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

Pinteresting Things

What I have been up to–when I’m not writing or planning newsletters or watching Gossip Girl: Ooohing and aaahing over people’s pins on Pinterest.

“Pinterest?” you say.

Yes, Pinterest. It’s like a big wide board where you can pin all the lovely, interesting, and inspiring things you come across on the Internet.

I happened onto it while blog hopping one Sunday while cooped up in the house because of the chickenpox, and it saved my sanity, just when I was about to start scratching my nails onto the walls. (Yes, house arrest can drive you nutty.) I wish we had Pinterest four years ago, when I used to edit these magazines on fashion accessories, garments and textiles, furniture and furnishings, and all other lovely things. With all the research we were doing, there was just so much info overload–and so much inspiration–it was like seventh heaven. If Pinterest were around then, we would have thousands and thousands of boards for everything we came across!

One of my favorite boards contains images of brilliant, funny, and meaningful quotes that I’m sure you would love as well.Visit them here, and check out other people’s boards. You’d love the site, I’m sure.

Thanks to @Christine Martinez for that inspiring pin

Writing Battles

I can forgive ego if its vastness is commensurate to one’s talent. But I just cannot put up with aspiring writers who display such arrogance when their work is simply crappy.

Is it the air that we’re breathing over here? Or could it be the soda overload? Whatever it is, more and more people in this industry I am in are blatantly displaying this false sense of excellence (thanks to JF for the phrase). And it’s horrible. It scares me that one day I could be like them too. It’s a battle I fight every day.

I am starting to feel like a grown-up Holden Caulfield, sizing up people, separating the real ones from the poseurs. And I hate it. At my age, I should be just happily editing and writing, not picking battles with writers whose egos are about the size of Mars but whose talent is as minute as the point of a pen.

Which is why I miss Global Sources, with its editors and writers who provided brilliant conversations; where everyday goals were simply about delivering quality articles that made the grade; where we argued endlessly about grammar and style (and laughed about how nerdy we were); where people had more respect for fellow writers and editors; where you could be blown away by how talented people were yet how humble they could be.

I’ve never had someone give me this attitude back at Global Sources. In fact, take out one or who people who were full of themselves but were nevertheless brilliant, it was a quiet group of people who enjoyed drinking once a year (every December) and had respect for each other. I’ve never seen anyone throw her weight around because she thought she was the best in the crop.

I am more blown away by the attitude of someone who claims to be creative writer yet cannot even get her tenses right or her subjects and verbs to agree. (Is an institution whose name ends in s considered plural, for one? Is that a new rule that someone made up while I was sleeping?)

My running conversation with JF has been like this: “Were we like that when we were 22?” Because I don’t remember having displayed such arrogance in the face of criticism. We learned to take them in stride and worked on improving our craft. And we certainly didn’t claim to be writers, because back then, we didn’t even think we were worthy of the tag.

But this crop of aspiring writers–full of arrogance yet not having proven themselves yet. It would give Sam Dixon a heart attack!




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.

“Sneak peek” vs. “sneak peak”

“Sneak peek” or “sneak peak”?

I’ve been using the term regularly in the last six months, and I admit, because “peak” and “peek” sound the same, one can easily get them mixed up.

Even your regular public relations person, who should have made an extra effort to spell-check, didn’t get it right when he sent me an invite today saying, “Witness the power of the Mouth as five fun personalities give you a sneak peak on what their mouths can do!”

Before we all get piqued by this misuse, let’s get it straight, shall we?

If we’re referring to a preview of something that hasn’t gone public yet, the correct term is “sneak peek,” where the word “peek” means “a quick glance.” (Thanks, Dictionary.com.)  So when we’re telling someone to “Take a peek of the Ralph Lauren spring collection,” we’re actually offering a “sneak peek” of a line that hasn’t been launched officially.

The word “peak,” on the other hand, refers to the tip of the mountain or the highest level of anything, such as “The peak of my writing career will be when I get the Nobel Prize for Literature,” which is the peak of delusion, really, similar to my ambition of climbing “the peak of Mt. Everest” (probably never going to happen, with my injured foot).

If you’re having trouble setting them apart, just remember that “peek” is spelled almost like its closest cousin, “peep.”  By giving someone a “sneak peek,” you’re indulging the peeping Tom in him. (We know you want to.)

The Ralph Lauren Gang

Ralph Lauren Gang

Because of my work as an e-mail marketer, I’m subscribed to all these online mailing lists. So I get tons of newsletters and promotional materials every day for products I’ve never bought–cast-iron pans, Calphalon cookware, wine, flowers, you name it! I’m the nonresponder that retailers and online marketers like me are always worried about–that demographic that opens their newsletters but never buys a thing.  If they only knew that I really had no intention of buying–I’m this silent observer watching their new tricks.

Most of the time I’m wowed, like with this Ralph Lauren advertisement that I got from Martha Stewart (I get pitches for flowers, wine, and all other things from MS). It was too lovely to keep to myself!

This one’s a bit long to sit through, especially if you had a long story or article to write, but imagine if it was your story that Ralph Lauren used to promote their children’s wear line, wouldn’t that be fun? I wish, I really wish.

Meanwhile, take out your earphones and click this link to watch this story narrated by Harry Connick, Jr., featuring–what else–Ralph Lauren children’s wear. You will love it (I loved Willow’s outfit!).