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.)


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