Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Why Do I Write Again?

I had forgotten why.

I ignored the muse many times this month because I could not find time for writing. It was painful. I let my pen and paper be squeezed at the bottom of my workload, and it took me some pulling out, whittling down and sickness before I got to them again. To my surprise, when I finally got hold of them, I felt like I no longer know how to write.

My writing skills seemed to have deteriorated. Every day I would be in a room full of space, and have a desk waiting. There, I would sit and write. But not write at all. Not a single word appealed to me and whenever any did, it won't be of beauty. It was a huge writer's block. In those barren days, I saw my writing skills molting before me. And it was because I neglected it, left it in a corner, and forgot about it for a long time.

Or perhaps, it wasn't really about my writing skills.

The black ink resembled my mood. Empty papers felt familiar. And the drear blinks of the cursor resounded the rhythm of my week. Man, it was me all along. I wanted words, but they weren't coming because I was pulling them out from a void or an empty cavern. I was the one deteriorating, the one molting, the one who was empty.

Why do I write again? was the question.

I turned to God for answers. Then I talked to people. Then I rested. Then read books. And read books. And read more books. Then finally, I remembered what I have forgotten.

I forgot the joy of expressing myself with art, of creating a world and bringing my readers in it, of listening to people and immortalizing their stories in paper.

I forgot love.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

When the Breeze Blew the Poppies

I had a busy day, running with time in the city.

Something was wrong with our office's management, and all we could do was work, floating along the waves created by their huge hands. My brows furrowed almost every single day without my command. Every night, I yearned for peace. For solitude. For an escape. Until that night came when I had to just sleep all the exhaustion away.

Four hours.

Six hours.

Eight.

I opened my eyes. Such a bright sky. Birds from afar were singing while clouds ambled over me, looking pure and fluffy as usual. I lifted my hand and traced one cloud with my finger. I formed a dolphin. I giggled.

Wait.

I flapped my arms, as if making a snow angel. I realized, I was lying, not in my bed, but in a meadow - cool, sweet-scented meadow. How did I get here?

I sat bolt upright, and looked around me. I was a dot in a huge space of meadow embellished with chamomile. That part from afar had colorful poppies sticking out, though.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

I was dumbfounded, awestruck for quite a long while. Not blinking. Unflinching at the peace that was welling in me. I just could not believe I was there. I looked up again to see the sky's splendor, and noticed the rays of the sun peeking out of a cloud.

That was holy and grand.

I lingered at this some more, mouth agape and rarely moving.

Then came the breeze.

And woke me up.

Drifted

I've been walking for two hours now.

No, I've been shuffling. The sky is dark. The streets are messy as always. Cars whiz past beside me with their exhaust puffing out black, dirty - disgustingly dirty - smoke. But I do not care.

I look straight ahead, but my mind's falling - a listless body that surrenders to gravity - in his world. I have found it hard to enter his world, his new world.

For 8 years, we had known every inch of each other. We knew each other's thoughts even before we spoke them. We talked through stares and gestures only we could understand. But things changed as soon as our feet landed on the bigger world, the real world. In our school and university, we would always cross paths even when we didn't like it. But when we finally had the choice, when we started moving in a much larger space and be with a multitude of people, we began losing each other. He began working, and I too. From then on, we drifted apart, slowly vanishing behind the walls of his hospital and my office.

You see, I've never really known his world. And I will never. So perhaps, my mind isn't exactly in his world at this moment. It is in the possibilities. And this path has more thorns.

And It hurts more.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Story Isn't Ready Yet


Is your story ready to be written?

I realized, there are stories that aren't ready to be written yet. This means that the blame shouldn't always be placed upon the writer (or better not to blame anything or anyone at all).

Some writers aren't publishing a book yet not because they're sluggish or undisciplined or uninspired. In fact, they might be regularly sitting on clouds, talking face-to-face with the muse about their dreams. Their fingers are itchy, their body bursting with eagerness to spend hungry afternoons and sleepless nights for writing, and their head - their head brims with beautiful words which occasionally spill out but! The words are rather empty. No form. No sense. A beautiful waste. The thing is, these writers could already be carrying a story in their head - a baby in their womb - and it's not coming out yet because it isn't ready yet. Stories undergo gestation too, and it usually is painful.

After Finding You (chance to plug!), I found myself coming in and out of the messiest folder in my laptop which I named Book, and flicking through the less-than-half- to half-full pages of my MS Word files. In it are snippets, drafts and outlines of book ideas which were once exciting and sparkling, but now look corny and banal. You see, I have been spending time squeezing my brain and creative juices out for a second book only to come up with a useless material. Well, not at all useless. These could be pieces of what's coming.

Actually, the idea of Finding You was formed, bit by bit, through my prior book ideas. I entitled one book as Haven in my Pocket. I intended it to be handy and its words, to have an air of peace. It was supposed to be written for busy men and women in the city, but I failed to convince myself that I could pull it off. Another was a novel about a monastery where when one enters, one cannot leave (creepy, isn't it?). Another was about a man who taught a street child how to read and write, and which eventually led to building a foundation for street children (it's my dream!). Well, I guess all books are like Voltes V, having a head, trunk, and limbs controlled by five different humans with different stories.

So yeah, be patient. Let the desire nest in your heart then live more. Practice more. Stew ideas more! In Ecclesiastes, it was said that there is an appointed time for everything - and it includes your book! But you know what? I believe, it's already there. It's just that...the story isn't ready to be written yet.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Are you a bit unhappy?


I wonder why everything feels bleak these past few days.

Looking at 'me' from the top view, life seems to be going nicely. No huge problem, whatsoever. No enemies. I get tired and my tooth aches occasionally, but yeah. Just that. It's a mystery how, for some reason, I catch myself frowning at nothing in particular. My mind cannot help but succumb to plain dullness, and every night, I flinch at a pang of yearning for something I cannot identify yet.

Oh, why? Why am I so unhappy?

After praying, I always go to my books for answers. Just this afternoon, I pulled a couple of them from my shelf - one tells a love story, another's about prayer, and the thick one's about creativity. Funny how I just left them all lying pell mell on my study table afterwards then grabbed the broom instead, and swept the floor. I realized, the presence of books told me that I wasn't ready for them because my mind was still messy.

Sweeping was effective. I decided to resolve by listing things that remind me how to be happy. After I collected our house's trash and dusts, I reckoned that humans tend to forget. All the time.
Some of what I put here are from Jason Silva's Shots of Awe. Maaan, this philosopher guy's amazing! You have to subscribe, so you'll get to pick some of his brain.


1. Be in awe. 

You don't wait for 'awe,' you find it. Where? It's in the tiniest details of things. You have to spot that fine detail that reveals a spectacular complexity that lives and makes things operate - such beauty that creates a world of its own. And once you're submerged in it, revering it...you have found 'awe.' (Bonus: Remember that God made it for someone - you.)

2. Remember gratitude.

Do you know who you are? Or where you are in space and time? You are this dot that form the universe. Without that dot, which is you, the universe would be different. And this universe you're standing on is full of life. It cradles in itself 'life' of different hues, forms, mystery, wonder and intelligence. Whoa! Look around you. See, it's a good life.

3. Do something novel.

Jason Silva said that when you're chasing happiness, you're actually chasing novelty. When you say you want to be happy, you're actually saying you want something new or more. New things make life exciting. It's a new streak, a new color, a new word on your notebook or canvas. New things make a difference, and for us, difference may mean progress or chance or power because it narrows our options. Good news: most of the time, novelty is in your hands.

4. Initiate acts of kindness.


It's innate. You feel good about yourself when you do something good. Why? Because it's who you are. You are created by a good God, so you are good by nature. That's why it's who you peacefully accept you are. Do compliments sound sweeter than criticisms? Praises are better than insults, of course. But setting words-as-a-reward aside, an act of kindness itself refreshes the heart.

Lastly, I think, is to see a picture of you where you look happy. Like really happy. Mine's this. I still remember every bit of this moment's peace and bliss.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why She Cried When He Died


I opened my eyes to mornings, knowing you'll be around - probably beside me, still sleeping. Or somewhere in the living room or kitchen, starting your day.

It had just been the two of us, with no child to think about - God's mystery - but at least, with a foster daughter whom your sister sometimes brought to our care. Years made me grow so familiar with every inch of you. You and me. Your skin and my skin. Your clothes and my clothes. Your school of fish in the aquarium and the dishes I cooked which you liked - and of course, our house where many family reunions turned into a blast.

But here you are now, lying behind this glass, in a barong you didn't know we bought you. You're seemingly smiling - even seemingly peaceful - but for me, you have just become beyond reach in all sense. Your body which I've known for years is now solely a vessel, an object that remains still, wilting, turning into ashes. This glass seems to draw an end to us - no more hugs, no more kisses, no more scent that only your body owns.

I am asking, how will I face the following days? Of waking up beside an empty space on our bed, of eating with an empty chair, of keeping empty clothes that would no longer need some washing.

Things will change.

Things have to change.

And life will be new not only for me...
but also for you.

*For my aunt who grieves, and for my uncle, her husband, who reads this from heaven.*

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Your Hands Are Smaller

When I was young, my hands were small and I wasn't realizing that.

I would compare my father's hands to mine and think that they were basically the same. I did not know why I couldn't wring the clothes, wash plates, and arrange things as easily as his hands did.

"Papa, why can't I do what your hands can? I have ten fingers, you have ten fingers. I have palms, you have palms. We even have almost the same creases! But why can't things fit in my hands as nicely as into yours?" I asked.

Papa laughed then spread his hand over mine. "Because your hands are smaller, Elaine."

My hands were smaller.

I have grown older now. I have bigger hands. I can wring clothes, wash plates, and arrange things almost as easily as my father's (now) old hands can. But I think, when it comes to other things, I haven't totally outgrown the idea...

My hands are smaller than God's, and I do not realize it.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Get it Written

I have writer friends who got a fantastic story happening in their head. Their characters are alive, breathing, and moving with strong limbs. Scenes run, gripping a hand. The whole thing heaves a message that can stir many hearts.

And it's not yet written.

The beautiful story stays invisible. The characters live, but do not exist. They know in their hearts that only words can let the story out, finally unfettered.

I'm writing this for you, if you're one of them. I am no expert in writing. I took online courses, attended writing workshops, and practiced everyday to make myself at least better at it. But may God be praised, my first ever book, Finding You, has been published! And I can only tell you how I did it.

Let me share with you five things I found essential in writing a book. I assume that knowing these things can make you think that writing a book isn't scary at all. The process is fun, I tell you! So once you're on it, I hope you can apply this.

1) Pray.

Everything is grace.

I have named the muse Grace. Remember that in the beginning, God's Word made the world possible. "Let there be light!" And there was light. As a writer, you should know where to get the words when you don't have them. Ask, and He'll give it to you! After all, you're working for Him, right?

2) Set the atmosphere.

This is applicable in all forms of art, I believe. Before I paint the windows of our classroom, I would decide first on what atmosphere I want to set. How do I like the students or anyone who enters the room to feel? Cozy? Make it vintage. Paint woods. Peaceful? Use calm colors.

It's the same thing with writing. What's the atmosphere do you want your book to carry? What do you want your readers to feel? What kind of world are you letting them in, and what do you want them to see in that world? Once you're mind is set in it, the words will follow.

3) Plan each chapter.

Your story is one huge chunk, and it has to be sliced into yummy pieces. One step at a time. What I did was I wrote phrases/words under the name Chapter 11 (for example) saying what the reader will find there. Make it messy, it's okay! Once you start writing it, you'll feel the growing satisfaction of having it cleaned and organized, and finally, seeing it end up as a beautiful and sparkling piece!

4) Be in the shoes of the reader. 

I realized that being in the shoes of the reader can either make you too empathetic or too egotistic. If you're too empathetic, the tendency is you'll give everything the reader has to know - spoon-feeding. The piece will be stuffed with adjectives or detailed sentences, which can burden the reader.

Reader: Yes, I know! You don't have to tell me!

If you're too egotistic, you'll keep many things from the reader, giving him/her the task of figuring things out herself/himself. Bear in mind that not all readers think the same way as you do, so this can cause confusion.

Reader: Ahh... Wait, what?

The key is to find the middle. It's best if both the writer and reader make the effort of piecing the scenes together. Collaboration. Allow the reader to make it his/her own. Strike out the unnecessary. Describe those that are rarely put into words - usually these are important.

5) Use metaphors.

Our minds aren't always willing to make an effort that's why minds love patterns. This is what makes a metaphor beautiful. It offers both effort and ease - effort to see a connection, and ease in recognizing the natural pattern. Instead of seeing it as a burden, it becomes a challenge the reader willingly takes since it gives the fulfillment of relating two things; hence, enriching the reading experience. Metaphor can also provoke both the reader's thought and feeling at once.

For example: His eyes carry a glint of the sun.

Believe that the universe is made out of things helping each other. Find them.

That's it! I hope this article helped you in any way. My friend, write your story. If you won't, who else will? Will you permit it not to be told? Never written? Your readers are waiting for you. God is waiting.

Just. Get. It. Written.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Rotten

What is selfishness?

It can be like this.

You work for Someone. You produce, He guides. Since He owns the company, He handles everything - the market, the complaints, and the delays. He provides. He makes a way. He takes over.

And then there is you.

You get the coins the company earns, and keeps them in your pocket. You take the praises, the love, and the benefits all for yourself. You own the credit.

The thing about selfishness is it is never grateful. It can never be satisfied.

Now, you can't help but have more and more and more. And you see yourself shrinking and swimming in it. Bad news is things rot by nature. Everything you have will rot. And it might stink. And it will, with you.

Selfishness is pointless.

Die to yourself. Kill selfishness. Make it a point to be grateful.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

In Your Presence


(Audible sigh)

At last! Rest.

I like being here.

It's peaceful.

Here, I am safe.
No one will judge me.
Or think ill about me.
Or talk behind my back.

Here, it's okay to not do anything.
To relax my limbs,
To just stare at Your eyes.
And listen.

Here, it's just You and me.

You, who know me more than anyone does.
You, who accept me,
and trust me,
and love me.

It's peaceful here.
And I like how I can be here anytime.

Yes, anytime.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Swimming in Pajamas



The sun woke up, and the wind was like its big yawn across the sea.
It was the 1st of December, 2013.

My parents had a work in Baybay, and they brought me with them. The humble hostel we stayed in was near the sea, and surrounding it were coconut trees with long branches swaying and slapping each other.

I decided to walk along the shore immediately upon getting up in bed. I was on my pajamas and slippers, my ankles bending sideways as I sauntered over huge, wet, and lopsided stones.

Psssshhhhhhh!

The sea said, as if reminding me to remain quiet and still so I won't wake up whatever it is that was sleeping. I chuckled to myself, thinking it must be still itself. That it must have been what woke the sun up.

Pssshhhh!

I stopped, and turned to it. To the limitless sea. To the endlessness that kissed the unreachable sun. It was beautiful, especially with the strong rippling of water beneath it.

Psssshhhh!

Then it dawned on me that the sea was not telling me to keep quiet. Its sound that grew gentler and gentler in my ear was an invitation. It called me to come, to make it feel me and I, it.

I walked toward it. Closer and closer. Until I felt its sandy wave caressing my feet.

That day, I jumped into the sea with my pajamas and slippers on.

Swimming.

No towel.
No extra clothes.
Nothing.

That day, I saw how it was to answer a 'call'.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Who is The Real Thing?

I can almost touch it.

This, the reverse blade of the sword he wields. I am -- entranced by the X scar drawn upon his cheek. He used to be a manslayer - that legendary man who bears the name of Battosai Himura. Leaving his bloody past behind, he treads Japan with the goal of peace, of a new era! And retains the name of Kenshin Himura. The heart of sword.

Okay. Enough of that.

These past few days, I've been watching over and over again the three live action movies of Samurai X - Rurouni Kenshin, Kyoto Inferno and the Legend Ends. It's quite brutal, you see - amazing sword fights, fisticuffs, lots of blood. Well it really is brutal, but I know it isn't real. Aside from the whole thing looking so close to its anime counterpart, the story isn't only about fighting. It inspires mastery of craft, humility, and love in different forms! I loved it!


Actually I loved it so much, I got addicted to it. Each day, I allow myself to be in awe of the beautiful lines, fighting scenes, and basically, just the whole thing, that I fail to do stuff other than watch the movie. I feel helpless, finding in me this overwhelming fondness time and time again. It is such kind of beauty that makes me want to surrender.

And so I brought it to God.

"Lord, I'm so fond of this movie... I like how Kenshin..." I told every little thing to Him, spelling out every inch of awe I have for the movie.

What kind of world do you want to see, Elaine? What is your purpose?

God seemed to ask.

I thought why these are the questions I got from my prayers. Probably, it's because Kenshin Himura mastered sword fighting with the burning goal to bring a new era to Japan. He wants a world of peace, where people will no longer live in fear or feel the need to kill to save somebody. He longs to breathe the air of freedom and cherish the richness of life - something that he, himself, once deprived from many people. With much regret.

So God's question seems, how about you, Elaine?

I don't know, exactly.

Kenshin is a samurai. I'm a teacher. Also a writer. Perhaps, I can work on these facts.

Then I remembered something.

It is a fiction.

Samurai X, Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin Himura - it's just somebody's imagination! I searched about the manga writer and found that Kenshin Himura is Nobuhiro Watsuki's masterpiece!

Then I thought of the real thing - the Legend, whose Name was written in history.

That one Person of great wisdom and authority who once walked the earth, and made it entirely new. Him, who destroyed darkness with his glorious light.
Him, who selflessly loved and still loves.

He, who lives.

Jesus.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Day


The new year strode through my windows like sunlight.

As all other days did.

I decided to sleep the noisy 31st day away, and let New Year pass through our door. Imperceptibly. 

And so when I woke up in the morning, it was all around me.

People were saying that everything's as fresh as new. It seemed like the year looked like a blank canvass set in front of us, prepared to receive the messy streaks of paint - or such that usually comes with a new journal with empty lines to write on.

But it did not feel that way to me.

For me, 2017 is just next to 2016 - just as 2 is next to 1. We've been doing the count down from 1 to 30 or 31 over and over the whole year. For 24 years, for me.

So if you want to do something big, new, or courageous, why wait for the day after Dec. 31?

It's a new year.

And it's just another day.

Each day, everything's as fresh as new. Each day is a blank canvass set in front of us, prepared to receive the messy streaks of paint. Each day is a new page with empty lines to write on.

And all yesterdays disintegrate to nothing everyday.

I don't want to ruin the fun.

But I tell you, this will help in the middle of the year.

It's New Year everyday.