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Following My Dream


Soaring high: Yellow-billed falcon

They say when you want something badly, the universe will conspire to make it happen.

One of my mini-dreams has come true.

I’ve always wanted to go back to feature writing. It was something I used to do many years ago for the now-defunct arts and culture blog Pinoycentric (some of my posts have been archived here). But real life happened. The desire to make money pulled me toward technical writing jobs and e-mail marketing that I decided maybe feature writing wasn’t for me.

And then I stumbled onto Mariel Jimenez’s blog and became a fan. Through her blog, I lived out my dreams vicariously–living in New York, writing for magazines. Mariel encouraged me explore the local magazine industry, gave me leads on whom to approach. I thanked her and put the idea behind me until such time when I was ready.

In January this year, the opportunity came to write for Redtag.ph, an online deal reviews site. I did a couple of stories just to get my feet wet and experience cramming for deadlines and working with an editor again.

The stint lasted only three months because Redtag soon closed down. But I loved every minute of it. I enjoyed the challenge of working with an editor, having someone to please and impress (as you would a college professor), and having another person edit my work for a change (after many years as editor, that was refreshing).

In April, when I started working from home as an e-mail marketing consultant, I told myself this would be the year I’d make my writing comeback. Why not volunteer at this online news portal? I told myself. I had seen their ad for editor, and while I thought I could do it, I had zero experience in news reporting (despite the fact that I went to journalism school). I told myself I’d be willing to work for free, just for experience.

I kept checking the ad posted on a friend’s Facebook profile, until this friend (someone I went to journalism school with) convinced me to try out. Really? I asked him. You think I can do it?

Of course, he said. You’re my go-to person when I need editing advice!  (Sigh. I love my friends!)

The long and short of it is I didn’t get that editing job, but I left with something else. They asked me to start contributing stories and profiles about Filipino expats, a niche I had focused on for many years at Pinoycentric. Not only that, but they would also pay me for it!

I had come full circle, going back to what I loved doing three years ago, but this time with a wider audience.

When I dreamed of going back to writing, I didn’t think it would happen like this or that it would happen so fast. All I asked was the chance to write again–tell stories that celebrated the greatness of the Filipino spirit, stories that Filipinos actually cared about. I feel blessed that God gave me this chance to make that one dream come true, assuring me that I made the right decision to leave my old job.

Every writing assignment has been a challenge. I waited three weeks for a reply and exhausted all my North America contacts to get this story. (The headline says it all: “It was all worth it.”) Some days I wake up and, over morning coffee, agonize over my first paragraph. (I got performance anxiety over this. And I got first-time jitters when I wrote this.)

But no matter how difficult it gets, even when sometimes I want to strangle myself because of my fear of writing, I always remind myself that I am back where I’ve always wanted to be. I also say a huge thank-you to that Big Guy up there who made all this happen, and the two nicest people (Marielle and Ederic) who believed that I had more stories to tell world. Thank you! I hope I could inspire another person one day, in the same way you have inspired me. May God bring you blessings a thousandfold!

Image credit: Doc

3 Reasons for Writing a Memoir


In this age when people around you are freely sharing daily tidbits of their lives on Facebook and Twitter, should you even attempt to write your own memoir?

Bernard Selling’s Writing from Within: A Guide to Creativity and Life Story Writing gives us three reasons why we should do so (and no, it’s not to embarrass your crazy family):

  1. It’s a journey of self-discovery. We learn so much of ourselves when we write down our personal thoughts. The process allows us to step back and see our lives as other people would.
  2. It releases the pain of the past. For many individuals who have gone through harrowing ordeals and so much pain, writing is therapeutic and allows them to face, and hopefully exorcise, the demons of the past.
  3. It helps us move toward wholeness. Selling has a term for this: kalokagathia, a Greek word that refers to creating and maintaining a harmony among mind, body, and soul.

If you’re looking into writing a memoir, I’d strongly recommend you get Bernard Selling’s book. Or, wait, Writer’s Digest has a webinar about the topic on March 8, Thursday. And no, I do not get a commission if you click any of these clicks.

Thanks, Soopahtoe

Writing Bravely


Writer’s Digest Fred White said it best:  “To be a writer means to take risks, putting yourself and your ideas out on a limb, making yourself vulnerable to criticism, maybe even ridicule.”  [Source: 10 Creative Ways to Beat Writer’s Block Fast]

And, boy, is he so right.

I can hardly imagine what Yale law professor Amy Chua must be going through right now, fielding criticisms right and left after an excerpt of her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was published in the Wall Street Journal.

Just another day in the life of a writer.

Courage. It’s something any writer, aspiring or seasoned, should have in big doses. The courage to face criticism. The courage to swallow your pride when you’re corrected. The courage to stand up for what you wrote. The courage to face the consequences of what you’ve written.

And believe me, more than 10 years into my writing career, I still feel a little uncertainty, a little doubt each time I write something. I don’t click the Publish button on my blog without thinking, What will people say? Will I look bad if they read this? Will they think I am arrogant? What will my editor friends say? I hope they don’t catch a typo or a grammatical slip! Will they think this is crappy?

I’m not in total agreement with Chua’s parenting style, but I love how she’s bravely put everything out there, risking criticism and ridicule. It’s not a task any writer will easily take on, but if only for her brave spirit, I take my hat off to her.

Image: “Atmosphere of Trust” by Hansgbe

Freelance Lessons and Resolutions


And so the year has passed and gone. Now that things are back to normal after the chickenpox, I am belatedly sizing up the year that was and making my New Year’s resolutions (because it is impossible to be thinking of New Year’s resolutions when one is bed with the pox).

Last year brought with it some freelance lessons I will always take to heart:

  1. Be brave, little one. Starting off your freelance career means one should be brave enough to send out feelers to possible prospects. I was lucky that S, who was my boss at a publishing house 5 years ago, had e-mailed me the contact information of an Internet marketing guy who was looking for a writer. Unfortunately for me, I read S’s e-mail one year later!
  2. Ask and it shall be given to you. At the off-hand chance that S’s former client might still be looking, I sent him an e-mail offering my services. And that is what got my freelance career moving last year.
  3. Seek and you shall find. The second half of the year was a dry spell, writing wise, and I was looking for something challenging to do. Thanks to Noah, whom I had worked with at the old arts and culture blog, I found Angie, who’s into crafts and sewing and whose weekly newsletters I now do.

This year, the quarter is starting off fine. I’m doing Angie’s newsletters regularly now. These newsletters are always a joy to make because I get to practice my coding and fledgling Photoshop skills. And I’m editing a book, AGAIN! I’m just so happy to be using my Chicago Manual again. Glad to be  editing. I think my editing skills are getting rusty so this ebook is good practice.

And because of all these freelance activities, I have resolved to do the following this year:

  1. I will save all my freelance earnings this year. So help me God.
  2. I will use my time wisely and well and learn when it’s time to stop writing, relax, and watch Gossip Girl.
  3. I will try to do more things that feed the soul, such as catching writing talks, visiting art galleries, reading more online and off. Specifically do more things that do not involve sitting down and being in front of the computer.
  4. I will take notes when I’m writing and not let a good quote pass me by.
  5. I will write more frequently, online and off.

So help me with all these well-intentioned resolutions, God.

What’s your freelance and writing resolutions?

Image: “Fireworks” by Gabriel77

Writing Grief


I recently lost three years worth of writing when the site I managed a couple of years back just disappeared into thin air. I lost it many months ago, except that because I was afraid to face the truth, I never really asked. I had been thinking of backing up all the articles I did for that arts and culture site–one important thing that I kept sweeping under the rug. And finally, when I was ready to face it, it was too late.

I’m still grieving over it. I was in an interview a couple of weeks back, and the guy interviewing me asked about the site. “It’s all gone,” I said nonchalantly, as though losing something you’ve put your heart into–like a relationship–for three years is something one can easily let go of.

But if you ask me, I feel the pain. I carry it with me. I feel a stab each time I remember it.

I don’t own the site, but I love it as I would my own child. It was what saved me during the years I was depressed when the boyfriend left. It was what kept me me alive while transitioning from denial to acceptance during the years I was depressed. The site made me feel as though he was still around, although the old him who loved me had left.

Even with all the tempers flaring (old lovers’ quarrels notwithstanding) we made it. Coordinating with one another when we were in four different locations was a major headache, but we made it work. And having a growing community made us feel that yes, we were really doing something good. I hadn’t felt prouder about being Pinoy than I had during those years.

Work wise, I had hoped the ex would see me in a different light, and maybe an old letter he wrote on his birthday attests to it. “I know now we can’t live without someone like you.” My heart had leaped with joy. While he said that about my writing, it made me feel I had won one over him. (The lover was arrogant, see, and could never admit he needed anyone or anything.)

You know how it’s like: When you give birth to someone, you love the child because of his father. As the days go by, you learn to love the child as you get to know her, quirks, temper and all.

So with the loss of the site, I feel as though a part of me has died, as though a child that I had cared for so long, bathed and fed, stayed up late nights to watch over, has died. And there is no way I can go back and change things.

Goodbye, Pinoycentric. I will always remember you. We shall meet again, one day soon.

Pinoycentric was featured in Manila Bulletin in March 2008. Read it here.

To read a few archived articles from Pinoycentric, go to this site.

Writers Never Retire


In most industries, people have a limit to their careers. At 60, they put away life’s work and focus on things they neglected in their youth, like traveling, bungee jumping, writing.

While I was watching Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on nurturing creativity, I realized: Isn’t it amazing? Writers never retire! Writers can write forever, until their last breath. They may retire from their copywriting and copyediting careers, but they don’t stop writing when they reach 60. (Norman Mailer published his last book at 70, just before he died.) Retirement is a foreign word to us writers!

Image credit: Thanks, Egilshay!

Writers/Editors and Love


Because it’s the month of love, I thought of all the little things that writers and editors like me love.

Writers and editors love a good book, especially something they haven’t read before. I always like to be surprised, so I enjoy receiving books by authors I haven’t read or heard of.

They love a good cup of coffee to start off their writing task. Nothing beats the strong kick of caffeine in the morning. I haven’t met an editor/writer who didn’t love her coffee.

Writers and editors love (and keep) long letters and cards because they know the effort that goes into crafting a note. A new friend N tells me she keeps all the holiday gift cards that come with personal notes. (I do too.)

Writers and editors love a good writing or editing challenge. As an editor, I love the thrill of seeing a raw manuscript and improving it so the rest of the world can enjoy it.

Writers and editors love fine-point pens, newly sharpened pencils, and good, smooth paper. The safest gift, next to a book, you can give a writer or an editor is a good notebook.

Writers and editors love silence.

What about you? What do you love?

Thanks to rknds