Monday, July 30, 2012

Books and Swimming Pools.

I was spending the weekend away with my friends when we decided it was a beautiful morning for a swim. I didn't feel like swimming (and so were my other two friends), so I decided to bring a book along for company. It was all good, all was positive, until I started walking across the narrow pathway between the swimming pools and this weird thing happened. As I was walking on the narrow, dry pathway between the pools, I felt all nervous and jiggly knowing I had a book in my hands and I was, at that moment, surrounded by water. We all know paper don't go well together with water, so it was as if the water could rise and somehow snatch the book away from me and swallow it up (okay, probably not). 

Anyways, this weird feeling of obsessiveness and the need to protect the books are I guess somewhat natural for people who have passion for literature. I mean, writers, to begin with, love books like they're their own babies, which is a little bizarre sometimes because to most people they're just paper and ink. Well, they're not just paper and ink. What happens with writers and books is that we would grow so attached with the stories from the books we love as if they were our own, that we felt if the book was destroyed somehow, the stories would die with it. We knew that, right? We knew stories doesn't die when books are burned or when books drowned, but still, we can't help it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Your Support System Matters.

If you Google "Writing Support System" or something pretty much similar to that, you're going to start talking about agents, editors, publishers, writing tools or programs and so on. True, this is also a part of your support system as a writer. But this is more or less professional and that, is not what I'm talking about here. The support system I'm talking about is the most basic support system you're going to need, doesn't matter you're a writer or running for President. I'm talking about friends and families.

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Yes, your friends and your families matter. I posted a quote from Roald Dahl a few hours ago and he emphasized on how writing (or finishing a book, if I may call it) is actually a long and slow process. He emphasized this journey to make writers realize that writing is not just about jotting down words on a blank page (well it kinda is all about that), but if you really want to get somewhere with your writing, you have to stick to it. And you can't exactly stick to it for just a day or a week. We're talking about years and decades of actually 'sticking to it'.

I've done several attempts to complete a novel and believe me, sticking to writing can sometimes be a big challenge. You're going to feel like every part of your brain is no longer interested in your characters and refused to corporate with them, you're going to think over your plot and start feeling insecure about everything and this will make you hesitate to write more and it will end up to a series of useless days and blank pages. You can feel the story calling you back but you have lost your confidence and spirit, and you feel like less of a writer than you were before. At this point, the people who can bring you back are your family and your friends. But at the same time, the people who can make you finally quit on writing are your family and your friends, too. 

Why? Well, here's the thing. If you have a good support system, it means that your family and friends not only know and understand that you want to be a writer and that you love writing, but also accept that dream of yours wholeheartedly. It means that they will show you that they do have your back, and that no matter how badly the sales of your book is, they will still buy every copy available at every book store they run into because they give a crap about it. And this is exactly the thing that will bring you back from the dead. 

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A writer's support system matters. They can't go far if what they hear all day are their friends making fun of their writing, mocking them for their love of books, calling them names (like geeks, nerds, freaks, etc.) and constantly telling them to stop writing. Eventually, no matter how much confidence they have in themselves, these evil voices will get to them. It will affect them psychologically and this isn't good, because writers need their mind, body and soul in one piece to make good writing. 

So, I guess while we make our ways to the end of our books, it wouldn't hurt to become best friends with an avid reader, make out with a book collector, or have a sister who likes poetry. And it definitely wouldn't hurt to marry someone you love and who thinks being a writer is a good idea (as quoted from Richard Ford). Like I said, your support system matters, thus make sure yours is a damn good one.

A very, very long, slow process.

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“When you're writing a book, it's rather like going on a very long walk, across valleys and mountains and things, and you get the first view of what you see and you write it down. 

Then you walk a bit further, maybe up onto the top of a hill, and you see something else. Then you write that and you go on like that, day after day, getting different views of the same landscape really. 

The highest mountain on the walk is obviously the end of the book, because it's got to be the best view of all, when everything comes together and you can look back and see that everything you've done all ties up. But it's a very, very long, slow process.”

Roald Dahl.
September 13, 1916- November 23, 1990
British novelist, short story writer, children's author and screenwriter.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hemingway's Willie.

"Dear Gianfranco:

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Just after I finished writing you and was putting the letter in the envelope Mary came down from the Torre and said, ‘Something terrible has happened to Willie.’ I went out and found Willie with both his right legs broken: one at the hip, the other below the knee. A car must have run over him or somebody hit him with a club. He had come all the way home on the two feet of one side. It was a multiple compound fracture with much dirt in the wound and fragments protruding. But he purred and seemed sure that I could fix it.

I had RenĂ© get a bowl of milk for him and RenĂ© held him and caressed him and Willie was drinking the milk while I shot him through the head. I don’t think he could have suffered and the nerves had been crushed so his legs had not begun to really hurt. Monstruo wished to shoot him for me, but I could not delegate the responsibility or leave a chance of Will knowing anybody was killing him…

Have had to shoot people but never anyone I knew and loved for eleven years. Nor anyone that purred with two broken legs."

Ernest Hemingway
Quoted from The Letters of Ernest Hemingway: Volume 1, 1907-1922.
(Posted also on

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Desperation of a Journalist.

I see journalists as the manual workers, the laborers of the word. Journalism can only be literature when it is passionate.
Marguerite Duras, French Novelist. 

Today was the first time I came face to face with an actual TV reporter, carrying an actual wireless microphone, surrounded by actual video-cameras and crews. It was an interesting experience, not because of the possibility that my face might appear in the news, but because I know now how reporters do their jobs. It was funny to watch the frustration on the reporter's face as she interviewed someone in my class because her objective was to get a killer story, which means she doesn't give a crap about what the people she interviewed actually feel as long as they say the right words and bring her that perfect scoop. Unfortunately, in this case, it seemed like she picked the wrong respondent as the answers given to her didn't seem to satisfy her at all. She was going nuts because the meaning was there, just not the exact words she was looking for, which made it a not-so-killer story.

I'm not writing this to mock reporters or journalists, because I honestly give them my highest respect for so many reasons. On the contrary, I'm writing this  because I admire their effort in collecting data and information merely to put together a good piece of article, their hunger to capture as widely as they can but deliver them as precisely as possibly. It's hard work, serious hard work, like every other writing process. I'm writing this because I was jealous of them, jealous of their desperation to share their story in such a way that so that the whole world will turn their heads and listen to them. The thirst and the passion in their eyes are not something you get to see everyday.

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Different Set of Eyes.

photo credit: National Geographic Channel
I don't believe in spiritual journeys. I'm pretty sure I've said this before. I don't believe in going to remote places, that going to the high ends of a mountain or into the darkest edges of the forest can inspire you. Well, maybe they do to some extend, but I'm pretty sure these kinds of journeys aren't for me. What I believe can inspire is the process of getting new understandings about how the world works, which to some people is done through spiritual journeys.

A different set of eyes, that's what I would say. This is because by going through those journeys you learned a little bit more about yourself, you experienced something you have never experienced before. It's like the first time you went camping and you were faced with a bear. At this very moment, you will know how it feels to be (literally) scared to death, to muster all the courage within you for the sake of seeing tomorrow and the way you see life from that moment on will be changed. It's like you get a brand new set of eyes that will allow you to have a different perspective from what you used to believe in.

So maybe camping is a bad example of a spiritual journey, but that's not the point. The point is that it doesn't matter where you go or what you do, what does matter is how your choice of destination and activities there can introduce you to things you have never encountered before. In other words, how far are you going to allow yourself to be adventurous?

We all want our stories to be fearless. We write for the adventure, the ride and the thrill of it all, but how far are you willing to push yourself? Fearless stories come from fearless writers. How fearless are you willing to be in pursuing the experiences you need to reach greater depths for your stories? Because in reality, you can't really capture the heart of a  love story in New York if you've never been to New York and actually fell in love with someone there. Well, probably not 100%, but you'll capture the story better if you've experienced it first-hand.

How many set of eyes are you willing to have, so that you can step into your characters' shoes, again, at greater depths? Because if you want to create 10 great characters, you're going to need 10 different set of eyes, or should I say 10 different perspectives, and putting yourself in the shoes of 10 different people is a hard thing to do. If you hold yourself back and you don't start being fearless, you'll have less experiences which means you have fewer set of eyes that will lead you to weak characters and result in not-so-great stories, proving you're a not-so-great writer. And for me, being not-so-great isn't enough.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Trick Question.

Chemistry. Are you any good? 

Ba + Na2 = ?

This was a hard question for me because "Ba" is for Barium and "Na" is for Sodium. Barium is under the category of alkaline earth metals and Sodium is under the category of alkali metals, which to me, doesn't help at all. I tried thinking of the concept of acid and base, but still nothing came up. It's even more frustrating because I know I was good at Chemistry, it's just the equation just didn't make sense to me.

Well, of course it didn't make sense because I didn't realize this wasn't Chemistry, this was basic logic: 

Ba + Na2 = BaNaNa
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Banana. How could I not thought of that? That's the problem, I didn't thought of that. I was too caught up with all the theories and the rules taught in Chemistry classes that I forgot to play around with the equation, to see it from a different angle so that the equation actually made sense. And we do that a lot, don't we? We create characters that are bound by the rules, bound by the basics, bound by the traditions. We write stories about same old dragons and elves and werewolves in the same old evil-dark-forest. We dig in the world of pretty young girls building their careers in fashion design the city of New York instead of maybe telling the story of a dyslexic teenager trying to make her way to be the President of USA, which is to the common people, something impossible. 

I don't blame the basics, I love the basics. I think stories about uptown girls living in New York, their summer love affairs in LA, these regular characters, typical people we see on TV series and in our daily lives, I think they're fascinating. I think these characters and stories help us understand our surroundings better, give us a better picture about other people and their lives. But every once in a while we have to break all the rules and write stories about people we have never heard before, explore the world we have never been to before, because this is what keeps the literary world alive. They say rules are made to be broken, and that's probably true, because I don't see the fun in Chemistry but I see tons of adventure awaiting in Creativity. 

Sometimes we have to let go, let our minds imagine outside of the box. Maybe it's a good thing, maybe it's not, but that's the trick question. The only way to find out is to give it a shot. Write fearlessly and we'll see. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I Still Believe.

Anne Frank
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"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again." 

In Memory of Anne Frank (June 12, 1929 - March 1945).
Quoted from The Diary of a Young Girl.
Entry of Saturday, 15 July, 1944, pg. 237.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Remember The Holocaust? The catastrophe that happened during the World War II that killed around six million European Jews, the one sponsored by the Nazi and led by the "great" Adolf Hitler? Yes, how could we forget. I was watching a documentary on the National Geographic titled "Nazi Death Squads" and I was reminded of this tragedy.

The Diary of a Young Girl
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There have been movies and books made to honor this event, to remind us all of the selfishness of human beings in their pursue for power. One of my favorite pieces is Anne Frank's Diary: The Diary of a Young Girl.She was born on June 12, 1929. She was bright, beautiful and brilliant like every other teenage Jew living in Frankfurt, Germany. She had hopes and dreams just like everyone of us and it was a shame she had to die at such an early age. What's even worse is that she died for the sake of someone's inhumanity. During her time in hiding, Anne Frank spend her time writing a diary about her daily lives in the secret annex. Her diary was kept by Miep Gies, a family friend that helped the Franks went into hiding, and eventually published as one of the most iconic literary works of the World War II.

Her diary became an inspiration to me both as a writer and as an independent citizen. I didn't just get to know who Anne Frank was, in fact I think getting to know what kind of girl she was is just a small part of the diary. The bigger part lies in understanding her family and her own struggles in getting through the times of war, her courageous spirit to keep on dreaming of freedom in times where death could come knocking at any moment. The better words to describe this is probably "to try to understand" because we could never get it, not in a million years, unless we were ever to be put in the same position as the Jews were at that time.

I don't applaud her for her writing skills, because I know there are so many other legendary writers in this world with much, much better skills than her. But I applaud her for her spirit, which is something not many of us have. I admire her for her spirit to pour out everything she had in her heart into writing and just dwell in her passion upon words instead of drowning herself in misery in the midst of all the mess she had to go through. It's humiliating to reflect on the fact that many writers fell into depression after receiving their first rejection slip. I mean, the World War II compared to a rejection slip, seriously? 

Anne Frank
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How I wish that to fight like hell the way she did was easier said than done and how I wish that every person in this world, including myself, could have the heart and soul that she had. And until today, I still envy her. I envy her joy, her courage, her inner child that allows her to dream beyond all kinds of impossibilities. Until today, I still find her one of my greatest sources of inspiration and I will forever be in awe of her life journey. 

"Still," she writes, "what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart."

In Memory of Anne Frank (June 12, 1929 - March 1945).
Quoted from The Diary of a Young Girl.
Saturday, 20 June, 1942, pg. 2 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Point where You have to Write.

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"Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It's a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write."
Paul Rudnick. 
American playwright, screenwriter and novelist.

The Element of Procrastination.

Ha Ha. Everybody does this, right?

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pro·cras·ti·na·tion  [proh-kras-tuh-ney-shuhn, pruh‐]
the act or habit of procrastinating,  or putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention: She was smart, but her constant procrastination led her to be late with almost every assignment.
 Modern Language Association (MLA):
"procrastination." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 07 Jul. 2012. 

I found that in the process of writing a book, or a story, or writing anything at all, you will always come to a point where you want to delay getting the job done because of a million reasons: your favorite TV show is on, your dog wants to play, your mom just finished making her famous lasagna and etc. You will feel the urge to do things you never felt like doing, things other than writing. This is the beginning of our procrastination.

Here are 5 of probably the most common things that drive us to procrastinate (and also the things you should avoid during your attempt to write):

1. Internet 
Ooh, I've got new tweets coming in! I should read them first. Clicks on Facebook. OMG, he's with her now? This is crazy, I have to tell Annie right away. Look at that shirt, so cute! I want one. This can't be delayed, I have to get one now! Clicks on Etsy.

2. Cell Phones 
Text Annie. Annie texted back. Text Annie back. Annie texted back again. Oh shoot! Grey's Anatomy is on!

3. TV
Patrick Dempsey is so cute. Thank goodness I didn't miss this episode.

4. Food
I'll go grab something to eat first. Can't think when I'm hungry! Eats a bar of chocolate. I'm sleepy now.

5. Yourself
Never mind, it's getting late. I'll just write tomorrow.

Like I said, everybody does this.
(But let's make it a habit not to do this.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Thoughts on the Freedom to Express.

Being a writer and a reader exposes us constantly to the freedom to express opinions, emotions and all sorts of things. Some people express their political views and beliefs through plays and poetry. Some others express their disappointments in wrong upbringing, their concerns for crimes happening in the world and even their issues with mother-in-laws through essays and even write stories reflecting on their personal experiences using fictional characters. The more I understand this, the more dig through the motives of why writers write about something, the more I get where the writers are coming more, the more overwhelming it becomes. Because it's crazy how much emotion we feel and go through on a daily basis and it makes me wonder how could we ever survive from becoming some nutcase without this freedom to express our opinions? 

We express our thoughts in so many ways, from merely just talking to a friend to becoming a social activist or running for President, and yet even if we have already been appointed as the President, we will always have something more to say, something else to fix. And thinking about this makes me understood what Ray Bradbury said about how he was often called a nutcase:

"Writing keeps you sane." 

I didn't understand this, when I heard him say this in one of his speeches, because I felt like he was being over the top. But looking back, I figured it's probably true. Bradbury writes because he felt joy when he's writing and he found his voice there. This voice he founds through writing gives him the capability to express everything he wanted to share to the world and that, kept him sane. That voice kept him in a good shape because he didn't need to hold back on anything and when you don't hold back, you find peace. Isn't that the whole purpose for having the freedom to express?