Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to become a Writer Lesson 1: Observe Details

If you want to become a writer, the first thing you should do is to look around and find some details that you can highlight and talk about. Now's the time to start. You are on your way home and you see a stout man in his 40's wearing a blue adidas dryfit shirt with red stripes on its sides and a logo of Spain marked on his left chest. You follow his gaze. He sees a lady seated at the corner of a jeepney wearing a white uniform, her flipflops dangling. She holds up her hanky to cover her nose. Know your setting. The street sign slightly slanted shows names of two streets: Sampaguita Street & Bizal (perhaps Rizal) street. There you go. Take note of it if you want to write about a fat man who is stalking a nurse in Sampaguita street. Nah, you muttered.

You continue on with your search. Nothing seems to shout "Look at me! Write about me!" All are stemming from the ordinary as you watch behind the wheel. Look at the people around you. At your right, you see a shabby house made of uncoordinated planks of wood, topped with brown corrugated boxes. A mother whose hair is all over the place is breastfeeding a baby, while a little girl is tagging her stretched and faded sleeveless shirt. Two boys are in front of her playing chess. You think, How is the mother able to manage them all? Shouldn't the three kids be in school already?

Rain starts to pour. Your eyes deviate to the girl with long straight shiny black hair who hurriedly crosses the street holding her books above her head. Too bad she doesn't have an umbrella.. but wow, she made it under the sequioa tree in 5sec tops.

You pass by Baliwag Lechon and Andok's Manok. They are empty except for the two ladies standing behind the counter, one fanning her face and the other texting. Business must be bad, nothing special.

Details. Details. Still have nothing to write about. Probably the air-conditioner is too cold. Lower it down a notch, your braincells might already be freezing. You see a stream of red lights. Boo, traffic. Your eyes rest on the big Shell Gasoline sign at the sidewalk. Prices are up again. Shell's Super Premium is now at Php 44 when in fact it was only Php 43 last week. You might have to give up some movie trips for future transportation costs. Tell yourself: it's okay, the good news is, you'll have more time to look for details and write.

Light turns green. Beeep! A guy in motorcycle almost hits your side mirror. He is carrying his baby, and both of them are dripping wet. Screeech! A child about six years of age holding a bundle of stringed sampaguita suddenly runs in front of you. Argh.. Her parents ought to teach her a lesson!

After two turns, you're finally home.






You turn on the light in your room. You flip your laptop open. You sit in your favorite gray leather chair. You can't think of anything to write. It's what you call "writer's block." Blame it on the rough ride home.

*This "self-help with a twist" piece was written in the car (literally) while I was on my way home. I would just like to point out two things:

1. Sometimes the ordinary can be made extraordinary by simply putting details into words.

2. Sometimes we have too much complaints that we forget to count our blessings.

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