Because it’s the last day of the school year, I get this message from my child’s teacher:
Thank you for entrusting with us your child . . . I give you back your child, the same child you entrusted to my care. I give him back pounds heavier, inches taller, months wiser, more responsible and more mature than he was then. We have lived, loved, laughed, played, studied, learned and enriched our life together. Take care of him, for he is precious.
“I’m sorry, but your writing didn’t fit our tone,” said a recent rejection e-mail from a Hong Kong publication (yes, I now eat rejection e-mails for breakfast).
Rejections can be hard on the ego. Writers, famous or not, have experienced rejection. What makes a jilted writer different from the other is how he handles it.
I admit I was slighted by the tone of the e-mail. What the &*$%^–you don’t like my writing?
But of course, I realized: Different folks, different strokes. Maybe I was just too cheerful and happy for their publication (the Chinese aren’t necessarily praised for showing emotion, especially happiness). So I wrote a quick reply thanking them for the opportunity to apply but that I was hoping I would be able to change their, uh, tone (there it is again) and make it better.
Apparently, they’re happy with their tone, never mind if it seems boring. “If you decide you’d like to write in our tone, feel free to send a new set of copy.”
I decided not to. You can’t sell to people who can’t see what they’re missing.
Lesson learned: If people don’t appreciate your writing style, take it elsewhere.
(On Skype, a few hours later, I closed a deal and got the price I wanted. I asked the prospective client what he thought of the articles and he said, “I thought it was great.” Maybe I’m not so bad after all.)
After much hewing and puffing and kicking, the second book that I wrote (remember? the coffee table book on a Chicago motocross group?) is finally complete. Christmas 2009 brought with it good news–that the book was set for publication with a print-on-demand company and that it will appear on Amazon for orders–but like everything else in the book business, it’s been delayed. My client says he’s thinking of launching the book March. I can’t argue. After all, this isn’t really my book (my name’s only listed as the editor), so the time element isn’t in my control.
But I feel happy knowing it’s behind me now. Another baby delivered. On to the next! After a couple of months of stress, I’m not exactly wishing for another book project, although the other one that was put off last year would be a lovely surprise.
I don’t want to give too much details about the book yet (I’m probably not even in the position to), but if you want to know more about the stories that I encountered while doing research for the book somewhere in Mindanao, here are a couple of stories I wrote on motocross and Dipolog.
Any writing goals you met last year?
Thanks to all those who continue to visit this blog (and the other arts and culture blog) and those who continue to ask where I am on my coffee table book. I feel inspired by your thoughts and your faith in me. In this lonely path that I tread, I carry much hope for the end (of the book writing) is near and I will finally rest easy, knowing I had met this year’s writing goal.
In the same way that the manuscript was difficult to start (I worked my way into chapters 2 to 4, after which I wrote chapter 1, which involved some interviews and field research), I am finding that it’s difficult to end this book, not because I do not have much to say, when I have so much material online, but because I feel there is so much I need to say. After this book goes to press, I will have to live forever with the knowledge that I could have done it better. A writer’s work is never done.
It’s almost the end of the year, and it’s my turn to ask: Did you meet any of your writing goals this year?
Written in 2007 for X, who wanted his peace
There once was a time when getting a haircut was a sign that a girl had broken up with a boyfriend.
In this digital age, there are other, equally emphatic, ways of announcing one’s re-introduction to the, uhrm, market.
Like taking down one’s blog and putting up a new one.
Deleting one’s online journal speaks as strongly as cutting off one’s hair. It’s definite (because unless you back up, there is no way of saving those posts, unless you do it manually).
It says “I have a new life,” or “Enough with the complication,” and “I want a clean slate.” It means “I want to start over.” It conveys: “I don’t want you to know what’s happening in my life.”
Many (pre-Blogger) years ago, I was a faithful lurker of a Website by a California-based girl named Stella (I never bothered to find out if it was an alias or not). She was half-Pinay and seemed to be having a fun stateside life compared to my own: the proms, the Friday night sleepovers, the boys.
Stella wrote about her parental troubles, her struggles in school, her big crush (also Pinoy who dressed like Usher) and how she and this boy later hooked up, her college choices, her brother joining the US Navy.
She seemed to me a distant cousin whom I had never met but whose life’s daily inanities I was well informed about.
Eventually, my life got busier and I stopped visiting. Some years later I wondered how she was doing, if she was still the same Stella I had read about.
I went back and lo, a notice: she had moved to a new site (she was studying at UC Berkeley, that much I knew). She and the boyfriend had broken up, and “the memories were too painful” that she had to “abandon the site altogether.”
Friends and strangers who were following her online journal left comments asking for her new URL, but she never replied. The end.
I felt a little sad because I didn’t know how she was doing. After all, I followed her like some captive audience tuned in to Pinoy Big Brother. It was like this good friend had stopped talking to me and there was no way to let her know I could relate with how she was going through or that I knew how she felt. That it was not the end of the world.
I wouldn’t blame Stella. When one’s online life is shared by a handful of others, some of them strangers you would not face in the morning without brushing your teeth, the easiest way to move on, without password-protecting one’s blog, is to delete the entire site and find a new one, preferably with a handle that is totally different.
It’s like suicide.
Except, unlike real life, you can be reincarnated.
The goodbyes, like the breakups, are heart-wrenching. Sometimes moving on can be as simple as ceasing to write, the old blog left as a testament to what was once your previous life. Sometimes the goodbyes are as swift as clicking the Delete button, and with one second, more than a year’s worth of posts is obliterated. Nothing backed up. Nothing to go back to.
Sometimes you grieve over each of them as you would the passing away of a friend who knew all your secrets and stood by you through thick and thin. But sometimes, in the darkest hours, you wonder why abandoning ship was the final option. Maybe it was because you didn’t want to be documented while you were picking up the pieces of your life together. Maybe because you needed the privacy to grieve.
I wrote this in April, when I was in the middle of writing a book. I still haven’t finished the book, dammit! (I promise to finish it soon, so help me God.)
- Announce to all the world, “I am writing a book.” That makes you accountable to it, and it would be a shame if you never got to finish it. (Yes, I am deeply ashamed at the thought.)
- Procrastinate. Wait for those days when creativity just strikes you.
- Complain about so many things. Fill in the blanks. “I can’t write because . . .” Reasons may range from the summer heat, the lack of sleep, the need to shop and reward one’s self before one is compelled to lift a finger and type an entire paragraph.
- Write a thousand words every month. Congratulations, you now have 2,000 words; 18,000 more to go and you have only four months left.
- Repeat to yourself, “I am writing a book.”
- Disappear on the sixth month. That’s when you’ll finish the rest of the 18,000 words. (I’m still in that missing mode and I haven’t finished the book yet!)
The easiest thing to write is a resignation letter when you are ready to move on.
The hardest thing to write is a goodbye letter to the people you won’t see much of when you leave.
The easiest thing to write is a birthday greeting to someone whom you’re happy to see grow old a year.
The hardest thing to write is a eulogy to someone who would never grow old a year, not anymore.
The easiest thing to write is a will leaving all your money to someone whom you know will use it right.
The hardest thing to write is an invoice, asking a client to settle a long-delayed payment.
The easiest thing to write is a letter to someone you have no love for, someone you’d be very happy to be out of your life.
The hardest thing to write is a love note to someone whose cold heart will never be moved, not even by the most eloquent writers.