My book, Write Here Write Now: Standing at Attention Before My Imaginary Style Dictator, is number 8 on the list of this month’s bestsellers among the Philippine publications.
I decided to write this book when — or because — I was not in a good place, as if locked in a room with a lot of writing to do and books to read and a dying light. I was entertaining the thought that the life I built around words was no longer relevant, as well as the dreams I dreamed in response to the words I read in books and heard in the movies, in music, and the talk shows I watched as a child with the same fervor as that with which some kids of the MTV generation would watch Beavis and Butthead.
“Don’t kill yourself over that article,” a friend or two or three or more told me. “People don’t really read anymore. They only look at the pictures.”
“Keep it short,” said most of the others. “People start zoning out after the second sentence.”
Still, others were more blunt: “Write as though for gradeschoolers. Nobody likes having to Google up words to find out what they mean.”
Or even harsh (and almost right): “Write as you speak, right? Speak the language of the times. So if Style.com says ‘had my nails did,’ ‘had my nails’ did it is. It’s ghetto and it’s fun — and it’s now.”
But it’s not correct.
I would have argued the point. I would have said it was not correct, at least not yet, especially not when used by some authority with such a global reach as Style.com’s. But I was in a bad place and I was really no longer sure.
So I wrote this book. It was not to prove anybody wrong. It was to see for myself, to discover for myself — and to share — what I really thought about writing.
The rules of language are not cast in stone. Language is a living thing. Every year, it grows in many ways, by leaps and bounds, at an average rate of 4,000 new words, for instance. This means that every year we have about 4,000 new words in the English language alone, words like Lolz or F-bomb or bromance that by the recognition of the likes of the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster have every right to be accepted in a game of Scrabble at least — but who plays Scrabble now?
Some words even change meaning over time. Paramour, once a term of endearment for Jesus or the Virgin Mary, according to Sol Steinmentz‘s Semantic Antics, is now a word you can only say in a prayer if you wish to perish in hell, especially if you are Catholic.
Still, in a way, through my book, I defy all notions that the rules of grammar are dead and dying and so are all the virtues of good writing — depth of thought, wide vocabulary, logic, organization, fairness, honesty, clarity, correctness, restraint, discipline, wit, and wisdom. These things are not supposed to go in and out of season like long hair or mini-skirts or boots or any other trends. These things made sense to Shakespeare and they still do make sense, thank God, to our writers now.
Write Here Write Now has made it to National Book Store’s Bestsellers List for Philippine Publications. What happy news for me, its author, though I know being a bestseller now is the same as becoming a celebrity not so much because you have artistic talent or extraordinary beauty but because you have the most number of text votes in a reality TV show. As I read on Wikipedia while trying to process my thoughts about this breakthrough, “by the middle of the nineteenth century, a situation akin to modern publication had emerged, where most bestsellers were written for a popular taste and are now almost entirely forgotten, with odd exceptions such as East Lynne (remembered only for the line ‘Gone, gone, and never called me mother!’), the wildly popular Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Sherlock Holmes.”
But given the circumstances I was in when I wrote this book, I was sure I did not write it for a popular taste. I wrote it just when I thought people were no longer interested.
Not a few reviews have called Write Here Write Now “a love affair with words.” As for the romance novel, an extremely popular genre, the passion for reading and writing seems to be on fire, although, like any romance, it has to be rekindled every now and then, as often as possible, or else it will die.
Right now, for me at least, it is ablaze. This list — this “bestselling” performance, the way my book flew off the shelves at a rate I did not expect — proves how wrong I was in thinking that good writing or the desire for it was passé.
I’ve never been so happy to be so wrong.
ABOUT THE BOOK