Is there an unwritten rule about reassuring the internet that you are still alive and well after going on hiatus for a few months from your own blog? At any rate, I’m alive and well, internet. If you’re reading (which you clearly are), thanks for stopping by to check in.
It’s strange to be at a point where the only thing keeping you from writing is more writing, i.e. paid work or work you do for the sake of career advancement. I spent the past year writing and rewriting the same paper for different classes. A number of workshops and a research congress barrelled their way into that process, and yesterday, I finally submitted a version most closely resembling a final product. And it’s still not done. It’s not that I’m complaining. I actually like what I’m doing because anything done for career advancement assumes the existence of a career, and a career in writing was something I could only dream of when I was studying fashion design as an undergrad.
There is however a certain flavor that gets zapped out of your voice after consuming a substantial amount of academic writing, all for the sake of publishing more academic writing, and gets replaced by an aftertaste that is dry and flat. Terms like “shit-ton”, contractions, digressions, all those get edited out and in the end, I sound more like a Nigerian spambot than a person capable of conversational English. I may have actually edited my self out of my own writing.
And after that paper, there are other deadlines lined up. I’m currently working on something about Mike Stilkey for Fully Booked and a shorter piece on Halik ni Gringo. Again about not being able to write because of writing–it’s strange how this here blog thing feels like the only place where I can do any “actual writing” considering the thick weft of “illegitimacy” running through most web-based literature.
A few nights ago, my mom sent a text that annoyed the shit out of me and would have had me take to the internet with an irrational tirade about the inevitable stagnation of literature and literacy in the Philippines, what with it being run by a self-aggrandizing old guard. I didn’t get to do that though because it would have meant going to her house and hooking up to her connection just to rant about her. My temper’s cooled down a bit, but the feelings remain. This is the internet after all. Here’s a picture of my cat:
Auntie, full name: Auntie Iron Lady Tiger Mom. Speaking of mom: her message was about another person filling the internet with word-based content possibly finding out that my sister was “a real writer”, which should explain said other person’s attempts at starting a “wordier blog” (according to my mom). I wanted to say something about how what little faith she has/had in words that aren’t on paper probably comes from her failure to keep up and the lingering insecurity that comes with having to rely on brick-and-mortar institutions to stay productive. I wanted to say something about how there really aren’t any real writers or fake writers, and how a space where we can freely throw our creations at each other’s faces opens up the discourse on good and bad. There are no real writers, you’re either real good or real bad.
In which case, I feel like the longer I stay away from this space, the further I slide into bad writer territory. I mean, what was that sentence?! But that’s it. That’s how I feel about writing for money–money that never even arrives when I actually need it. It’s in writing about the mundane, everyday occurrences that I feel I’m able to lend my existence any weight, paper currency or otherwise.
This is a rant. Because it’s not just that: I’ve always known that despite having longer lists–whether we’re talking about references or by-lines–than anyone in this house, my choice (and possibly incapability, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never tried) to not produce fiction or poetry means that I’ll never be a (in my mom’s words, in the words of the old guard that still inexplicably carries relevance in this literary backwater [cesspool?]) “real writer”. Usually, I’m still addressed as the one who’s a writer “too”.
I used to not care, in fact, maybe the problem comes from spending too much time not caring and just producing, until I’ve produced myself into ineligibility–for certain competitions, certain grants, certain fellowships. And yet, I write every day. If I had to update this space about what’s actually happening in my life, it would just be a bleak series about getting up, turning on my laptop, and tapping away at the keys; alternating days between editing and writing, and still, the stubborn titles of “writer” and “writer, too” persist.
What is the point of producing literature if a byproduct of that would be outright rejection? Why form circles if there was no intention to foster a culture of inclusiveness–one that will recognize the massive potential of online platforms and networks in creating readers? Why does this even have to be an us v them situation, when at the end of the day, everyone is just looking for an audience for their work–whether that work is some stupid fashion blog ghost-written by a roomful of rhesus monkeys or a fucking opus– and how big or small that audience is shouldn’t matter. It’s hard enough to get anyone to care about anything in the first place.
I only care because this is where I have to do the kind of work I love, and the people who have any control over it–the actual bureaucracy–often seems more inept than the forces and factors they so fervently criticize. It’s a tremendous disservice to anyone writing anything to be told that what they’re doing is not “real”. Good or bad should be enough. It’s probably easier to get better than to become real anyway.