Let us say, today, Aug. 21, is as good a day as any to celebrate the anniversary of my writing. It’s a good day for a holiday and so the Maker has been sent away for a much needed rest and I’m taking over just for today. That it coincides with the death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino, one of the nation’s founding fathers, is serendipitous and useful. I am bad with dates. If I’m celebrating this day yearly from here on, this coincidence will help me remember.
On the other hand, it is ludicrous to presume that it is possible for anyone to remember the first day that one ever wrote anything significant and by that say, I became a writer. The only reason why the thought even entered my head was Linya. Last week my daughter, 12 years old now, quite out of the blue told me they were now learning to write paragraphs in school. “Nindot man diay magsulat og paragraphs, Pa.”
And then the other day, the problem of a first essay. She wanted me to help her write it sentence by sentence and I of course refused. She followed up with questions like. Where should I start and and how do I finish? The questions generally were about how to write the essay so that it would come out good. I asked her, Good for whom? She replied, For my teacher.
I told her to write only for herself instead. Only she can tell if the writing is indeed good or bad. For the rest of her life other people including teachers will always be judging it. She always has to choose whether or not to listen. But writing is a lonely craft. A man or woman sits alone in front of a writing tool and writes. Others will say writing is communication or literature or art. But for the writer it is only a recording of thought. In fact, a specific line of thought if not a harmony of different lines of them if one wants the words to come out like symphonic music. But however one may approach it, at its most fundamental level, writing is done alone, not by a committee. And alone this way, the writer must struggle with questions of utility and aesthetics. Do the words say something meaningful? Are they nindot or beautiful?
But even before those questions, the most elementary question of all: Where do the words come from? If one figures that one out then one would never, if you will pardon the cliche, be at a loss for words. One would be a writer. This question is not as difficult as one might think. Every second that we are alive our minds produce words. It produces words incessantly. You might be sitting at a school canteen looking at a high school intramural parade. Your mind produces for you the words to describe what transpires. It is how humans make sense of the world. The problem is only a question of capturing those fleeting words and putting them down on paper before they go away. Solve this problem and you become a writer. But why is writing not easy for everyone? What could I say to Linya to help her become a writer; perhaps one day, a good one? My answer would have to do with a key idea in the literature on creative thinking.
“Suspension of Judgement” is a method of doing something automatically reserving judgement to later or key intervals in the production process. Everything humans do, including art, is done as a linear series of acts, one act leading to consequence and each consequence leading to the next act. The writer writes one word after another. if one judges every word as it comes for its value one would not be able to produce enough words to write. Judgement selects. The creative mind closes down. And so, he or she must be able to suspend judgement to key intervals in the writing process. The writing process is a cycle of rhythmic pulses: Write thoughts directly, without too much thinking. Pause only from time to time to see what has been written. Get back into the train of thought. Write automatically again. And so on until the end. Throughout the whole process, never judge harshly. Learn to relax. Make no demands. If it is not too good now, it can always get better. You can always edit. The immediate problem is to get it done. To give form to thought. To capture the words. To set it down in writing. To not be afraid. It is the creative pulse that must be mastered. One must learn to write with the eyes closed or more exactly, with the “I”s closed.
Writing is not a craft that tolerates fear, not just fear of judgement but all sorts of fear. As one writes, the words themselves acquire their own momentum and move naturally to their ultimate end, the very same way all human acts lead inevitably to their natural consequence, their natural terminus. As one should recall today, thus did Ninoy get into that fateful plane that would take him home. Thus, did Aviation Security Command operatives come into the plane leading our hero down onto the ladder towards the tarmac. That he ever set foot on the asphalt still alive is still a question to this day. But what followed after that is clearly writ in words. Words by which we recall what brought us to the here and now. Ninoy knew. All these are ever an inevitable train of events, as natural as life itself, as easy as writing, as wonderful as words. It is not thinking which makes all these possible. One simply surrenders. Happy anniversary, Linya.
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