Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Apr 06 2010

Episode IV:

A few months ago, shortly before the Chinese New Year holiday, I changed my schedule so that I’d be in the city all day instead of just going into work in the afternoons as I had before. I’d been working half days ever since I left my job at O&M so many years ago; the grand plan at the time was to be productive in other areas in my free time.

If you know me, you can imagine just how spectacularly that didn’t work. I’d stay up late each night, sleep in, and then spend the remainder of my mornings screwing around online and end up tired all the time, with nothing to show for it.

These day, however, I’m out the door around 8 or 9 a.m., and have a break from about noon to 2 or 3 p.m. in which I go to a cafe, have lunch and use my old Thinkpad to work on the English version of Counting Mantou, something I’ve neglected over the years for various reasons. Now I’ve decided to get it done once and for all.

I’ve been making a lot of progress, first going through and correcting all the mistakes a friend of mine found during proofreading, and the going through, most likely introducing a whole slew of new mistakes as I rewrite the whole damn book. I figure that my writing must have improved over the last seven or so years since I wrote it, and I might be able to make it a little more readable this time around. The challenge lies more in the latter portions of the story, since, as anyone who has done military service can tell you, the more outwardly exciting parts tend to be in the beginning. But I’ve managed to develop some internal themes that I’d neglected in the last version, and I’m happy with the direction it’s going. I’m even meeting a publishing agent from New York on Thursday to discuss it.

While I’m excited about it being a better, more engaging story, I’d also really like to see it done, even if I have to self-publish it in the end. I haven’t touched the movie since I handed it off to Darrell in ’08, and I have no excuse for not working on the book now. It’s not convenient to go back to Xindian for a couple of hours, and there’s really nothing else to do but work on the book.

Most of the time I go to a nearby Dante Cafe on Yanping South Road. The upstairs is always full of old veterans and their wives, some asleep, some shouting in loud mainland accents that bounce off the walls amidst a slight tinge of urine from the bathrooms, some simply staring into space. For some reason, I’ve always found it easier to concentrate on writing or studying in raucous environments full of strangers than in quiet places like libraries or at home. Back in my college days at Tunghai, I would always end up at one of the five Super Food Chicken joints on campus, sitting at a table in the corner going through characters on little pieces of paper.

All in all, though I feared that my new schedule would restrict my time in unwelcome ways, the new scenario has instead opened the door to a sense of accomplishment and purpose that I’ve missed for a long time, ever since I finished editing the movie. At the very least, when people ask me about the book, I can now honestly say, “I’m working on it.”

posted by Poagao at 12:30 pm  


  1. You are now easily the third or fourth person (and second one that I respect) who is actually getting up and settling down to the business of really writing. Having talent is a difficult enough thing, but being also persistent enough to take that talent somewhere is that next significant step that really matters.

    Do it to it, Dude.

    Comment by Zhara — April 6, 2010 @ 8:50 pm

  2. how did the meeting with the agent go?

    Comment by Prince Roy — April 21, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

  3. It went pretty well; she works out of New York, and I will send her the manuscript when this revision is finished, and we’ll go from there to see whether we can work together. She said she is impressed with what I’ve shown her so far, which is a good sign.

    Comment by Poagao — April 21, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

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