Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Rituales delos Habitual

Rituales delos Habitual

Whenever I listen to some of my colleagues lecturing to young students, it seemed like I was going back to Mr. Esteban (now the PRC chief somewhere in Mindanao) giving us the differences between the different kinds of news or feature leads.
They don’t get the point. We are asked to speak to them because of our actual experiences and not because they wanted to be reminded of their high school journalism teachers.
If possible, they want us to give them magic beans on how to write better in one and a half hour or less.
Maybe you can start by telling them there’s no short cut or that good writers are made not born etcetera; which is fine but most of your listeners already knew that. Those who don’t still believe in Santa Claus and Jack and the Beanstalk. If there are no magic beans then at least give them a manual on how to plant them.
It would be wonderful if we start with how writers write. In my last column, I already wrote about how some writers still cling to typewriters and pens. Now we talk about how they motivate themselves to write.
Malou Guieb, a columnist of this paper, has a favorite chair in Luisa’s Café where we mostly surf. She can not write anywhere else. If someone is sitting there, Malou would just have coffee and converse. Too shy to shoo, she would wait and wait until the intruder leaves.
Alfred Dizon, an editor of another weekly, is, like Sly, a somnolent writer, meaning he usually takes a nap to organize his thoughts. But in the computer screen (he naps in front of it) are the words “(BAGUIO CITY),” which, of course, is how he starts his stories. So in a way, he is not starting from scratch.
Most writers have their regular routines. Jacques Barzun, for example, starts with coffee and newspaper at six am. Then an hour of exercise and writing the whole day. Afternoon is spent reading and then drinks at 6:30 pm. Dinner follows and then sleep at 9:30 pm.
Boring, you say. But then Barzun, the French-born American historian and critic was born in 1907 and still follows this regimen.
Ok, let’s get to the dead writers. Ernest Hemingway, the swashbuckling writer. He also has a routine. He starts at sunrise, writing until he has written everything he can write. Then he stops and goes on with what he was famous for: drinking, sailing, hunting, etcetera. If a thought comes to him, he waits till the next day to write it. Like he said, writing in the morning is like making love to a woman you love. It makes you both empty and fulfilled.
Benjamin Franklin also followed a rigid schedule. After breakfast, he would work from 8 am to noon. His lunch hour spent editing what he wrote beforehand. The back to work till 5 pm. From thereon till 10 pm, he would play or whatever because as he wrote, All work and no play makes Franklin a dull boy.
John Cheever would go down his private elevator at 8 am in his suit. Then reaching the basement where he wrote, he would undress to his underwear and then write. Then up the elevator for lunch in his suit and back down again at 1 pm. Back to his underwear to write till 5 pm and then up again in his suit. Needless to say, John Cheever, one of my favorite short story writers, had only one suit.
There are some writers with their quirks. Alexander Dumas (Three Musketeers, Count of Monte Cristo) can only write after eating an apple under the Arc de Triomphe.
Gertrude Stein can only write inside her car, writing her poetry on bits of paper inside her unmoving car.
There are more quirks but these are attempts to make your writing ritual consistent.
Back to the living or to Stephen King, the next to unliving. King also is very rigid. After tea, he sits on his favorite seat, like Malou G, at 8 to 8:30 am with his notes neatly arranged on his side. Such consistency will give your mind a signal that you are now prepared to write, King said. And then, of course, his writing is anything but rigid.
Haruki Murakami, a Japanese novelist famous among young writers here, wakes up at 4 am. Then he writes for five to six hours and then either runs 10K or swims 1.5K. Then he reads and listens to jazz before sleeping at 9 pm.
Murakami used to manage a jazz bar like what Rumour’s Bar used to be. Then he quit and became a novelist.
I guess you can not be both at the same time. Hmmmm. Maybe I, too, should quit. Quit what? I don’t know. 


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