Wednesday, November 7, 2007
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
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
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
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.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
It’s been two years since my last real job. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I’m jobless, or something. I have my own business put up while I was still working. My wife, who was also working, helped me run this business. It was doing so well after some time, it even earned more than twice each of us were earning from our respective jobs. After a while, she decided to quit hers and went full time running our small business. As my career was also flourishing at that time, I just relegated myself to supporting roles like taking charge of R & D (research and development), as financial advisor, consultant, and trouble shooter of some sort. That was nine years ago. Now, the business has grown and my wife’s still running it. And me, I am officially out of work!
I am now trying to earn by writing.
It’s a cliché, but I’ll say it anyway: writing is a lonely business. I would even go further by saying that writing at home is even sadder for me: A small corner for my computer, and a phone. Just that. No company name, no business card, no signage, no frills, no glitter, no fanfare, nothing spectacular, and nothing specially noting about this job—at least from the point of view of a beginner like me.
I never liked reminiscing back on the life I had when I was still a working professional. It’s like looking at spilled milk…it makes one want to cry. But to give one a general idea: My work was no longer like work anymore. They’re mostly meetings with staff, meetings with special community based organizations, meetings with the Rotary club I’m in, meetings, meetings, and more meetings. And when you get to these meetings, you get to enjoy great food (sometimes free) from plush hotels and restaurants. When I get to the office, after my secretary hands me a cup of coffee, I read memos, write memos, read and sign documents, after which I proceed to read the morning papers. Of course I get stressful scenarios every now and then, but I just pass them on to the department heads under me. Sometimes I bully them, sometimes I sweet-talk them. Over-all, it was every executive’s boring daily routine. It is only now in retrospect that I can see its beautiful side: I was living like a prince. Talk about realizing something’s worth only after you lost it.
Now, I’m trying to earn by writing.
This writing career is a complete 360 degree turn from the razzle-dazzle of a corporate world. You’re no longer surrounded by fawning staff to make you feel like a king; you only have the house help who wonders why you’re not going to work like everybody else. No more complicated corporate mumbo-jumbo; just domestic chatter about the trash, leaking faucets and, sometimes, even laundry. You’re no longer concerned with quarterly reviews, performance assessments, and bottom lines; you only rant about how the daily menu isn’t giving the children a balanced diet. You don’t need to wear signature clothes and your Florsheims anymore, you have no important meetings with important people anymore. No more critical decisions to make, except when asked by the wife to help her decide whether to let your son sleep over at the in-laws for the night or not.
Before setting my sights to a writing career, I tried to focus my talents and efforts to helping my wife with our business (don’t forget, I put up that business!) It took some effort to change my working paradigm with a different set of employees with different culture, and with the wife as the boss (and now I have a boss!). As if that set-up was not enough to pummel my ego (or maybe because that set-up pummeled my ego), my working there just didn’t work out. I just stopped regularly going to our shop except when I’m really needed. I became a full-time retiree. But, at my age, not going to work or not having any job, makes me look and feel more like a jobless bum than a retiree. Unfortunately, I would secretly agree with whoever would call me a jobless bum, if ever anyone did. Talk about realizing something’s worth only after you lost it.
Actually, I wouldn’t say I lost it. I just turned my back from it. When I turned 40, two years ago, I retired to fulfill of a promise I made to myself: I won’t be doing the same thing I was doing for more than 20 years already. It could maybe be a case of a bloated ego that made me tell some people about this promise, too. After all, I have made my mark in the industry I worked for. I felt I’ve reached the top and to keep up the pace, there’s nowhere else to go but start with another career. The idea was very appealing: the adventure of having another life! The prospect of changing my lifestyle that has gone from bad to worse (I was in the broadcast industry—but this is another story). And change have I got! I turned into a middle-aged jobless bum.
This change has led me to writing. It is now almost a month and I just submitted my first gig. I got another work from the same outfit that needs a trip to the library (the source required is a book). I also just received a reply from another posting. I might get it too. I love what’s happening. But this is just the icing on the cake (–prelude to another story.)
Here's an a tongue-in-cheek article I did and submitted to AlldivaMedia.com
I was browsing the internet for some available writing assignments when I was led to Alldivamedia.com. I was about to browse somewhere else because apparently, this site is for women. But one topic for job submission caught my attention: Working at Home. It caught my interest, I just embarked on a career that would tie me in my chair at home: writing.
I want to write about working at home. (see Working at Home) But would Alldivamedia accept me? Would they accept male writers/bloggers? Maybe they would. I don’t have to be a woman to feel, think, and write about the profound things that women may find interesting. After all, (tongue in cheek) most feminists’ causes are actually about their struggle for equal work opportunity. Would they discriminate me then by virtue of my sex? Maybe they would, maybe they won’t.
Won’t they be interested on what goes on inside the male specie’s mind if he finds himself in the shoes of a woman, who works as a writer and, as a consequence, assumes the role of a househusband?
Maybe they would.- note: this was one week ago and i didn't get any response from them. Question answered.
The last thing i remembered doing immediately after my last blog was to send my application documents to several "writers needed" posted on the internet. An example is "Writing for AlldivaMedia.com" Three days after that, I received responses from three "affiliates" stating their interest in having me as a writer.
After a brief exchange of queries and answers, one immediately sent me 2 research writing projects, another sent me 10! Another was requiring me to work full time to come up with an average of 15-20 articles per day...15-20 articles per day!
I could just not describe the feeling, except: "Wow!"
So, I started writing. Professionally. "Wow!"
What transpired afterwards was like a whirlwind of sorts. It was almost a drowning experience. Have you had a beautiful dream, except that it's bordering on becoming a nightmare? You see, I have been living the relaxed life of a retiree (see Working at Home). And now...the volume of work, and the deadlines...
It's not the writing experience that I expected. It was more than that. It's an entirely another level of writing. Within the first week, I have to give up the research writing job, and declined the full-time 15-20 articles per day (after two days of non-stop writing, i decided i have to be superhuman to do that--but others can!?!). I decided to just focus on one affiliate who seems nice and helpful, especially for a beginner like me. (Boss, if you're reading this....)
Now, it's my 8th day as a real-life, flesh-and-blood, true-blue website content writer. And I've written and submitted 40 articles to my (nice) boss. This does not include the research works i submitted to another outfit before i called it quits. Not bad for a start, huh.
After what seemed like an eternity of pounding on the keyboard, 3-hour sleep per day (and it's not all "writing time"--those sleepless episodes are mostly spent on being stressed-out and forcing myself to write) this is the first time i am enjoying a day-off, and I am celebrating this 8th day by coming back here to update. (See, i posted thre new ones already)
Sunday, October 7, 2007
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.”
Before I was able to finish my B.A. Communications Research course in U.P., I made a name as the youngest media professional in my province in the south. Starting as a news writer, I became a station manager and the chapter (region) chairman of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, (KBP) the country’s professional broadcasters’ association.
I believe my finally shifting to a full time writing career would restore and link me back to that lost chapter of my life.