Trying to create a new identity: Writer
As long as I can remember I have wanted to be a writer, or rather, an author. Oh, to see one's name on the back of a book, and on the front, preferably followed by "Oliver Twist" "The Three Musketeers" or "Tom Sawyer's Adventures," my three go-to books as a child. I must have read them 50 times put together, in addition to the hundreds of other books I read each year to escape from my childhood.
The problem with those books was: They made me want big adventures. I wanted to go everywhere and see everything. I wanted to BE D'Artagnan, Tom Sawyer and, to a certain degree, the Artful Dodger, not sit in a room by myself and write. So I half solved it by, when I finally became an adult, travelling a lot but writing hundreds if not thousands of letters to friends and family.
When I finally ended up in Hong Kong, I somehow managed to be asked by a publisher to write a book - about anything. The result was Blonde Lotus, a semi-autographical novel set in China and Hong Kong, which took me five months to write.
That's when I realised that what I really wanted from life was to have had written books. Book launches, book tours, signing books, yeah, baby! But the actual process of writing? Not for me! It was so excruciatingly boring and mentally punishing, not to mention physically painful (arms, back) that I swore one was enough.
Then a Norwegian publisher asked me to translate and rewrite Blonde Lotus, a novel, ... to Blond Lotus, en roman! That was only slightly less punishing, but the book tour of Norway (to all of two towns) was great fun. After that, I wrote Don't Joke on the Stairs, a collection of essays/travelogue describing 20 years of travelling through the surreal fun fest that was the China of yore, complaining of back pain and boredom all the way, and swearing "never again."
Then I felt compelled to write a cookbook, CHILLies, Sichuan Food Made Easy, while the whole time working at South China Morning Post as a columnist and feature writer.
But do you think I saw myself as a writer? Oh no. Writers sit in brown, book-filled rooms in Paris overlooking an autumnal park, not on an island in Hong Kong with humidity-sweat dripping down on the keyboards, teaching Cantonese for a living, running an AirBnB and buggering off to mainland China at every given opportunity.
But now! Now I live in Mallorca and spend my days writing. Next week a business associate and I are launching an online magazine which is all about Mallorca! Watch this space.
It's so exciting. This is what i always wanted to do: Like the late great A.A. Gill of The Sunday Times, to "go to places and interview them." And I write in a beautiful room overlooking a garden with falling autumn leaves.
Do I feel like a "writer"? Do I hell! But I've come to realise that the label or identity isn't so important. The most important thing is jolly well doing it.