When Mom checked-in my laptop during a flight to Manila, I lost all my work – poetry, short stories (I have one that I think is particularly good; very Clinton Palanca-esque), everything. I can imagine the “soul” drifting out of the laptop’s ether into the air, mixing with the luggage (with the boxes of durians and tuna, too) and eventually finding its way out of the cargo hold and mixing with the stratosphere. I never got over my loss. I am still grieving until today. My dream of entering the Palanca was lost forever (delusions of grandeur!).
These days, I – unfortunately - head a group that teaches writing (or the attempts thereof) to public school teachers and new writers alike. I laugh at their attempts because there’s still a sense of wonder and excitement. I laugh at their clichés because this only means that they still look up to certain writers as idols and hence are trapped in a certain kind of mold that requires clichés to make sense of a sentence. I laugh, not in a jeering sort of way, but one of amazement, admiration and yes, sadness (how does one laugh when one’s sad? Gawan ito ng isang sanaysay ngayun din!) because their works, when read out loud, remind me so much when I was still starting to write.
It is true. If you stop writing for a long time like I did, you’d stagnate in your own style. Not that that is bad, but when reading the articles of many other writers in the blogosphere, I feel embarrassed and annoyed that I didn’t write it the way they did. Maybe I am not reading enough (I’ve stopped reading, too) or watching enough movies (I fast forward DVDs, as JC loves to remind me) or I don’t talk to many people enough to gather ideas, jokes, or whatever.
There was I time that I loved to eavesdrop into people’s conversations. Honestly, I still do. My facility for language (I speak 4, 3 of which are Philippine) makes for a fun exercise of translating to myself what I hear in jeepneys, buses, and trains. It’s funny how people speak in their language in public transport. They think by doing so nobody would understand them. Mother told me once that if you wish to be not understood when commuting in Manila, you may want to speak in a language like French or Mandarin, both of which I don’t speak anyway. I’m an old dog already. I attempted to learn Spanish (an excuse to watch Spanish movies for free), but Level 4 was as far as I got. I don’t know if I would have survived studying it to Nivel 18 or so. It would have been interesting to find out.
Anyway, back to the eavesdropping. The reason why I do this is because it’s the only way to get into people’s minds. It’s nice to know what other people think, what their problems are, what they are concerned about. Every detail has a story potential, maybe something I can weave into an essay or a script. I usually “write” everything I hear in my cellphone. It’s become my reporter’s notebook of sorts kaya imagine how I felt when I lost mine in a cab. A year’s worth of ideas lost in an instant.
I also am a stickler for signs and billboards. You can say that I am a very observant person. I always have my camera with me because who knows I might just come across a funny billboard (Our Daily Knead is a bakery in Cebu) or a tapalodo (the rubber thingy that protects the wheels of trucks). Once, while searing in a cab on my way to Ayala, I espied a truck whose tapalodo read, “Please Don’t Live Me!” I almost died on the spot.
Writers should be able to observe their surroundings, listen to what people say (a recent guest speaker, Rita Gomez, left us this small piece of wisdom). To twist Ambeth Ocampo’s recent article on art, writing is like drawing water from a well. If you do not replenish it with reading, observation and conversation, the well runs dry and the resulting write up is but mere draftsmanship - devoid of a soul.
In the course of my search for great writing, I came across several that I find outstanding even if they were written in Filipino. I will pass on the established ones like the great Jessica Z (who will hopefully be our guest at the office in November) and others like Gibbs Cadiz whose zeal for Philippine theater is admirable. Oh, wait – need I mention The-Woman-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? Sorry, Celine Lopez and Tim Yap don’t count as writers. Besides, they don’t blog.
Here’s a non-permanent Top 10 list of some of the best reads in the blogosphere:
1.) Noisy, Noisy Man
2.) When Excrement Hits the Fan
3.) The Boy Who Warholed Fiction
4.) El Filibusterismo (Grabe, ang long ng hair mo, pare! Pare daw?!)
5.) Diva Coping Mechanisms
6.) Sayote Queen (why isn’t she updating her blog anymore?!)
7.) The Sassy Lawyer’s Journal (I hate it, however, when the readers leave so many hate comments. I get so affected by hate. Wait, I just did a runabout. *toink*)
8.) Batjay: Kuwento ng Isang OFW
10.) Bridget Jones is a man and I am her!
There are so many blogs that I used to visit but stopped doing so because they have stopped writing as well. Sayang ang talent, hoist! Magsulat na po kayo ulit! Also, I used “non-permanent” because I am still in the process of discovering more fantastic blogs. Next time, travel & photo blogs naman. May your tribe increase, people!
P.S. Anybody out there who wants to watch Avenue Q?
I just saw this site from Bridget's. I want to melt.