On the misconceptions of writing

When I tell people what I do, there are times I cringe if someone reacts by saying, “well, I’ve always wanted to write,” or, “I actually write, I just can’t find the time.”  Or those who say they keep a blog or have a passion for writing yet place exclamation points everywhere and don’t seem to know when to put a break between the thoughts of their sentences, so they end up putting too many ideas together like this sentence right here!

You see, when a person tells me he/she is a doctor, I don’t respond with, “Well, I’ve always wanted to go out there and heal people.” Or I don’t tell my new friend the accountant that “I’ve always wanted to check and balance accounts.”

I may not be a number one best seller of a novel, and I have yet to start working my way up into getting a major magazine cover story (or working for an international title for that matter), but I do take my job seriously.

As much as it appears like we just type a bunch of words on a computer (or on what is now a rare chance, a notepad), the words simply do not flow out of the blue. We all went through English class, right? Remember the outline, topic sentence, and the parts of an essay? We still go through those processes, but with a little more attention to detail. One draft isn’t enough, as every style, syntax, spelling, and grammatical error must be accounted for. There are standards we must uphold, a cohesive flow that must be organized, and words chosen well enough to make a clear point. Periods must break in between thoughts, while commas are placed within sentences to catch the reader’s breath. Semi-colons bind two related thoughts but with just enough space for the concept to come together in your head.

Like any other job, it’s a calling. Working as a journalist in the Philippines could kill you. Writing a novel can take years and there’s a very small chance the book will sell enough to give a year’s equivalent of salary. Poems don’t make money and short stories are locked away in libraries. Copy writing is rigorous and local ad agencies don’t exactly pay six figures for viral tag lines. Online writing is more about quantity than quality. Magazines have a short shelf life and are battling against the digital age. There are consequences and challenges in each industry, yet all the writers involved find the job fulfilling.

Writing needs a purpose to stand on its own, and such an end needs to be made in order for people to take notice. A literary piece should tell a story that resounds a timeless theme; a news feature should invoke inquiry. A magazine cover story is well-researched, fact checked, and thoroughly edited. A viral blog post has chosen the right topic and is back linked. Good copy leads to interest in the product. Writing is an act; writing something on the other hand, is a responsibility.

Writers may not save lives or bring in billions to the economy. I am not going to put our lot on a pedestal and say that the world would stop without us. God knows we’re the last profession a dead civilization needs to rebuild itself. But we do take our jobs seriously and the best of us do what we’re asked professionally. Here’s to hoping that apart from buying your writer friend’s recent published material, you also appreciate how much work was put into it.

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2 thoughts on “On the misconceptions of writing

  1. Agree. This is why it pains me to find published work without an iota of thought in it. This is also why editors who can’t edit – those who publish grammatically horrible pieces, to say the least – enrage me. Indeed, words don’t simply flow out of the blue, and words that do aren’t always ready for press. I think, what separates professionals from hobbyists is that those who write for a living add to life, while the latter simply crowds it.

    Not to say we’re superheroes or anything. Just that, hey, the world may be able to continue spinning without us – but what kind of world would that be?

    To close (yuck, ba’t ang formal ko hahah), allow me to share with you something from my boss. It’s something I recall whenever I get all down and blue about the job. Hope you find inspiration in it, too 🙂

    “It is said that history does not write itself but needs its story told somehow. Your mind and hand are the last bastions of sanity in this crazy world. Never forget to write. It doesn’t matter if it’s brief or trite or worse, hard sell. Write for your life.” (James Bernardo, 2012 hehe)

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