Serves Me Right

shortstory

I actually had four months to complete and submit an entry to the MPH-Alliance Bank National Short Story Competition. Instead of doing just that, I ended-up using the four months I had to royally screw it all up. Here are the lessons I learnt:

First of all, only idiots (like me) would leave writing their entries to the last minute. Doing this will leave you very little room to proof-read and edit the entry. As I painfully discovered, you need a mighty large time window in which to do this. Strapped with a small time frame, and impeded by lack of sleep (because you stayed up all night finishing the draft), it is unlikely that you’ll do a good job of proof-reading and editing your entry.  And I discovered first-hand that under these conditions you will – as sure as your credit card bills will come in at the end of the month – botch the whole damned thing up.

After I had printed, bound and submitted my entry, I decided to re-read the copy of my entry that was on my computer. Lo and behold, there were whole tracts of typo, grammatical and contextual mistakes – and there was precious little I could do about it now! Make no mistake: leaving things to the very last minute guarantees poor (if not disastrous) proof-reading and editing. This, in turn, will ensure that you hand in a sorry, half-assed excuse of an entry. I hate reading sloppily prepared documents – and it is almost a certainty that the judges will, too.

On an even more unflattering note, I also discovered that I don’t necessarily follow the very same advice I give others when they (yes, there are those who do) ask me about how to write.  When asked, I would usually prattle on about something called mushin: to live the moment and not be too bothered about winning or losing, life or death, failure or success, victory or defeat, etc. In other words, to just let the body (and mind) do what it needs to do – and not give a damn about the results. This is sound advice. The catch is, you’ve got to actually follow it.

It is now plainly obvious to me that I have stupidly ignored and overlooked my own advice. As a result, over the past four months, I have struggled with the very same considerations I tell people to ignore. Not very smart, eh? This pre-occupation with the outcome of the competition had led to me delay writing my story and only start it when it was already far too late.

Its not that my entry would have had much of a chance anyway. But because of my own stupidity, its chances are even slimmer now.

So, if you see a comical guy furiously kicking himself whenever you are in Kelana Jaya in the next few days, please say “Hello!”: chances are its going to be me.

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34 thoughts on “Serves Me Right

  1. I hate it when I have to tell people “I told you so”.

    I hate it even more when people tell me “I told you so”.

    Truly, I hate it.

    P/S: Huge grin just cracked on my face. No, make it a ROTFLOL.

    Elviza

    I’m sure once I am finished with kicking myself I’ll be ROTFLOL, too 🙂

  2. And I heard that you didn’t even have to do anything except write the damn story?

    Some silly idiots took the form for you, explained it to you in its minutest detail and heck, even gave you the damn receipt to staple together with form.

    The Kelantanese would say this to your lot: “Tok pa’ka mung nih…”

    Elviza

    Yes! You heard right – and still I managed to botch it all the same. This takes talent!

    Translation please: what’s “Tok pa’ka mung nih” mean?

    I’m a klutz when it comes to foreign languages, and I’m still struggling to speak Malay 😉

  3. Murphy’s Law and/or whatever other law they call it. Things done at the last minute very rarely come out perfect or up to expectations. That would be a miracle, or one is just bloody lucky.

    Learnt the lesson the hard way, many times, tapi still buat juga sometimes. Duh.

    Aud

    I guess that’s OK: this is what makes us human

  4. Hello!! Haha!!! it’s more fun leaving things to the very last minute.

    but i’m sure something good will come out of it.

    the-plague

    You’re a rock! Thanks for the vote of confidence.

  5. I thought I’m the only one who’s facing the same thing once the draft is published. For a couple of days after, I would reread it and spotted numerous grammatical errors, typos, stupid Enguhliszh structure sentence, and so on. So I’d better clear those mistakes and put that simple word in bracket; Post Title (edited) afterward, once the editing process is completed.

    BTW, I didn’t participate in the competition. There are tonnes of good writers there and I think mine is pretty much humble and average level macam budak sekolah menengah. So I’d better wait for the winners to be announced and read their masterpieces for reference. And inspiration.

    G’day

    Pok Deng

    You are way too modest. I’m sure you are a writer of high calibre.

  6. Salam MB,

    A lesson learnt, is a lesson well learnt; leave the past as it is but keep it well in mind for the next opportunity (easier said than done, huh?)

    cakapaje

    I have often been accused of being the kind that never learns. May be true. But I think this lesson has sunk down well.

  7. Mat

    Nero let Rome burn when he was on the fiddle. Napoleon fiddled the night before the march to Leningrad.

    It’s the inspiration, the last minute spurt. You never realise how satisfying until after the event.

    It’s form over substance, my friend. I’m sure it was a meaty, inspiring stuff that you submitted.

    Cheers and good luck.

    Dry Humour

    Thanks for the kind thoughts, my friend.

  8. Mat-san,

    The important fact remains…at least you tried!

    And we share something in common..I`m also a “last minute” ,definitely incorrigible ,creature of habit( in as far as that department is concerned). Plus,a metamorphosis at this stage in life is quite unthinkable, methinks.For instance, without fail,my packing for an intercontinental flight usually starts when the flight`s departure is about three hours away,and I`m just starting to look for the right luggage bag in the store room!And to think that flying the world over on business is what I do for a living!Well, that`s me.

    Don`t worry, Mat-san, you`re too good to flop this time.I didn`t even know there was such an MPH-organised competition until I read your posting!Not that it would have mattered.I wouldn`t even qualify, to begin with.Long way to go yet, in terms of penning anything worthwhile for others to read.

    Cheers again, my friend!

    Higashi-san

    You, sir, have a knack for saying things that leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

    Thank you

  9. After reading your entry, I am inclined to agree with Elviza – tok pakka sungguh eh mung.. (Loosely translated it means “you are a hopeless git, my friend!” 🙂

    Puteri Kamaliah

    Guilty on all counts. But I do deliver a brilliant rendition of “As Time Goes By” (hmmm… how is this relevant?)

  10. Dear MB,

    I have no guts to write..yet. How to be like you, sir?

    Ida

    You don’t want to be like me, ma’am: you want to be like you.

    You are the best person to express the wondrous feelings, emotions and experiences that are unique to you. This is what the world wants to read – not the second-rate interpretation written by a third party. No one can write a better you than you!

  11. Hi Matt,

    Rest assured u r not alone on this. It’s a ‘man’ thing to do. The world wud not have progress this far if not for all the last minutes and let’s face it; it’s exciting, good fun with all the adrenaline rush, the thrill of success & the belly laugh when it goes all hay wired.

    Notice that it’s a feminine thingy to plan meticulously beforehand on any assignment, even a trip down to the supermarket with their long grocery list, not to mention the “getting ready process” to attend a function. My tots are that 9 out of 10 times when u plan stuff, you’ll be bound to get disappointed! So really, we r all exponents of the ‘play by ear’, ‘cross the bridge when we reach there type’. This probably explains why we don’t have PMS….hehe….true or not Puteri? Don’t shoot me, I’m only a piano player.

    Cheers,
    Jolly Tommy,

    P/S- Matt, I’ve been meaning to ask u this a long time since u r in the profession: ‘Is a lady barrister without briefs a solicitor?

    Tommy

    No, sir – a lady barrister without briefs is not necessarily a solicitor; but I’ll bet that she is always giong to be the one who gets the business.

    But I share your wisdom about planning too meticulously: planning gets you disappointed more often and more deeply. Women just haven’t learnt this yet 😉

    Always good to hear from you, sir

  12. Re: Kama At-Tarawis’ comment

    See? Great minds think alike.

    But all said and kutuk already, I think the story is refreshingly different. Written with style that is unmistakably yours.

    I think you stand a huge change is at least getting shortlisted. But if you win, I want a share of the bounty *wink*

    I think you should publish the story here, or is it in violation of the conditions of the competition?

    Elviza

    Just to be on the safe side, it would be better to publish the story here only after they have shortlisted the winners. As you can see, I am still quite hopeful – but not as hopeful as before.

    And thanks for the thumbs up.

  13. Wow, looks like procrastination is all around us, eh? I am in software design and admit I have a big problem leaving things til last minute. After the meetings, tech specifications and costings are done, I tend to declare a tools-down period to ‘de-stress’, where everybody go do their own thing, like playing the bass guitar. haha what a joke. Because as the deadlines approach, you’ll really know the true meaning of stress! Its been like this for some time and its really a bad habit I can’t seem to shake off.

    Halim

    Hmmm… could it be that – albeit at the subconscious level – we procrastinate because we are closet adrenaline-junkies? That we are secretly addicted to the adrenaline rush induced by working against impossible deadlines?

    I’ll go listen to Rosie now.

  14. “I say never say never…
    neither give up nor surrender
    It ain’t over till the fat lady sings

    …and elvis hasn’t left the building.”

    –> hey it bloody rhymes!

    Show them what you got MB!

    tranquility

    You could have been a poet, bro!

    And thanks for keeping my spirits up.

  15. If you’re gonna kick yourself, save ye ole joints and do it in the Kelana Jaya pool. We might just bump into one another, too.

    Zendra

    Can do, ma’am.

    Kelana Jaya pool is only 15 minutes’ walk or so from where I live. But I wont be doing the kicking in the pool, though: I can’t swim.

  16. Mat B

    You know how much we like to ‘mengata’ you.. and we do it only to people we have a soft spot for… Nasib baik you never become an English teacher; kalau tidak lingkup anak dara orang, falling all over themselves to be the teacher’s pet.

    Tommy, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am relieved men are spared PMS; can’t imagine how they would cope with the mood swings..LOL

    Puteri Kamaliah

    Ah! But we’ve never met.

    If we had, then you’d know that I have the social graces of a certain Ketua Pemuda, look almost as ugly as he does, but with no where near as much money as he has. Yes: just about enough to turn-off even a female gorilla in heat 🙂

    Thus, anak daras are safe with me

  17. LOL @ elviza’s “Tok pa’ka mung nih…” and puteri kama’2 brilliant translation. 😀

    knowing your talent at original yarns though, you may just wing it and win. so will still keep my fingers crossed.

    in any case mat, here’s my suggestion on how to make the most of kicking yourself:

    – do a silat-like stance. you know the one, legs apart with knees slightly bent so you get a sort of half squat.

    – bend forward a bit, then do back-kicks aiming your heels towards your haunches.

    this way you get the satisfaction of kicking your own a*se while firming it and your legs at the same time. ;D

    mekyam

    I’m too old and decrepit for the silat stance nowadays. Regardless, I’m still able to do quite a good job of kicking myself in the arse as it is – not very efficient, but still quite effective.

    Thanks for the moral support and also your faith in my chances, ma’am

  18. *Off-topic… spring-cleaned my room yesterday and found my old fountain pen, havent used it since 1995. Its a slightly beat-up black Parker Duofold, with medium nib and a spare italics left-handed nib (I am a lefty). I believe its a 1993 model. Together with a fancy wooden box. I didnt use cartridges those days so it has the ink-pump(?) thingy. Any idea if this has any value with collectors, cos I am not sentimental about this pen.

    Halim

    Nah! It has no value on the secondary market. But if you want to throw it away, I can find a good home for it. *evil grin*

    But seriously: my uneducated estimate would place its value at a maximum of RM1,200 (if you drive a hard bargain and the buyer desperately wants that particular pen for its colour or something). Otherwise, a casual collector should offer something within the RM300 to RM500 range.

    My opinion: hang on to it. It is an icon and is an heirloom-grade pen.

    Caveat: I am not a professional appraiser, OK?

  19. Matt,

    For the benefit of your writing interest & all your budding writer fans; here’s a list of the 10 MOST irritating expressions as compiled recently by researchers at (yes) Oxford University; “We grow tired of anything that is repeated too often; an anecdote, a joke, a mannerism and the same seems to happen with some language,” author Jeremy Butterfield said.

    The list:
    1. At the end of the day.
    2. Fairly unique.
    3. I personally.
    4. At this moment in time.
    5. With all due respect.
    6. Absolutely.
    7. It’s a nightmare.
    8. Shouldn’t of
    9. 24/7
    10. It’s not rocket science.

    Hey Puteri, my Ah Soh mood swing can go from 0 to 100 in 5 seconds, faster that a Ferrari lah. Her definition of PMS is actually; PUTTING up with MEN SH*T……hehehe…That time of the month, I selalu main juah-juah.

    Have a good weekend all,
    Tommy,

    Tommy

    The 10 cliches you listed are guaranteed to get on anyone’s nerves very quickly: to be avoided at all costs.

    Thanks

  20. Mat,

    I’ve just read about the boxer Mike Tyson saying, “I guess I’m going to fade into Bolivian”.

    I don’t mind if the local Mike Tyson fade into Bolivian, too.

    Me? I don’t mind carrying his RM2.4 mill into Australia if he gives me 1/2 of it.

    Hope he’s not given any post. But you may have to look at your favourite KP face often in the papers soon. ( Sorry mate, I’m supposed to cheer you up. Don’t worry, with your kind of stories and writing prowess, the commas etc are only a matter of form, they will have more marks on substance).

    See, I’m using a lot of commas. It’s Friday lah, week-end coming.

    Cheers.

    Dry Humour

    Ha!ha!ha!

    “… fade into Bolivian”. ROTFLOL!

    There are a few people I’d like to fade into Bolivian, too!

  21. For those who may not have read my earlier comments –

    Pl. insert “this time” after the words “using a lot of commas”.

    Otherwise, I might appear heartless.

    I like this fellow Mat. I will not forsake him for all the goose liver pate in Paris.

    Cheers.

    Dry Humour

    No need to explain yourself, sir: everybody knows that you are as gentle-hearted and as kind as they come. I’ll be surprised if there is a single soul out there that doesn’t wish (maybe even secretly) that they were more like you.

    P/S I think there’s a lot of goose liver pate in Paris 😉

  22. Dude,

    Don’t worry.

    Let us analyse this logically.

    If you were to plot say, writing ability (good/bad) and discipline (merticulous/procrastinator) into some kind of BCG matrix, you will get the following combinations:

    1) Disciplined and can write well
    2) Disciplined but write crap
    3) Procrastinating and can write well
    4) Procrastinating but write crap

    Judging by the posts in this blog, I can say that you fall in the 3rd category in this current situation.

    Now, your main competitors will be the people in category (1). This means that you have a 50% probability of making it to the shortlist.

    And 50% is no slim chance, right?

    So stop kicking yourself and start drafting your “thank you” speech. *grins*

    Andrea

    Wow! There’s an idea: transposing writing styles to the Boston Consulting Group matrix. What a brilliant stroke of lateral thinking!

    Thanks for the moral support, ma’am.

  23. Is this a Great Story bro?

    http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2008/10/13/2008-10-13_brady_bunch_star_maureen_mccormick_admit.html

    BY JOSE MARTINEZ
    DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

    McCormick, now 52, made the shocking revelations in her new memoir, ‘Here’s The Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice.’

    Marcia, Marcia, Marcia – naughty, naughty, naughty!

    The “Brady Bunch” actress who starred as Marcia Brady admits in a new memoir she was a cocaine fiend who swapped sex for drugs, partied at the Playboy Mansion and bedded screen sibling Greg Brady.

    While on-camera, the big Brady sister pined for Monkees dreamboat Davy Jones, but off-camera she dated funnyman Steve Martin and singer **Michael Jackson**.

    SEE: HUGH HEFNER’S MANY WOMEN

    Maureen McCormick, 52, dishes the salacious secrets in “Here’s The Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice.”

    The tell-all tome hits bookstore shelves Tuesday and shreds what the actress describes as the “unreal perfection” of her television teen queen.

    “As a teenager, I had no idea that few people are everything they present to the outside world,” she writes in the book. “Yet there I was, hiding the reality of my life behind the unreal perfection of Marcia Brady.”

    PHOTOS: MEET HEF’S NEW TWINS

    McCormick was 14 in 1969 when viewers were introduced to the aw-shucks wholesomeness of the Brady Bunch – consisting of a “lovely lady,” “a man named Brady” and their six kids.

    Since then, fans have learned that Barry Williams, who played Greg, was a Casanova who romanced not just his on-screen sister but his on-screen mom, Florence Henderson, too – and that on-screen dad Mike Brady was gay.

    McCormick’s publishers last year shot down reports that she had a steamy lesbian affair with Eve Plumb, who played younger sister Jan.

    RELATED: PRESENTING…THE BRITISH TV PRESENTERS

    Still, “Here’s The Story” dishes plenty of dirt, with McCormick revealing she blew an interview with Steven Spielberg when she was high, and had long struggles with depression.

    The book describes her post-“Brady Bunch” descent into drug addiction, parties with Hugh Hefner and Sammy Davis Jr. and an unwanted pregnancy.

    Married with a teen-age daughter, McCormick has settled into a very Brady existence in California with her husband.

    The actress writes that she’s a long way from her days as a sweet-faced young hellion who sang “I think I’ll go for a walk outside now – the summer sun’s callin my name” by day, then ran wild by night.

    “No one suspected the fear that gnawed at me even as I lent my voice to the chorus of Bradys singing, “It’s a Sunshine Day,'” she wrote.

    jmartinez@edit.nydailynews.com

    Mandangkan hal yang tersebut, makanya apa lah kiranya penyanyi/pelakun Denada Elizabeth Anggia Ayu — anak Emilia Contessa (maknya dulu kan jadi gilaan ramei pria) — jadi gantinya pula. Beberapa sinetron yang pernah dibintanginya di antaranya “Hari-hari Mau”, “Nyari Bini” & ” Aku Cinta Kamu”.

    Waduh, menyimpang kut? Soori.. saja ngusik. Nak test Storyline baru:)

  24. Salam tuan rumah, pertama kali saya ke sini. Saya juga punya penyakit yang sama. Suka sangat menulis saat akhir lepas tu menyesal tak sudah sebab kesilapan kecil yang boleh dielak jika punya masa. Tapi masalahnya masa tu la adrenalin dengan agresifnya pushing my brain to move the story forward. (alasan, alasan..). Nice blog. Boleh saya perbetul grammar saya yang agak nonexistent itu… 🙂

    eskapisminda

    Selamat datang dan terima kasih keatas kata-kata yang sungguh memberansangkan.

  25. dak ah bau thanks for the story and link. She sure was pretty then. And Barry Williams bonking his on-screen mom, I bet he thinks thats kinky.

  26. Dato

    Pls don’t mind me calling you that. Everybody is a Dato these days. Bollywood actors, corrupt politicians, comediennes (spelling?) and all.

    But Jeane as a Tun? I saw the same question in other blogs as well. I can understand Tunship for Dr Siti Hasmah. Her many years of contribution for Bakti and all.

    Sorry my friend, can’t cheer you up to day. My week-end mood is dampened reading not-so-funny news. Maybe I just give you company in state of mind. We’ll be cheerful next time.

    Still, cheers.

    Dry Humour

    I tend to agree with you. It seems the powers that be are intent on turning titles like Dato’/Datuk and even Tun into meaningless prefixes. I can see why Dato’/Datuk has become so ‘cheap’. But shouldn’t Tun stand for something?

    What will they think of next?

  27. Stop kicking yourself and go for a plate of Uncle Law Wan kerang char kuey teow at KJ…
    His kuey teow will make you forget all the grammatical errors, spelling errors and any badly edited stuffs…

    That’s my strategy lah anyways… bad writing? Eat kuey teow. It works for me… dunno about you though. 😛

    percicilan

    Law Wan is good but the auntie who operates a stall at a mamak shop near FAM Kelana Jaya is way better. In fact, I think I’ll just pop in to visit her in a few minutes – for a few plates of her char kuey teow!

  28. Halim, ya lor..me still remember her as she was..are Men blind? How, Bang?

    percicilan, where ah is Uncle Law Wan in KJ? I go to Auntie’s one at FAM,, ta pau some more wor,,Licking good wor:)

    dak ah bau

    I second the auntie at FAM!

  29. Mat

    Thank God you are back. You kept quiet for a while my heart nearly dlop. (spelling ok)

    In Japanese it would be “hope you enjoy this fright ” .. or she says “I rub you”.

    Cannot say too many endearing words to you as I was MCKK. Won’t tell you whether I was the Rear Admiral kind. Didn’t like the Navy because most ports are dirty.

    Don’t care where I’m going as far as the subject of your posting is concerned. So long as we forget our problems, ha?

    Did the lompat-lompat fellow or the KP face-you-no-like chap say these? Who cares about principle when we have problems … they’ll say, who cares when we have tons of money. The authorities don’t.

    Me? I’m going to the toyol to get some.

    Cheers, man.

    Dry Humour

    Your euphemisms crack me up, my friend! MCKK Rear Admirals! ROTFLOL

    Yeah! Who cares about principles when we’ve problems! Principles are for those who can afford them: the rich.

    Hang on a minute… that didn’t sound quite right, did it? I know quite a lot of rich folks who don’t have any princip- Oh well, never mind…

  30. Mat-san,

    That fat auntie`s Kuay Teow at the corner shoplot near FAM is gone for some time now.Replaced by a couple of Indon girls selling the same thing.But the end product`s definitely not the same.So, Lau Wan`s is currently the best Kuay Teow in that area,though the best is still to be found at the Golfers` Terrace of the Subang Golf Club(also merits consideration as it`s in the same area).

    Cheers!

    Higashi-san

    Aha! But she is still there – she moved to the other shop at the end of the same block of shoplots.Give it a look-see: you won’t be disappointed!

    In the meantime, I will give the Golfers’ Terrance a look-see.

  31. Mat-san,

    Mtks for that wonderful tip.I`ll certainly check that Fat Aunty out at the other end of the shoplot row the next time I`m in the vicinity…must be that Mamak Restaurant facing the Wisma FAM directly.Not that I`m a die-hard kuey teow fan.More of a sushi and soba regular these days…gotta watch the fat and the calories now,though my latest annual medical check-up is AOK, and in fact I`ve managed to trim off about 6-Kgs these last 4-months or so.Not bad!

    You take care,my friend…though I have this faint suspicion that it`s the haute cuisine par excellence that motivates your excellent writings, so dieting in any form will be tough on you..don`t want to kill all that creativity,right?Me?I`m basically motivated by unsolicited(honest to God here!) naughty thoughts finding their way into a very fertile mind,he!he!

    Cheers!

    Higashi-san

    That’s right, sir. The mamak joint (at the other end of the shoplot) is called Restoran Jamal Mohamad (or something close to that). You’ll find fat auntie there.

    I’m off there right now for some kuey teow therapy – no excuses needed.

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