Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Support groups and budding writers

How important is a healthy support group to the growth of a budding writer? Being neither psychologist or educator, I can't give an authoritative answer to that. At best, I can hazard some guesses: for some truly dedicated writers, a support group doesn't matter at all; but for some, it can mean all the difference as to when the talent matures.

I probably fall into the latter category. It's taken a long time for me to return to writing, although it's always been one of those long-held ambitions. A natural talent I am not; writing is an everyday struggle.

The Davao of my youth, unfortunately, was not a very encouraging environment for writing. Growing up in a Chinese community, money was the order of the day (and still is.) Writing is something you do to get good grades.

So what do you do? You turn to friends.

But what if your friends' recurring comment is this:

"It's good and original: The original part is not good. The good part is not original."

So, yes, my FRIENDS, I still do remember. And I'm going to remember for a long time still. Probably forever.

I'm writing this now because one of those friends asked to read a work of mine that's going to be published. Flattered, of course; and I acceded. Apart from the fact that it took forever to wrangle the comments out of him, when I finally did, the experience brought me back to high school all over again. And in the end, it's all nitpicking: on word choice ("Why use this word instead of that?"), on continuity ("A tiyanak doesn't do that!"), on style ("It doesn't sound Filipino at all.")

And you know what it feels like they're saying? "I'm too good to be reading this sort of thing."

Sigh. It took a column stint with the Philippine Daily Inquirer and with the Dumaguete Metro Post (and blogging, too) to convince me that, yes, I could actually write. Not just technical stuff, either.

Fiction has been a longer journey, a still ongoing one, but after a few missteps, I feel that I'm already getting to where I've been wanting to go. It was the constructive criticism that helped -- the ones designed to lift up rather than to push down. (You know who you are; and for that, my heartfelt thanks.)

And for my other FRIENDS? Yes, you're still my friends; friendship transcends even our preoccupations.

But don't be forgetting that your words still echo in my ears:

"It's good and original: The original part is not good. The good part is not original."

In your face, buddy.


  1. and I thought I was the only one who needed encouragement with his writing.

  2. People who don't need any encouragement in their artistic endeavors tend to be monomaniacal psychotics.

  3. Which is why writing is a solitary effort.

    And why you need a good SO to do editor chores. ;-)

  4. Whenever my friends got all nit-picky like that, I figured that whatever I had written was good. I mean, they were going to such great lengths to find something wrong with it...