Writing amid static

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Ever since I joined the “corporate arena” (an annoying term I got from an officemate), I haven’t been able to write things that aren’t, er… corporate-y.

It’s not for lack of trying. Every lunchbreak, I would go to a nearby fountain — orange journal tucked under my sweaty pits — and sit quietly for half an hour, trying to write. I’d like to think I do this solely to please my Muse and act like a writer dedicated to his craft. But mostly, it’s because the food around BGC is hella expensive and I’m a cheapskate

I’d try and make an essay, a poem, even a song lyric — anything to get that pen moving across the page. Sometimes, I would be successful in roping a few words, making a coherent paragraph that captures my thoughts. Other times, I would go back to the office, frustrated and hungry, the scent of failure mixing with a tinge of sweat and B.O.

Stephen King once said that waiting for inspiration to strike is for amateurs, and that real writers just power through and write. And though I agree with that sentiment (who am I to disagree with the King of Horror? I wouldn’t want him to sic his creations on me), it’s hard to power through when all you hear is “static”.

That’s how it feels lately, whenever I try to write for pleasure. The voice in my head  — the good one, not the one who tells me streaking in public is a great idea — is trapped behind a wall of static, unable to narrate anything. It’s like watching telenovela with bad reception, trying to piece a story together using fuzzy images, incomprehensible noise, and the passionate squawking of characters. Utter chaos.

I may be suffering from the writer’s equivalent of erectile dysfunction. Even the fountain seemed to agree during one of my lunch sessions: from a strong water cannon, it turned into a tiny sprout — a fitting metaphor for the lack of passion in my writing.

I need to try the two sure-fire methods of getting your mojo back: reading more and writing more. The last time I picked up a book (In Evil Hour by Gabriel Garcia Marquez), I found the whole thing tiring. I couldn’t even finish 20 pages in a week. I’ve also been neglecting my blog updates, since I’m transitioning at my new work.

I’ll update more often from now on, til I reach the point where static becomes clear and the voice is audible. Because to “power through” means to continue producing work until you become an unstoppable force, that not even something as concrete as Writer’s Block can stop you (think Juggernaut meets Mark Twain).

"Tis thee Juggernaut, bitch!"

“Tis thee Juggernaut, bitch!”

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Day 9: Make Good Art

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Why is it that we write our best whenever we are at our lowest? It’s like depression unclogs the mind and lets us write fluidly — the writer’s equivalent of an Avatar state. The words come easily, creativity flows through our hands and into the keyboard, and we become engrossed in the story that we type on the screen…

I’ve looked at my past entries (both here and in LJ and even in our magazines), and it seemed like depression or sadness was the key to tapping my creative pool. I don’t know if this is the same with others (though I think the same applies to many), but all the times I wrote in an okay mood, the end-product seemed to lack something. It didn’t seem to have any depth or soul, like I was merely writing for the sake of getting something out.

Maybe it’s because when you are depressed, you are at your most vulnerable. The walls you put up to show a happy front — the barriers you build to safeguard your heart — crack and crumble completely in times of extreme duress. And in that moment of invulnerability, when darkness surrounds your very essence, you become your truest. All the anger, rage, despair and hatred you’ve bottled up; all the sadness, insecurities, and longing you were too afraid to show others — all these reflect in the words you put forth.

Art – writing, drawing, painting, et al. – needs a certain sacrifice. It needs us to be honest with ourselves, which may seem like an easy thing to do but is actually not. Think about it: how often can we say we were really honest? In a day, how often do we say what we really felt, did what we wanted to do, bitchslapped all the people we wanted to bitchslap? Certainly, if we did all those, if we took out our brain filters and did things as we please, there will be consequences to our actions, consequences we may not be ready to face. Most of the time, we only do a half-measure when it comes to expressing ourselves, and this greatly limits our work.

Great art requires great sacrifice, if you truly want your craft to stand out. And there is no greater sacrifice than breaking down the layers you’ve worked so hard to build, exposing yourself to the judging eyes of the public, and standing naked for everyone to see. Becoming completely honest for once. Only then can you make something truly beautiful, because you owe yourself that much.


The Case of the Inverted Pyramid: My first teaching gig

Last month, I was able to do something I’ve always dreamed of: To hold a writing class.

The opportunity came when a former colleague of mine, Levine, invited me to talk about Feature Writing in front of public school students. At first, I was hesitant of my ability –and authority– to instruct these kids. After all, I haven’t won a Palanca, written a short story,or appeared in an instructional Youtube video. I do write a lot of Feature articles for work, but mostly those are fluff pieces with titles like “10 Tips to Eliminate that Mommy-Tummy”, or “5 Ways that Celery can Kill YOU!”. Instructional for some, soul-sucking stuff for writers.

No effin clue what i’m doing. None at all

But my friend was persistent. And he was a Philosophy major. (Never get into an argument with a Philo major; he’ll quote latin to back up his claim. The first time my friend did this, I thought he was enumerating names of Harry Potter spells). Apart from that, he sounded like he was in a bind; the type of problem you get when your initial lecturer backs down at the last minute and you have less than a week to find a replacement.

So I agreed. And I was glad I did. Very few get the opportunity to impart knowledge to others. No matter how small your knowledge

may be, it is still worth knowing. Even though I did not have the credentials compared to other big shots in the industry, I still felt privileged to share what I knew about writing to these kids.

***

For most teachers,  just reaching one kid in a room is enough satisfaction to feel like you’ve done a good job. Fortunately, I did not have to try that hard to achieve this, as there were only three girls who attended my lecture. Most of the other students opted to sit-in for the News Writing or Opinion Writing lectures. Nonetheless, it was a good number; anything more than a dozen would probably have me staring at the blackboard, unable to function properly due to fear. I’ve always hated speaking in front of a crowd, I hated hearing how stupid my points sound, or how my voice sounds like cockroaches having an orgy in your ear. No guesses as to why I chose writing as a medium instead.

Not even a tumbleweed.

I started out by introducing what Feature Writing was, and how to go about writing it (they haven’t written anything of the sort, so the concept was new to them). At first, it was like wading through water and feeling the bottom for depth. Then slowly, after seeing them smile and nod understandingly, I became more at ease with the topic.

It surprised me how easily I can talk about Feature Writing, as if I was simply retelling a funny story. All those years of writing nonsensical (read: stupid, angst-ridden) essays, reading Feature pieces, and sitting through my mother’s lecture (she teaches Feature Writing for catholic universities occasionally) has made me very familiar with the subject matter.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that from the minute I learned how to dot my “i”s and cross my “t”s, my mother has hammered my brain with every fact and technique I needed to know about Feature writing. In fact, I have been around that damned thing for so long that I now see it as a real person — an annoyingly, hyper friend that always comes over and likes to describe things in a colorful, dramatic manner. The kind of friend that tends to get on your nerves, but is good company nonetheless.

It’s only now that I realized what I was doing in front of that classroom, on that hot Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t just lecturing about a worn-out topic — I was describing my “friend” and telling the class details of his life.  I told them about what makes him tick, what his weaknesses and strengths are, even the quirky manner in which he starts off his stories. Corny as it may be, it was the best way I knew how to introduce my three students to the world of Feature Writing (and at least it was better than leading with worn-out advice like the Inverted Pyramid technique. I never learned what this meant, too much Illuminati symbolism for me)

I’m glad I took my friend’s offer, as teaching turned out to be one of the most fulfilling experience I’ve had. Moral of the story: Never turn down an opportunity to share your knowledge on something you’re passionate about –be it dancing, drawing, languages, or such. You never know who you’ll reach.

As for the three who sat down in my class? I sincerely thank them for listening, and I really appreciate how they at least hid their cellphones while they texted midway through my boring lecture (standing in the front as the lecturer, it’s pretty obvious to figure out what they were doing. No one suddenly looks down at their crotch and smiles). Fingers crossed, we hope to see their write-ups someday, both me and my annoying friend.