Daring to Write


I have always been good at expressing my thoughts in writing and never had a problem with composition and reading classes. Writing and reading were water to my fish.

Unfortunately, I was also my worst enemy.

Normally a very introverted and insecure person, I could not expose my innermost thoughts to the world, so I kept my poetry and stories to myself. Until some teachers noticed. I began confiding in some very sympathetic teachers when I was in fifth grade and the poetry was literally gushing out of me. Since then, I found greater encouragement from my English teachers. Then I found THE English teacher who really believed in me and nurtured my writing. I also found another teacher who would let me spill out the contents of my mind and heart to her and I found even more to write about. Still, the only public writing I produced were more impersonal essays. Need I say I even became an excellent public speaker because of my writing? Of course, there had always been that passion for theatre and the secret longing to become a stage actress, director, and playwright, that helped that along. But that’s a different story.

Because of my English teacher and other English teachers, plus an aunt who is a writer that I had secretly admired and wanted to be like, I dared to join a Creative Writing Fellowship at the top University in the Philippines. For two summers, I attended, first as an observer, then as a participant, where my creative writing was up for criticism. I survived and not without a lot of encouragement and some praise from my aunt for a story she didn’t know was written by me.

After several years of putting writing in the background, simply because I needed a job that gave me a steady income, I decided to write again. This time, I shared it with great trepidation to two of my dearest friends, both artists and literarily inclined. If not for them, I would never have submitted my play to the most prestigious National literary competition, the Carlos Palanca Foundation Annual Literary  Awards. Finding out that I had received the third place for full-length plays in English was a totally shocking but also totally satisfying experience.

Migrating to Canada put writing as a career on hold, especially since I eventually had to find work that was a far cry from what I went to school for, even if the plan was for me to become a full-time artist and writer.

After 4 tumultuous and emotionally draining years, I finally decided to put myself out there in the open, beginning with a solo art exhibit that feature my art and my poetry. Then I decided to plunge into National Novel Writing Month, since I had become unemployed anyway and had the time to do it. (Because of employment, I did not dare try for the Labour Day weekend novel writing competitions, and I really doubted I could finish a novel in three days.) I was determined to finally write that novel–and I did.

I still doubt myself, even after sharing parts of my novel with several other writers in the Next Best Author contest, which I was also scared to join, but which I decided I would do anyway, because I really wanted to launch my career as an author. Because of NaNoWriMo, there was no way I could hide the fact that I had completed a novel–besides, I had publicized it all over Facebook among all my friends, and they were cheering me on. Another dear friend even offered to edit my book, just so she could read it, and her words and support have been very encouraging. I have found still more friends who are also writers and am now active with not one, but two writing groups, plus a third support group made up of the other contestants! That was probably the most pleasant and rewarding surprise: that competitors were becoming friends in writing through sharing in an exclusive group just for the contestants! Now, I have writer friends around the world who are willing to talk, to listen, to share, to read, to mentor, to encourage and to support each other.

If this is the writing life, I want to stay in it! It is already much more than I had dreamed it would be.

Who knows what other dreams will come true?

365 Things to Look Forward to — Number 34: Chat!


34. Chat

There was a time when you could only chat with someone else when you were face to face.

I’m not from that time.

Then, telephones were invented and soon, you could chat with anyone who also had a phone for as long as you wanted…well, as long as you had a phone subscription or enough coins for a pay phone. I grew up in such times, but I never really called up anyone to chat much because I didn’t have anyone to chat with over the phone. And I didn’t like chatting. I preferred to read.

When I learned how to chat socially, I did it with my best friends in grade school and high school, and even if I had the phone numbers of some of my friends, I still didn’t call anyone much just to chat. Phone calls were for important things, to set appointments and dates and other such business.

Then I encountered boys. And they called. And we chatted. And it was fun. And tickled me pink. And I learned that people don’t always look the way their voices sounded. So I was careful about getting set up by phone. Anyone I entertained on the phone was already someone I had met.

It never occurred to me to chat away on a phone with friends. That’s probably because I usually met my friends everyday, at school or at work and we already spent a lot of time chatting. Well, not really–I did chat with friends occasionally on the phone, but it was usually they who called me. As I said, I’m bad for phone chatting. I could have called friends so many times just to chat but I never wanted to bother them in their daily routines because they might be doing something and not really want to chat. So I’d just chat if they initiated the call. I still only called for important reasons or business purposes, hardly ever to just chat. Unless I really liked a guy. But I’m not getting into that.

Then, the personal computer was invented. Most of the time, I just used it for work, because that was pretty much all it was limited to. Well, there was email and browsing as well, but those were limited too. Email was for work. Browsing, well, that was a waste of time if it didn’t involve work. Besides, there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff to browse through then.

Then Windows was invented. And Yahoo! And Yahoo! groups And Yahoo! Messenger. Still, I didn’t chat. My YM list never expanded. I used Yahoo! groups for classes. And Yahoo! for mail.

Then Facebook was invented. From everything I’d heard about Facebook as a “social networking” site, I didn’t think I’d want to get on it. After all, I could attend to my business through Yahoo! Mail, and my browsing consisted of research for work or writing purposes.

Then I finally decided I should try and see what this Facebook was all about, as everyone at work was on Facebook. After a tentative foray into Facebook, I eventually got into the swing of things and discovered that so many hundreds of people I knew and encountered in the past were also on Facebook! All of a sudden, my wondering about how a former student or a former classmate or a former colleague were was not just wondering. I could actually find many of them on Facebook and actually “connect’ with them so that I knew how they were doing, what they were up to, what they were thinking, planning, eating, playing. Let’s not get into that.

And I discovered FB Chat. Believe me, it wasn’t that I was avoiding it. One of my friends just suddenly popped up in a box and we got into chatting! Because I had used YM, I was familiar with the box popping up out of nowhere. Soon, friends were popping up now and then, and I have found it a great and wonderful to keep in touch, keep up, especially with people you’ve been close to, or want to remain close to. Oh, I’m still bad at initiating a chat session. I’m usually working at my email, my blog, my online writing presence, my freelance writing, when a box suddenly pops up. Sometimes the box pops up and I’m not around, so those people get ignored. Not that I meant to ignore them. And sometimes the box pops up when I’m really busy writing and don’t want to be disturbed…because I don’t want to break my trend of thought…like now. But most of the time, when a box pops up, it’s someone I really want to keep in touch with, so we chat…and chat and chat and chat.

It’s a really great way to get a “live” conversation going, which is way different from sending wall messages and comments and likes. Still, all the other passive/active ways of keeping in touch is a great way to keep people in your lives and remind them that you’re still interested in them. I like best the fact that you can jump into any wall conversation and have your say! No matter that you don’t get a response. You still have your say.

Of course, I avoid having my say on everything. Some things are just so trivial or ignorable. After all, people can say or put anything they want on their walls (barring the self-policing and policing by watchers who can flag your content as inappropriate or offensive…not that this censorship happens all the time) because there is freedom of speech on the Internet! And it allows people to say things. And sometimes others listen. Let’s not get into that.

So I’m writing this because I just concluded a very pleasant chat session with an old schoolmate from university days, sharing notes on a variety of things.

What’s bad about it? The chatting just keeps on and on…other things get put aside. Sure, you can end it when you want, or just not reply at all when you have something really important to do. But it’s just nice chatting with some people.

So I’ve put off my housecleaning, which I promised myself I’d do today all morning at least, before I sat down to chat. What happened? I ended up starting my day clearing my email inbox, then started answering some email, and before you knew it, a chat box, then another and another yet popped up. It’s amazing that I can chat with three different people at the same time. On a phone or face-to-face, that would be considered rude, especially if the people are involved in different conversations with you! But on Chat, nobody knows who else you’re chatting with! Or what else you’re doing while you’re chatting. That is just awesome!

So I do look forward to Chats, because it makes me feel like all your friends are closer than they really are…that people are just next door…just a Chat box away even if they’re halfway around the world! I think social networking is an amazing breakthrough in communication. Whatever happens, though, I don’t plan to get a webcam. I’d rather chat away without having to dress up or fix myself up just to chat. We still need that certain level of privacy in our lives, and webcams just cross that line and I’m not comfortable with that.

But I will chat!

365 Things to Look Forward to — Number 27: Shared Photographs


27. Shared Photographs

A bunch of classmates from high school held a reunion in San Francisco over the weekend. If I had the money, I would have gone, but since I didn’t, all I could do was wait for photographs of the occasion to be posted on Facebook.

What would we do without social networking sites like Facebook? Even before I left the Philippines I was sorely out of touch with anyone from the past, except those I saw or bumped into on occasion, simply because they worked or lived in the same area that I did. Everyone just got out of touch, dropped out of site, dropped out of your life, and all you had were memories of those very brief years spent together.

Thanks to Yahoo! groups, I had a great way of keeping in touch with former classmates, who posted updates, messages, and photos as the years went by. Even if I wasn’t very active in the groups, only very rarely posting a message, I was able to keep up with what was happening to the more active members of the batch. Little by little, the group was built until we had nearly everyone in it, so we are now able to follow what is happening in each other’s lives.

Then came Facebook. The level of “personal” among friends is so much greater. You can see photos from all your friends’ albums and see how they look after so many years, see what they’ve been doing. You can send quick messages, respond to comments or posts, send birthday greetings because a calendar reminds you when your friends’ birthdays are, and share whatever you want.

Through shared photographs, I follow my friends’ lives and vicariously experience whatever they are going through that they choose to post. At first, I was a silent, reluctant user, but since I started “befriending” people I already knew from the past, I have found that there are really so many I know—and don’t know. People I was in close contact with had disappeared for several years, but now I am able to see how they are doing, what they are doing. People I wanted to be in contact with for the longest time, but had no real way to be in touch with on a daily basis, I can now simply send a message or chat with them whenever I feel like it. And then, it feels like time hasn’t really passed at all, like we haven’t really parted ways, because it really is one big social network. And I can share their photographs and share my photographs with them. I marvel at how some have changed…or haven’t changed. I marvel at their children, their homes, their activities. I laugh with them at amusing photographs. I commiserate with tragedies or low moments. I am inspired by the lives they live, by their joie de vivre, by their energy and their accomplishments. And because I know there are some who do appreciate what I do, I post my own photographs and look forward to those comments because all that sharing is food for the soul!

365 Things to Look Forward to – Number 7: Making a New Friend


7. Making a New Friend

I have always considered myself a fairly shy and introverted person, and I always felt that I had difficulty making new friends. I’m the one who’ll attend an event–perhaps and workshop, lecture or seminar, or even an exhibit, and just move around on my own without knowing anyone at the start, and leaving without knowing anyone! I just sometimes get so intimidated by people, especially in crowds.

It’s a reflection of my being so self-conscious, I suppose. I never really consciously have thoughts running through my head, like “Will he/she like me?” “Will they talk to me?” “Will they want to be friends?” “What will they think of me?” and so on, but I’m pretty sure that’s how my body feels, and that’s probably what every single brain cell in my head is thinking. But they don’t tell me about it. They don’t speak out aloud to me. I rather wish they would, then I’d be able to process the feelings. But they just silently think away and make me avoid contact.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make new friends. If you looked at my Facebook page and checked out my friends, you’d see over a thousand, and the list grows a little more each day. I’d like to think they’re all friends, but a Facebook goes, they’re really all people I’ve met in various occasions over the last several years of my life—pretty much from childhood friends to colleagues. The vast majority of them, really, are former students of mine. And I’m really happy that I’m connected to them through Facebook, and see what significant things are happening in their lives.

If you really counted them, I’d have a fairly good number of friends whom I communicate with occasionally. Most of them were made through work, or in school. Still, they’re not all friends who’d understand my little quirks and foibles and my wry dry sardonic humor…in fact some of my really good friends still don’t get my humor, sometimes. But those I have spent the most time with and who know me enough to figure out what I feel and what I’d say or think about some things most of the time, are a very select number of people who are now mostly halfway around the world. And the only way I can communicate with them constantly—or at least as frequently as I can given the 12-hour time difference, is through email, Facebook messages, and the occasional live chat.

So when I do creep out of my shell (oh yes, there is a shell, but it seems to have gotten more transparent) and say “Hello, I’m Cindy!” to someone, it’s because my guts tell me that person can be a friend, or would be interesting to know, or would be nice to speak with. It’s also because I’m in a totally new country where I am starting a whole new life thousands of miles away from old friends, family, and acquaintances, and I need to start making new connections and building new relationships.

I think, if we don’t go out of our way to say “Hi! I’m —. What’s your name?” we’ll never make any friends at all. Who knows what’s beyond that chance meeting? And if the other person doesn’t respond the way you hope they might, then you don’t really lose anything, do you?

I was so afraid of being rejected by people, that I suppose, that was the major reason I didn’t go out of my way to make the first introduction. But after having been a teacher, mentor, manager, actor, dancer, emcee, and so many other roles that require constant communication and initiative, as well as a certain amount of aggression and loads of confidence, I’m really quite confident in my ability to step up to someone and say “Hi! I’m Cindy. What’s your name?” I’m not worried about rejection anymore, since I’ve experienced quite a bit of it in very painful ways, and I’m still alive and still have lots of things going for me, and I know I can be a wonderful friend to others, if they’re interested in having me as a friend. So if I feel there’s a particular person who could be friendly in return (yes, I do play safe and just don’t go up to anyone on the street!) in a situation that isn’t threatening, I might just go up and say “Hi, I’m Cindy. What’s your name?” and start looking for areas of interest or things to talk about besides the weather, and the weather as well.

I just did today, and I think it’ll be the start of a wonderful new friendship!