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Writing the way I write |

Sunday Lifestyle

Writing the way I write

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star

I apologize for missing my column last Sunday. I have been moving homes so I had only a little time to write. When I went to my computer it told me my mouse had died. I couldn’t open it to change the batteries like I did with my older computer. The next day I went to where I bought it and they showed me how to recharge my mouse. Plug it in like charging a cell phone and that’s how it gets new life. So now my mouse is alive and I am a columnist again.

Why do I write the way I write? Always in the first person. Is it ego? I’m sure some of you have wondered. Let me tell you, it is not ego. If I write in the second person using the pronoun “you,” my readers may feel me to be accusatory. If I write in the third person using the pronouns “he/she/they,” I have to have the evidence to prove what I am saying is true. But if I write in the first person then I write from my experience and I don’t have to prove anything. So writing from the first person is not the most egotistical way — it is the least threatening way.

Lately, at a local airport while waiting for our plane to arrive, my most favorite cousin told me my style was “confessional.” But that was the middle of the night. We had just buried our aunt and I was dead tired. I didn’t feel like explaining myself. All I felt like doing was breathing and staying awake. But his statement disturbed me.

I know enough people think I’m confessing my sins because I talk about my life. But I also know from their responses that more of my readers say they learn many things from my column. A few have said I help navigate their lives. That comment from them is most complimentary for me. It’s like I enlighten their way, give them direction. As a writer, I really like that.  It makes me think that maybe I teach them about life.

I am not a journalist. I don’t have a college degree that would classify me as a journalist. But let me tell you my trick. While I write in the first person I make sure that I touch on what many writers call universal experience — an experience undergone by many, many people. Of course there are exceptions to that rule. I also get hate texts — only two, to be fair. One who loves to call me names. Another who is perpetually asking me if I am related to people I know absolutely nothing about. But everyone has a few people who hate them.

In grade school I had an English Composition homework assignment that I had forgotten about. I was like that in school, often forgot about homework and quizzes. But my classmates were always reminding me. “Did you do your homework? You’re supposed to write a paragraph on something you did.” I put my pad paper against the wall and wrote about giving my pet dog a bath and how that bathed both of us. I titled it “A Wet Task.” It was done in less than 10 minutes.

The next day Sister Catherine Patrice was very complimentary about one of the students’ work. “She is such a marvelous writer,” she said. “The title of her work is ‘A Wet Task.’” My eyes almost fell out of my head in shock. That was my work. Did Sister just say I was a good writer?

I always dreamed of becoming a columnist but real life got in the way — early marriage, babies, martial law and censorship, all sorts of things. When I came back from the States in 1988 at the age of 44, I decided I really wanted to become a columnist. I bought all the newspapers for a whole week. I looked at all the columnists and what they were writing.  Everyone was writing about politics, health, cars, plants, religion. I know, I thought, I will be different.  I will write about life.  I will write with feeling. Using the few connections I had then I became a columnist at the now defunct Manila Chronicle, writing “Tweetums” on Saturday and “Barbara” on Sunday, my first two columns about life. That was 30 years ago!

Initially people were shocked. How can she write that way?!? How can she say such personal things?!? I was writing about experiences that had happened 11 years before. I had already learned much from them. “How can you be so traditional?” I wanted to respond. But look at the media scenario now. Now, many people are writing about their own lives!

Writing about life, sharing your experiences, laughing, crying, giggling, being serious, that is the best way to teach. And that’s why I write the way I write.

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