Forget about inspiration
FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura (The Philippine Star) - July 15, 2018 - 12:00am

You want to write well? Sit down and do it. Don’t walk around looking for inspiration. That’s a waste of time

Thank you for your messages to ease my excruciating pain. You somewhat succeeded. It is now down to 20 percent of what it used to be and I am profoundly grateful for all the prayers and suggestions. But let us set the pain aside. Today I want to reply to the request of a reader who texts: “Gusto ko lang po humingi ng advice sa inyo kung ano pong ginagamit niyong motivation and inspiration sa pagsulat.” She wants to ask for advice on what motivates and inspires me to write. I think that’s an excellent question. She describes herself as an aspiring writer who read one of my articles and was impressed by it. So let me tell her — and anybody else who sees himself or herself as an aspiring writer — how I write and hope it teaches them something.

 My deadline is Thursday. Every Thursday at around five or six in the evening I go to my computer and write my column. It takes me at most three hours. I send it by email because I live in Mandaluyong and the office is in Port Area. That’s too far for me to travel. No. That’s not the real reason. The real reason is I used to work for a newspaper before and became painfully aware of the intrigue so I swore never to step into a newspaper office again. That newspaper is gone now. It taught me how to work comfortably through email.

 Once I have sent my column, I forget about it and start idly wondering what I will write about next. I know you are young, probably still in school and you have illusions about inspiration and motivation and all those fancy words. I am 74 years old, have lived what I’d call a highly interesting life. I just write. I don’t need inspiration. My motivation is my deadline. I know I have to send a piece by next Thursday. What can I write about? Last week it was about an excruciating backache. This week it’s your text.

 The search for inspiration is one of the most useless things in life. I learned that experientially. I worked in advertising for 33 years. Once in a while inspiration comes and you think you’ve come up with something brilliant; then your clients begin to shoot it down. I don’t believe inspiration is necessary to write well. You can write well without inspiration and your only motivation can be your deadline. You want to write well?  Sit down and do it. Don’t walk around looking for inspiration. That’s a waste of time.

 You probably have not read why I became a columnist. I wanted to be one. When I came back from the United States (where I lived for four years after the Ninoy assassination) I really wanted to be a columnist. So I bought all the newspapers for one whole week to find out what the columnists were writing about. They were writing mostly about politics, religion, health, cars. I wanted to be different. Then it hit me. I will write about life! I will write about my experiences. I will write in the first person because then I don’t need any evidence. I would need evidence if I wrote in the third person. If I wrote in the second person, I may sound accusatory.  But if you write in the first person — “I” — you are safe.  But you must always have a truth that applies to everyone. For example, you can write about your mother. Everyone has a mother. You can write about love.  Everybody loves somebody sometime, as the old song goes.

 To become a very successful writer you must have a different source of income and just write on the side. Very few writers make a lot of money and if and when they do, it happens late in life. To write well, you must live well. You must not be afraid of anything, especially what other people will say about you or about anyone. You must not be afraid of controversy or of rocking the boat. You must have the courage to be truly yourself.  You must always have the courage to tell the truth.

 You must also have manners in your use of language so you don’t inadvertently insult people. But you don’t have to want to be a writer to want to have good manners. Everyone should have good manners, especially if you’re a politician, so you are never misunderstood.

 You must not fall in love with your work. You write, then you take a short break. Have a drink of water. Then edit. I must have more or less 830 words and I must finish in two hours. Then you send it. You did a lousy job? Forgive yourself. You did a great job? Thank God for his help.  Always thank God for being with you. That’s all the advice I can give. I hope it helps.

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