this “tobacco and paper” (instead of “daun” or palm leaf that `ordinary people’ use) is something brought back from Gambang. And prison. And lockup. The next “oddest” is perhaps this Huawei E220 HSDPA USB modem. (A lot) Faster ADSL Streamyx Internet connection is available in this area but I had opted for Celcom `Broadband’ due to a couple of reasons (Getting only GPRS 53.6Kbps most of the time instead of the 384Kbps 3G I had subscribed for). 

Q4. What are you listening to?

The laptop’s fan spinning and vehicles along the main road 30 metres in front. There’s a hand-me-down, one-small-speaker Pensonic transistor radio with a non-functioning cassette player. Some weeks ago, I’d often tune in to Engku Emran’s Suria FM. But I haven’t switched it on since the fasting month; except to hear the Azan for Maghrib. Might start doing so again soon. But its sound is a put-off. If I really feel like listening to some music, I might use the MP3’s in the laptop instead.

Anyway, I try not to listen to Pink Floyd’s songs anymore, although I love them very much. I believe songs do influence us somewhat; and I try to avoid being in the state that I once was before going to Gambang. One thing about Pink Floyd’s songs – they move me. And often not in a positive way. It’s very easy to feel depressed and moody after an hour’s session listening to Dark Side of the Moon or The Wall especially. When I do get a decent music system, I’ll “be going a different route” this time. David R loves classical music; and since “he is what he is”, I’m going to give it a try. Plus Malay songs too.  

Q5. Is there anyone else in the room?

No. “But where is your wife, children?” She’s at her parents house 30 feet away, with my youngest. “But why aren’t they here; or you there?”

Q6. What time of the day is it?

6.15 AM. I got up early to finish this post. When it comes to writing, I do it best from 4.30 PM onwards to the small hours of the mornings. And especially when it’s raining. On days when it’s stuffy, reading (anything) is more productive.

Q7. What do you do when you are looking for inspiration?

Previously morphine or heroin would sometimes do it. And spike it with methamphetamine (pil kuda). But since you always end up losing sooner or later, and since you have “to pay the piper” for “borrowing the inspiration” with hefty interest rates, I now look for other alternatives. One way is by reading the works of writers I like – like Elviza and those mentioned above. Plus from the books that I have (many of them are from David R; and through the efforts of a certain assistant editor with one newspaper), or downloads from Project Gutenberg. I think it should be simple enough – when looking for inspiration, look to the inspirational sources that come in those people, places and things who/that are.

Q8. What is guaranteed to remove your concentration?

Like most people, the handphone beeping a SMS signal. I’ll always immediately check it. Usually it’s the Alert from The Star (which could actually have been put off). But if it’s from friends and family, I’d welcome these at any time, and wouldn’t care even if it does distract me. [Psst! Awak berdua are doing just fine!:-) ] But what distracts and irritates are “vehicle horns” where I’d sometimes curse whoever-it-is in my heart. However, I try to immediately be in control and refrain from this for it’s not beneficial to me at all. And it won’t hurt the offender – unless I throw a fist-sized stone. Or, to learn from `Pusat’, unleash `something’ with a catapult (Don’t worry, my friends, for I don’t do that)

*UPDATE 12 Oct 12:04 PM – Had received a SMS from Elviza at about 8:15 AM. Just added Mamasita Mamamia! to the links under “Malaysians”. She is the other half of SakmongkolAK47, a political-centric blog that I had RSS at the other site, and which I MUST go to and read every day . I had mentioned his link in this post but I’ve not included it in the links – I don’t want this site to be connected to any site/blog that is directly connected to politics. But there is one exception though in Our Table by Mike Tan. Even though it is political, Our Table is, in my opinion, not partisan.


20 thoughts on “Elviza’s "Writer’s Writuals" Assignment

  1. Mat Cendana,
    I have been expecting this post to come out soon but never expect such a masterpiece which I can never emulate. Your preamble alone makes me cringe at the thought of how am I going to write something worth reading after they have read yours. I have been tagged by Elviza on the same subject too. Now after reading your’s I will have to beg her to excuse me from doing it however much my fatherly love I have reserved for her. However good an effort that I can muster, it will pale in comparison to this gem of yours.
    Your resolve to acquire your former home is laudable. In my own small way, I will try to help you achieve it. Hopefully others will chip in too by giving words of encouragement. Thats the least we can do for you.

  2. My dear friend,

    The streamyx is acting up on me and I am beyond pissed. Am typing this on the bberry keyboard and it ll break my fat fingers!

    I just wanted to say that this piece hardly does justice to my mediocre writings and you are just being too kind with compliments. But the rest of the posting is clearly written from the heart.

    The answer to Q5 breaks my heart.

    I ll text you later, the boy wants breakfast now. Sigh

  3. @Pak Zawi | Elviza
    Had not expected this post to reach both of you this fast. Will reply to these comments later.

    Right now I need to have breakfast – and last night’s dinner. Plus “do something else”, that include some sleep. Slept late and woke up early to finish that one. Should have finished that last night but had to attend to no less important things during the late afternoon and night. Happy that I’ve managed to handle ALL satisfactorily:-)

    BTW, as a short answer to Bang Zawi – and Elviza too: Don’t worry. I’m a firm believer of that line from Hisham’s School of TotsLife is the choices that we make…

    Which also means, should we and when we “make and do the RIGHT ones…” Encouraging and enabling isn’t it?:-)

  4. Salam Arep…today is Bro Mat’s birthday…

    To Bro Mat…Happy birthday to u…semuga hari ini dan seterusnya lebih baik dari hari semalam dan hari-hari sebelumnya…….semuga rahmat ilahi mengiringi kehidupan Bro Mat…Semuga kita semua meningkatkan keimanan dan ketakwaan kepada ilahi…semuga kita semua dilindungi yang maha esa…

  5. Salam,
    Ooh, its your birthday? Happy Birthday to you…. May we find the solace that we are looking for…

    *9PM – F, Thank you. And I’m also happy to know that you are still coming to this site:-)

  6. Happy birthday [belatedly :( ], Mat.

    I agree with Pak Zawi that his preamble alone is worth spending my leisurely morning on. Here I am, all primped, waiting for the daily maid to finish cleaning so I can go to Coffee Bean for my daily fix.. and Mat beckons. You are ‘bad’ Mat! Go, on, keep being “bad’.. I like it..:)

  7. To Bang Zawi, Elviza and Puteri Kamaliah,

    Thank you for your very kind words. I’m very happy that you like the preamble. But please don’t ever think that it’s because “of some special talent” or something along this line. I must confess and stress here that I had used a basic principle that ALL of us had used/are using – building from the works of others.

    It’s also something like what Sir Isaac Newton had once said when others had asked how he achieved what he had – about him “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Sir Isaac doesn’t claim to be a giant, but when he uses what the giants have, he managed to ADD something to what was already there.

    That’s what I had done. Before writing it, I had “sort of cheated” by reading what a few others had written first – Elviza herself, Mat Bangkai and also Puteri Kamaliah. And so, inspired and stimulated by their works, I then added mine. That’s just it! The “content” is different, of course, but the “energy” to produce it was from these three especially.

    And plus another thing – I looked into what “my heart” had nudged me to write about. With Elviza, that’s not too difficult:-)

  8. Dear Mat

    Although I have left my blog to rot in the sun lately (along with several other aspects of my life), I have noticed that the number of ‘hits’ I have had of late has been uncharacteristically high. I attribute this anomaly mainly to your kind words about Mat Bangkai as found in this blog.

    Thank you, my friend.

    Maybe once I have dealt with the multiple crises plaguing me currently, I shall write my pointless drivel again. Yes, my friend, I fully appreciate how it has come to be that you have developed a clear affinity for Elviza’s work. This is something that comes very easily – to anyone

  9. @bangkai
    Thanks for dropping by.
    You’re not alone here – I’ve let this site rot too the past three days. Getting caught up with a lot of things, but happily they are “positive-looking”.

    I’m sorry to hear about this “multiple crises”. All I can say is, I hope you’ll come out of them “in the plus” – if not now, then in the future.

    It’s my firm conviction nowadays that things that are seemingly bad right now could actually be the start of opportunities or/and better situations in the future. It’s how we respond that’s the most important, not the crisis itself.

    Better stop right here before I launch into “philosophical mode” and end up not finishing some work I’m doing right now.

  10. Dear Mat

    You give yourself less credit than you deserve. You write so well.

    But perhaps it’s that psychological barrier that one must find his/her own ways to overcome that feeling of smallness, that lack of self-confidence, that feeling of undeserved-ness.

    Do continue writing.

  11. @su
    Michelle, there’s something inside me nowadays that reminds me to be wary and check myself when people praise my writings, especially. No, “wary” here is not of the “afraid they have ulterior motives” kind; definitely not. It’s the “afraid of myself” kind.

    There’s something that I had learned from Narcotics Anonymous: of the danger of getting carried away, and thinking too highly of one’s self (I’m also aware of another danger – of thinking too LOWLY of one’s self). This will lead to arrogance and excessive pride without my being aware of it; and it will be the start of the spiral once again. As such, I get worried when people say good things about my writings “too often”.

    Thankfully, I have come to know a few people from here whom I trust enough to keep a check on me. And they are also special people whom I don’t feel offended with when told or reminded about something. “Striking a balance” – this is what I’m trying to find right now; and I’m grateful that there people here who are helping me with this.

    By the way, as an aside, I must say that your linking my sites at your blog has helped to boost their page ranks! I don’t fully understand how the system works, but it’s obvious that MANY POINTS have come from “malaysianpolitics”:-)

    For you folks here, Michelle is in New Zealand and has a blog called I am Malaysian

  12. Hola Fellow Traveler (prefer FT rather than Anon[ymous]),

    Thanks for your comments on My Journey To Recovery. Please think nothing about BuluhMas. It’s just my way to answer all the questions I’m getting lately and to thanks them for their thought and concerned.

    I’ve a little secret I would like to share with you here. I’ve been blogging for quite some times now but I’ve never mixed myself with the Who’s Who Malaysian Bloggers. I don’t know, I still can’t get rid of these inferior complex to stand on the shoulders of giants.

    I commended you for introducing me to all these giants, but I still dare not leave a comment or two on their blogs. Suffice to say I do read to their posts eagerly.

    That’s all for now, Fellow Traveler. Gotta stop before I put on my non-stop blabbering. See you around my friend.

    Greetings and lots of love from Kuale Kangsor.

  13. This is the mother lode of writing from feeling which has been hiding under a crusty layer of modesty all this while – double-barreled somethin’ there! You’re the event horizon of a new breed of Malays – young or old- who can write back to the olde England not to mention old farts like yours truly that I’ve always been on the look out for, if for nothing else, just to redress the imbalance set by there being more Indians – from India as well as here – who can write feelingly in English. Your writing is helping to level it. It is not for me to offer you advice for you are your own person but I suggest you abandon your need for modesty as camo because down the line you’ll look back on yourself with disbelief that you thought you had a need for it! Camo can be fun in the wearing, but if every self-respecting new arrival heads to the nearest bundle retailer to sport one, wear can turn to stare. So there you have it – both praise and friendly teguran. I know, praise can be as discomforting as criticism is disconcerting as common camo is distracting.

    More than a decade ago I paddled a kayak past your house on a solo (in part) trip from Pos Mering on the Nenggiri to Kota Bharu on the Kelantan. I ‘ve told Mohd Zawi about it at his webpage.

  14. @Zaharan Razak
    En Zaharan, nice of you to come again and leave this comment at my blog. From what I’ve noticed, you seem to be like me too with your “working hours” – of writing things well past midnight:-) Yes, I’ve noticed your posts – specifically the e-mail alerts, which are ALWAYS past this hour.

    I guess we share this one – the writings seem to flow better past that hour. With me, the 3am period is the “golden hour” – this is when I tend to be at my best.

    These comments are such an honour, sir; coming from someone like like you – a published author – and one termed by Sakmongkol AK47 as “the doyen of English-writing in Malaysia”.

    And since I know from your writings at your blog that you are one who is blunt and truthful when it comes to what you honestly think and feel is right, I feel that I can now comfortably accept all these praises that the others have kindly showered on me.

    I just hope I won’t get big-headed – this is the main reason why I feel uncomfortable, as you have noticed here. But then I do have an exceptional couple in Kuantan looking out for me – they will be the first to send in a reminder should I begin to show any signs of that. And I’m sure to get a chiding soon enough should I ignore that.

    Well, yours is the clincher for me not to deflect high hopes anymore. I’ve had two other people who are exceptionally influential with me – Mekyam and Mat Salo. Mat Salo is also a lot like you in being blunt and truthful; while Mekyam is someone whom I’ve known from the Internet since 2001, and is someone whom I hold in very high regard for her intelligence, wit and acute evaluations. From past records, (a lot) more often than not, she is right.

    BTW, as to your kayak expedition, you must have passed by very close to my house – definitely within hailing distance, if you had paddled on the left bank of the river. But if it was 10 years ago, I doubt whether I would have bothered to know about it, much less to wait by the side to lend moral support as you pass by, I’m sorry to say. I remember well that it was a time when I was “at my worst” – of being heavily addicted to that habit. In such a state, I was extremely volatile and erratic. Well, memories…

  15. Yes, I was paddling on the left as I passed Pasir Mas. I didn’t know Sak called me that. I vaguely remember Mek Yam dropping a comment at my blog once. I might be msitaken though. What you call “bigheadedness” is just a shot of adrenalin coursing through your brain-veins. It’s natural. Don’t feel guilty. Just watch it pass – not stagnate – the way you watch the Kelantan passes by Pasir Mas. I normally go to bed about midnight but lately I’ve to stay up past the hour to keep my little sixie company. Now it’s gotten into a habit.

  16. en zaharan,

    i sure did!

    i think it was to pick an innocuous nit. i do that sometimes with people whose writing makes an impression on me, as mat cendana can testify.


    and mat weh!


    that’s me labouring under the weight of having any sort of influence on anyone at all, esp of the “exceptional” kind. that’s a huge responsibility, man! :)

    can i persuade you to have just mat salo alone holding that banner? now that’s one man with awesomes moral sinews. he comes across sweet and responsible and decent even as he waxes lyrical about the attributes of one of my kind who is not his legally wedded.

    now, how many man can manage that, i ask you!

  17. @Mekyam
    Mat Salo – ah, now this is one VERY SPECIAL CHARACTER on the Internet. I’m amazed with how he can get away with so many things! But then, some people “have it”, and Mat Salo is obviously one of them. If someone were to hold a poll on “Who’s Who of Malaysia’s Bloggers”, I’m sure his name will be on it. If it isn’t, then I’ll just regard that list as “invalid”.

    And NO, you can’t shirk off from this status:-)
    Actually, I had started to accept those kind and encouraging words after I had read what you said at the Cendana Blues site and also at Mamasita. Had intended to write a post as sort of to reply to the comments I had read all over the place on blogsphere before the pictures from Mohd Zawi came in. Will do so in the very near future.

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