Friday, August 09, 2002

To Read or To Write?

If my journal seems to miss some entries for the past two weeks, it's because I haven't written anything as of late. I might attribute that fact to hours of gaming, long hours of schoolwork, or even claim sickness. The fact of the matter is, I've been busy reading, reading, and doing more reading.

My enthusiasm for writing has always been rooted in reading. If it wasn't for all the books, magazines, and other forms of print media that I've read, I wouldn't even think of becoming a writer. The reason I took up Creative Writing as a course is because I want to improve my writing skills so that someday, I can live my life as a writer, hopefully not the starving type. I'll leave the writer part as vague since right now, I don't really know where I'll specialized in and the fact that a lot of writers I see in the Philippines are not tied down to one style of writing. I mean look at Krip Yuson: he's a poet, a journalist, and a teacher. Or Jessica Zafra who's a columnist and a fiction writer.

I think every writer will agree when I say this: you can't write well unless you've read well. Talent isn't something innate. It needs to be cultivated. In the case of writing, a person needs to read good stuff not only so that he gets the proper form but to get inspired as well. The English language has become second nature to me. I don't need to think if this is the proper conjunction or if the tense is wrong. All I need to do is read it aloud and see if it's a pain in the ear or not. Of course I know it's not perfect, which is why if I'm writing, I edit my work afterwards, but for the most part, this type of reading (and writing) suffices for me to identify correct grammar. I can only attribute this to hours of reading and listening to the television.

While writing with correct grammar is important, it's not as vital as having an imagination. What differentiates a good writer's work from that of an initiate is that the story they tell is compelling no matter how mundane the subject matter is (yes, reading all this must be boring you... I know I'm not a good writer). This is done through various techniques, even if it's unorthodox. That's where imagination comes in. I mean I was reading Dream Hunters, Neil Gaiman's collaboration with fantasy artist Yoshitaka Amano and I can't help but enjoy it. While the words he uses run deep, it's not as striking as the entire picture. Gaiman writers a lines of text in one page and beside that page is a full color illustration by Amano. Sometimes, text isn't even present. Or perhaps a better example is the Griffin and Sabine trilogy, wherein the books pop out at you and there's even a letter with souvenirs inside. It's not what you expect with a book but it tells a detailed and intriguing story. More important than enjoying it, I'm inspired by it. I'm motivated to make a similar masterpiece (i.e. untried, unique, experimental, etc...). It's the drive that makes me want to become a writer.

Of course desire isn't the same as action. I can get inspired all I want but if I don't act on it, it's not writing. Imagining or pondering is a better description but in modern society, there aren't careers for people who just keep on imagining and pondering (well, maybe not pondering? there are philosophers, after all). I can claim to be a writer but if I don't write, I'm not a writer.

This is when pulling me away from books becomes a problem. Undoubtedly, I love to read. I mean I also like to write but my need to read is stronger than my will to write. Usually, the only time I actually get to write is when there aren't any interesting books for me to read.

And that is what has happened for the past few weeks. I've been reading in the morning and reading in the evening. Since I need sleep, there's not enough time for me to read and write at the same time. Breaking away from the book I'm currently reading is next to impossible, unless it's another good book or book shopping.

Like most things in life, excessiveness of one thing is unhealthy. I must find the balance between reading and writing. I can't live life with "phases of writing" and "phases of reading". It would be a lot better for me if I managed to juggle the two. A writer who does not read stops growing. A reader who does not write is not a writer. I could have chosen English Lit. but I chose Creative Writing right? I need to write, not sporadically but consistently.

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