Calvin Dong
3 min readFeb 2, 2018

Today I went to a stationery store.

Today I didn’t go to a stationery store. I went to Cheung Chau instead. It was a lovely place, but I couldn’t help but feel a little dissatisfied. I can climb all the flights of stairs I want and not feel like I accomplished anything, but I can read one pretty sentence and feel like I understand everything. There’s serenity in emptiness, the emptiness I feel when I stand on top of the world and see how minuscule everything really is. It’s just unsatisfying to seek out that emptiness all the time. Once is enough.

I can see the artistry in the wavering black lines that make up each character. Perhaps wavering isn’t the right word to describe it, because they waver in what’s not on the page. Each brush stroke has a feeling of intentionality behind it, when they taper off to nothing. Funny, because I wouldn’t have appreciated these things two years ago, but watching the documentary on Fu Shen made me appreciate the difficulty of forming a style whether that’s in art or anything else.

~4 days later

Sometimes you just stand in the shower and begin to think very spiraling thoughts. Upwards and downwards, and everything in between. In the sense that one hypothetical forms that becomes a link to another that creates a tenuously connected bridge of what ifs, that then shatters to reveal the steam lifting off your skin.

“Perhaps the creative itch is gone”, Aric thinks to himself.

Sheets of paper littered his desk like dead soldiers — what’s the use of being a writer when you can’t finish? — each one being a lovingly assembled tapestry that somehow can’t fill the canvas. Young and Taylor? Ruined by their two threads of separate but linked lives never coming together. That detective named Adam? Ruined because he always knew too much at every turn. There are far more reasons for a story to die than for it to conclude. Frustrating.

For all that, Aric had still had had a book reach the NYT Bestseller’s List. His debut, a nonfiction exposé of one of the greatest minds of his time, had caught on fire with the public and been one of the most successful debuts in recent memory. Safe, his editor told him. Landing an opportunity to write about a woman like her was more of the work than writing the book itself, he supposed. Not to mention that with anything semi-biographical the story has already reached its conclusion, when otherwise it has yet to be told. He had to follow that up a book that he himself could be proud of, appeased a public who only knew him as a biographical writer, and got his editor’s notoriously fickle approval. Easy enough, right?


He opened the door, to see his editor, Sen, peering in at him.

“Just wanted to check in to see where we’re at with the ___; I’d love to get it out by the end of the month, if possible. The publishing house wants something quick.”

“I, uh -”, Aric gestured at the piles of papers littering his desk, “am working on it.”

Sen pushed up his glasses and frowned.

“Do you need some connections — I can get you on the phone with someone. It would be a fascinating tale; my connect knows someone who just escaped from North Korea — ”

Aric brushed it away like he was swatting a fly. “No, Sen, I thought we agreed on this — I want to write something that is actually near and dear to me. Not another journey through someone else’s life.”

“Aric, you have one month. I’m just looking out for your best interests here.”

“No, Sen, I appreciate it, I really do — don’t worry about me.”

The door slowly swung shut as Aric reclined on his desk chair and interlaced his fingers behind his head.

on a plane to Taiwan