It keeps on getting funny

We invited a couple of friends at our house on a Wednesday night. With the right amount of booze I was able to tell a friend about my writing frustrations - I expressed it in such a way that I thought of writing about it here, in this blog, because one thing I can write about at length are rants. (Come to think of it: I started a blog as a fifteen year-old precisely to have an avenue for ranting!)

Like most college students who majored in Creative Writing, I grew up coddled by writing workshops: it was a "safe space" for criticism, for unorthodox ideas, for outlandish plot lines, and for the wildest writing prompts. Each week, writing workshops gave me a chance to improve my craft, and in those three years it instilled in me that need and desire to read, write and be criticized.

I wasn't giddy at finishing college for a host of reasons - leaving the campus, with its lush greenery and its laid-back environment was certainly one of those. As a writing major I was required to hand over a sixty-page thesis - a suite of fiction and poetry, with an essay (called 'generic criticism') to elucidate readers about your project. (Both my adviser and critic were ambivalent about it: it had the danger of oversharing and overexplaining about your work, which runs counter to the joys of reading an anthology or any body of work and slowly unraveling the animus? the core of that work.) In those remaining weeks of college I had to wrap up the project, have it printed, bound and sealed for the university to archive.

Finishing college felt like someone pulled the rug under me. Bereft of workshops, of a community that's tolerant with experiments, writing became less. Although I peaked at reading online magazines and online articles about books, I was reading a measly two books a year. My reading-to-writing ratio was so bad I was reading anything I can find, hoping to spark or inspire me to write more. My activity was reduced to writing down notes on my smartphone.

Fast forward to my first job in Ortigas: this was a time when I was able to convince myself to love the idea of writing for myself - finally, no one would mind my misplaced commas or my shrug-worthy prepositions! Back then, I considered writing primarily as a platform to understand myself (that's... a lot like staring yourself at a mirror?), to rearrange my thoughts and package it for my own consumption. I publish blog posts that only I can totally understand - and although I started to notice that my writing was slowing down - on those first few months I relished the freedom. Sweet, delicious freedom.

It took me months or years to realize that writing for oneself is also, to use a cliche I hate, a 'double-edged sword': the lack of readership also meant the lack of validation or repudiation from your readers. As someone who thrived in a 'writing workshop' environment that tolerated half-baked ideas and jarring metaphors, in a community that prodded me to hone my craft, supported by mentors and professors who would give you back a print version of your six-page fiction, inked with underlines and handwritten comments that are at times cryptic and euphemistic, with ideas and exhaustive reading lists as footnotes, writing for oneself is the complete antithesis of that environment. However notorious the image of writers as loners, or of writing as a solitary activity, at the end of the day, writers have to be read by someone - anyone! - who cares about thoughts. Writing is a way of connecting to people.

I told my friend - who at this point was probably irritated at my 'pity party' - that I've read a couple of articles that offer advice and tips to trick me out of my so-called 'writer's block': I've tried index cards and pocket notebooks and productivity hacks like bullet journals (trendily shortened as BuJo) and even buying a domain and creating a blog and an Instagram account for a food webzine project, and yet I still couldn't find myself writing down a decent paragraph. When a decade ago I used to find myself writing in just about any environment, this time I find myself listing down excuses on why I couldn't write: nothing is never enough - the lighting, the room, the place, the weather - or somehow I'll find an article from a writer who wrote better, who graduated with honours, who was a former scholar from overseas and attended countless of prestigious writing workshops. These thoughts would cripple me, would gnaw at what's left of my desire to write again.

I stumbled upon this article from a writer who had a really hard time pitching articles to publications, and she wrote: perfect is the enemy of good. Maybe, just maybe, I'll have to start writing again - this time with a reader in mind, and with the openness I had - to ideas, to criticisms - a decade ago.