By Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
My soul will itch if I don’t. My mind will self-destruct if I don’t stitch up its chaos with the linearity of language and an ordered narrative. Writing is good psychological housekeeping. Or akin to sleep writing.
Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?
I’m usually working on a few things across genres to keep my writing limber, which makes each project that much longer to complete, but also means each project has a taste of the other. I am writing short stories for a collection, poetry for a collection, editing an anthology and an online journal and other side projects. Writers are very much attuned to their environment, which involves society, which hinges on culture and politics, which is lived reality – or nightmare. My writing reflects my chance encounters with any topic that piques me at the very moment when my fingers bleed ink (or digital ink, which is black, and now I’m thinking of squid ink so perhaps I’ll write about linguine or octopus erotica).
Describe your writing aesthetic.
Fast and furious for poetry. As Travis Bickle would say, “anytime, anywhere”. For prose, gestative and measured, flowing in a torrent in few-hour pockets when a thought, idea or story stops me from thinking about anything else and needs to be expelled from my system. So I let it out, word by word, until I find the tension is released and I am physiologically in harmony again. This excludes editing of both prose and poetry, which is a calculated process enacted by someone else who happens to reside in my body and brain.
Who are your favorite authors?
Too many and undecided about favourites. Though sometimes I read screenplays, and right now, wouldn’t mind reading those by Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson and Suzanne Collins.
What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.
Each of my beleaguered finished and unfinished novels, for sure. None of them are published yet for they are continually being critiqued and edited by yours truly. Especially for poets, whose brains are wired differently when writing alinear verses, abstract symbolism, multiple, disjunctive and paradoxical narratives, we have to relearn and reteach ourselves to rewire our brains for prose, and in big projects like novels, whose structure is architecturally complex and navigationally logical, we, or especially for me, approach novel writing with a different skillset that a writer specializing only in prose possess. Part of it is genetics; part of it is nurture, or experience. And writing almost always improves with experience, where failures are a prerequisite of success.
What’s your idea of bliss?
A warm, sincere hug. And good quality tea of any kind on a languorous afternoon.
What makes you angry, and I mean all-out-smash-the-china raving mad?
What book/s would you take with you on a three-month retreat in the boondocks?
I would probably be editing on my own manuscripts if I have the luxury of being on a retreat, but that said, I buy more books than I have time to read them, and would likely bring something by Jhumpa Lahiri, JM Coetzee, Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Foucault. Though I might be secretly reading a Jodi Picoult or rethumbing through Alice Walker’s The Color Purple for a weep.
Your house is burning down. What’s the most important thing you’d want to take with you?
My children. If I have time, my laptop. Everything important is on Cloud anyway, so don’t sweat over the immaterial.
Describe your life philosophy. In a sentence.
Get over it.