Writing is hard work.
Especially when you don’t particularly like what you’re writing.
I’ve been writing professionally since 2004 (somewhere down the line I got into editing too—but that’s another story). I get paid for what they tell me to write, so I don’t get to choose what I write. Kind of reminds me of that epic exchange between creative director Don Draper and copywriter Peggy Olson, on Mad Men.
Don: It’s your job. I give you money, you give me ideas.
Peggy: And you never say thank you.
Don: That’s what the money is for!
* * *
Professional writing gig: It’s your job. I give you money, and you write.
Mark: But I can’t write what I want to write!
Professional writing gig: That’s what the money is for!
* * *
I’m not complaining, though, just ranting a bit. You don’t need to play the world’s smallest violin for me. Because, who am I to complain? At least I get to earn a living with what I’m good at. (Even though, I must say, I’ve always been underpaid [criminally underpaid, I might add, especially when writing SEO content and articles] because —but that’s another story.) I remember a Filipino author who once complained that he would rather write stuff that he loved to write, like poems and short stories, but these things don’t really put food on the table. He added that he was still fortunate to be able to write commissioned biographies or TV scripts or news articles, stuff that he never really loves to write but puts food on the table, and then write the stuff that he loves in his free time.
In my free time, though, I don’t write short stories or poems. Not even essays, that bastard child of literature. Hell, I don’t even write—I blog. I BLOG. I don’t want to call myself a writer, because, as another Filipino writer once said, a writer is one who has written books and books, and he didn’t want to call himself a writer—at least not yet—because he’d only written stuff to live by.
“Stuff to live by. ” Hooboy. No shit.
But blogging can be hard work too, even if you particularly love what you’re blogging about, especially in the time of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram where netizens don’t care to read blogs anymore. This blog’s tagline used to read: “I write to make a living, but I blog to feel alive—and tell my own story.” I feel alive when I blog what I want to blog, but then there’s the inevitable question of: “Who the hell reads my writing [blogging] anyway?” At least when I write the stuff that I don’t love to write, like website content and ad copy and all that shit, they’re read by other people—even if they don’t know who the writer is. At least when I edit other people’s books, they see my edits and appreciate that I’ve improved their work somewhat—even if they don’t know who the editor is.
The same cannot be said for my blogging—even though, ironically, they’d definitely know who the blogger is.
It doesn’t help that—like I already mentioned—nowadays, in the age of social media, blogging is dead. I know quite a few bloggers, amazing and talented Filipino bloggers most especially, that I’ve been following through the years who’ve taken their rantings to Facebook or Twitter.
But I miss the days when people truly wanted to visit a particular blog. Those were the pre-smartphone and tablet days when you had to fire up a laptop at the very least to be able to read a blog post. Or hell, whatever happened to the times when we were at the office, in front of our PCs and Macs, and just wanted to lose ourselves in a particularly enjoyable blog post? (At the expense of productivity, of course, but that’s another story.)
I miss reading blogs. I miss writing for my own blog.
Hence this blog.
It’s just one of a million personal blogs out there. Just one of the million personal blogs dying in cyberspace, dying in this world of social media. A blog that I would like to think, however (depending on this blogger’s stamina to blog regularly), would be raging, raging against the dying of the blogging light.
So I take solace in something another (yes, another!) Filipino writer (also a blogger) once wrote in her column:
“Blogging taught me to not care as much about likes and shares, because with blogging, you start off with no readers – or maybe just two (my mother and brother, in my case). It also teaches you that when you care too much about likes and shares, and hits on your website, at some point it starts to dictate what you write about – which is a terrible thing. It’s like selling out. To the bandwagon, the public noise, the blind belief that writing – and writing commentary – is about trending online. It never is.”
And why should I sell out with my blogging. Right? I already sold out many years ago when I decided to write copy (and edit books of OTHER people) for a living.
I’d like to end this post with a passage from a preface to a book written by ANOTHER Filipino writer, who in my opinion is one of the greatest Filipino writers the Philippines has ever produced, one of the writers I’ve always admired and whose writing has influenced not only my own writing but also my thinking. In this quoted text, he talks about why writers (like him) write:
“But if not for fame, fortune, and health, why does one write? Why does any reasonably sane man write?
“Quite seriously, one writes because one must.
“One writes because one must. As it is with human rights, writing is not an amenity of civilization, like tea. It is a source of life itself, like air. Just as well, one writes about things because one must. In the end, we do not really choose what to write. They choose us. They are there. We cannot choose to write only about the bright and cheerful in the thought that the spirit is set free only by them. The spirit cannot soar to the heavens on leaden wings, however it imagines that they are feathers. Or it cannot do so on fluff kept together by wax, as Icarus found out while falling to the sea.
“The spirit soars to the heavens by looking at all that is there, by reviling the vile and revelling at the marvelous, by facing the truth of its world and itself, as Edmund Hilary once faced Mount Everest and Hector, Achilles, finding hope in despair, victory in defeat, life and death, by paring reality to the bone and dispelling the vapors of illusion, all the while telling the author of this voyage, this seeking, this confrontation, the terrible truth of his own being, ‘You are neither god nor devil, priest nor soldier, bird nor snake:
“Writer ka lang pala.”
Or in my case: