Tag Archives: writing

Never stop dreaming

never-stop-dreaming

Is everything in life a coincidence or do we attract certain things into our lives with a reason? While I’m certain that I won’t find an exact answer to this question during my existence, I also know that less than 24 hours after my birthday post I found myself staring at this T-shirt in a shop window. I asked for guidance, for a way to fill my days with some meaning that goes further than those simple repetitive actions I perform over and over again. I was getting ready to give up on my dreams and force myself to “grow up”, as it started sounding kinda ridiculous to continue being childish at… 41?! (am I really that much old? πŸ™‚ )

I started getting tired of defying those rules the majority of people follow without many complaints, but someone / something sent this message to me on that date I was born many long years ago. NEVER STOP DREAMING. I entered the store and took a closer look at the shirt. I liked the color and there was something extra special about the mandala pattern that surrounds the significant words, it seemed as if it stood there waiting for me to come by and take it home. On the way back I realized that even if I tried really hard to stick to that boring yet realistic way of living only, I would stay a dreamer all the same — that’s not something you choose in life, that’s the way you’re either born or not.

Even if it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever get back to Italy again, I’ll still imagine myself sitting in the middle of Piazza Navona with a cup of good old Italian espresso in my hands on a sunny day, without a watch on my hand and without a care in the world, calm and completely composed, ignorant of those big important questions I ask myself every day, ignorant of death, passage of time and universal change.

I’ll still dream of writing a book or two and having people actually like my prose well enough to want to buy their personal copy and read it in their precious free moments.

I’ll still imagine some of my photos on a big billboard downtown, having the power of making somebody’s day or change somebody’s life for the better.

Even though it is highly probable that none of this will ever happen, I will still hope. Maybe it’s crazy, but I’m sure that there are others out there like me, fragile souls who need encouragement in order to believe that they have something valuable to offer to the world. I won’t stop dreaming, that’s impossible.

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Missing the old times

Yes, I miss them. A lot. Times when I was writing while lying on my bed with a notebook and pen, creating words on the paper and not by typing and making them appear on a screen. I miss times when you actually had some time to sleep, stop and think twice what to do and how to do it in a better way. When something you managed to create or write lasted for more than several hours or a day before becoming an old and unnecessary string of words. But above all, I miss times when people actually cared about other people. At least I’m fortunate enough to have certain number of years that permit me to remember those days.

I watched an episode of an old Serbian TV series tonight, “The Policeman from Petlovo Brdo”. There is this moment when the police inspector is threatened by his superior that his absences due to the needs of his 5 kids would not be tolerated any more and that if he continued to “behave” that way that he would either loose his job, or had to go back to work on the streets again for much lower salary which wouldn’t permit him to sustain the needs of his large family. He turns to one of his ex-wives, successful manager in a big company to help him find a job and she asks him:
– Well… anyhow what kind of job are you actually able to do? Are you good with computers?
– No, he replies. I’m good with people.
– Well, in that case nothing, there is no need for people like you any more.

This was 24 years ago. In Serbia, country that was by no means as technologically advanced as the rest of the world at that moment.

Today, 24 years later I found some completely undefined job that absolutely requires the use of computers. I have no idea how long I will have this job because jobs in Serbia last much much shorter than people, but I’m not really sure that when it finishes that I’ll regret it. 24 years ago you had to be good with computers, but people’s feelings still counted. Today, you can’t avoid computers any more, but people don’t speak among themselves. They all stare at their own computer, lost in their own world, totally disregarding those around them. When they make a pause to eat, nothing changes. They go to the “dining room” and eat together in silence, staring at their smartphones or tablets. When the time comes to go home, they walk in a crowd in the same direction without speaking to each other. At most you can get one dull, mechanical hello from them during the first and last daily encounter. The worst thing is that they don’t care about themselves either, about tomorrow, about consequences of their actions. The only thing they care about is the paycheck day. And some of them are only 24 years old.

Oh yes, I miss the old days so much.

Friendship

keep in touch

Friends are people who are there by your side in both good and bad times – they keep you company, listen to you when you share either happy events or long rants on rainy days and give you the necessary feedback, they watch your back, give support and offer help in every sense of that word when needed. True friends are rare gems, they are hard to be found and require effort and care to be kept. Studies say that friends come and exit our lives at 7-10 year time increments, which means that with each new decade new people are bound to become a new and essential part of our world, while many if not almost all people we once knew get lost somewhere along the way. Rare ones that don’t are like gold, cherish them the best you can because these long-lasting unconditional friendships are among the most precious gifts life will ever serve you.

I wish this were a story about one such friend of mine. Unfortunately for some reason destiny made sure that I don’t earn such blessings, my friends all got chased away either by the passage of time or my health issues, or they simply vanished somewhere in the vast space of our planet far away from my country. For that reason this is a story about one of many lost friends, this one lost primarily because I didn’t put enough effort in keeping that bond alive. The bond was broken many years ago and while I don’t remember very well any more when exactly and how, I also can’t really explain why I didn’t take better care of this friendship in the first place.

My American friend I met almost 20 years ago kept in touch with me for several years after we got to know each other here in Serbia – we used to write long letters to each other and exchanged them mainly by fax, fast and easy way of sharing information and thoughts at long distances at the time. I would have tons of things to say about this special person and the place that friendship had in my days, but it would take thousands of words and cover too many different topics. This time I want to contemplate on just one of his phrases from the letter I still conserve: “Tanja – keep notes, keep a journal, keep in touch.”

I always loved to contemplate, which is already somewhere halfway between the idea in your mind and its materialization on paper, and my friend knew that. I was always very good at classes of writing in Serbian, but I had both luck and misfortune to attend those classes with the most talented people of my generation, as I went to high school for linguistic talents. It was luck because I could get the best education in the best possible conditions, misfortune because it’s extremely hard to outsmart the smartest people around. What I mean is that my writing was good, maybe even very good from time to time, but never excellent or extraordinary. No matter what I did or how much I tried, I could never top 2-3 my best friends who could just sit down and produce a masterpiece on any given subject in merely hour and a half given for the test. Someone else would see such a situation as a challenge and push further and further to go higher and higher. Someone else, not me. I was scared away by their brilliant literary achievements to the point that I stopped writing, convinced that if I can’t do that like they do, then I shouldn’t do it at all because it was pointless. Extremely black and white thinking – if you can’t be exceptional, don’t do anything. From today’s point of view really crazy philosophy and completely counterproductive, but that wasn’t exactly the worst conclusion I reached in life, worse was still to come. I went on downhill to spend almost half of average human life searching for something else I could do best, something that would come easy and naturally as an integral part of my personality and then turn it into profession I’d pursue till the end of my days. I generalized the notion of being untalented for writing by believing that I shouldn’t get into ANY of the fields where I can’t be great, no matter how much interesting or appealing they could be to me. I was and am insecure, I needed proof of my worth and seemingly nothing less than some sort of proof of greatness was good enough for me.

That was how I entered the world of learning foreign languages and “trading” one for the other working on translations. That’s a safe ground, although also creative one to a certain point, as perceiving the world around us doesn’t always match in different cultures. Safe is good enough for a nature precise like mine, but no matter how much verbal creativity can be hidden in the translating process, it’s still just a conversion of somebody else’s creation from one format to another. You trade one language for the other, but the content is still the same if you did your job well. However, that’s not nor it will ever be your content, as you’re just a conversion tool. It really is safer and you don’t risk much, but nobody will ever hear what you as a human being have to say to the rest of humanity. This realization truly defeated me. And I decided to take action. Translating and language teaching were put behind the scene and preserved for survival only, while I happily embarked on a new artistic journey. If I couldn’t excel with words, I opted for images.

For a long time I sadly contemplated on how tragically wrong this decision was, until i realized once again that it had nothing to do with decision itself, but with how I chose to react to the environment I found myself in. I was very happy when I was admitted to the art school, but the dream stopped right there. No matter what I did or created, I was always harshly criticized. Not only that I couldn’t excel in this world, I couldn’t even earn a single praise. That was extremely painful, to the point that I still feel that pain even though the nightmare ended 8 years ago. Today when I look back on that experience, I see little flashbacks of how my fellow students had nice words for some of the things I managed to come up with. I remember positive reactions from people from the outside of that world. I watch the notes I got for two photography classes I took, and even though I am well aware that I was and still am far from being a good and special photographer, I still had best marks in my generation. However, things didn’t look that bright at the time. Negation and denial was all I was presented with and not only that I accepted them as real, I implemented that attitude as my own thinking. Simply speaking, I began and continued thinking that I was artistically inadequate for good so I consequently left the images behind, the same way I abandoned words a decade and a half earlier.

As you already guessed, I didn’t listen to what my friend had to say in that letter from many years ago. I stopped keeping notes. I stopped keeping a journal. And the saddest of all, I didn’t keep in touch. If I kept in touch, I’m sure that my friend would encourage me to continue writing and that I would learn many more things from the exchange of our thoughts. At least my English would be much more fluent than it is today. Maybe he would have managed to illuminate me much earlier that what’s very good is good enough for everybody to keep doing whatever it is you do very well. Maybe he would have found the way to make me understand that the world would be a very small and almost empty place if only the extremely talented did some type of work in the fields they were born for. Maybe he would tell me that I had to believe in myself no matter what others say. To listen, but to stay who I am.

Sometimes critics may be right, but all the same there are ways and ways to point out to somebody how to improve their work, negativism and offenses are definitely not the instruments good people use to instill changes for the better in others. But on the other hand, sometimes critics are not right. People make all sorts of mistakes. I watched a movie last night and I wrote down this interesting line – “Nobody’s perfect, that’s why pencils have erasers on them.” Some of those mistakes are made out of ignorance because no one’s infallible eminence, not even the best experts. They are humans, too. Again, sometimes people just have double standards or they want to put you down because they perceive your work as a threat to their own success. Sometimes people are just plain mean. If you’re unlucky enough to meet people from this last category and end up believing their words and adopting them as your own way of thinking, world will be deprived of your precious creation for no reason. Sometimes people spend a certain amount of time doing what can be called average work and then all of a sudden their potentials just “explode” in the right circumstances. Imagine if they weren’t patient enough to wait for their stellar moment, what a tragic loss would that be.

On the other hand, maybe that globally approved greatness will simply never happen. That still doesn’t mean that we should sit and do nothing. Create. Write. Sing. Play an instrument. Draw. Paint. Cook. Do whatever makes you happy. Nobody can truly convince me any more that even a lifetime of “average” work can’t yield brilliant moments of their own. What matters is that you enjoy what you do and everything else your life consists of. When you get into that state of creative happiness, honestly only sky is the limit as to what can happen in the end.

Don’t repeat my mistakes. Don’t chase for too long intangible things believing that you’re chasing your true inner soul. Don’t waste time waiting to “find” yourself and then start doing something. You have yourself, here and now, you haven’t disappeared anywhere so that you have to go and look for yourself. Create if that is how you feel, without second thoughts and unnecessary questions. As long as you like what you do, you’ll find others who like it as well, I’m certain about it. This is one big planet, among all those billions of people there must be at least several kindred spirits for each one of us.

Keep notes. Keep a journal. Keep in touch, with both your inner soul and people you care about. And as for everything else, no matter what it is as long as it matters to you – KEEP IT.

The importance of books

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photo source: Ljiljana Habjanovic Djurovic by Hello! magazine

“It’s important to read also because you see you’re not the one who is worst off in the world and also because you can become a better person.”
– Ljiljana Habjanovic Djurovic, famous Serbian novelist – Official website – English version

I read this a couple of days ago and couldn’t help but ponder over the multitude of thoughts these words stirred in my mind. I don’t think I ever really thought that I’m the one worst off in this whole great world either in my current or in certain past situations, nor do I think that something like that could be true, but in spite of all realistic realizations I feel pretty desperate most of the time. Sentences like these do come as a helpful reminder to put things back into perspective. This extraordinary and very special woman who sold and sells thousands of copies of her best selling titles used to have very limited means to purchase what she has always loved the most – books. When her maid of honor asked her what she wanted as a gift for her wedding, she didn’t ask for any home or kitchen appliances or other valuable items – her request was to get the novel “A Time of Death” by Dobrica Cosic, a novelist whose fame she managed to reach in the years that were to come. Quite a strange choice of title for the occasion, maybe quite a strange choice of a wedding gift for many people out there, but that’s Ljiljana, spiritual woman, devoted to her beloved literary world.

Back to that quote from the beginning of this post – her words reminded me as well of the importance of reading and took me back to my childhood – at the age of 3 I could already read and write, both Cyrillic and Latin alphabet (Serbian is written in both ways). There are still precious little papers from that distant 1979 with my a bit unsteady all capital letters handwriting, but that was handwriting all right. I have some flashback memories of how I used to amuse and even scare our guests when I would approach them with newspapers in my tiny hands and start reading something out loud. At first they would stare in disbelief and then they would decide that I must have learned the text by heart in some way, yet even such an achievment was considered challenging for a child of my age. Then I would go around and just plainly read whatever was written everywhere around me, up until the bewildered guest would usually advise my dad that he as a doctor should do something about it, because it couldn’t be normal. He would laugh and reply – What do you want me to do, erase her memory?” πŸ™‚ After that, when my granny took care of me in preschool years, we would always go for a walk and enter a store where I was allowed to pick out one little book for children – she was worried that I would grow out of the quantity of material fast and she needed to make sure that I really made some good use of what was purchased, so she allowed one book at a time. The strategy failed very soon because she couldn’t believe that I would finish such a book in less than half an hour and then ask for more, perfectly capable of retelling what I read in details. When I was 6, almost 7, I was already reading novels, 500-600 pages in two days and I utterly enjoyed it. I remember going places to visit relatives and family friends and a distinct feeling of delusion and boredom if I found no books in their houses. On the contrary, if houses had any sort of small personal library “the strange kid” would pick out a book and amuse herself leaving the adults speak undisturbed. πŸ™‚ I always loved libraries, bookstores, book fairs… my mom says that if anything is true about me, then it’s true that I was always bringing books home from all the places I visited. Other people brought souvenirs from their travels abroad, I always brought at least a couple of books and all sorts of printed materials in different languages.

I’ll never forget the “incident” when I went to Italy to spend a summer in Rome prior to my last exam in Italian literature – that exam was so difficult because teachers could literally ask you anything from the beginning of the literature in Italian language to the works of present days, it takes many months to get ready for such an interrogation. I packed all the books I needed in a bag that weighed exactly 20 kilos πŸ˜€ I had to study a lot and I was to spend more than two months away from home. My other piece of luggage weighed 20 kilos as well, and in economy class you’re not allowed to embark more than at most 25 kilos of weight without paying quite dearly for every kilo of excess weight. The book bag wasn’t that big, so I embarked only my suitcase and dragged with my both hands the book bag into the cabin. I got the place near the emergency exit so the flight attendant warned me that the bag had to go up into the luggage compartment. Okkk… now it’s one thing to drag 20 kilos over the flat ground, something entirely different to lift that same weight way above your head and place it safely into any of those plastic compartments. Another female attendant approached me and said she would help. I gave her a look, she was so thin, practically skinny, on high heels and with no muscles, but she didn’t want to leave me alone. πŸ™‚ She made a couple of tries to just barely lift the bag and said – “God in heavens, what the hell is inside this bag???” :)) Books, I said. Yeah right, sure. Now tell me the truth. Books, I repeated, look inside if you think I’m not telling the truth. She looked and said – “Jesus, who would carry so many books around?? One can’t read that many books in one’s lifetime.” Oh yes, one can do that and much more, no worries. πŸ™‚ Three attendants took care of the bag together and managed to place it in one of the compartments. Some 45 minutes later we entered some heavy turbulence and sometimes in such conditions it can happen that those plastic lids flip open no matter how well they’re closed. Mine flipped open all right. At that moment I thought – what if (we panic disorder people LOVE what if statements) the bag slips out and falls down… on somebody? That would be – horrific. πŸ˜€ Nothing happened, thanks God, and as soon as I could unbuckle myself and get on my feet again I closed the compartment. On the way out of the plane, there was no other way, when people weren’t around any more I just pulled the bag with my both arms and it tumbled down full force on the floor of the plain. That was one of the loudest goodbyes in the history of flying I’m sure.

I passed my exam some 3-4 months later with flying colors and got my diploma. Needless to say, I continued hanging out with books, especially because I was now teaching others from the books similar to those I studied from.

Have we lived happily ever after, me and the books? Well, no – this is unfortunately real world. Ljiljana never betrayed her potentials and she fulfilled all her childhood dreams, while unfortunately I never did. Panic disorder ruined even what used to be one my main interests and passions. When anxious and that is pretty much all the time, I can’t have that calm focus any more I used to boast of. “Fight or flight” instinct accelerated everything in my life, as my body desperately tries to save itself from the indefinite disasters. I spot things in a split second, my reflexes are very accelerated, I jump even at not so very loud noises, and I constantly think of bad outcomes and how to evade them. My attention is very scattered all over the place, I can focus on 10 pages at most, my eyes just keep running over texts unable to settle down on what’s important. My world has become a series of flash images, rather than a steady flow of verbalized thoughts. I take up books and put them down again. I don’t read anymore. It’s as if I spent all my quality life so early on and that now I’m just running on quite senseless extra time. As if I were 150 years old, waiting to pass away, because all good has already happened and none is left for me.

That’s where Ljiljana helped reminding me that there are stories out there much worse than mine. I believe her when she says that books make us better in many different ways. Maybe I should just pick one and persevere, no matter how much attention deficit disorder limits me. Her last book which is now in stores is called “Our father”. Just a coincidence or symbolism, I don’t know, but I’m sure that my dad would be happy if I could mend at least some of the broken ties of my mind. If only he were still alive, to see me try and maybe, just maybe succeed one day.

Thank you for reading. And pick out a book. Read. There is a very special world out there waiting for you, something that can’t be replaced by internet texts, newspapers, magazines, television. If nothing else, vocabulary, expressions and descriptions differ significantly.

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuel your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.

Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

Jim Jarmusch, movie director

These words take us back to the never ending debate if there is any originality in art or in any sort of creative work, especially nowadays. Has everything already been said, heard, seen, represented? Is it really that we now have nothing else to add to it, that we can just reshape it again in our own, unique way? Where is the boundary between true stealing of somebody’s work and using it all same, but with adding to it some sort of extra special touch, something which can be just about enough to let the final product be declared authentic? Perhaps there is some beauty is the impossibility to have definite answers to these questions.

What I think though is that any creative effort is better than letting your ideas rot forever at the bottom of your mental drawers because something blocks their expression. If you need some extra push to it, do as Jarmusch says – life around you is an eternal source of inspiration. He takes me back to my childhood days when there was no internet and cell phones, information weren’t so readily available, but my inquisitive mind was extremely hungry of soaking in things around me. I’ve always been reading something, every second of my day – wash-machine powder boxes, leaflets, product descriptions, trademarks… I don’t think I was even aware how many shapes, colors and design essentials were coming my way, ready to set some inspiration spark going in some unpredictable way. Later as I grew older I got interested in more complex forms of artistic creations, fascinated by the messages some of them conveyed and by a completely new way to see the world that opened in front of me. What I never truly did before though was to try to actually write about what all this treasure meant to me. I never considered myself a writer, at least not a good one. I’ve always been a perfectionist, and the curse of perfectionism lies in the fact that if you feel that something is not good enough from your standpoint (i.e. the best in the world, brilliant, once in a lifetime thing), you believe that it shouldn’t even exist. And that’s so wrong! The perfection of life is consisted of millions of imperfections put together in a unique, unrepeatable way. Each one of them has some sense in that place that was attributed to it. Such is this blog of mine among thousands and thousands of others that coexist together. Maybe it’s small and insignificant, but it has its own place in this enormous blog family. Maybe it’s not perfect (what is “perfect” anyway?), but maybe somebody will find something for himself or herself in it. It’s always better to share, you never know who might need just the very thing you know something about. I’ll try to keep up the pace, and if ever stuck for inspiration, well, I’ll just look around me. My world is so small and constricted, yet each object around me has a story to tell. Hopefully somebody out there will like them and take from them the material for some personal future creations.

If there is no agitation, there is no writing. The man who is in balance with the world around him has no need to analyze it, to him it is sufficient to simple live in it. Agitation I’d say, or even discontent makes us search for the causes and dream of things beyond reality…

Aleksandar TiΕ‘ma, Serbian novelist

I do believe that a perfectly balanced life is something only rare people are blessed with. It must be wonderful to be in perfect harmony with yourself, utterly happy because at some given point everything has fallen into its place. Then you simply live, inhale life to the fullest, run around without much thinking. I still have some distant glimpses of such brief moments in my life and I cherish them as my very precious memories. Later on the other hand, many things went wrong, and that was when I really started searching for causes and answers I needed so badly. I still search for many of them, even though I’m aware that they probably don’t even exist. It is only now that my inner dialogues truly seek some form of expression, only now I have some real need for a creative outlet thanks to this never ending agitation. I don’t know where this can bring me, but it feels good to be on this path, together with all of you who liked what I wrote so far. Thank you so much for being there for me, and I’ll give my best to be there for you, too!