Mr Mak Shu-kin: Hanging on to dreams of writing
27 Dec 2017
The best way to understand a creative writer is by reading his writing.
Mr Mak Shu-kin, Lecturer of the Language Centre of HKBU, obtained both his bachelor's degree in Chinese Language and Literature and master of philosophy degree at HKBU. As one of the founders of the teen literature magazine Platform, he produced a series of anthologies, featuring essays, poems and fiction writing, which has won numerous literature awards and distinctions.
This year, his collection of essays Glistening Rapids won the Biennial Award in the Essay Category of the 14th Hong Kong Biennial Awards for Chinese Literature. This award means a lot to him as it coincides with the 20th year since he began to write creatively and also, in his words, he can finally untie a "knot" in his life. "The awards bestowed upon me were a great source of encouragement at different stages of my writing journey, getting me motivated again just when I had lost enthusiasm and maintaining my passion for creative writing. This is the first accolade I received for a book entirely written by me. It recognises my steadfast literary endeavours and shows that I have finally reached my long-awaited goal."
Mr Mak began to pursue creative writing while studying at university. At the time, he was greatly encouraged and inspired by the lively communication among peers and teachers, especially discourses with Mrs Ho Wu Yin-ching. However, it is not easy to make a creative dream come true in Hong Kong. "I fully understand that I cannot earn a living by writing in Hong Kong, so I joined a publishing company after I was awarded my master's degree. However, long working hours killed my passion for creative writing. Then, I decided to quit my job and freelance full-time."
As a freelancer, Mr Mak faced lots of difficulties and at the same time, he learnt a lot during that period. "When you make up your mind to become a creative writer in Hong Kong, you can choose to focus on popular literature or classic literature. The former, featuring pop culture, is supported by publishers and is always popular. However, this is simply not my dream as I want to have free creative expression in terms of theme and direction."
Following the rather weak sales performance of his second collection of essays, Mr Mak questioned his decision to focus on classic literature. At one point, he even wanted to give up and take up another interest, namely glass art. "While working on glass casting I realised there are many uncontrollable factors affecting the results, it was then I came to the conclusion that I should not let those factors kill my enthusiasm for creative writing." Thereafter, his passion for creative writing was reignited but he did not turn his interest into a career. Nine years ago, Mr Mak joined HKBU and has since worked as a Lecturer at the Language Centre.
Apart from teaching, Mr Mak also works hard to promote literature in Hong Kong. In recent decades, the Internet has given rise to fast culture and it has been observed that literature is not as treasured as it once was. Recognising this trend, Mr Mak and like-minded friends seek out opportunities to promote literature. "Technological advancements have resulted in new and different forms of entertainment and thus we seldom read books nowadays. However, we think that technology can also bring more opportunities to promote literature in other ways. For example, social media platforms make it easier to gather literature lovers while online promotions have become more interactive. In recent years, some people have combined literature and life together to introduce some nice crossovers with other elements, which raises public awareness and knowledge of literature."