“Like A River” is the name of a new original song I’ve written for my novel, Espresso Love. It speaks of the relationship between an empty soulless Naoki and Shizuka, who comes into his life and is the catalyst and symbol of hope and “the truth that sets me free” for his journey. In the beginning of the novel, Naoki – and readers – are drawn into Shizuka’s world and interpretation of reality through her eyes, which is a recurring theme in the lyrics and symbolizes subjective perception, dreamscape and pseudo-realities.
I had the chance to perform it (quite roughly and impromptu) for the first time, a day after I finished the lyrics, at a youth inspiration showcase event. It isn’t often that I play original songs – perhaps only once every few years – so this was a great opportunity. In the same way, this was also the first time I had presented in public about my literary work. I’ve spoken to friends, teachers, other authors, or industry professionals, I’ve read material in classes, but this was an entirely a new frontier and I was delightfully surprised at my growth as a person – improvised public speaking is not something I often do. I was privileged to do a 20 minute presentation, with readings, about my literary journey – cell phone novels, Secondhand Memories, Espresso Love, writing process, cross platform multimedia expansion and finally, one important reason why I do what I do: my faith, which to me is no religion, but a personal journey and experience and a deep connection to the metaphysical higher realm of not only the Collective, the great imagination and the visionary universal but beyond that, the divine.
Here is the rough performance of the song with my friend, Shawn. Looking forward to practice and record this song properly!:
Like A River
Then like a river
your eyes spoke
to the depths of my soul
when I’m with you
it seems my days all fade into hope
the truth that sets me free
and wakes the moon
when my heart expires
guide me home
When I look inside
It’s like staring into a well
it’s hard to see the seasons change
if it’s shadows I can tell
Sometimes reverberations is all that’s
left to hear within
and all these memories
they’re burning up black and white
but you told me to look into your eyes
with a suit and tie
even if I say no
but you just gotta live
with these empty hearts and empty image souls
but you told me to look into your eyes
This is the Literary Presentation
Rundown (Clickable menu in the video’s description):
1:02 – The Cell Phone Novel
2:56 – Literary Fiction – Espresso Love
5:23 – Multimedia Expansion
7:27 – Why Am I Here? – Faith
8:15 – Writing Process – Faith
9:21 – Success and Fame – Faith
10:07 – Convoluted World, Shifting Perceptions and Truth – Faith
12:06 – Readings from Espresso Love:
12:20 – Excerpt from Chapter 1 – Golden Child
14:20 – Excerpt from Chapter 10 – Intellectual Property
16:31 – Excerpt from Chapter 37 – A Few Words in Retrospect
Some of these things are mentioned in the presentation:
Intro to Cell Phone Novel Documentary
Secondhand Memories (Pioneer English Cell Phone Novel): http://secondhandmemories.net
Espresso Love (Literary Dystopian Magical-Realism Novel): http://espressolove.tk
Coffee Bean Charms: http://takatsu.wordpress.com/store/
Aozora EP album: http://takatsu.bandcamp.com
Shizuka’s (Starbucks) Drink: http://tiny.cc/espdrink
Graphic T-shirts and Smartphone Cases: http://society6.com/takatsu
The rest of the acts during the event were brilliant and it is inspiring to see so many talented young people. In particular, as I am getting deeply into jazz and classical, hearing a beautiful and articulate delivery of saxophone and violin pieces was a treat. What amuses me is how greedy I am to collect and promote talent and plan collaboration opportunities. I now have more people to add to the immense and growing list of talented artists, musicians, etc, to involve in future projects!
Other than that, coming out with a confession of my identity as a writer sparked a few great conversations with whom I normally might not have spoken to. It’s strange sometimes, as we live in a world where there are so many things happening parallel, isolated, solitary, each stories of their own, but they don’t intersect until the right moment, or the appropriate moment. Most would never have known about my creative work if I hadn’t presented and in the same way, I wouldn’t be able to connect to kindred souls. I was blessed to find someone who is more or less on the same wavelength in many aspects and sought to find his creative journey onwards in a convoluted and difficult world. Speaking in person about my experiences, and helping to impact and encourage someone’s life in a positive direction is exactly what I live for. For the most part, such “impact” had been online, but this past year, I’ve come to realize how great it feels to invest time and energy on real people in flesh, speaking face to face where passion and energy can be conveyed and felt with words and beyond words.
The event was another checkpoint for me. Breaking new ground in speaking in public about my art and experiences, singing an original song, encouraging or mentoring someone in person, and onwards, without batting and eye, without being hesitant or nervous at all, demonstrated to myself that I’ve grown and progressed another step and am capable of more and more. I surprised myself, like I did when I was in Japan encountering miracles and participating in creating miracles every day, and onwards, every year is an adventure. There comes a time in our lives when we really do feel things coming together. Where our experiences in the past, every building block of our identity and every milestone on the road, every up and down, they all contribute and work together. I wouldn’t be here today without those days in the pits, or those days wandering the desert, or those days being forced to do what I was reluctant to do. Each moment and what we do with the moment and what we realize from that moment in retrospect forms who we are and what we can become.
Anyway few days ago I also began a short video series of live readings, as I need the practice. This is the intro and the first few excerpts:
1. “Golden Child”
2. “Intellectual Property”
3. “Hole in the Ground”
Aside from all this video work, it has been a wonderful week. Espresso Love hit 500,000 reads on Wattpad. It is also now submitted into the Wattys Awards 2014, so it will need your support, sharing and voting! I’ve been working on my first creative non-fiction piece which will deal with rock concerts, the Hong Kong Umbrella Occupy movement, simulacrum with some political discourse and philosophy. It should be interesting.
Other than that, I moved houses, navigating through a chaotic battlefield of precariously towering boxes and choking entanglements of wires, the smell of paint and sawdust, hammering of wooden floorboards and the cutting cold breeze through the house, clambering up and down stairs, juggling junk my weight, and onwards, living off of a few hours of sleep. But all in all, a new house, marks a new start and the widening of possibilities.
There has been both exciting and nerve-wracking developments on the agent querying end. I’m definitely hoping that this could be the next step to reaching my dreams and furthering my passions, but also more importantly, to reach out to more people and inspire, provide insight, spark or continue the momentum and movement of thought and art. It has been amazing to hear all the positive reviews, interpretations, ideas, feedback, profound dialogue and onwards that Espresso Love has generated. The support has been immense, from professors, published authors, editors, and students, but still, facing professional hurdles that can decide the future, is extremely daunting and I am totally uncertain and insecure. I even doubt my own writing ability. So your encouragement has been keeping me going. I thank all my readers and friends for standing behind this project and my passions and journey.
Author Introduction and Writing Profile
I’ve been writing officially for six years or so, though of course we all start somewhere as a kid. Six years ago, was when I pioneered the English cell phone novel, bringing over the literary movement and youth cultural phenomenon from Japan in an experimental haiku-like poetic narrative fusion, and coordinating an online writing community and its young writers and all that it entails. That first cell phone novel is heading into published print form with an American press at the end of this year after a long journey of considerations!
Currently, I write contemporary literary fiction which is capitalized in my first full prose work (after all the cell phone novel stuff) called “Espresso Love” which is a magical-realism dystopian 150,000 word novel about a university student’s search for humanity sparked by his encounter with a strange girl in a coffee shop. It is an attempt at defiance and escape in Tokyo where identity, thoughts, emotions, and memories decay, against an oppressive system and its mindless faceless agents in suits, capitalist mechanism, consumer culture, digital and social media, convoluted shifting subjective perceptions and parallel pseudo-realities or dreamscapes. All that ends up remaining maybe a peculiar coffee order.
I’m somewhat of a contemporary mystic when it comes to literature or writing or perhaps the other arts I’m involved in: music and visual arts. I am influenced hugely by Haruki Murakami and all his magical-realistic or surrealistic philosophical strangeness, as well as names like Kafka, Hemingway, Orwell, DeLillo, Carver and the ideas of Jung, Freud, Baudrillard, Berkeley, Hegel, Emerson and Marx. But moreover, I kind of follow the traditions of the “visionaries” such as Dante, Rumi, Rimbaud, Whitman, Blake, or even Kerouac, Dickinson and so on, the idea of the greater Collective mind, the divine imagination, ancient wisdom or the transcendental unconsciousness, the universal intelligence of all humankind, which can be seen or understood in a variety of forms, whether people tend to look at it spiritually or religiously, as a historical and archetypal psychology, as the intertextual cross-pollenation of all myths, literature, beliefs and so on, or just as a moment of solitude and reflective silence in nature, maybe as creative energy or inspiration – all of this, also a major concept in my novel.
That said, my writing process will be something like self-discovery or self-rediscovery: I make sure I am clear of who I am, what my core values and beliefs are. What are my current thoughts and insights of the world and society around. Afterwards, perhaps a lot of conscious planning for the basic concept, the philosophies I will adhere to and the messages I want to convey, as well as the history, economy, politics, the concrete physical details of the context, and sometimes just a little bit of plot planning. But otherwise, as a crazy “contemporary mystic” I would sit down and tap into my subconscious, call on the Muses so to speak, bridge my subconscious and unconsciousness to a greater wisdom that is beyond me, make myself like an empty vessel or channel from which words will flow. It is often that I always feel this metaphysical connection that is beyond words, so I tend to be able to write anywhere and at any time, silence or music, as long as I focus and sink deep within. I do become influenced of course by my surroundings or what I’ve been reading or listening to, but for the most part, it doesn’t matter. I adhered to a schedule of at least 2000 words a day to finish my novel and didn’t sway from it. It is something like a meditative state but it is not necessarily religious or magical or anything at all – it’s something I believe all human beings are already connected to, just that we’re too busy or occupied with physical reality to tap into it.
That said, I think my work has several layers and on the superficial layer, there is a clear plot and lots of action or character tension/chemistry, but there are just many things that I don’t really control consciously and readers would point out many symbols or ideas and interpretations that I never realized were actually there. (For example, many writers will say their characters come to life and lead the story onwards; that happens to me at a very intense and overwhelming extent.)
I think I try to convey several messages in most of my work. One is to become the bridge for readers to look at the whole world or life as a whole, and reach into that “higher consciousness” (bear with me). Reach a realization about the flow of the universe or the entire world, and that we are limited human beings, especially in our day and age in an immense powerful system and complex cultural landscapes. There are many things we don’t understand, or cannot understand and is entirely beyond us. Yet at the same time, I aspire to inspire and encourage people in their journeys in life, so the idea that though we are infinitesimal, in our own small spheres we can strive to make our mark, leave our legacy no matter what suffering we may encounter and become a part of this bigger picture. And that life is never static and hope continues on. In my novel, it ends off with the imagery of the galaxy, each star may not be visible but they all contribute to the glow and the current of the massive Milky Way. Readers may also hear of my psychological stances, like that of Freud’s Super-Ego, Ego and Id. That our intellect controls the primitive emotional desires, and we need to balance it out in order to lead coherent lives of potential. I also tend to convey the idea that love means much more than just romance or lust, that there is a greater metaphysical deep, possibly spiritual, connections between people, in a form of agape unconditional love. Along that note, I follow the ideas of Plato/Socrates that the more abstract intellectual complementary connections between people (i.e. beliefs, values, ideas, goals, existential purpose, etc) are the strongest form, as emotions and desire and even personality tend to fluctuate, some day to day, some over years. But readers often will have their own understandings of my work that sometimes blows my mind, so this was just my attempt at putting down a finger on what it is that a reader may get from my work.
Now if I were to give advice to writers, it would be to truly know yourself as best as you can. Though we are all shifting, transforming and growing minds and individuals, it is necessary to continually discover and rediscover ourselves. What are the core values, core beliefs, what is that major message you would deliver to the world before you die? What is our purpose for being here on Earth? There are many major existential questions like that, which for me, I have my answers to them already. I think that will definitely aid in the writing process but also just life in general. What are we about? Our writing will gain power, gain passion, gain strength, gain focus and impact, and sharpen into a sword that pierces into the reader’s heart. We are in the business of inspiration. We are in the business of transforming lives and helping people grow. Literature is amazingly powerful. We don’t need schools if we can read and read a lot. Also, read a lot. That always helps. Build up a massive pool of influences, ideas, understandings about everything, the world, life, politics, history, economy, styles, how other writers write, etc. Everything helps because literature reflects every aspect of life and humanity. Fantasy, fanfiction, literary fiction, non-fiction, they all contain parts of the human soul and the questions of our existence. Northrop Frye, as a Structuralist, looked for the underlying patterns in literature. What is that one question, one theme that prevails in all work? It is the question of Who Am I? Identity in the world that we live in. There is not a single piece of work no matter how many students tried who could disprove him. If we ourselves have an answer to that question or have an attempt or approach at the question, I think we are on the way to writing well.