Thursday, November 30, 2006

This Writing Business

Partly fueled by my need to engage in more "creative" pursuits, and partly because I've got a lot of free time these days, I've been taking a weekly informal creative writing course under the tutelage of the esteemed writer Mr. Alfred "Krip" Yuson over the past month. I saw the ad for what they referred to as "Hanging Out" classes in the one of the broadsheets and didn't think twice about signing up. There are also classes taught by Ces Drilon (TV Newswriting), Cynthia Alexander (Songwriting) and a couple of others, all of them held at Mag:Net Cafe in Katipunan. Our group meets every Saturday at 4pm, except the last two sessions which were held during weekdays because of Sir Krip's busy schedule. There are only about six or seven of us "students" in the group and I gotta say I've learned a lot just by "hanging out" with Sir Krip. At first, it was daunting, even scary, to have my work criticized by such a giant in Philippine literature (can you say Palanca Hall of Fame?), but I couldn't pass up the chance of having him pass judgment on my writing. Of course, there was the risk that he could tear my heart out by telling me I actually suck, but I knew that if he so much as gives me a hint that I CAN write, then that would REALLY be something.

Sir Krip always tells us to add layer and meaning to everything we write; it doesn't have to be deep and life-changing, but our work should SAY something more than what we originally intended. Mostly we discussed poetry, as most of my classmates are apparently into it (I consider myself more of a prose man). For Sir Krip, the basic rule of poetry is to never directly state something in the poem; find a way to say it more eloquently, work around the concept of whatever it is that's on your mind and how you feel, and toy with words that conjure images and meaning, symbols and representations. Almost anyone can write a poem about love and heartbreak, of loss and despair, of hopes and fears. What separates the poetic from the pathetic is a mastery of the language, the ability to choose words that are not only appropriate but symbolic as well. A good poem, at least for him, should give readers an image upon which to draw emotion or feel empathy with the author, making them understand somehow what the poet is trying to say.

I myself am not much of a poet. Like I said, prose is more my thing. The idea for the short story I submitted to Sir Krip is something that's been stuck in my head since mid-2002. It was inspired by an article I read online. I finally got around to writing it early last year and, working on it off and on, finished it a few months later. It wasn't until recently though that I let anybody read it. I've gotten really positive feedback, but then, that was sort of expected - not because I'm conceited enough to think I'm actually that good, but because the people I showed it to were all good friends and colleagues. Even if they told me it was really good I had to find out what a distanced, impartial critic thought about it. And I don't know anyone more distanced and impartial (not to metion more competent) than Krip Yuson! He is the first complete stranger I gave my short story to. Talk about pressure.

I am proud to say though, that he thought I did good. Hearing an accomplished writer like him tell me that he thought I could definitely write is exhilarating, to say the least. He had some comments about my story, but overall, with a few minor adjustments, he thought it was good enough to be published. Published! That just about did it for me. I am definitely more committed now about this writing business, moreso because, in addition to familiar people telling me I've got what it takes, a respected and award-winning writer now actually thinks so, too. Words fail me. (Wait...that can't be good.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Lazy Sunday

I don't claim to have invented the phrase "lazy Sunday," but for the record, I've been using it even before I knew about the Calvin and Hobbes full-color comics collection that bears the same title. In my case, I've always had a fondness for so-called lazy Sunday afternoons. I'm sure many people have them; those days when you don't feel like doing anything particularly productive, and you just sit around the house or take a relaxing walk and savor the life that you have now and everything and everyone that's in it. The trick is to not be involved in anything that would tax the mind and body (like worry about work the next day or the fact that you haven't started on your Christmas shopping yet). Some people go on trips, mostly with their families, perhaps to the mall or a picnic outside the city. I wouldn't consider those spending a "lazy Sunday" simply because they're not exactly being "lazy."

When I find myself alone in the house on lazy Sundays, I like to put on some music, or watch mind-numbing TV or DVDs. (The soundtrack to Reality Bites or maybe Matt Costa, Donavon Frankenreiter, Jamie Cullum or Rooney always puts me into lazy Sunday mode). A strategic position to be in is on the couch by the door, where, on a good day, I can usually see the afternoon sun showering everything in brilliant gold, including the uniformed ice cream man and his wheeled mini-cart, kids playing ball in front of our gate and the neighborhood tambays parked on their usual spot in front of the sari-sari store. Sometimes there would be the occasional salesman plying his wares: perpetual "special offers" on laundry detergent, plastic "tabos" and "batyas" and even whole living room "dividers" made of steel or wood. (I sometimes wonder how they can lug those things around, and if anybody ever actually, quite literally, gets those things off their backs).

When I'm not busy looking out into the world outside our house, I turn on the TV and lose myself in all the dreck it has to offer. I can usually count on HBO and Star Movies to provide at least a couple of hours worth of mindless time-killers; if not, there's always the re-broadcast of the latest episode of Conan or (if I'm really desperate) Leno, as well as series like CSI, Grey's Anatomy and Ed. And if I still don't find anything good enough to stare at for the next hour or so, there's always our DVD collection, which by now has gotten pretty *ahem* extensive. Currently I'm watching the first season of Huff.

Sunday afternoon is also the best time to curl up in bed with a good book. It's been a while since I did that though; I think the last was a re-read of "A Good Year" by Peter Mayle a few weeks ago, in anticipation of the upcoming movie release. I also leaf through a copy of "1,000 Places to See Before You Die," a gift from Ayen, which sometimes depresses me because it only makes me aware of all the places in the world I might never get the chance to see before I die.

I get pretty busy during the week, with work and after-work, er, "extra-curriculars." It's pretty cool sometimes to wake up Sunday mornings with absolutely nothing planned and just cruise along and let things happen without my active participation in anything. But then when 6pm rolls around or the moment the shadows lengthen enough to take over everything in sight, I can't help but feel slightly queasy; another day gone and only Monday and the rest of the working week to look forward to. Sigh.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Boredom Is Its Own Reward

10 years ago: Hmm...1996...I was sixteen and a college sophomore, I had just shifted to the CMC from CAL...this time then I was probably in a Humanities or Comm class in AS, then racing off to the gym for PE, (or was that the pool for a skin diving class?). Or maybe I was hanging out at AS 101...
5 years ago: 2001...I'm 99% sure I was at the desk in GMA, taking somebody's summary or something... Or was I on graveyard duty and if so, was probably asleep at this time.
1 year ago: My Southeast Asian journey. I had just gotten into Bangkok, surviving an almost 48-hour train ride from Singapore. I think I took a quick nap before meeting up with a friend and hitting the bars at Khao San road...
Yesterday: Right here in the office. Saw Marie Antoinette with a friend in Glorietta, and Johnoy at Capone's later in the evening.
Today: Still in the office, pretending to work (hope my boss doesn't see this). Just got back from a two-hour seminar.
Tomorrow: Saturday! Most probably going to Divisoria for some early Xmas shopping. A class at 4pm. And dinner with some friends hosted by an acquaintance we made in Cebu.
5 snacks I enjoy: Tortillos, french fries, V-Cut, banana-q, that lugaw thing with burnt monggo beans
5 bands/artists that I know the lyrics of MOST of their songs: John Mayer, Howie Day...I can't say I know the lyrics to most of their songs, but I really like Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and The Perishers
5 things I would do with $100,000,000: Try to count it, put it in a bank, think about it, probably invest it, and definitely spend it (on something)
5 locations I'd like to run away to: The south of France, Boracay, Baguio, Italy, Peru
5 bad habits I have: Cursing at no one and at odd hours, gnash my teeth when I'm asleep, mistake kindness for affection, constantly try to please people, be a masochistic idiot
5 things I like doing: Listen to music, hang out with friends old and new, play with my nephew and niece, read, sleep
5 things I would never wear: Denim shorts, baggy pants, one of those outdated perfumes (along the lines of Poison or Drakkar Noir), shirts with the swastika or image of Che Guevarra or some such pop culture icon I don't really know and whose principles and ideals I am not familiar with and therefore cannot claim to support or advocate, and pink shoes.
5 TV shows I like: The Practice, Friends, The Amazing Race, 24, Prison Break
5 Movies I like: Dead Poets Society, Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Reality Bites, The Breakfast Club
5 famous people I'd like to meet: John Mayer, Jimmy Carter, Chris Carabba, JD Salinger, Greg Latterman (of Aware Records)
5 biggest joys at the moment: Playing with my nephew and niece, the anticipation of finally getting that thing that i want (which is probably better than actually having it, I think), getting mushy messages from friends, watching good live music in seedy bars, DVD marathons on lazy Sunday afternoons while pigging out on junk food
5 favorite toys: classic Nintendo video game (Mario 3!!!), Gameboy, that four-piece yellow puzzle game, board games like Clue and Pictionary, Jeopardy on PS and PS2