Finally, after a five-month (?) hiatus, I worked up the courage to blog again. You may say how I make it sound like a scary thing but it really is….well at least for my anxiety-ridden, perfectionist ass that is 😛
Anyway, I’m about to turn 25 and I can’t say I enjoy the thought of turning 25. When I was a teen, I though 25 as being way old…like 40-something old. I’m not even exaggerating. Most 25-year-old people I knew then are married, have kids, promoted into managers in their line of work or have settled down abroad.
Meanwhile, here I am, having achieved none of these things. And I can’t shake off that dismal thought that I’ll still be ranting about this when I’m about to turn 26, or turn 30, or 45. In this point in time where everything you could do or what you couldn’t do are chronicled in the internet and social media, the pressure to be successful in the eyes of the world just got more intimidating.
But enough about that! At the bright side of things, let me share some exciting news. I finally have my own website! I’m still in the process of moving my old blog entries to the new one so it’s still a bit clutter-y at this point.
Anyway, feel free to check it out!
I’ll still keep this blog active especially now that I have several projects in mind. I will probably keep this around until my 30+ years old and I’m still crying about how unfair the world is 🙂
So after a two-month hiatus, I finally decided to add a post. I’ve been meaning to update my blog for goodness knows long but there’s this one big wall that’s pressing against my face and I can’t find my way around it.
The wall is coated with black, ugly letters written in blood and grime. Everytime I blink, the words seemed to grow bigger and thicker until I cannot erase the image in my mind and I’m so overwhelmed by the message that all the ideas and thoughts I was hoarding in my brain were flushed down the drain.
“YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT”
Really, how many times did we ever think of this? I guess most writers, from the budding ones to the veterans, have to struggle with that little voice in their heads. Words like “This is not worth writing about” or “This pathetic excuse of a writing” would always float above our consciousness until the droplets of doubt and insecurity accumulate into an angry, ominous cloud which rains down our enthusiasm and vigor until we’re left feeling nothing.
To top it all that, we have to lead two lives. One that is rooted to the reality of paying bills, earning enough for the family, running ahead of the rat race, expanding our social circle and business networks, taking our families or partners to a date, finishing our masters degree and working hard for a promotion. Mundane stuff. We have responsibilities and we cannot just push it all away as easily as we push our laptops, papers and pens away.
The other world is something we created by our own. Here, we dream our biggest dreams and deal with our nightmares, our fears. We thread on that thin line between striving for it and losing it. Our imagination can only go as far as we allow it to go. We escape into this world oftentimes but staying too long, as comforting as it sounds, is dangerous.
So to deal with that, we create a pathway between these two worlds. We weave our feelings and thoughts into words. Our experiences, the people we meet, the failures and milestones, are mulled over in our heads until we immortalize these into words, stories, anecdotes, into art. We often get the inspiration from the real world. Anything we find memorable, happy or sad, gets into the paper.
During my two months of hiatus, I learned that I don’t necessarily need to experience a big change, or a life-changing moment in the real world, to inspire my writing. It was a miserable two months, and everyday I was consumed by guilt over my lack of enthusiasm and self-hate for not ‘truly living enough’. I learned that it’s so easy to hate yourself, that it’s so easy to trap ourselves in the world we created and to hide behind the words you kept so close to yourself. I learned that this is the biggest mistake you could ever do in your life, in your two lives.
And so, I’m returning to this blog, chipping away the big, bad wall. Behind that, I know I’ll face heavy downpour but I’ll persist and plow my way up..or down. It doesn’t matter as long as I reach the place where I wanted to be. Where I can find inner peace with myself and accept the fact that life doesn’t figure itself out right in your face.
But despite the randomness and craziness of it all, remember that there is always something worth writing about.
As a lover of words and a student of writing, I’ve always had this innate fear that I would no longer have anything to write about.
What I mean by that is, I would simply lose the desire to write. That anything I would ever experience, no matter how monumental or simple it is to my life, would lose its appeal to be immortalized into words. I fear I might lose my ‘second sight’ – an acquired sense which lets you perceive any object, person or a happening beyond than just the literal and the physical.
I was shaped into thinking that writers don’t just ‘live on the moment’ – they need to ‘feel’. In order to capture the moment, they need to encapsulate the wonder, disgust, awe, anger, loathing, hilarity, and other ranges of emotion into words. In short, it is usually the emotion that drives the writing. We are literally bursting with feelings, being sensitive souls that we are. Writing allows us to release that inward pressure and although it may disappear overtime, we would soon feel an unmistakable pang of regret of not ‘writing about it.’
But what happens when we stop to feel?
That was my case for the last three months. I call it writing hibernation. While writer’s block prevents you to write in the technical sense of the word, a writer’s hibernation prevents you to ‘think and feel like a writer.’ It replaces your love for learning and weaving words with indifference. A period of just living by, not living on. I felt like a passenger on a bus who is gazing through the window when something strange happens. I will just watch it with interest for a moment, think of other things and eventually forget the whole thing.
My rational side tells me that it’s all biological. Our brains like to prioritize things and activities in a day-to-day basis. It gets rid of clutter – those random thoughts, curious sights that don’t matter to our practical lives, daydreams and what-ifs – for a more pressing issues like agendas for Monday’s meetings, convincing a potential client or what to give to your significant other on your anniversary. We thought these are all too normal to write about. There’s nothing new in them anyway. And so the brain simply gets rid the thought of writing it and move on to something else.
When I logged into my blog this past week, I cringed at the number of weeks I wasn’t able to post. I looked back and thought, hey there’s nothing to write about for the past few months (no life-changing encounter, no travels, no milestones, no moments of hitting rock-bottom) so I have a perfect excuse for not writing. But this reasoning calls upon a more important question: Do I need to experience these moments just to have something to write about?
Did I lose the ability to ‘feel’?
And I know that my worst fear is starting to unfold itself before me. This is what drove me to write this post – fear, anxiety, disappointment over myself. I feel bad. I welcome and embrace this emotion warmly. After all, writing is unbiased to any emotion that propels it.
It’s fairly obvious by now but the best way to break through your writer’s hibernation is to write your way through it, just like if you have writer’s block. There is no other way.
In a TEDtalk shared by Elizabeth Gilbert, she posed an interesting question about the nature of genius and artistry. According to the ever fascinating Greeks, genius stops becoming the little adjective we uttered out of reverence and admiration, but a noun, a subject that refers to that naughty little spirit which whispers words of wisdom and inspiration into your ears. It speaks whenever it wants and it remains silent even if you try so hard to make it talk. It has its own mind, and you have to cajole it to come out.
Sounds ehhh? Well, we’re in this world to listen and digest ideas so the more I listened to it, the more it actually makes sense.
Elizabeth Gilbert will convince you more than my words can ever do so here’s the clip for you to watch:
So according to Gilbert, a genius is a:
– creative spirit
– comes to you in a sudden moment, kind of like a sweet aroma of the blooming flowers or a rush of wind
– someone you have to listen in
– basically your partner in creating art
-the one supposed to take all the credit because it did all the thinking and you kind-of just plagiarized its ideas
As a writer (or someone pretending to be a writer, come on it’s time to give my genius a credit), relating the genius spirit to creating art and words like writing is easy. Writers, like musicians, have an instinctive urge to listen. We try to listen to the harmony of words when we read, we try to listen to other peoples’ conversations to make dialogues in our heads, we like to listen to other people and the way they talk, we like to listen to stories of other people even though we don’t know them and they probably live in another world beside ours and that explains why we love to read.
Great writers love to listen and somewhere out there, a spirit or a sprite or some supernatural force is driving them to create art. Oftentimes, they create art that’s completely opposite of what people perceived them to be. They create art that surprise the world because nobody expected them to take that risk and doing that is so unnaturally like them. It’s almost as if they are an another person.
And great artists acted like they hardly take the credit of what they created. It’s as if like it’s just another pot they molded out from clay and put it beside other ‘more ordinary’ pots they created while all the people around them are amazed with its beauty. It’s as if they are bored with their achievements and all they want is to return to the potter wheel, promptly going back to work.
As long as they work, as long as they create, something great will come out of that work. It’s like a supernatural force is driving them to work and be fair in everything they created.
It doesn’t mean that a genius or a creative spirit gets to pick the privileged, the most intelligent or the most educated…I believe it often picks the one who is most dedicated, the most committed and finally, a person who thinks that his life is not actually his, but it’s made for the purpose of creating things that will outlive him someday.
And even if you are pragmatic or you don’t believe in this genius, it’s funny to think that it somehow parallels the reality of creating art. Creative people are the most dedicated, the most committed and would always think ahead of their lives.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is creativity in a nutshell.
Sometimes I question myself why I write. Do I write for fun? Or for the hell of it? Or that I just have to do it because I’m lofty enough to regard myself as such. Sometimes, I have selfish reasons. I want myself to be heard and the people to listen to me. Sometimes, I convince myself through empty words and platitudes. Writing, in itself, is ego-inflating.
When I write, I throw away the conscious part of me, the insecure, ugly side that’s clings into my skin like a thick aroma of weakness and falsehood. Sometimes, I never write at all, content with my thoughts and ideas left unheard, unspoken, betraying the craft with just a shake of a head and thinking that it’s not worth of a word.
Words come easily to me when I write. I prefer email than voicemail. I like texting more than calling. I can have a personal conversation face-to-face with a friend and think about more comforting words to say when I face a blank paper. I would have enjoyed the time when people write letters for each other, never mind the inconvenience of late response and distance. Words that travel a great distance are priceless.
Sometimes, I’m envious of those writers who knew what words to say to express themselves. Sometimes, I even think that I write just to prove that I can write as well as they are. Sometimes, I write to prove to myself that I can write as well as I think I do.
Sometimes, I write to release the stress and exhaustion after a long, hard day, un-poetic day. Sometimes, the thing that causes so much stress and exhaustion is writing itself.
I often question myself why I write, but I’m finally realizing it doesn’t matter at all. More than an art or a craft or a science or a hobby, writing is an unpardonable vice of my life; a constant part of my existence. To deny it is to deny living. Whenever I am plagued by the question of why I write, or the urge to write, I try to think of a scenario where I cannot write anymore.
And that is something I cannot imagine living without.
Bach in grade school, I was the regular quiet girl off with her own world, happy while the rest of the world ignores her. Had just two bestfriends and would stay inside the classroom during recess with a good book than terrorize the playground.
One of my fondest memories is to smuggle a comic book and read them during math lectures while using textbooks as covers. Because I wear glasses and speak poshy, uncommon words I deliberately memorized to suck it up, all the teachers generally considered me as the well-behaved, studious girl and so, I get away with my every crime that easily.
When you love to read, you’d find that the English teachers would always adore you, especially if you’re in a small school such as mine. No one pleases them than to see kids reading thick paperbacks with brows furrowed in concentration. If they only knew how hard it is for me to stifle my laugh over the Archie Comic Digest I am reading smugly shielded by a thick paperback of “War and Peace.” For most teachers, they’d rather forgive a student passing out his boredom on class by reading than sleeping through it all.
One day, my math teacher caught me reading in class one time. Since we’re clearly not in a reading or English class, she took away my comic and enacted the punishment. This was the third time in a row I was caught reading. I thought she’s going to hand me the chalk and make me suffer in front of the class by trying to solve a very long word problem but she just told me I have to go to the principal’s office after class. Mrs. Ligot will see to my case.
Mrs. Ligot is a small lady with a gentle voice. Although wrinkles ran all over her face, she’d always wear a graceful smile which can deceive you into thinking she wouldn’t hurt a fly. She’s not the type of headmasters students would cower in fear from everytime they get sent to her office; in fact when I was waiting for her, I was enjoying myself with the office’s cool air-conditioner tinged with spicy jasmine scent. But don’t get me wrong, she can be pretty intimidating when her fuse blows up. Her small stature effectively hides how firm and strict she is.
When I explained to Mrs. Ligot what I did, she just smiled benignly and said “You really love reading books, don’t you, Jannica?” (And I forgot, she knows EVERY student’s name)
“Comics po. Nagbabasa po ako ng comics” I meekly said.
“Comics, books, they’re all the same. They’re made to read” she said. “I heard you love reading”
There are tons in my class who also love to read so I never consider my love of reading as anything special. In the setting I grew up in, adults would gush over young readers as if they possess some incredible mind power uncommon to many, which means they seldom encounter a child who loves to read and that in itself is a sad thing to think about. “Medyo lang po.”
“Have you ever tried writing?” she asks while peering at me through sharp horn-rimmed glasses.
I thought of my horrible penmanship and wildly shook my head. “Pangit po sulat ko ma’am” I thought she’d order me to write a letter to my parents or something.
She threw her head back and laughed for a long time “I’m thinking of enlisting the school in the District Press Conference.” Seeing my blank expression, she continued. “It’s a contest of writing in journalism – news writing, features, editorials, sports…Every school in the district will participate. I’m thinking of including you in the team”
I was overcome with shock and extreme worry (but really, more of the latter) “Hindi po ako marunong magsulat” I said in a fearful voice as if she just asked me to run barefoot in smoldering ashes.
I never really considered writing before. You can ask me to read an entire series of Harry potter for one week but never an essay about how the books affected you as a person. Writing’s too personal. It reveals something of your personality, and I can profess I’m the most closeted secretive girl there is. Revealing anything about myself to other people without my consent is just one of my fears.
It’s like everytime you write something, you’re leaving a part of your soul behind , just like what Voldemort did on Horcruxes. To attain immortality, one must pay the painful price of baring his soul and I had a feeling I’m not prepared for that kind of sacrifice.
I’m your regular wallflower, content to watch everything silently in the corner, never sharing anything; Sharing my opinions, my beliefs, my style and how I view the world, opening up like a bud on spring is the least of what I want.
But Mrs. Ligot insisted that I should try. See how determined she is? Who knew a little lady could have such an iron will? She says that in any case, I still have to make up for my misbehavior in class. “You wouldn’t lose anything,” she assures but the word ‘lose’ made me even more frightened more than anything. “Why don’t you just give it a try? After some practices and trainings, you can tell me if you wanted to leave”
I reluctantly became the part of the first ever newspaper staff of the school, along with a handful of my friends and some fifth and sixth graders.
The first time I write something is a poem. Yes,A short, mushy poem. I still feel a hot flush creeping on my face everytime I remember reading it. When I submitted it to Mrs. Ligot for review, I literally ran away. Part of my reluctance in writing is eliciting negative comments about the way I see things, and ultimately, rejection of my character. See how messed up I am as a kid? (and maybe until now)
I came to meet Mrs. Ligot later that afternoon in the library where the school newspaper meeting is. She is wearing that all perpetual motherly smile while watching me clumsily shuffling my way to her.
“Is this the first poem you wrote?” she asked, holding the tiny piece of paper which contained jumbled words so meaningless and cheesy I might as well have swallowed up a dictionary and vomited words in random.
I nodded bravely. I really didn’t care if I get kicked out of the campus paper team or what. To be honest, I grew to like it. Suddenly, my mind isn’t just all about reading and understanding words; it’s creating them. The experience of having to make readers feel, see, or think the same way as you do gives me a bittersweet sense of taking a piece of my soul and immortalizing it into a piece of paper and letting it go.
“This is good.” she said. “There’s a few grammar problems but for your first poem, this is excellent!” I looked up to her to see if she’s joking but she’s looking at the paper and looking genuinely pleased about it. “Isasama ko to on the first issue of our newspaper for the literary page.”
“Wag na lang po” I said but she just shook her head and smiled.
“You shouldn’t be ashamed of your work” she continues. “Magsulat ka lang nang magsulat. You’ll find it to be the most natural thing you can do after reading. Walang tama o mali sa pagsusulat at sa nagsusulat. Just a little bit of skill there and a tiny bit of kapal ng mukha, you’ll get by”
Needless to say, my passion for writing started after that. My poem got published in the school paper, and sure my archrival in class, a mean arrogant boy who I will never name, mocked at how I write it, and sure I cringed inwardly everytime I read it, my ambition to become a writer never wavered. Ever since Mrs. Ligot suggested me to write and open myself up to the world, I think I changed for the better, and i began to trust on my words more and more. I began to trust on myself more and more.
Everytime I write an article, a chapter, a poem, a news piece, I’d always remember Mrs. Ligot. We would still get in touch sometimes in high school but I’ve never heard of her anymore as I entered the university except some snippets of her leaving the country and settling with one of her sons living in the States. Every time she visits the old school, it’s heartwarming to know that she still inquires about me from my younger cousins who are studying there. More than remembering a fond memory of a teacher, it’s such a happy feeling when a teacher remembers you.
Someday I’m planning to return to contact her, arrange a meet up and tell her that I’m now a successful journalist or a writer, a game-changer, or maybe as a lost twenty-something girl who hadn’t still found her place in the world. Victorious or battered down, no matter what, I would stand in front of her as the girl whose life she had changed and tell her how much it meant to me.
In the meantime, I’ll just enjoy myself running around and playing Voldemort, casting a piece of my soul to every word, every sentence, every paper and every story to my quest of immortality.