Coming Into Writing
I was always deemed a jock as I was the kind of kid that you regularly saw on the streets, running around, screaming, with spattered mud all over my arms, my legs, and even my face. People considered me a happy child. I woke up early in the mornings to eat my breakfast in a rush and go out to fly kites, bike around the village, or climb fruit trees in the early afternoons. I played soccer, badminton, or racing with my peers during the evenings. We would also play Filipino games such as ‘tagu-taguan’, ‘luksong-baka,’ and you name it. I was enthusiastic about outdoor activities and sports. I participated in any activity that could burn my unending energy. If I did not move excessively, I could not sleep. I did not see the point of studying and I would even find it ludicrous whenever my father reprimanded me to read or memorize for my school examinations. I admit that I felt like my life was superior over the boring lives of nerds. How could they not want to be in the warm glow of the sun? Yes, I even mocked them, for they were always reading and acting like a ‘know-it-all.’
This state of mind changed when I was brought to the hospital at the age of seven. My mother read classics such as Heidi and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer to me while I was sickly and immobile. After that experience, literature became a positive endeavor for me because it became a bonding experience with my beloved mother. When I returned home, I started to read to myself and I began to capture the wonder of learning something new every day. I was hooked; it was like falling in love and I could not stop reading after that.
It also helped that I was not fully recovered yet and could not go outside and play right away. The first book that I finished reading was The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain. I was seven years old. I still remember feeling the emotions of fear, anger, distress, and delight upon the unfolding of the events. I was perplexed yet amazed by the identity exchange between Tom and Edward. Everything around me vanished as I entered their troubled lives. Beside me was our dictionary. I kept on consulting it whenever I encountered unknown words—which was quite more often than not. Soon, I got the nickname of Webster from my older sister because I was always next to a dictionary. I did not mind; it made me laugh as I was with our dictionary all the time.
Because of that, I began writing in my journal more frequently. I was not seduced by the hilarious existence of SpongeBob Squarepants, Courage the Cowardly Dog, or Hey Arnold! anymore. In the seclusion of our garden, I would write about my thoughts on random idealisms, family, friendship, or even the joys of gardening. The endless noise lessened as I wrote extensively. I remember that, after writing, I would feel more at ease. Being reluctant and quiet, I had no one to share these thoughts with but my journal—I felt that my exasperation towards life was too banal to share with anyone. I was a very shy person back then; I rarely talk to people about my thoughts, more so about my personal life. Therefore, writing became my only way to unwind my worries while expressing my thoughts at the same time.
I began to balance my life with the value of reading and writing. In the mornings and afternoons, I would read books at the top of our mango tree. I loved it up there, it was so quiet and the sweet breeze calmed me. Sometimes, when it was cloudy I would opt to sway on our hammock with my book. Sometimes, I would even read inside a pool to cool myself. Everywhere I went, I was holding a book. At night, I would write about the happenings of my day. Later, while gazing at the stars, I would daydream about writing an autobiography or a romance novel someday.
I explicitly enjoyed reading fiction books but my first non-fiction novel arrived in the form of Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings.‘ I was twelve years old when I first read it. It was the first book that made me cry. Not the tears that softly fall unnoticed, no, these were the kind of tears that fell unabashedly, as I lost all control of myself. Her pain was my pain, as she recounted her traumatic sufferings. Because of Maya Angelou, I realized the beauty of the unmasked truth. There is beauty in reality, for it inspires and teaches us to understand that life is difficult but still never hopeless.
However, amidst my joy in discovering literature, I never considered myself being a writer nor did it enter my mind to take up a literature course. I took up Mass Communication/Advertising then Business Management. During my first year as a college student, my English professor approached me and remarked that I have a potential in writing. Shy and a bit perturbed, I confessed to her that I once dreamt of becoming a writer. She looked back at me and said, “Why not? You just have to work hard for it if that’s what you really want.” These words brought back the emotions that I have missed for so long, I wish to learn about writing again. I considered whether my coach will advise me to take the writing course—I have heard of the horror stories from the Literature majors on how they don’t sleep anymore. It was nearly impossible to balance this as a student-athlete if I have to wake up at 5 a.m. every day. There were so many priorities to consider but the only prevalent thought within was my yearning to write again. The next day, I went to the Literature Department and inquired about the shifting process. I eventually decided to pursue my dream as a writer and shifted to the Literature program.
Not surprisingly, the Literature program was tough. The sleepless nights arrived but I was unperturbed, I was too excited for I was surrounded with books that pushed my knowledge further, assignments that enhanced my innovativeness, and people who challenge me to write with proficiency. Drama, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction courses were taught to us by professors who have mastered each genre internationally. I wake up in the mornings feeling excited. For once, I felt like I was actually at a course where I belong. All the courses gave me exceptional outputs in the different genres of writing but what engrossed me the most was my creative nonfiction classes. Memoirs, personal essays, and journals made me feel like I was looking through another person’s soul. It was perplexing and yet meditative for there is a sense of solidity knowing that it was based on reality.
Given that creative nonfiction stories affected me the most—the stories based on real-life, I began to read various creative nonfiction works that I looked up in the library. Much to my delight, some were even written by my own professors. I started writing numerous essays for my nonfiction courses, the options for writing styles were limitless. I get to report the truth from an objective authorial point of view but I can also relay it using my own technique. It was quite enjoyable for me given that the literary craft requires me to describe the detailed turn of events based on truth but it does not limit me so I can still be compelling. As Annie Dillard, a popular creative writer said in her essay, To Fashion a Text, “It’s a matter of writing’s vividness for the writer.”
After my creative nonfiction majors, I submitted my thesis writing proposal for a creative nonfiction genre. When I was approved, I was thrilled with the writing prospects. These are the stories that influence me the most, I also want to focus on writing stories about helping people. Living in the Philippines has broadened my perspective on humanity as I meet, read, and hear about people who are going through difficult ordeals in their lives.
Ervin Staub alluded to these issues in his article, “Creating hopeful visions of the future that is inclusive, that brings everyone together to address life problems can help fulfill basic needs constructively.” However, there is a lack of empathy and sympathy towards these people—there is AN indifference or a lack of contemplation that disables the self to act or reach out towards the other. Altruism, thus, becomes a rare but a much-needed value today. The people going through such hardships have made me want to discover, outlive, and share the sustainable reason on why effective altruism or selflessness is of utmost importance. I hope it possible to communicate this message through the works of creative nonfiction.