Sunday, August 3, 2008

My Writing god, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Died This Week

Some time ago at age 15, I dreamt of the gulag and the prisoners. I could almost see the haunting faces of the Brothers Karamazov, I feverishly followed each episode of Anna Karenina's life like how one would to a movie star today. I would ponder in awe with War and Peace. I was 15, and I was in the Age of Reason with Jean Paul Sartre.

I loved the feel of these thick hardbounds like they were everything that mattered to me.

Now, these characters, these authors are just blocks of hazy pieces of a large jigsaw puzzle haphazardly strewn in my mind. Yet they still make sense, in a way.

Today, I've read that Solzhenitsyn (whose name I even misspelled in my previous post) is dead.

This is how one must feel when he receives news from back home about someone who just died. Someone he barely remembers and even forgot that that someone ever existed. The bad news of death does not sink in at once. There is that detached feeling of trying to place the name back in his life. Once it finds its spot, the life you lived when you were with that name comes rushing back to you.

I was young once. Mesmerized, and fascinated by the world the words of Solzhenitsyn described to me. I was young and innocent. Solzhenitsyn was with me. Now, he's dead.

Is it his death that I am mourning? Or is it my long lost youth?

Here's that post that, to my utter horror, I just discovered I misspelled his name and "misnamed" one of his works:

Why I Wanted to be a Writer

I’ve always wanted to be a writer since I was in grade school. My fascination with the written word grew as I became a voracious reader, thanks to my mom who worked for a university, she can borrow an endless supply of reading materials for me.

I had an early start in reading. I clearly remember that as soon as I learned to read, everyday after school, I proceed to a neighbor’s barber shop to scan the pages of Bulletin Today for the funny pages. While I got hold of copies of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queens’ Ellery Queen series, Earl Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason, The Hardy Boys Series, and back copies of the Readers’ Digest, I got really hooked up on comic books. I was so into reading them that I can be considered a “komiks” addict. Everyday for months, I would gobble up pages of comics from the pinoy serials to DC and Marvel comics copies. If today’s neighborhood arcade games are threatening to destroy the education of some students, “komiks” almost destroyed mine.

I don’t know how my mom did it but she succeeded in getting my interest to reading textbooks one year ahead of my grade level. From being a “komiks” addict who was almost expelled due to absences, I became a bookworm. As a result, I guess, I graduated grade school with honors and was offered three high school academic scholarships.

In high school, my mom supplied me with stacks of back copies of The National Geographic (some are still in black and white photos), I was also swamped with Current Executive’s Digest. I read them all with gusto, but I liked the pocket books’ fiction better: I read most of Frederick Forsythe’s, Robert Ludlum’s, and John Le Carre’s novels, among others. My writing gods were Rudyad Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, O’Henry, and several other short story writers whose names I completely forgot. I was brought into the “Age of Reason” by Jean Paul Sartre and by Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina; War and Peace); Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Alexander Solshenitshin (Inner Circle, Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment—I forgot who wrote which but I can still remember the melancholy the worlds of these novels’ characters brought me.)

On my way to Luzon to study in U.P. Diliman on a scholarship, I was reading Abraham Maslow’s (I forgot the title) book about “man being intrinsically self-transcending.”

Now I'm here, pursuing my lifetime wish of becoming a writer. Unfortunately, this essay answers a requirement that asks for 500 words only—otherwise, this could have sprung an endless stream of nostalgic words reminiscent of that beautiful, pure, and vigorous existence of youth. Talk about a life... long faded into a hazy beautiful dream.

I believe my finally shifting to a full time writing career would restore and link me back to that lost chapter of my life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Writer's Block

Among the articles I wrote for clients, several were about "writer's block". I wrote about this subject by examining it from all angles, dissecting the causes, recommending self-help measures to fight this episode that is most unwelcome to all writers.

I said, I wrote several (I mean a lot of ) 500-word articles about this subject. One would think it would make me an expert on "Writer's Block". And being one, I would never be afflicted by it. Quite the contrary. I even hated this knowledge.

Whenever I find some difficulty in writing, I think of writer's block. And the symptoms worsen.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

When I Start Writing on a Project

Whenever i embark on a new project, i never start with a blank page. I always do research first from as many websites as i can. I copy and paste articles (including the URLs) in my word processor's page and when I think i have researched enough, i close all firefox windows.

Then I start reading.

Reading may take from 5 to 20 minutes depending on the volume of the information i copied, and depending on available materials. As opposed to reading to find ideas or concepts I can use for an assignment, I forget the reason why I'm doing it. I just enjoy and digest. I feel good when I come accross information that are familiar, and i nod approvingly at new ones. One thing about reading is you sometimes tend to deviate from your original purpose, (gathering more information while refreshing old ones to arm you with your writing process) and you dwell on what you can do with some new information and discoveries. Just like right now: i am writing about this idea, when i'm supposed to be working on an assignment.

After reading the last word on the last page of my copied research materials, I go back to the first line of the top page. I enter several times to move the lines down and leave about four spaces for my own writing. This is when i hear musical fanfare in my mind that goes something like, "Tan-ta-ra-raaaan!" I rub my palms together, then I say, "Here we go!"

Then I start writing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why I un-installed the games in my computer

A web content writer, or any other writer, usually, is a self-employed individual. No bosses to watch over him, and no fixed time schedule to follow, except his own. While this is desirable, this can also be a factor to his unproductivity: he can stop working anytime as he pleases. This makes the writer, especially beginners (like me) who has not adopted a discipline yet, susceptible to a lot of time-wasters.

You see, when you are faced with difficult humps anytime during the writing process, it is easy to just figuratively fidget and do something else to try to take your mind off the difficulty. You may play solitaire endlessly, write some e-mail, or YM a friend (endlessly too!) You can even leave your computer and fix yourself some coffee, shoot some hoops, or do the laundry.

I figured these are some causes of my being so stressed out. Not being able to finish enough articles, is just one cause of this stress. What makes it worse is, while I am acutely aware of this, I tend to make myself busy doing a lot of things other than writing. When one is stressed, he can feel excess energy swelling up inside him. In my case, instead of using this energy to propel the writing process, I direct this energy to doing mundane tasks. It's like a placebo that doesn't work. The longer I get back to get the writing juices going, the more intense the stress becomes.

As a solution to this difficulty, I un-installed the games in my computer, including solitaire, free cell, etc. These are the less demanding games that are so tempting anyone could turn to when facing writer's block. I also made it a point never to surf the internet (especially YouTube!-- the prank videos, one time, made me forget myself; my guffaws could be heard several houses away!) during breaks in writing except when doing research. And I make it a point to do research before i proceed on writing. No more unscheduled breaks (which if unnoticed, could happen every ten minutes, and would last an hour each break!)

One becomes a writer because he loves writing. So you cannot say writing is a difficult task. The discipline that goes with it IS difficult.

Writing as a hobby gives you the freedom when and when not to write. While this principle, to some extent, remains true to a professional writer, he is now saddled with editors, deadlines, and work volumes to take into consideration. This means this freedom is no longer absolute, if it means meeting deadlines.

It is best to note then that while you write before because of your passion, now, you write because it is your profession. And when we talk about a profession, the concept of professionalism is usually not far away ahead. Work discipline is the first step to attaining the concept of professionalism.

As a conclusion, it is time for me (and you) to bring "writing" to another level. Writing is no longer just a passion. Writing IS a discipline.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A lull in the storm

There are times when no gigs come your way. This is more of a boon than a bane for writers who limit their works on original articles only. No one could just work and craft out ten articles per day for weeks non-stop. At least for me, whose output comes out at a snail's pace.

I have a problem with my writing speed. In fact, one article could go from more than one hour, to two hours on a good day. And basing on the past two weeks where I have received job orders for an average of 30 articles that I need to submit three days after I receive them show how impossible things could get.

I am not yet through with the excitement, the adrenaline pumping, “on-edge” feeling about this whole affair. This makes my writing process doubly difficult, it gives me writer’s block. I find myself on a lot of occasions exerting more effort at getting each work done. And most of the time, when I’m supposed to be punishing the keyboard and getting things done, I just sit stressed out. If I’m not sitting in front of the computer, I go around with the pretext of getting some break (despite not being able to accomplish anything yet), in desperation of not being able to write faster.

I need a system. I need to devise, establish and follow a writing system that I would religiously follow. This system would involve a schedule, work discipline (like, don’t friggin’ stand in the middle of an article!), and standard time allotment for each article.

Now, in the middle of this two-day break (aah! Now I can fully appreciate what the word “breather” means), I can find time again to visit my favorite sites and spend endless hours of unbridled raucous laughter with the funny videos from YouTube!

I get to visit OWL at Purdue too, might as well get more tips on writing.