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Brian J. W. Lee is a writer. When he's not writing, he's plotting to plunge the world in a deep chasm of terror, darkness and screams. Sorry, did I get carried away?

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Writing in an Isolated Locale

So, I've been in Batam for the past three days. There's been some surprises, as well as some disappointments, but let's stick to the writing, shall we?

First of all, the environment is conducive for writing, and the reasons may not be what you expect. But first, let's start with the more predictable factors, shall we?:

- The city is far less dense and urbanised, which means slower pacing, less stress. This allows me to think even when I'm in some of the more 'crowded' places, such as the mall, which is nearly empty compared to the malls of Singapore, which are practically flowing with people. Creativity flows much more freely here.

- Cheaper cost of living removes further stress. I don't have to worry about money as I've come from a richer country. This allows me to focus on my writing, rather than survival. There's a reason why literacy wasn't very popular millennia ago, you know.

- Isolation. Basically, I have no human contact beyond the supermart clerks and cashiers or the receptionist at my boarding house. No one to bother me while I'm writing. Even as I write in a cafe, I find myself sweetly uninterrupted.

- The different environment is also beneficial as a form of inspiration. Instead of always setting my stories in Singapore, I now have an alternative location to write about, and first hand experience on how it is like here!

Now, onto the weirder reasons why Batam, as a less dense, rich and urbanised place is beneficial for writing:

- Lacking facilities and entertainment. By this, I mean access to computer games, the movies, public access books. But this is exactly what I'm looking for - Back in Singapore, I am always distracted, living a rather hedonistic lifestyle (compared to simpler living). I've purposely left all that behind. But won't you wilt away form the lack of cultural consumption, you ask?

Well, I've brought enough with me - my Kindle Paperwhite, my laptop has access to very simple games that I'll only be willing to play in bursts of 10 - 30 minutes (it's a writing laptop, so the specs are modest), and my boarding house room has a television (with a poor selection of channels with low quality visuals). It isn't that restaurants and the cinema are non-existent, just of lesser quality and accessibility (closest mall is over 1km away and has to be reached on foot through inhospitable terrain). All this has the effect of discouraging 'over-consumption' and I feel empowered to write as much for my own entertainment as well as for my professional development.

- Reduction of choice. I've 'trapped' myself in Batam for a month through my commitment of money into this venture and a fixed schedule for my transport. Similar to the above, it means that I have only my writing to worry about, and I'll have to make good on the money invested as well as the effort. All the more serious, by living here for a month, I'm losing a month in which I can spend on finding a job, so I'm investing time and opportunity cost as well. Quite a hefty price to flesh out some stories.

So there you have it! In short, I would recommend travelling overseas for a little writer's retreat, but you have to be ready to sacrifice. You'll need to know what you're getting into, and you'll need to plan a lot to pull it off. I've planned like a month in advance, but started looking into it MONTHS in advance.

It's been productive so far. But you guys will hear more about that in my first writing report on the morrow.

In the meantime, don't worry about me. Contrary to popular perception, 'rural' places aren't populated by nasty inbred cannibals. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to investigate that scream I just heard outside my door...

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