Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes


Why I write

Posted on December 07, 2008 by jimparedes

Why I write
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE
Philippine Star
By Jim Paredes Updated December 07, 2008 12:00 AM

Let me tell you at the outset that I have a love-hate relationship with writing, especially writing this column. I wake up on Monday mornings wondering what to write about for the coming Sunday. My deadline falls on a Thursday and if I am lucky, I can come up with a decent piece that I feel confident enough to submit to my editor as early as Monday night.

Most times, I am lucky. I remember being interviewed about something similar that I do, which is songwriting. I was asked how easy or hard it was for me to write songs and I answered quite seriously that it was no different from going to the toilet. It comes out when it is ready!

But sometimes, “constipation” traps the thoughts, feelings and words in the deep bowels of the mind. The more one tries to write, the harder it seems to produce output. And that can be worrisome when one has a weekly deadline. It is already Wednesday as I write this and I am still not sure where this will take me, but I have learned to trust that it will go somewhere.

I just have to try and write.

And yet, one must write, not because of a deadline or the pay, and not because, like the analogy of the toilet ritual, it can be toxic to keep it all inside. I write because I am one of those cursed people who have been awakened to writing and have been enlisted to do so. I rue my upbringing for making me a conscientious person who has said yes to the noble calling of being an artist and a writer even if it subjects me to occasional bouts of writer’s block, the fear of coming out with bad stuff, and the fear of coming out with good stuff and having to live with the rising expectations of my small reading public.

Writing is an activity that can be compared to many things. One of them is sex. You awaken to it not unlike the way you do at puberty. All of a sudden, you have a heightened burning need to explore uncharted and forbidden areas of yourself that seem to have come alive.

The act of writing itself can open one to accusations of being on the more perverse side of things. Isn’t keeping a diary, with its attendant private pleasure of exposing one’s feelings and thoughts nakedly on paper, similar to having solitary sex?

On the other hand, there is something exhibitionistic about coming out in print. “The quality that makes man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and masochism. Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street.” That was the American author James Jones talking about the thrill of being noticed, read, appreciated, cursed, panned, banned, glorified that every artist indulges in and actually enjoys.

And so it has become my habit for more than two years now that every week, I put on my thinking cap and write this column. Aside from this, I also write one or two articles for the three blogs that I maintain.

Come to think of it, I probably misrepresent my truth when I sometimes say I write for my audience. While I do enjoy the reactions I get from my writing, deep down I know that I write mainly for my own pleasure. How else can I explain the hassle that writing does with my time? While I am happy I have readers, like the writer Cyril Connolly, I feel it is “better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” The thrill of coming out with one’s truth even if under pain of a deadline can make one feel nakedly, gloriously alive.

One might say writing must be a sickness of sorts. Millions of blogs exist on the Internet with a majority of bloggers probably fantasizing that the words they utter will move random readers somewhere in cyberspace. I am actually guilty of being one of those. To write, and blog is a compulsion — like narcissism itself. In fact, it is exactly the spirit of Narcissus, he that fell in love with his countenance while looking at water, that makes one do it, that makes one fall in love with one’s own image and likeness.

George Orwell of the book 1984 said, “All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

True!

But I am glad though that I am not one those ranting writers who rage against the machine in almost every column. I do not belittle those who do so but I would be utterly exhausted if I had to do that week in, week out. I would feel trapped in a never-ending struggle to improve the world.

I have met habitual activists who occasionally lose perspective on which are the small battles and which are the wars worth fighting. “Every stink that fights the ventilator thinks it is Don Quixote,” wrote the Polish poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, which best describes the life of a habitual crusader.

Besides, I have lately found myself in a more or less sweet spot where I have little need to rant, not because life is perfect but because I have learned to accept a lot of things I cannot change. And this alone tells me that one of the reasons why I write is for the sheer pleasure of writing.

Someone once said that the reason writers write is because “it isn’t there.” Writing, like many other artistic forms, is magical, mystical even in the sense that one produces something from nothing. And sometimes, one does so quite seamlessly! It’s almost as simple, even if unexplainable, as the way Christian, African and Hindu traditional mythologies describe Creation as where God supposedly broke the darkness and voila!, there was light!

Writing, aside from its other rewards, is mostly, a private joy. There is a secret pleasure in writing even if one writes just for one’s self, similar to the ultimate pleasure of being God. But eventually, one will want to share one’s soul with the rest of the world. Even God, the Source of All Being, felt compelled to break the boredom of nothingness/darkness and thus created everything.

As Ken Wilber posited on why God did it, “Because no one wants to have dinner alone.”

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  1. Hi Jim,

    I hope you’re having a great week thus far. I just wanted to put a finger on the newspaper column part of this article/blog real quick. Do your weekly articles have a certain theme? What’s it about?

    Oh, and thanks for visiting my group’s blogsite. I really appreciate it.

    Tem-i of Alasais

  2. Ellen says:

    I like this —-

    “…Writing, like many other artistic forms, is magical, mystical even in the sense that one produces something from nothing. And sometimes, one does so quite seamlessly! It’s almost as simple, even if unexplainable, as the way Christian, African and Hindu traditional mythologies describe Creation as where God supposedly broke the darkness and voila!, there was light!

    Writing, aside from its other rewards, is mostly, a private joy. There is a secret pleasure in writing even if one writes just for one’s self, similar to the ultimate pleasure of being God. But eventually, one will want to share one’s soul with the rest of the world. Even God, the Source of All Being, felt compelled to break the boredom of nothingness/darkness and thus created everything. ”

    That was beautiful.
    There is a quote I love so much and I think you’ll like it too; it goes this way…

    “The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.” -Edwin Schlossberg

    Keep writing. God bless you and your family.

  3. Cha says:

    Jim,
    I will attribute this to the gift of being able to wake up your memory at any given interval. When you’re driving, or just in your waking moment or just when you walk down the street and pass by some place and it has that same kind of power to evoke you to write about it?

    The thought of having a deadline makes it sometimes unbearable at first. However, I learned from you not too long ago that accepting what’s inevitable allows us to live with it in peace and transforms what used to be a drudgery to deal with it into acceptance, like your analogy of going to the toilet because it’s a call of nature. 🙂

    In essence, what I want to say is that your connection to your reading public has been immensely palpable, as I read through the comments posted week on week. Whether or not you get that block, you are still being read. I said you are being read because what you write encapsulates your character, your inspirations and even woes when you talk about socially-relevant issues – as it comes from your passion. Your small reading public has expanded tremendously, have you noticed? 🙂

    For the last 3 years, I’ve followed your haringliwanag – what more if we do a public survey today and be awed by the magnitude of the scope of your reading public?:)

    Cha
    posted on your facebook 🙂

  4. jimparedes says:

    Cha–Thanks. You should be doing some serious writing yourself. you really have a way with words.

    ellen–loved the quote.

    tem-i–I write as I write.

  5. Cha says:

    i’m happy, honored and encouraged to do so. I got something in the pipeline, actually. I hope to tell you more about it before you leave for Sydney! 🙂 Salamat, salamat.

  6. i have a torrid love affair with writing myself. for years, i deprived myself of its pleasure, only because people expected me to have “a real career.” but like any relationship without a closure, it haunts; and like true love that everybody wishes to fade, it stays. i’m happy to have come across this blog, and happier still to report that i have been reunited with my “lover.”

    i quote from the movie Fools Rush In: “True love can never be found where it does not truly exist, nor can it be hidden where it truly does.” YOU ARE A BLESSING, JIM!

  7. jimparedes says:

    Rachelle–Thank you for your comments. I look forward to reading you.



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