“I am a writer. I have to be sure about that. After all the obstacles I have been through I want to believe that it is true enough.” This is an excerpt from my first published article in Manila Bulletin in 2005.
As young as 14 years old, I already knew that I wanted to express myself through the written word. And so I did—despite all the odds.
Luckily, I was given the chance to write for our school publication in elementary and high school—this gave me hope that someday I would be a writer.
So, when it was time for me to choose a course to take up in college—no other option came to mind—but a writing course, of course!
I took up entrance exams in major universities in the Philippines, but failed to pass any of them—except for Philippine Normal University—a state university for aspiring teachers.
What a shift!
But perhaps, it was really my destiny to enroll in that particular educational institution, as my parents and late grandparents were determined enough for me and they convinced me to give teaching a try.
Belonging to a family of teachers, I have forever believed in the nobility of this profession—but still, I found it hard to discard my love for writing.
It was there, waiting, until I could finally give it focus.
My four-year stay at PNU was not smooth; there was even a time when my graduation had to take a backseat for one semester so I could accommodate a writing opportunity at a local publication.
(I could not resist)
But the delay was worth it, as it jumpstarted my career in writing.
After graduation, however, I gave in to the request of my parents to try teaching for one school year. And though it was short, it was a great experience.
In my pursuit to find my writing voice, I tried a lot of writing jobs—from web content writing, to sports writing, scriptwriting, children’s story writing, and the most recent—news writing.
I am fortunate enough that in those writing jobs, I have had mentors who not just taught me, but inspired me to be a better writer, piece after piece.
So, if writing is really your passion, follow it; it may not be an easy journey, but it is definitely worth the ride. Here are some helpful tips, so you can fulfill your dreams to be a writer:
- Take up a writing course in college. Though my circumstances did not allow me this pleasure, it is still my belief that a formal education in writing will be the best jumping point if you want to valiantly enter this profession.
- Read good books. My instructor in a literary writing workshop once said, “You are not a writer if you don’t read good books.” She advised reading one novel every two weeks (read at least 30 minutes a day) and newspaper everyday no matter how busy your schedule is.
- Believe that you are a writer. As I was just starting out, I had a lot of insecurities, because I did not have a formal education in the field I’ve chosen. But l was lucky that I have a very supportive family who always pushes me to pursue my passion. Apart from the support of your family, you, yourself, must claim that—yes—I am a writer!
- Take up writing workshops as often as you can and be always on the lookout for them. With every workshop you will attend, moving lessons will remain in you. I was personally moved with Ricky Lee’s advice to his work shoppers that “Writing is 100% rewriting.” He advised us to not be contented with first or second drafts; instead, go for fifth or sixth drafts as our final output.
Another moving advice I’ve received was from Rio Alma, a National Artist for Literature. He said that writing will always be filled with storms, but if you’re determined enough you’ll sail forever in this field.
- Take risks and get out of your comfort zone. “It is when you take risks that you are able to know what you want,” a mentor from a scriptwriting workshop once said. He explained that the most successful literature are the ones that are rooted in unconventional ideas.
- Consider rejections as a challenge. I would not forget a mentor saying, “Writing is not for the frail of heart.” You have to accept the fact that not all your articles will be published, or received warmly by an editor or the public. But don’t be depressed; instead, try again. Most often, editors will pinpoint what’s missing on your piece. Take note of these pointers and make the appropriate changes.
- Practice and practice. The best way to hone your writing skills is to practice it. Though, you already have a writing job, it will still help if you can find other venues where you can write during your free time. Try to blog. This way, you can express yourself freely while practicing your writing skills. One mentor said, “A writing skill is like a machine that you need to use so it will function properly.”
- Update or upgrade your writing style. You don’t necessarily need to change your writing style, but you can definitely improve it. You can do this by reading good authors you admire—use them as your inspiration to give that edge, pizzazz and a whole lot of wonderful to your writing style.