Epistolary #5: Goodbye Book Ban | Hello New WIP | A Little Pupdate

I blinked and already it’s the middle of the year. I don’t know what I did for the past six months but I’m sure it was nothing worthwhile.

Anyway. It’s been about a month since I wrote an Epistolary post and although my life is still the same mind-numbing bore that it was in the 4th post, I suppose I can dredge up a couple of things to talk about here. Naturally, this post is going to talk about three things that I love: books, writing, and dogs.

So let’s just jump into it.

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POSTMORTEM: Why I Failed NaNoWriMo

Yes, I am fully aware that NaNoWriMo ended more than a month ago (last year, if you want to be cheeky) but I can’t seem to process anything properly without writing about it ad nauseam and posting my feverish ramblings on the internet for all to see. So I’m going to try and analyze exactly how I failed the online writing contest so catastrophically. I’ll review my tweets that November, cross reference certain good days on my NaNo stats with diary entries/tweets (Twitter is my diary now) and my actual novel-in-progress, and fathom the cause of long stretches of inactivity. Perhaps with this “comprehensive” investigation, I’ll be able to form a better response to my NaNo failure than a simple “I just couldn’t do it” because that is a shitty excuse and I refuse to accept it because fifty thousand words aren’t that impossible to write goddammit.

Let’s begin.

So my earliest tweet about my NaNoWriMo progress was on day 2. Let’s take a look at what tweeted at half past eight in the evening after presumably a whole day of fruitful writing:

Oh.

Yikes.

Looks like I was doomed from the start. I mean, with optimism like that, is it really any wonder why I couldn’t even hit the halfway mark? Case closed, right? No, no, let’s dig a little bit deeper. I’m sure the story’s much more complicated than this. I definitely remember going through several hurdles. Or at least trying to.

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Writing Impasse

(another repost from my Tumblr. I wrote this weeks ago but I feel like it’s still pretty relevant to me and I’d like to share it in this blog.)

Looking back, it’s been nearly seven years since I started taking a serious interest in writing. Plus it’s been nearly four years since I started writing for an actual audience (in our school publication). With almost a decade of writing, I can honestly say that I’ve made little to no progress at all.

While it’s true that I’ve learned to construct sentences more coherently and organize paragraphs logically, I still feel like I haven’t grown much as a writer, in that I still associate my writing – and my love for writing – with shame. Yes, even until now I still feel… embarrassed of my writing. Particularly my creative writing. It’s stupid and ridiculous, I know, but all the years of actual writing hasn’t really done much to help me grow out of this immaturity.

Sure, I’m perfectly fine with objective writing (news and feature articles) since I don’t need to put much of myself into those type of write-ups but when it comes to literary writing I grow cold and rigid. Even my literary articles feel superficial, the kind of stories that I don’t invest any heart into. Somehow I’m still terrified of people reading my stories, or even just knowing that I write stories (for fun… even though it involves a lot of suffering). I put a little bit of myself in my stories which is why I feel vulnerable and unsafe whenever someone I know in real life stumbles upon my writing. Not to sound cliche here but I do kind of put up a highly impenetrable exterior so having someone read my stories is like giving them complete access to my heart and soul and basically telling them to destroy everything in sight. It’s melodramatic and unreasonable but try telling that to my anxiety.

Let me try to explain this.

Writing, for me, has always been a solitary endeavor. I write, I post what I write somewhere that no one really cares to read it, then, eventually, I read what I write. Rinse and repeat. On the rare instances when someone actually reads what I’ve written and even reacts to it, I’m genuinely shocked. And after the initial shock comes the low key panic. What did they think of my writing? Are they silently judging my writing and, in turn, judging me? And more importantly, why on earth would they read my writing in the first place?! Questions like those haunt me every time I get a review or a comment and somehow it never gets easier even as the years go by.

Even though most, ok, all of the reviews and reactions I’ve gotten over the years haven’t been “bad” – some could even be classified as “good” – I still cannot wrap my head around the idea that actual people chose to read what I wrote. It makes no sense, it never has. Doesn’t matter if it’s a good or bad review, the fact that there’s actual proof that someone read my story baffles me. In fact, it baffles me so much that I refuse to believe it, which is why I’m only slightly encouraged by feedback.

Unlike other writers, like my best friend Lyssa, I can’t even bring myself to ask someone to read my stories. Not even beta read just… read for any type of feedback. It feels wrong to me. Like it’s something that I shouldn’t do. Like I shouldn’t ask someone to subject themselves to my stupid ass writing.

You see what I mean when I said that I haven’t grown at all as a writer? I still don’t have any confidence in my writing. I’m still so terribly insecure of myself that I don’t even have the guts to make myself be better. And if there’s one thing I know a writer needs to survive, it’s guts. I keep saying that I love and respect writing but I don’t even care a fig about my own.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: if you’re this self-aware, why not actually do something about it? Why not be braver and bolder and actually improve yourself as a writer? Why not finally believe in yourself and in your capabilities?

Short answer: It’s not easy with my perpetually wavering self-confidence.

Long answer: I’m simultaneously idealistic and cynical when it comes to my writing. I know that I’ll never stop growing as a writer but I also know that everyone – including and especially me – has limits and I’m terrified of one day facing my limit and having to bitterly accept my capabilities. I know that I have friends online and offline who I can probably ask to read my stuff but I also know that that they’ll probably – knowingly or not – filter their feedback because of our friendship. And I know that writing is the only thing I know I can do passably well but I also know that, in the long run, that doesn’t matter at all.

It’s my contradicting feelings for writing that have kept me from progressing all these years. It’s because of them that I can never truly put my heart in a certain story because a part of me is always yelling that no one really wants to read that and no one would ever really like it so why bother? I’m constantly just limiting myself and I HATE it so much. I hate it even more because I’m so aware of it. My idealistic side and cynical side are always at odds with each other and, as a consequence, has kept me from really moving forward.

I feel like I’ve been stuck in a stalemate for all the years and I don’t know what to do about it. Actually, I do know what to do, it’s just that I can’t do what I need to do because of my contradicting ideology. Either I accept that I will always just be this mediocre writer who can probably churn out a decent sentence or two once in a blue moon or I do something drastic to free myself of this deadlock and finally – FINALLY – take a step forward.

I really… really… want to be more than just mediocre.

Occupational Hazard

Last week the editors gathered us interns after the sked for the day was posted. They had us talk about our struggles and experiences as a way to kind of check up on us and our senior reporters. Most of what we shared were pretty common. Uncooperative or disrespectful sources. Feeling completely out of the loop and generally out of place in press conferences. Difficulty finding a newsworthy story in a stubbornly quiet beat (that’s mine). Getting too emotionally invested on a story. Traffic and such. You know, typical news-gathering woes.

However, two of our fellow interns expressed a particularly interesting and thought-provoking experience and struggle. It was the nightmares that came after seeing their first dead body. See, what happened some weeks ago was that the corpse of an old lady was found propped on the door leading to the stairs of a boarding house near City Hall. I heard the story through my co-intern (and classmate) first, he was the one who caught a whiff of the news first. You should have heard his frantic call to us that day. You’d have thought he witnessed the death itself. Not that the story was particularly heavy, seeing as it only made it to the later pages and was merged with another story the next day.

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Out in the Field (58 hours down, 275 to go)

I haven’t been blogging here that much since school started and for that I apologize. If there is anyone to apologize to anyway. Most of my classes haven’t been that busy yet but what’s really eating up my time (and energy, motivation, passion) is my internship at a certain local newspaper. Being an intern is a lot less scary now that I’ve been one for two weeks. Sure, there’s still the anxiety of actually being in the field (and in our line of work, the field could be anywhere from city hall to police stations to accident sites) but you kind of get used to it. I did, anyway. Or at least I think so.

The newspaper publication company that I was assigned to is, thankfully, nice to their interns. Our editors and senior reporters even treat us as actual journalists and not just mere interns. It’s nice.  Of course, it also comes with a downside. The pressure is there all the time. We’re not treated as just interns but as actual reporters. No excuses, no special considerations, no extension of deadlines (unless the story or the sources of the story need it). We interns really get to feel what it’s like to be journalists in the field.

It’s kind of… exhilarating but terrifying at the same time.

But you know what? I actually quite like it. I like going out somewhere, sniffing around for news, tracking down sources, putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. I like having a nice, cozy place to return to after finding my news story/stories of the day and sitting down to write it (ancient computer with greasy keyboards notwithstanding). There’s a sort of routine everyday but I get to learn something new and do something new every time I’m out on the field which is really nice. There’s kind of a sweet balance of excitement and monotony, if I were to describe it.

It’s quite surprising that I’m actually liking this internship deal, I know, since I’m extremely introverted. But I’ve managed to grow and actually somewhat defeat my shyness because I’m forced to get to know and understand people. I still cringe every time I need to talk to strangers but at least now I only need a minute (or half if I’m feeling gutsy) to prepare myself mentally and emotionally to deal with the interaction. Years ago, I needed at least a few hours, moral support, an emergency exit strategy, and a complete script if I needed to talk to strangers. Hooray for character development!

Anyway, I survived my second week of internship and I think I’m starting to get into the groove of things. I still have about 242 hours of internship left – minimum is 300 hours… I know, right?! – but I think I can do it. Let’s see how I’ll fare once thesis and co. start breathing down my neck.

Alternately: 5 Things I Learned from Stephen King On Writing

You know what I love more than talking about books I’ve recently finished? Lists. I love lists. I live for them. They’re simple and compact but still so beautifully prolific. And writing them is just so fun, especially when you have a habit of jumping from one topic to another with barely held constraint, like I do.

So instead of writing a review or a mere blog post about Stephen King’s book about writing/mini-memoir, On Writing, I’m going to write a list about the key things I got from the book. Initially, I wanted to list down 10 things – as a homage to a similar feature section of my university’s magazine – but then I realized that the other five I had already learned from reading about writing online or from experience. Stephen King merely delivered them much more elegantly.

Without further ado, here’s 5 important things to remember on (creative) writing:

1.) Door closed. Door opened.

I think this one’s the most important thing to remember out of all. King basically suggested – since it’s worked for him all these decades – that you should write the first draft of your story or novel for yourself and yourself alone. Don’t think about your possible readers. Don’t think about what they might or might not like. Don’t think about pleasing anyone but yourself on the first draft. Keep the door – the metaphorical and the literal door since you kind of need to concentrate too – firmly closed. Write what you like, not what anyone else might like. It’s your work, after all. No one and nothing should dictate what you write on your first draft.

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Summer Past

This photo was taken last summer by my friend. We were in Camotes Island, a beautiful island around two hours away from the mainland, and, at the time, we had just discovered that the last barge back to mainland Cebu was full. Yes, we were a little bit stranded then and not to mention pretty much broke. The only reason we were in Camotes was because of a travel article that, even before we started writing it, we already hated. It wasn’t easy exploring an island with limited time and a severely tight budget. When we found out that tickets for the last barge was sold out, we were too exhausted to feel agonized about it. Still, we knew the consequences and silently brooded about them while watching the sun set. It was the only consolation we had.

Luckily, that story had a happy ending. There  were a lot of people left behind by the last barge so the shipping line decided to throw us all a bone, er, barge. Our jeep driver knew someone on deck and hooked us up with some tickets, which was really lucky for us since the tickets sold out after like five minutes. The barge was really full though.

That was just last year but it honestly felt like it was much longer than that. Things were just so different back then, a little bit lighter even. I think I was even more childlike then because of how little baggage I had to lug around with me. It’s super melodramatic, I know, but I guess I kind of see that because, well, I wasn’t really in charge then. I wasn’t the leader and didn’t have much responsibilities. I could afford to mess up or take my time or disappear off the face of the earth and not suffer consequences too dire. My mistakes were mine alone, not shared by my team.

Now… well, let’s just say that I’ve been jumping at every shadow and double guessing myself at every turn. I can no longer mess up without my team and my friends suffering. I’d be a shit leader and shit person if I did whatever I pleased and not even consider how it would affect others. This is particularly difficult for someone as introspective and unsociable like me. I’m just not built to be a leader type and all. I’ve always just been a lone wolf. How I got the leader position, I have no idea.

On a much less dreary note, my team and I may be able to visit Camotes again before summer break ends. I think it’s a sure thing now but me and our MEF (the guy who handles the money matters) are still rather antsy about it. However, I do believe that we deserve it after everything we’ve been through and everything we’ve accomplished during the summer.

We’ve been cutting corners like crazy though so a splurge like an island trip is enough to make us all feel weird. Giddy, yeah, excited, of course, but weird and hesitant. It could turn out to be a total fail or one of the best outings yet. We’d love to believe in the latter but… for safety measures, I, at least, will be the token Anxious One (as always). I won’t go as far as be the Doomsayer but I will still be on the look out. After last year’s seemingly never ending wave of disasters, it’s difficult to believe in anything good anymore.

Still… I’ll hope for the best. It’ll be difficult though.

Writing Ennui

I haven’t written a story in ages.

(No, that’s not true. Not technically. I wrote a story just last month – a tiny, little, over-the-top drama that I literally agonized squeezing into the 600-maximum word count.) (It was for our magazine… so I’m not entirely sure it counted?)

Let me rephrase it then. I haven’t written a story entirely for myself in ages. No indulgent fan fictions. No aimless and shoddy short fictions. No ambitious multi-chaptered things that never live the see past the second chapter. (Those that do make it to the third chapter, well, let’s just say they ought to be left in the dark.) I’ve written none for myself. Nothing, nada, zilch. (god, that ruined the alliteration)

I’ve been writing more than I’ve ever written since I started writing, I admit. And I may also even go as far as to say that my writing thus far has been more polished now. However, I feel as though I’m still missing something. Rather, I miss a certain kind of writing. I miss those trysts with fiction and creative writing that usually end with me realizing how crude and gawky I am and then crying at my inadequacy; those nights of passion (and mostly heartache) when I embrace a world of my own creation (dilapidated and lacking they may be) and engage myself with the characters that sprung out of my mind. Those nights I feel the most like a writer. I miss them.

Way, way back when I was younger and more naive, I imagined myself a forever loyal patriot of the craft of creative writing. I fantasized being a 20-something (that’s me right now) college graduate (not yet, not yet) cruising through life with a pen on one hand (just for symbolism, I’m not one for writing things by hand) and a head just filled to the brim with stories that could touch the hearts of others. The child me was so sure I’d be that sort of person, that sort of writer, that there were even instances when I’d be terrified of running out of ideas as early as then. I’d list down all of the story ideas running around in my head and make sure, absolute sure, that I could and would write them one day. Then I’d convince myself to trust that older me would have more ideas what to write.

If I could meet that young me, I’d apologize profusely to her, I think.

Truth be told, I haven’t been actively trying to get back to my groove either. (Some attempts were made every few months or so, when I realize how hungry I had become for writing, but they’ve all been futile so far.) It’s not as though I’ve completely given up on my dream of one day writing a decent story, one that I’d be proud of at last, it’s just that… I can’t seem to motivate myself enough to pursue it again. That sort of writing isn’t, and I do hate saying this, practical anymore. Not for me at least.

See, the stories that I now write aren’t fictional, though I try to write them as creatively as I can (not at the expense of being truthful and accurate, mind you). I write news and features and opinions now – they consume most of my time and dominate the use of my writing faculties. Though I still value creative writing and fiction, I can’t help but admit that non-fic write ups are more convenient… profitable, in some cases. That and they’re just easier to write since the facts are available and all I need to do is dress them up so that they’re readable and enjoyable. (Though sometimes cold hard facts can be dull and uninteresting but I guess that’s to be expected when you’ve only got reality to work with.)

I wish I could go back to being that sweetly naive to believe that writing is as quick and easy as I imagined. I wish I could be able to include on my To-Do List my goal to write a novel without feeling too ambitious and foolish. I wish I could go back to being able to be confident enough on my story ideas to at least write them down and finish them without getting tangled in self-doubt and staunched by overthinking every little thing. I wish I could be the writer that the younger me had imagined I’d be when I got to this age.

Regardless, I’m a writer still. Not the kind that I had thought I’d ever be (journalism was never even something I’d remotely consider back then) but I write stories anyway. People’s stories. That’s something.

I’ll try to conjure up a short story before classes start this June. I doubt I’ll be able to finish it though… In which case, I’ll try again. And again. And again. And again.

Impetus, alright

You know, sometimes I genuinely forget how long it’s been since I started writing. Unlike other writers though, I didn’t start writing the moment I understood how the alphabet worked or how to properly hold a pencil. I literally had an epiphany, one that happened at a hospital room (my little brother had stomach pains) and urged on by an old lady’s wise words (my grandma). Really, it was quite a dramatic moment now that I look back on it.

I can still remember the exact day – well, not exact day because I don’t recall the month or date that it happened – er, moment that it happened, that I realized that I wanted and needed to write. It was seven years ago, I was in my third year of high school and I was miserable. Not the kind of miserable that had a specific reason – I was a fairly average student from a middle-class family, I was immensely lucky compared to other kids my age – but the kind that just didn’t know why the misery and the profound sense of loneliness kept haunting me. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I had simply stored too much of my thoughts in my tiny, little head and just assumed that I was doing something wrong. Or not doing something at all, which was the case.

My little brother had had recurring stomach pains for weeks so my parents decided to get him checked in at the hospital. My relatives visited us at the hospital, including my grandmother, the one that really liked giving her opinions. I don’t remember her exact words or what had brought on those words in the first place, but at some point she talked (at great length) about people who did nothing with their lives, people who just went with things and never contributed anything to society. It was basically a sermon, grandma style.

Fourteen-year-old me felt like my grandmother was talking about me and I had never felt so ashamed. So I perused some old magazines in the hospital room and felt envious at the people featured in the magazines (some hoity-toity doctors who did a thing) and, surprisingly, at the people who wrote the articles. Like in most stressful situations, I found myself fantasizing about being a person worthy of writing about in a magazine (maybe I’d also be a doctor one day who’d do an equally interesting thing). Then, when that fantasy got boring, I fantasized about writing articles for a magazine and was struck by how much I liked the idea. It seemed like such a great job, going to interesting places, meeting different people, then, after the day is done, parking myself at my writing desk and punching out some article for printing.

When we got home, I quickly planted myself in front of the computer and searched how to be a writer (or at least how to write). I was on fire that night. I was so incredibly motivated that I knew, just knew, that I had been meant to be a writer. Verbally communicating to people had always been (and still is) my biggest weakness, but I had always had a knack for words. My thoughts constantly drown me no matter what I did, I just never really thought about writing them down.

When I started writing then, I never stopped. I couldn’t. It was like realizing that I had been breathing wrong my entire life and had just found out how much I needed oxygen to live.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be someone worth writing an article about in a magazine or newspaper or anything, but that’s fine. I’ll be the one doing the writing then.

Obligatory ‘Hello World’ Post™

Here I go again, creating a “new” blog that’ll supposedly be “different” or whatever from my other blogs. To record, right now I have about 1 Tumbleog (it counts as a blogging platform!), 1 secret Livejournal (secret because it’s basically my diary… and because of the fact that I know and still use LJ), 2 separate WordPress blogs (one’s completely private, the other’s a book blog thing that I had to make for a class), and a handful of long-forgotten Blogspot blogs that contained more or less two posts each. So why am I starting this blog then, in WordPress no less, a blogging platform that I still have no idea how to use? Not completely sure, actually. I have some suspicions though.

Envy
It’s embarrassing to admit but useless to deny but lately I have been rather envious of my friends’ blogs. I’m even more envious of their confidence of their blog. They share links to their blogs on their Facebook! Something that I would never even dream of doing.

Despite being an actual writer for our school publication, I’m still genuinely embarrassed to have people read the things that I write, especially online where it’s easier to write stupid things. It makes me uncomfortable, knowing that people that I know in real life have possibly read my stupid little thoughts (complete strangers, on the hand, are safer[??]). It shouldn’t be something to be ashamed of, I know, but I still kind of am. Our society may be starting to take blogging seriously now (instead of raising a brow in bewilderment and mild disdain like some people used to do in the old days) but I’m still extremely hesitant and borderline paranoid of sharing my blog to people that I know personally. It’d like giving people permission to peruse my mind and I’m just not good with that. I guess it’s a hard habit to break, guarding my blog/s obsessively, even in the eve of The Blogger age. I’ve been blogging secretly for so long that I just can’t imagine not doing it anymore.

‘But the chances of anyone reading my blog are still slim to none anyway so what’s the deal?’ I tell myself, but then realize that there’s still a chance, however slim, that someone I know could read it, maybe even react to it, and the possible consequences of that terrify me more than I can articulate.

But seriously
My longest running blog right now is my Tumblr and although I have no plans of deactivating it or abandoning the website any time soon (I’m honestly in too deep in Tumblr now that leaving is no longer even plausible), I still like to experiment with new blogging platforms. WordPress, it would appear, is a bit more serious than Tumblr. And is more of a legitimate blogging website. I can still remember my friend, who, coincidentally, is a WordPress blogger, saying that she “can’t believe some people use Tumblr like a blog.” I casually told her that I used to post my blog on Tumblr too and no I don’t have a Tumblr anymore, I don’t even remember my username, what is a Tumblr?

In any case, I’ve always wanted to have a go at running an actual, serious blog. Though come to think of it, I suck at serious writing so… yeah, good luck on that, me.

Oiling the machine
Though I suppose my main reason for creating this WordPress is to improve my writing and blogging skills. I may write a handful of articles every semester but I’m still light-years away from being even the slightest proud of my writing abilities. Some days I’m even terrified of suddenly losing whatever bland writing prowess I had in the first place. Once I get started on that nightmarish thought, I’d spend hours, sometimes even days, thinking of worst case scenarios and just generally torturing myself with reassessing everything that I’ve ever wrote and comparing myself to everyone and their grandmother. It gets tough, this anxiety-driven life I live.

I’m thinking maybe a fresh, clean, new blog will help me be less… not good with words. Or something. Damn, I’m so stupidly rusty.

But that’s all drivel and bull, I guess. Whatever my reasons/suspicions,  this blog is here, I’m here, my first post is here. Hello, World!