One of my all time favorite authors is Stephen King. In his book, On Writing, he says that to be a writer, one must do two things: first, one must read a lot and, second, one must write a lot. I got the former pretty down pat as I read voraciously. The latter however is a different story.
I cannot really say when I started being a writer. I wrote a few fluff pieces here and there and the odd film review a few times, but those were just thoughtless exercises. If I could say that there was a starting point to seriously writing maybe it was when I began this blog.
Initially, the whole point of the blog was to find emotional release. Catharsis. For reasons that shall remain undisclosed (or maybe I did disclose them in my past work) I went through a pretty rough period of emotional stress and I had very few options to let go of these emotions. So I turned to writing.
Now, I feel that the reasons I write are slightly different. I still seek emotional release but attached to this, I also seek to exercise this craft. Like a painter or actor or any other artist, the best way to improve is to keep plying your skill. I fully subscribe to the concept of 10,000 hours – that theory that to be great at something, you have to continously practice it for 10,000 hours.
This is one of the primary reasons why I write nearly every day (the other reason was that I was having a manic episode). Except for that two week interval in the hospital, nearly everyday I have created something new. Honestly, some of the work I did feels like crap a lot of the time but I still publish them anyway. The truth is some of my worst work alongside my best provides valuable insight on what is good and what is downright horrendous. This way I learn and whenever you learn, you improve.
During this two month long journey, I have picked up a few things on how I write. I learned that my grammar still needs a ton of work. The semicolon still confounds me and I often make spelling errors every so often. I also have this annoying habit of stopping in mid-sentence and then starting a whole new line of thought. That is why sometimes when I publish something, there are a lot of broken sentences or phrases that seem to jump out of nowhere. Dialogue is a work in progress for me and it is something I would like to improve on tremendously.
I also learned that there are a lot of sources from where you can draw your stories. Some of the pieces I’ve done are based on real life. For example, Interdimensional Love Story No. 1, despite its metaphysical theme, and Mga Bagay na Hindi Ko Pwede Sabihin are based on real life conversations I had with somebody.
I do however like to expirement and I try to find different angles and points of view. Invisible Girl was written because I wanted to see if I could write from a female point of view. It was honestly one the harder pieces to pull off. The Cellist on the other hand was supposed to be a metaphor on how our neuroses can fuel our art. I also like to challenge myself and extend my range. I am not that well versed in writing in Tagalog, but I did it anyway to prove that I can. The Hugot Manifesto could have very well been written in English, but I wanted to see how far I could take myself while writing in Tagalog.
Inspiration also strikes anywhere and anytime. I wrote The Hugot in Our Stars while dead drunk in a bar in Makati. I wrote Underneath the Mango Tree while waiting for a doctor in Makati Medical Center. That is why my preferred writing tool is my phone. All my work here on this blog was actually written on my trusty Sony Xperia Z3 using the Writer app. When inspiration strikes me, I just whip out my phone and I start writing furiously. The other reason is much more pragmatic. I have atrocious handwriting. I am cursed with the astonishing ability to make ordinary letters into incomprehensible pictographs. I cannot even read my own chicken scratches. It would be cool to lug around a moleskine notebook, but that simply is not an option for me.
Lastly, I learned that writing is mostly for your own benefit. I learned at the end of the day, you write about the things you like and there is enormous fulfillment in being part of the creative process. However, I disabused myself of the notion that this should be the only reason for a person to write or engage in any artform for that matter. Writing for an audience has a purpose and has a place in our world. Everybody has talent. With practice, it becomes a skill. However, to be truly called art, you have to expose it to the world. You have to let other people see what you can do. When you open your work to critique, that is when you truly begin to be an artist.
I end with this. Keep writing. Keep putting down your thoughts in black and white. Then show it to the world. You have something to contribute and the universe will be a better place because you add your voice to its symphony.