God, grant me the humility to face criticism,
the courage not to lash off when someone suggests a revision,
the serenity to accept when my writing is hopeless,
and the wisdom to know when to stop inflicting my writing on others.
Someone once asked me, “What must I do to write well?”
I said, “Practice writing. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on. Pay attention to grammar and style. Have the courage to write, especially if you think you have some good thoughts to share to the world. Write from the heart.”
As an afterthought, I added, “Be brave in handling criticism, especially if it comes from someone who is an authority (a writer or an editor). Be calm enough to accept that you will probably never be a writer.”
And I realized . . . Ouch.
Yes, it hurts to hear that. Thankfully, nobody has said that to me (we Filipinos, after all, are quite a polite kindred), but so many times in my life I just wanted to throw my notebook or draft and, later, laptop, out the window because I thought my writing was hopeless. Honestly, I would have appreciated it if someone had advised, “Hija, there are so many frustrated writers in this world already [a lot of them are now using blogging as a new medium!—eek!]. You’re better off not trying!”
I would have heaved a sigh of relief balled up with frustration, run to the bay, thrown that mass into the water, and forgotten about it. I would have moved on. I would probably have focused on my other, um, hobbies, like cooking. I could have the best carinderia that side of Bacayan, Cebu City. Or I probably would be the best masseuse in Diliman. Or baked the best moist chocolate cake in Talamban, Cebu City. I would try to be the best in anything else I could be if I couldn’t be a writer.
That didn’t happen. That hasn’t happened. And I hope it won’t happen.
I’m still writing. Sometimes it gets so bad that I don’t write for weeks on end. Sometimes, no matter how I follow my writing rituals, it just won’t come to me. Sometimes I stay up till 4 a.m. and come up with nothing, and then I start wanting to be run over by a ten-wheeler to end the agony.
When I did manuscript editing for a print-on-demand publishing house, I actually stopped writing for almost three years (except for a number of blogs I kept) because going through all those lousy and horrendous drafts dampened my hopes in writing. Why write when there is so much crap out there?
“Which is precisely why one should write!” someone said. “Eventually, all the good writing will balance the crap, and we’ll be one big happy world again!”
So much for enthusiasm.
My point is, more than the encouragement one gives to aspiring writers, one should also add a dash of reality: Everybody may want to write, but not everyone has the skill and the talent for it. So accept it if it dawns on you. Maybe you were meant for other—equally great and noble—things. Acting, perhaps, or singing? Or maybe theater or business?
Fresh from LBC: William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and Elizabeth Merrick’s This is Not Chick Lit. Gifts from Norman in New York. The second, especially, is a reminder to write more non-chick-lit stuff (after my admission that my maiden break into the publishing world will be in the form of a chick lit through PsiCom).
The books actually passed several hands before getting to me. Thanks for these, Norms, no matter how delayed. You did promise to get me The Art of Confession, remember?
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a compilation of short stories by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, a gift from my good friend and jogging buddy Leila, who writes for the Inquirer.
I’m tempted to bring them all to Hong Kong so I can say that my books are jetsetters (I actually lent some of mine to a friend in Shenzhen, and I think the books are still stuck in HK through a messenger), but I know I wouldn’t be able to read them all. Erwin wants to borrow On Writing Well, so I better finish it soon.
Anyone else wants to borrow? E-mail me! Just promise to return it and we’re good.
I’ve heard of the French Rhodia but have never seen one in the flesh, er, paper. So I was naturally curious about it. A friend in New York sent me one recently, and it came a day after my birthday, so I’d like to think of it as a birthday present.
I’ve been using a Moleskine for some time now, so my notebook preferences are hammered down.
My only reservation about the Rhodia is that it reminds me so much of school days with its very utilitarian look and orange cover. The version I got is not lined, and I just find it hard to write on blank paper. This will certainly be difficult.
But as in sex and everything else, the first time is always lousy. Maybe the second time, there will be redemption.
So there, between a no-nonsense French and a sleek Italian, what do you choose? I think, as in a pie, the test is in the eating, er, writing.