crazy_octopus


Sideways Writing

The world is askew


(no subject)
crazy_octopus
"Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant."My

My favorite quote about love, taken from 1 Corinthians 13:4 and dedicated to a special someone who makes me feel EXACTLY like this. Thank you :)

The wise writer
crazy_octopus
Whether they admit it or not, whether they like it or not, writers know that when they chose this profession, they are in for a solitary career.

To be a writer means subjecting yourself to a LOT of alone time, staring at the monitor for minutes on end, waiting for inspiration to come (if it comes at all). It means being in constant conflict with your inner voice, the one that constantly tells you your work is not good enough, or that you're a phony. The trials you hurdle to improve (grammatical, technique, etc), the books you read to find inspiration, the countless editing marks that you have to endure -- all these, you tackle alone.

Writing is such a personal process that when the story is finished, it is like giving birth to a kid. Suddenly, you turn into an overprotective parent of your masterpiece that any insult or criticism hurled at it transforms you into a fork-tongued harpy, foaming at the mouth and savagely defending your "offspring" with sharp talons. I think this comic captured it perfectly: http://www.gmanews.tv/humor

No wonder many writers are deemed eccentric. They pour their entire soul into their work, and choose to live most of the time in the confines of their imagination, composing ideas, brewing insights and crafting stories to share with others. It can be a fulfilling profession, but at times, it can be quite lonely too.

---

It's good to know that somewhere in the web is the perfect gathering place for these eccentric creatures.

I'm talking about a website dedicated to writers and the art of writing. It was something I chanced upon in omnipotent Facebook, where it was a link that talked about the importance of traveling while you are young. It was so well-made that I got hooked and immediately followed the link back to its original page: www.goinswriter.com. The creator, Jeff Goins, is a pastor and a writer who has dedicated precious bandwidth to EVERYTHING about writing. There's tips, insights, anecdotes and even contributions from other writers.

What I liked about the site was that it showed the candid parts of the craft, like the struggle a writer goes through in dealing with writer's block, snooty critics and - most importantly- their blown-up ego and self-doubt. It also featured stories from writers themselves, highlighting the lessons they've learned about writing, about how hard it was in the beginning and the things they did to overcome obstacles and ultimately become better. Best of all, Jeff was able to show the real and uncensored side to being a writer, and in most cases, it was pretty ugly but also very human. With this, i fell in love with the site.

For an emerging writer, finding a place full of veterans who are more than willing to share what they know about the craft is a very important treasure. I can't even begin to explain how valuable this is to me - to have all these teachers in writing. I remember back in college, I used to be taught by a handful of good professors, but these were very few, and the semester was too short. I had wanted for one or two of them to be my mentors but it didn't happen and soon, we just drifted apart.

With this site, I feel as if I finally have a teacher. It may not be ideal or conventional  but I  will  take what I can, even if it means being mentored by a group of vocal strangers in the web. Besides, anyone who thinks they can only learn from professors and teachers are full of themselves. Wisdom can be taken from anyone willing to share it, and these web writers are more than willing to do so. They have a lot of wisdom to impart , for the benefit of others just starting down on a path that they've trudged on a long time ago.

It's also a good source of daily inspiration and hope; a reassurance that someday, a budding writer like me can unlock his full potential. God knows how vital that push is, especially to someone doubting his/her talent. I just hope that someday (in a couple of years, perhaps more), I can pay it forward and impart my own wisdom and experience about writing to a promising upstart, who will be as confused and doubtful about his skill as I am today. It all comes back full-circle.

Father figures.
crazy_octopus
It took 20 years before I finally knew my father.

Not that he was bad or anything. Nor did he have a second family (well, none that I knew of), or a vice, or any similar problem that would make it hard for his son to know him. No, he was the perfect provider – very hardworking, driven and financially stable. In fact, maybe he was TOO perfect, even.

Growing up, I never really got to know my father because he was always away for work. He would go to the office early and come home very late, way past my bedtime. In the mornings, he and my mother would be at their respective offices while I am left to the care of my evil nanny Wilma, who resembles Princess Fiona in her ogre-form. Wilma was so evil that she would put Vicks in my eyes so I would cry myself to sleep. Waking me up for school comprised of her grabbing my feet and pulling me quickly out of bed and into the floor. As far as nanny goes, she was as nurturing as the Sahara desert.

Of course, I could never tell this abusive behavior to my parents because I didn’t see them as the kind you’d turn to for these sort of problems. We never really communicated much at home, or had those heart-to-heart moments that other families might have. Our household was pretty much like a boarding house where you simply slept – the members would punch out their time on the bundy clock when they would leave for work in the morning, and punch in again when they arrive home in the evening. In short, my parent’s dedication to their career had inadvertedly made them “strangers” to me.

All that changed this year when I got my student’s license. My dad accompanies me during my practice driving session around the city and it was during these fleeting moments when I got to know him, bit by bit, kilometer by kilometer.

Our initial drive was awkward. We drove our new Avanza to SLEX, en route to a gas station near Pampanga that sells these delicious ducks. Those first few hours driving was the most time I spent alone with my dad; it was also the most silent. We weren’t talking for most of the trip, until the lack of noise was so defeaning and unbereable that I begun talking about random things just to get things rolling– the weather, driving, the new camera I took for this roadtrip, anything that I could pull out of my mind. He smiled and begun easing into the conversation, sharing his thoughts on peculiar matters too – being a ployglot, going to foreign lands, a new scrabble game he downloaded the other day. There we were on the highway, two people talking about the strangest things while Jimmy Hendrix nails a wicked guitar riff on the radio.

We drove past a river that was ravaged by lahar and he noticed I was so enthusiastically taking pictures of the scene. My dad told me I would get a better shot if we stopped for a while and he then parked the car by the shoulder lane. We went down and I took a few snapshots of the breathtaking landscape before me, even managing to shoot my dad in front of the car, with his arms raised up high and wide and a goof grin plastered on his face. After a few more shots, we went back into the car and I was feeling a lot more comfortable sitting next to him in the back seat.

For every exit we passed, I learned about him more and more. In a Starbucks inside a Shell station (dubbed as "Shell of Asia"), I learned that when he was in college, he would go to the restricted area of the National Library and read their exhaustive magazine collection comprising ALL the back-issues of U.P.’s the Collegian, Esquire, Nat Geo and other materials that were banned during the Martial Law period. Upon taking the Angeles exit, he told me about how would make the most out of his savings by taking my mom to "free movie nights" held every Wednesday at the Spanish institute Center in Malate (it was here when his love for language was sparked). And in yet another Starbucks branch on the way home (we drank a LOT of coffee on that roadtrip), he revealed how he and his other activists friends hid in the mountains when the government issued an arrest warrant for them, and yet he would still go down sometimes and risk being caught just to be there for my mom when his father-in-law was killed, or hold an impromptu magic act for my sister’s 7th birthday party.

He was being so real and honest that I couldn’t help opening myself up to him too. I told him about all the significant things that had happened to me in the past: the time I almost drowned at sea when my Kayak drifted far from the shore, the time I skipped my Photojourn class just to be at the college parade, and most importantly, that time in elementary school when I flipped the "fuck you" sign to a bunch of bullies and got chased by them all over the school, until my asthma caught up to me and I got pummeled by them on the pavement. In return, he told me about his “rumbles” in college when he was part of the UP frat, the way he would also cut Law school to take part in rallies, and how he would pretend to be a slow swimmer in the varsity swimming team tryouts; he didn’t want to get in, he just wanted to use the swimming pool for free.

My father’s anecdotes proved that the image I had of him was wrong all along. He wasn’t the uptight, unapproachable, serious businessman that I thought he was, the one who was only concerned with his career and not about his kidu. didn’t care much about how his kids were. No, he was more of a goofy, fun-loving, mischievous guy who coincidentally also had an unsatiable thirst for knowledge. He was totally dedicated to his family, working day in and day out to provide what’s best for us, even though his kids may not realize it because they were too young to understand how things worked. In many way, I see a lot of myself in him, excepts he is eons smarter and can speak Spanish fluently, along with 10 other languages.

We might’ve not gotten the duck that we came for (the shop was closed as we went there on a Sunday) but I sure got something better: I finally got to know my dad after all this time, even if the journey took a while getting there.

Grinding
crazy_octopus
There is a quote in Sandman that says it’s a tragedy to forget what inspires you, what rips you from the world of dreams every morning to face the mind-numbing reality of office work. To lose one’s cause and inspiration is similar to losing one’s soul. Without this, we would be assembly-line workers, mindless drones working day and night, for survival purposes. Workers that are detached to their work, alien to the product they toiled to make. Workers who feel emptier and more exhausted with each paycheck and passing day. Everyday, the same grind.

***

Speaking of grind, our website, The Daily Grind, is up! Please check out the http://thedailygrindonline.com. The site features a medley of articles and stories pertaining to things in pop-culture. We are also accepting contributions (essays, poetry, fiction, short stories and what not)so if you like writing and you want your works published online, we have a place for you in our roster. Comments will be greatly appreciated :D

Einstein's dilemma
crazy_octopus
People always say how fast time flies, but I don’t think that’s the case. Sometimes, it moves at a snail’s pace. Other times, it moves so fast that it blurs the line between night and day.

Maybe time is really relative; it goes by faster or slower depending on the situation you are in. It is painstakingly slow whenever I’m waiting at the MRT platform, but it seems to zoom by whenever I’m with a loved one. It’s slow when you wake up early and have time to spare before you have to go to work. It’s fast when you are in the dead of the night, finishing one last level in a video game before turning in. Sometimes, time can even go both ways – like when the boss is behind you, and it seems to come to a standstill as he breathes down your neck while you desperately try to finish whatever overdue task you may have. In these instances of extreme pressure, time quickly wilts away along with your boss’s patience, as well as any chance you may have of getting promoted.

In high school, they taught us about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but it was never elaborated on that much. Or maybe back then, it was too complicated for us teenagers to comprehend especially when we were preoccupied with far more important things, like puberty and keeping our hair gelled in that perfect style. Perhaps this was the gist of what Einstein was saying; a simple explanation of how time is, in its purest sense, relative to the one who perceives it. Maybe he was tired of waiting for the train for far too long, or his wife was already pressuring him to come out with something groundbreaking so they can have money to buy food with.
***

I think I’m going crazy, which is a good indicator that I’m perfectly sane. When you are still aware of your mental health, then you can be assured that your marbles are intact. See, that’s what differentiates crazy people from the normal ones – the crazies don’t know that what they are doing is wrong or immoral; they think it is the norm and everyone else is insane for following the standards forced on them by society, like pigs to the slaughter.
Slaughter. Take out the S and you have laughter. I think the one who invented the word slaughter had a penchant for bloodlust. Otherwise, why would he use a word that connotes happiness and transform it into one that brings images of overkill and murder?

I’m being random again, but if you are random 24/7, does it become your norm? Does that mean that being normal merits as randomness under this situation? So many questions, so little attention-span.

Stupid is as stupid does
crazy_octopus
You don’t have to look far and wide to see selfishness in people. Sometimes, even the simple act of riding an elevator can expose you to this unsavory act.
Our elevator in the apartment is one of those high-tech contraptions wherein you can only press five buttons at once. This is a failsafe made by the elevator company so that no one will be tempted to be an ass once they are all alone, pressing ALL the floor buttons to the annoyance of the next passenger who will be unlucky enough to board the elevator.

On some occasions, whenever I would make my way up to the 11th floor (where my unit is located), I will be accompanied by a handful of other tenants en route to their respective rooms. What follows is a frenzy of hands flying in the air, thrusting to the direction of the elevator control panel. Everyone would be pressing their corresponding floor buttons, jabbing it with such intensity that should only be allowed if a mad man, like say Freddie Krueger, was chasing after you with a jungle bolo.

Someone from behind – perhaps the only mature individual in the elevator – would feebly explain “Hanggang limang floors lang po ang pwede.” True enough, the elevator would come to a stand-still and obnoxiously beep, as the failsafe does its function and erases all the highlighted floors. Silence would momentarily fill the elevator. The passengers would be sheepishly still, as if they really understood the stupidity of their actions. That is, until a hand (connected to the World’s Biggest Douche) would shoot up and press a button, thereby signaling the others to follow suit and overload the elevator for a second time, as if once wasn’t enough.
No one wants to give way to anyone else. Even the simple act of holding the elevator door open for someone is lost to most citizens. Everybody is so excited to get to their floors that in the end, we double the amount of time it takes to go up.

And this happens enough times that I am wondering if the other tenants guilty of this act are just naturally selfish, have short term memory loss, or maybe they simply can’t count to five. I’m hoping it’s the last one, but that’s just being optimistic.
***

The slump
crazy_octopus
I am in a writing slump. Or at least, I think I am. I haven’t been meeting deadlines, nor do I even have the energy to go to work sometimes. Whenever I start on an article, I only get to the end part a few days later, let’s keep it simple and say four. I want to give some lame but believable excuse, like it was writer’s block. But no – I can write. Definitely. I just don’t want to. The ideas flow, and are as fluid as ever. In fact, I can say it has even gotten better, compared to my previous works. I am enjoying writing narratives and anecdotes. No longer am I just a Features guy, where every article ends up sounding like a sales pitch. There is now a literary flair to my work, and I am loving the new style, along with its’ vibrant colors.

Maybe the problem is that the thing I love doing the most had become a job. Maybe the boundaries have blurred, and I no longer can differentiate where “enjoyment” begins and “responsibility” ends. Whenever I start on an article, I feel driven at the start but the feeling quickly fades, and I find myself finishing the article just to get rid of it. I feel like one of those married couples who simply have sex just to get it over with. Not really feeling anything in their hearts nor in their loins. It is not making love but simply the clashing of two organs, like a mere handshake.

I’m getting too obsessed with that metaphor, obviously. At 22, I may be burned out. Those countless hours I’ve clocked in as overtime, staying until 2am and even meeting the friendly office ghost-child –all these have finally caught up with me and greatly exhausted my mental strength. Hopefully, this trip away from the metropolis will help me recharge my batteries and figure some things out, like why I do all these in the first place. What is my goal for being a writer? Maybe this is the problem when you’ve forgotten your cause in the first place. I had become the proverbial sheep lost in the woods, submitting to the predicament and bowing its head in defeat, to wait for the wolves to gobble him down.

We are the puzzle pieces
crazy_octopus
Composing an article can be likened to doing a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Just like in the puzzle where a person would pick a few random pieces, place them on the board and see how it fits, a writer would similarly type in a few sentences, weigh the words, and keep or erase them - depending on how they look.

As he types, the writer is guided by the imagined finished article in his mind, whereas the puzzle solver relies heavily on the illustration on the product box to guide him.

Bit by bit, the puzzle starts to take shape and the picture becomes clearer. An empty space is soon filled with someone's facial feature, the blank corner is replaced with awe-striking scenery, and the puzzle-solver's every move shifts from being random ( putting on the corners first, trying out different pieces and hoping it works), to causal (looking for a specific jigsaw piece among the rubble, just to complete a nose).

Consequently, each paragraph the writer finishes brings him a step closer to the end of an idea. The paragraphs serve as the base of the article, and just like in any construction, each one should be stronger than the last.

As they pile up and reach the intended height, the writer then places the finishing touch: a beautiful spire, encapsulating within it the beauty of a skyscraper. In journalistic parlance, the end of an article should have the same effect as the spire: wrap things up, and make the article memorable to those who come across it.

As the day ends, the puzzle-solver and the writer bask in the satisfying feeling of seeing their works finished. There is an odd beauty in creating something out of almost nothing; one gets a new picture to admire, while the other, a new story to remember.

---
Maybe that's what I love about my current job. Everyday, I get presented an exciting new puzzle to solve. I dig into a pile of ideas, select the pieces I need, and start arranging them cohesively to get to the big picture. It's challenging and fun at the same time, with every output different from the last. And just like in a jigsaw puzzle, once you finish, there is that nagging itch of wanting to take everything apart and starting all over again, if only to see how fast you can do it this time and how far your puzzle-solving skill had improved. It is a desire that I hope would never wane, to the last of my writing days/

loony luddite
crazy_octopus

Last night, I’ve decided to become a Luddite, or someone who is wary of technology. This might be a stupid decision, considering that most of our daily activities (connecting with people, typing documents and looking at important things on the net, like videos of a baby panda sneezing) are done with the help of our handy dandy square electronic friend.

But I think my reasons for converting to ludditism are justified. After weeks of stalling and sitting in front of the computer, it has come to my attention that I have not produced anything creative at all. Granted, I have been writing a ton for work, making articles for the publishing company where I am currently employed as a writer. However, it’s been too long since I last updated my LJ blog and made a write-up that is personal, something that is solely for me and not for the readers to consume the way they do each time they open a magazine, skimming through one’s hard work as if it was a meat sampler. My brain would freeze up whenever I would sit in front of the monitor to write an LJ entry, the blinking cursor already seared deep on my brain.

In my desperation to produce something new, I looked back to the time when I was just discovering my love for writing, leading to the very moment when I started joining different contests. All of my works back then were handwritten in a type of paper which many kids refer to as “cocon bond” (up to now, I still don’t know its actual name. Thus, I still nostalgically call it as such). For everyone else, the write-ups may seem amateurish, just a kid’s attempt at literature, nothing special. Most of them did not even garner a second look from the judges. But for me, uncovering those papers and rereading them felt like having the “shroud of turin” in your hands. Just as the shroud may serve as proof to Christians that Christ did die and was resurrected, the old write-ups served as evidence that once upon a time, in a gradeschool classroom far far away, I did know how to write, even without the aid of computers, or tablets, or even mini-blogs to update daily with useless statuses (“It’s Friday today! My favorite thing!”). Just a paper, a pen, and a deep desire to express oneself.

And so, after coming home from a late-night OT and feeling depressed about my deteriorating writing prowess, I went to mini-stop, bought the cheapest blue notebook and matching pen I could find, and sat down at Mang Inasal while waiting for my order. And then, with the tip of my new GelPen poised just a whisker away from the blue lines of the notebook, the thoughts and ideas began to form in my head, like my brain was suddenly decongested and siphoned of all the muck that it has accumulated the past few months. It was there, hidden beneath all the other junk in the recesses of my mind, the young dorky writer lay, waiting for his own shot at resurrection.    


The Game
inner me
crazy_octopus
There's a game that people often play in a reunion, and it's called "my life is definitely better than ______".

The rules are simple. How it works is that you'd meet up with your h.s. or college friends for a quick dinner, and then you'd catch up with each other, telling jokes and reliving moments from yesteryear (like that unfortunate bathroom incident one of your friends suffered, giving him the poetic and not-at-all-uncreative nickname "tae." True story). All the while you analyze your friends' life situations based on the snippets of personal info they give out during the meal. Once finished, you conclude whether your life is better or worse compared to a specific friend. Add ten points for every friend you trump and deduct 100 for every one who's life is better than yours (It's immediately a game over for you if your friend is Mark Zuckerberg, Neil Armstrong, or that guy who's paid a lot just to "quality test" out hookers).

However, players of the reunion game don't necessarily spite their friends. In fact, most of them are genuinely happy of the success in their friend's life. So why the need to compare, despite the huge probability of only being disappointed in the end?

Maybe it's because the comparison ultimately serves as a gauge our own lives, helping us see more clearly whether or not we chose the right path during the past few years. Oftentimes, we are uncertain about the choices that we make. Did I pick the wrong job? Did I settle down too soon? Will I ever find love again? We have a multitude of questions that perhaps seeing things from a friend's perspective would provide us with the answers we need. Also, it might give us the affirmation that what we did was right, because without this, we would continue to stumble on, clueless.

Of course, there's also a big chance of hitting the opposite end of the spectrum and finding out that everyone is more successful than you. But this is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can encourage one to re-evaluate his or her life and become more proactive. Hearing a friend say how happy and content he is with his job, or seeing his bright face whenever he talks about his girlfriend would make one think about his own life. We tell ourselves: "He is so happy with his job, yet here I am, miserable. What am I doing wrong and how can I also become as happy as he is?" If taken with the right ounce of maturity, this jealousy becomes a catalyst to further improve our own lives.

Thus, in the end, the reunion game becomes a win-win situation for everyone, as they get to see where they stand in life as compared to their friends. Of course, its an added bonus to see that the person who used to bully you in HS is now a homeless ex-con with really horrible teeth and numerous fleas. Karma is awesome.

***
Last night, I had dinner with my high school friends after four years of not seeing each other. I did get to play the reunion game a little, but only to the extent of gauging how buff they were compared to me. Sadly, everyone trumped me in the muscle department, as they all filled-in  their sleeves nicely. One guy was even so proud of his muscles that he flexed while lifting his glass of water, as if it was filled with cement instead of liquid. It's a good thing we ate out at yakimix, thus erasing all the work-out they did for the past year. Sometime during my fourth plate of raw steak and ice cream, I made a pact to return to the gym and become ripped as hell, the next time we would meet.

****

 

Speaking of friends, i need to get the old crew back together. I'm drifting further and further away from my goals and I need them to get my shit together. I actually thought I would see them in the beaches of Ilocos during one of my soul searching escapades but alas, they did not heed my call.


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