the struggle with words

Words used to come so easy to me.

As a child, I loved reading. And when there was nothing left to read at home–including my grandpa’s encyclopedia, my mother’s and her sisters’ thick college yearbooks and our neighbor’s novels–I started writing.

I wrote a diary. I wrote to my cousins. I wrote to friends I made during a summer camp in Baguio City. I wrote to my grandparents. Obviously, I loved essays and writing assignments. I loved them so much I even ghost-wrote for some of my batchmates, until one day, our English teacher took me aside and told me–please stop writing essays for the other students. Oh, and I did write love letters too. Not only my own but for the girls–and even boys–in my class who asked me to.

I eventually moved on to fan fiction during a time it wasn’t even en vogue yet. I composed poems. I wrote for the school paper. When I was choosing what to study in college, it was a given that I would take up a course that was related to my interest–mass communications or creative writing were two of the obvious choices. But I didn’t and while I was ticking my course priorities on the application form, I very much avoided anything that had to do with the communications field.

Only to end up, years later, in journalism after I found out for myself that I was not suited for research work the rest of my life. Field works were fun, spending a month or two in communities to gather data, but data processing traumatized me so much I started looking for an escape. And the way out was a career as a journalist.

So I got here. And I’m still here. I guess this is what I was meant to do in the first place.

I have reported on politics, economy, business, social issues, even entertainment. But then you don’t keep writing forever. You advance to editing. Still occasionally writing though.

Then one day, I acutely felt how the words were becoming more difficult to summon. It wasn’t like before when I could write several chapters of fan fiction or one short story in one sitting until my eyes could no longer keep up, or file an article in half an hour while the clock ticked to deadline and my editor was waiting probably with fingers tapping impatiently on the desk. On some “lucky” days, I even had to file five stories or more but it wasn’t something to wring your hands over, you just do it. Now, I need three days at least to finish an article (not strictly a news article but an editorial but still).

Of course I can’t equate creative writing and journalism, they’re two different things. But even with fiction writing, the words are caught in traffic somewhere and take a long time to reach me. It could be inspiration or lack thereof, or the classic case of writer’s block.

But when you do writing for a living, writer’s block is not a fashionable excuse that you can bandy around. It means you don’t get your paycheck or you deal with a cranky boss or worse, a memo.

This blog has suffered too, but I can’t send a memo to myself even if it meant wasted annual domain fees. And every time I pay my domain fee, I always promise that I would blog more. Just like those days back in blogspot, vox and livejournal. I never did.

At least this year has been better so far when it comes to output, 26 compared with 11 in 2017. But I made 35 posts in 2016 or almost 3 posts a month. I do have an excuse for the sorry state of this blog in 2017 and it is worse than writer’s block. Last year, I had an existential crisis, and not only in the for-leisure side of writing but in my career. I quit my old job and started a new one, which required more writing. It could have been a combination of new bosses, new target market, new house style, new work process, new everything. I started to suffer from severe anxiety that had me questioning and doubting my own abilities. It was so bad that I dreaded sitting in front of my laptop to write even a pitch for my editors. Needless to say, it also affected my blogging, which used to be an outlet but even my creative writing skills was crippled. I can at least write about it now because I have gone past that, but there were days I would just curl in bed feeling so inept. For the first time, I hated words and dreaded writing.

I have since quit that job and moved back to my country, took on a new job. Still in the media. But it took me a while to get back to writing and was just contented with editing other people’s writing. Until my boss presented a chance to write occasionally again. I balked at first, the scars haven’t fully healed and I wasn’t sure if I would be fit enough to take on words professionally again. But slowly, I’m getting the groove back.

That doesn’t mean writing has once more become easy for me. Professionally, I still struggle and need days to finish a piece before I can have the confidence to send it for editing. I miss those days when I grabbed words from air without feeling much of their weight and consequences. But it is because the stakes have become higher and the writing I do now is something I consider as a civic duty to my country so it needs more focus, care and attention.

Writing as an outlet hasn’t become any easier either, unlike the good old days when words soothed me after a day-long battle with…words. Perhaps as one gets older, we become more careful with how we use words to express ourselves. Sometimes I start writing a post but it ends up in draft, never to see the light. I have 29 drafts at the moment but there could have been more if I didn’t delete those I thought I wouldn’t be picking up to finish. I certainly hope this one doesn’t end up in the drafts folder and gets published.

Despite the struggle, I still love writing. There’s nothing more than feeling like a block has been lifted off your shoulders once you express yourself in words, or the pride and satisfaction when what you wrote makes a difference, even if slowly or subtly.

And I’ll keep writing because, most of all, it does good for my soul.

© Orange Jasmine Purple Yam (blogging since 2001). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the contents in this site without permission from the author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Orange Jasmine Purple Yam with appropriate link to the original content.

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