Why so serious?

When you become a writer, you play with the degree of “seriousness.”

  • Do I take myself seriously?
  • Or, do I take my work seriously?

I hear people complain, “Why (the fuck) is he/she so (fucking) serious?” Those folks, as I observe, tend to hang out with people who are chill and lay-back.

But before I pour my love for intense people, let me first talk about two shades of “intensity.”

  • Are you intense because you want to make it so bad just to prove to the world that you have what it takes? *I stay away from them. I just don’t like the smell oozing out of their body. Whatever they do, you know their BIG plans from miles away.
  • Or, are you intense because you have a story burning inside that you have to get it out and share with others? *Darling, shall we grab coffee sometime?

When self-help books praise (serious) people who are born with or stuck by a calling, I would give it a grain of salt.

  • First off, by now you should know you ain’t no Steve Jobs.
  • Second, let’s define “calling.” Let me give it a spin: God sheds light on you and exclaims with tears in his eyes, “My Child, I have a mission that only you on Planet Earth can do. Now go make me proud.”
  • Third, it’s too (fucking) passive. It is as if you wait outside in the rainstorm praying to get struck by lightning when there is no tree around to add to the odds.

Truth is, nobody can give you that thing called calling, clearly not those self-help books. They rub it into your soft spot to promote sales.

  • If you want to be a singer, sing.
  • If you want to be a painter, paint.
  • If you want to be somebody, go be it.

You see, the point is not in the noun. The key is in the action — that verb. Nobody gets to define you for you, you define ‘you’ by doing* what you think is best for you.

*Sadly, most people decide sitting is for the best. Then they become couch potatoes and die of heart failure, literally or figurately.

I love that phrase — force of nature. I love serious people who are like that. I’m fortunate to have friended a few and see them in action.

  • Wherever they go, they bring weather, they bring phenomena.
  • Religious or not, they never sit on their asses waiting to be called upon by God Almighty.
  • They call upon their own lazy bones and get the shit done.

That’s what they DO — day in and day out.

So stop being sedentary and kid yourself that you should just focus on dreaming. Be violent! Be vocal! Announce to the world (including your archenemies, well, especially them) about your batshit crazy plans. Scare yourself the shitless.

— Then what? Then I’m afraid, darling, you now have to go do it.
— What about hmm… Plan B?
— 
Let me see, kill yourself.

But mind you, your dead body still has to take the blow when people pay cheap homage to you at your own beige funeral. Your archenemy would laugh at the top of her lungs, “I knew she is, strike that, she was a chicken.”

Okay, maybe that’s a little too heavy. Point is, once you start doing, one day you’ll be livin’ your dream.

I have friends who are also not from LA complaining how much they abhor the city, how dirty the streets are, how rude the people drive. I would ask, “Have you tried looking up?” “What do you mean?” “From where I come from (that is, China), the sky this blue happens every once in a blue moon.” Then they smile.

There is not a single day that I don’t feel like the luckiest person alive. Life is never easy, especially when we are still mapping out our future at a relatively mouldable age. But because I’m living here doing what I do, I am already grateful. All this is what I’ve been dreaming of consciously and unconsciously since I was a ten-year-old tootsie. That young thing who knew nothing about geography scribbled on her notebook that by 25, she would be in Meiguo, the Beautiful Country, aka. the United States.

I didn’t move and live in LA until September 2015 as a twenty-seven-year-old, but I was indeed 25 the first time I toured the East Coast in January 2014 before quitting my job and applying for the program. Technically speaking, that ten-year-old was right after all.

  • Don’t dismiss seriousness and call it ‘nerdy.’
  • Don’t give your inactivity, your procrastination another lofty* excuse that “I am looking for my calling.”

*Lofty: I am suspicious of anything “lofty.” It sounds condescending. Instead, look for things you do that give you goosebumps, that put you in the zone, aka. the Flow* as eloquently explained by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

*Flow: also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. via Wikipedia.

One more thing.

What is art?

  • Art is intimate. You can’t know your art if you put it on a pedestal.
  • Your art is a mirror of yourself. It’s a process of understanding yourself.
  • Art is an act of doing. It’s work-in-progress.
  • Art is hard labor. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty like a construction worker.

Now, do you feel the thrill, darling?

Seriousness is the ultimate sexy.

 

Yours truly,
YZ

Meet the Godfather

At the Godfather shooting site with the great John Cazale and Marlon Brando

I was a bit of a cynic lining up to get into the theatre. So what? He is visiting. I really haven’t seen his work lately. What’s he up to anyway?

Then he was at the stage center, no emcee. He talked about his new project. He talked about what inspired him and his research. Then he began talking about his dream. The man was born in 1939. And he still has dreams, big dreams. I shifted in my seat.

He is extraordinary. I thought to myself.

I then recalled my most esteemed professor said he greatly admired the director. “He was broke twice making the movies he believed in.” I felt his love for film when he talked.

As he wrapped up, he added an anecdote—

My father played flute, but all he wanted was to be a composer. I direct films, but all I ever want is to become a writer. There are people born with talent that most of us have to trade with hard work. Born into a family like mine, I have to work hard to prove that I am something. So I direct and I work.

For the first time, I realized that having a house full of great artist relatives is not fun to be around. Fortunately, he didn’t flinch. I thought that came from some great parenting. Or it’s just great gene?

Before fading out from the stage’s side door under the spotlight that resembles the God in Bruce Almighty, he turns around and told us a joke about a legendary teacher of his time encouraged his film students to call him by his first name. Pause.

“You can call me Francis.”

Cue the longest applause.