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LUCKY [20]THIRTEEN

JOY OF READING The mural at Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street in Manila is all about reading as well as as its metaphors uncaging birds, unlocking boxes, opening doors, flight, locomotion...

JOY OF READING The mural at Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street in Manila is all about reading as well as as its metaphors uncaging birds, unlocking boxes, opening doors, flight, locomotion…

To rock 2013, all writers, such as you and me, must resolve to be better at writing. Here are thirteen ways to do it.

1. WRITE DAILY You can devote an hour a day or maybe even just fifteen minutes, as long as you do it every day. Some say you should devote the same time to writing every day, but in my book, based on my experience writing Write Here Write Now: Standing At Attention Before My Imaginary Style Dictator, you can do it any time you can, tonight before you sleep, tomorrow during a lull in your New Year’s Eve celebration, as long as you do it every day. You will be surprised how far easier writing becomes when you put it into practice on a daily basis.

2. READ OFTEN All writers are readers first. It was through reading that you first found the motivation to write. No matter how busy you are, make it a point to read as often as you can. It’s not enough to read the newspapers in the morning. It’s not enough to read for information. You must read for leisure, for pleasure, for the joy of words and thoughts and wisdom and inspiration. Plan a weekend of relaxation at the beach and read in the shade of a coconut tree. At night, in bed, at bedtime, read a chapter or two or three of a novel or biography, anything well-written, fiction or non-fiction.

3. MEDITATE Or pray. Or just be still and quiet for ten minutes each day. Spend these precious minutes emptying out your mind, giving it a rest, which is the only way to reconnect with that infinite universe, that bottomless ocean of resources, that resides inside you. You may enrol in a yoga class or hire a meditation guru or you can simply find a quiet corner in the house or in your room and sit there and not think of anything. It’s not about not having any thoughts. It is against your nature to have no thoughts, to have a mind that is completely empty even for just a second. So let the thoughts come and invade your silence. Let them be, but don’t dwell on any of them. I used to pretend I was at the bottom of the ocean and each thought I would imagine to be a bubble. I guide the bubble from my mind to the surface of my imagined ocean, where it pops out of existence, and I wait for the next thought. Sometimes, the same thought keeps coming, sometimes different ones come along. Sometimes, the thought engages me for a while and then I remind myself to bring it up to the surface. It’s a great way to see what thoughts consume you without being consumed by them, at least until the meditation hour ends.

4. TAKE CONTROL Life has a way of making you feel hostage to certain circumstances. Maybe your computer is about to break down. Maybe there is no place in the house or in the office in which to write. Maybe you feel left out or irrelevant, like “everybody’s changing, but you still feel the same,” to borrow from Keane. Maybe you feel you have yet to live enough and therefore have yet to find your own story. These things are real, not a figment of your imagination, but it doesn’t mean you can be paralyzed by any of them. Take control, be the captain of your own ship. If you feel you have nothing to say (or write), the more you have to say something and prove to yourself, more than to anybody else, that you are wrong. Most likely, you are wrong. You are a story. The fact that you are here makes you a story, a unique one, in this book of life and you only have to hunker down to write the pages and tell it.

5. ENGAGE Writing is an introspective, solitary experience, but it is out there, where you have to live your life, talk to people, interact with both friends and foes, foster solid bonds, fall in love or fall out of it, that you gather the material you need in order to write something of substance. Don’t be a hermit. Don’t live out your life vicariously through your fictional heroes or your TV characters.  Maybe you are shy, but push yourself. Get involved with the people around you. Ask questions. Engage in conversation. Go out there and live and be.

6. POWER UP YOUR VOCABULARY While the best way to do this is to read, read, read, you  need to make conscious effort in making new words become a part of your arsenal of communication weapons on a regular basis. Read and listen, but make sure to take down notes. Look up the meaning of words you encounter that are unfamiliar to you. Do it by way of flash cards or simply note the words down and try to use each of them when the occasion calls for it. Invest also in self-help books, in grammar manuals, in books intended to teach you how to write well or take down notes or facilitate an interview or format a screenplay, anything to help you specialize in any field of writing or expression.

WORD POWER From the pages of Semantic Antics by Sol Steinmetz, a new look at the word glamour, once associated with witches. No wonder it's become so elusive. We've lost much of it during the witchhunt.

WORD POWER From the pages of Semantic Antics by Sol Steinmetz, a new look at the word glamour, once associated with witches. No wonder it’s become so elusive. We’ve lost much of it during the witchhunt.

7. MOVE As a writer, your mind is of utmost importance but so is your health, so is your body. Physical exercises not only keep you in top shape, it also boosts your confidence and keeps your mind as active as your body. If nothing else, an exercise regimen increases your brain’s oxygen supply and gets the blood flowing to give you enough energy for your duel with words — and the blank page.

8.  ENRICH YOURSELF Always keep your sense of wonder alive. See, hear, touch, smell, and taste as much of life as you can. Meet new people and be open to what they have to show you. Go to museums. Watch movies, Don’t get stuck in the music of your youth. Listen to all that’s new. Travel. Drop all your first-class requirements and just open yourself up to adventure, if you have to ride a rickety old bus to get there or to book yourself to a zero-star inn to experience it. Try exotic food. Learn a new language. Take up a new sport. Open your car windows once in a while no matter how they warn you of the dangers that lurk there. Organize a tea party with your neighbors. Go to the clubs and dance. Say hello at the risk of being ignored or snubbed (More likely, it’s their loss not yours). Just open your eyes.

9. SEE YOUR WORLD WITH FRESH EYES But it’s not enough to keep your eyes open. Take notice of everything around you, take interest, especially of those you might have taken for granted, those in your immediate surroundings, your mother maybe or the flowering plants in the backyard. To me, the greatest indication of mediocrity or the descent to mediocrity is a “been there, done that” attitude. Life is an infinite vastness, so if you’re beginning to feel like you’ve been there, done that, it only means you have stayed too long in your comfort zone.

10. DAYDREAM Have you noticed that the power of your daydreams has waned as you got older? If not, good for you. If yes, better do something about it. Most likely, the power is the same but you’re not. There are just too many things that distract you now, that keep you from focusing on the moment, even if the moment, such as this lazy Sunday or the quarter of an hour between meetings, is there for the taking. Remember that as a writer it will serve you well to hold down your thoughts longer than usual or at least long enough to explore them and pluck them out of the realm of possibilities and commit them on the page, where, there at least, you can turn them from dream to reality.

11. PLAY Don’t be too serious. Writers have fun, too. Allow yourself to have fun. Read trash, if you wish — watch a B movie, sing along to a pop song. Some things do not need your critical thinking or your high standards. You need to have fun and you’re not going to get any if you feel it is in your nature as a writer to be overly critical of everything.

12. FORGET INSPIRATION Forget it at least as a requirement for writing. Whether you have it or not, you have to write, especially when there’s a deadline to beat or to meet. Respect the deadline, whether it is set by others, such as your editor or your publisher or a co-writer, or self-imposed. In my book, Write Here Write Now, I maintain that a deadline gets the work done faster and better than any inspiration, if only because the deadline is always there while inspiration may not be.

13. HAVE A POINT OF VIEW Or take it more seriously and more consciously. A point of view is what sets you apart from every other writer, William Shakespeare included. While it is true that you can only write about life from your own point of view because that’s the only way you see life, it helps to clear up that vantage point, to give it a better angle, a wider perspective or simply to be aware that it is your ace, the one spot in this infinitude that is all yours. See life as you alone would see it, live life as only you would, make sure you are sitting front row center in this spectacular play that is your own life. It’s not easy. You’re never too sure if how you see things is the way they should be seen, which is why you have to do the twelve other things specified on this list. You just have to do all that it takes to be good at what you are doing.

May all the right words be with you in 2013 and always.

READ FOR PLEASURE The holiday shopwindow at Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street in Manila is a showcase of the beautiful things we associate with reading.

READ FOR PLEASURE The holiday shopwindow at Fully Booked at Bonifacio High Street in Manila is a showcase of the world of wonders reading makes possible.

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One thought on “LUCKY [20]THIRTEEN

  1. Pingback: The Story You Provide | Jonathan Hilton

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