Jim Paredes on Writing

Posted on December 7, 2008

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Why I Write
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE

Philippine Star
By Jim Paredes Updated December 07, 2008 12:00 AM

Paul Carrie of Taxi, in Getty Images
Photo credit: Paul Carrie of Taxi, in Getty Images

Let me tell you at the outset that I have a love-hate relationship with writing, especially writing this column. I wake up on Monday mornings wondering what to write about for the coming Sunday. My deadline falls on a Thursday and if I am lucky, I can come up with a decent piece that I feel confident enough to submit to my editor as early as Monday night.

Most times, I am lucky. I remember being interviewed about something similar that I do, which is songwriting. I was asked how easy or hard it was for me to write songs and I answered quite seriously that it was no different from going to the toilet. It comes out when it is ready!

But sometimes, “constipation” traps the thoughts, feelings and words in the deep bowels of the mind. The more one tries to write, the harder it seems to produce output. And that can be worrisome when one has a weekly deadline. It is already Wednesday as I write this and I am still not sure where this will take me, but I have learned to trust that it will go somewhere.

I just have to try and write.

And yet, one must write, not because of a deadline or the pay, and not because, like the analogy of the toilet ritual, it can be toxic to keep it all inside. I write because I am one of those cursed people who have been awakened to writing and have been enlisted to do so. I rue my upbringing for making me a conscientious person who has said yes to the noble calling of being an artist and a writer even if it subjects me to occasional bouts of writer’s block, the fear of coming out with bad stuff, and the fear of coming out with good stuff and having to live with the rising expectations of my small reading public.

Writing is an activity that can be compared to many things. One of them is sex. You awaken to it not unlike the way you do at puberty. All of a sudden, you have a heightened burning need to explore uncharted and forbidden areas of yourself that seem to have come alive.

The act of writing itself can open one to accusations of being on the more perverse side of things. Isn’t keeping a diary, with its attendant private pleasure of exposing one’s feelings and thoughts nakedly on paper, similar to having solitary sex?

On the other hand, there is something exhibitionistic about coming out in print. “The quality that makes man want to write and be read is essentially a desire for self-exposure and masochism. Like one of those guys who has a compulsion to take his thing out and show it on the street.” That was the American author James Jones talking about the thrill of being noticed, read, appreciated, cursed, panned, banned, glorified that every artist indulges in and actually enjoys.

And so it has become my habit for more than two years now that every week, I put on my thinking cap and write this column. Aside from this, I also write one or two articles for the three blogs that I maintain.

Come to think of it, I probably misrepresent my truth when I sometimes say I write for my audience. While I do enjoy the reactions I get from my writing, deep down I know that I write mainly for my own pleasure. How else can I explain the hassle that writing does with my time? While I am happy I have readers, like the writer Cyril Connolly, I feel it is “better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” The thrill of coming out with one’s truth even if under pain of a deadline can make one feel nakedly, gloriously alive.

One might say writing must be a sickness of sorts. Millions of blogs exist on the Internet with a majority of bloggers probably fantasizing that the words they utter will move random readers somewhere in cyberspace. I am actually guilty of being one of those. To write, and blog is a compulsion — like narcissism itself. In fact, it is exactly the spirit of Narcissus, he that fell in love with his countenance while looking at water, that makes one do it, that makes one fall in love with one’s own image and likeness.

George Orwell of the book 1984 said, “All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a long, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”

True!

But I am glad though that I am not one those ranting writers who rage against the machine in almost every column. I do not belittle those who do so but I would be utterly exhausted if I had to do that week in, week out. I would feel trapped in a never-ending struggle to improve the world.

I have met habitual activists who occasionally lose perspective on which are the small battles and which are the wars worth fighting. “Every stink that fights the ventilator thinks it is Don Quixote,” wrote the Polish poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, which best describes the life of a habitual crusader.

Besides, I have lately found myself in a more or less sweet spot where I have little need to rant, not because life is perfect but because I have learned to accept a lot of things I cannot change. And this alone tells me that one of the reasons why I write is for the sheer pleasure of writing.

Someone once said that the reason writers write is because “it isn’t there.” Writing, like many other artistic forms, is magical, mystical even in the sense that one produces something from nothing. And sometimes, one does so quite seamlessly! It’s almost as simple, even if unexplainable, as the way Christian, African and Hindu traditional mythologies describe Creation as where God supposedly broke the darkness and voila!, there was light!

Writing, aside from its other rewards, is mostly, a private joy. There is a secret pleasure in writing even if one writes just for one’s self, similar to the ultimate pleasure of being God. But eventually, one will want to share one’s soul with the rest of the world. Even God, the Source of All Being, felt compelled to break the boredom of nothingness/darkness and thus created everything.

As Ken Wilber posited on why God did it, “Because no one wants to have dinner alone.”

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