Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My long-running, open-ended plight

I woke up today particularly hopeful to write just a bit better. Yesterday, I stunk the whole place up with a story I did. I can't even get myself to think about it - - it just reminds me how much I've fooled myself, why I ever thought I could be a writer one day, why I ever considered this kind of life in the first place. Because plainly and simply, I suck.

But yesterday, there was hope. I figured that it might just have been the lack of material, the lack of inspiration (which is, most of the time, the case) or the fact that I haven't been eating good foods lately. Or that I haven't been getting my customary 10 pages a day (I can barely get through 5). So for hopes of some spark to fly by, I pulled out copies of Time Magazine from my office's stack. I've been meaning to get this particular issue for myself, (the first time ever that I'd purchase Time), it was the one with the cover story on Aisha, the Afghan teen who had her nose and ears cut off by the Taliban when she attempted to leave Afghanistan because her in-laws were abusing and maltreating her.

I read Aryn Baker's piece, and not once was I stuck on a complicatedly-stitched sentence. Her words were clear, they were outright, they were simple, but damn, they were intense. And here I am, always trying to puff my words with a whiff of wit - sometimes with the called-for puns - or even drama, because without it, my story screamed of mediocrity. No not even mediocre, it was useless, it was a grueling, catastrophic waste.

Now I know I shouldn't be going off comparing myself to Time (or Newsweek, which I often do) because it would have been such a hilarious, depressing attempt at an otherwise super uneven contest. But this is what I like to do, I like to think in big bubbles, it's the only way I can insert some sense of...well, bigness to my dwarfing career. It's like when some actress think of Julia Roberts when she does scenes, surely, she wouldn't par with one of the most decorated Actress of all-time, but putting herself up to such an immense test would, at best, heighten the lowest she can fall.

I saw at the issue's backpage something of an Asia's Prize Essay writing contest. When I saw that the deadline was August 31, I felt a tinge of sayang!. (For God's sakes, I don't even know how to put this sayang emotion to an english equivalent.) But while I was reading the directions, I felt as though a thousand mocking eyes were at me, whispering to themselves how a lowly, talentless pseudo writer could possibly fathom joining a Time-collaborated Essay contest. I mean, fuck, what was I thinking? I can't even write a decent write-up on a coffee from an animal's shit - - how do I even write "a fresh idea on the key challenges facing Asia that will have an impact on public policy and business in the continent"? Pretty delusional, right?

And in that split-second, warped into the realization of my petty, hopeless dreams, all that I've been about, all that I've worked for - and practically lived and breathed for - came crashing down and pulverized to tiny, sharp, broken pieces. That if I try to put it back together, I will cut, and further injure my already wounded spirit.

And that's exactly what happened today. I woke up this morning absorbing, for the first time in my life, the idea of a 'new beginning.' Out from my bed to the bus going to my office, I've already been writing inkless word on my head, on the faces of passengers next to me, on the bus window that reeks of Manila's congested traffic. And for a while, I felt motivated. I couldn't wait to get my ass in front of the computer and type these words. I had a whole lead on my head. I put it on the screen, and there, greeting my day, staring me bluntly in my bewildered face, was yet, another set of catastrophic mess.

But I wasn't about to let my spirits fall - it was only 9 in the morning! If I can fall down the bell jar at 9, how miserable could I be at 3 in the afternoon? I was determined.

The result? Me, sitting blankly in front of the computer, at 11:47, a dozen tabs of articles open in my browser, and not a single word (not even a single idea) written. Not because I can't (although yes, I very much can't) but because I don't want to. I already know I'm bad - - but to see the physical evidence of it blinking at me, ready to leap out of the screen to punch me, just so I could wake out of this senseless, ridiculous dream of wanting to be a writer, would kill me. It would, literally, put me out.

It's not as if I don't have the material for a good story (which in fact, I don't) - I can have the best material in the world right now. But I can't seem to find it, I don't seem to be able to spot it, or the have the right eye to see it, and even the right mind to understand it - I don't have the sense of a writer. And even when, by some miracle, I do, I doubt that I can even make something out of it. I'd probably end up butchering an otherwise majestic tale.

And the worse part is: I don't know how to do anything else! And frankly, I don't want to do anything else. This is my life - my air, my food, my lover, my heated affair, my best friend, my business partner, my nemesis, but also my rock - this is everything. And to see it flail desperately out of form, I was terrified.

I don't expect you to understand. My mom doesn't even get it. Only my closest friends would know. (Monica, you of all would know, after witnessing my 1-hour walk-out slash breakdown over a low-graded paper, how I'm just about feeling right the fuck now.) But in an effort to explain the immensity by which writing affects me, imagine Mariah Carey, waking up one day, realizing she could no longer belt out what has once been the world's perfect note. Hell, let's not even talk about the pros here. Imagine some of the UAAP's worst (in technical skills, in commercial potential, in mass appeal, in raw talent, and sense of the game) players -- imagine them as young boys, holding a ball and baking themselves every day under the sweltering sun, perfecting what they think is a pretty rad touch, imagine them on the day a College called, recruiting them, imagine them realizing that their dream is finally going to come true. And imagine them today, from the Team's second team, and a multitude of bad press, all of them saying he simply sucks. Imagine him dribbling a ball on a deserted court today, and he can't even make an undefended, well-positioned, timely trey - - and finally realizing it all has been a big, cruel, prolonged joke. Imagine him in that heartbreaking moment - then imagine him in me.

That's what it means to me.

That's how much I am torn to pieces right now.

That's how much I'm screwed. So if you're not me today, right in this moment, and on the moments to come, good for you.


  1. There, there...

    I am thisclose to giving up on this career and I'm not even working there yet. Not that I would know if your writing crisis is work-related.

    Sometimes I think I'm better off doing something else.

  2. Kinda work-related, but only because now I'm really needed to write well as opposed to the past when I'm merely writing out of my own kicks.

    Hurry up and pumasok ka na and let's share this misery :-)

  3. Hey honestly, I'm a little beat-up over this career choice myself, but sometimes I just get myself together and think "one more day to prove myself" and if I can get that one day, and another, and another, then I can keep on writing. Like that fucked up (but true) saying that you're only as good as your last byline.

    Anyway all I'm saying is writing for someone else is damn hard, but it proves your ability if you can write the shit they want to see.

    Hang in there. :D


  4. Jacob, I know what you mean. But I have this hang-up that if you're just doing it to get through the next day, then why do it at all?

    What I'm stuck on is I used to be really happy every time I write, now I'm just gaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

    I hope this is just a phase. Thanks :_)