starting from zero

Late 1990s

I fell in love with English back in 6th grade when our school administrator became our Grammar teacher. She made all grammar rules sensible and understandable, but my English still sucked at that time.

At that time, the books I only owned were my school textbooks and children’s story books. At that time, I consumed my time watching Filipino TV shows and Filipino-dubbed animes. My sister kept on insisting I read more books and watch English TV shows, because the best way to learn a language is to expose yourself to it.

She was right.

Early 2000s

English became a huge part of my life in high school. I was studying in an all-girls school. In the Philippines, there’s a stereotype that goes around that students in all-girls schools and all-boys schools only speak in English. Of course, that’s an exaggeration.

When I got there, I learned that the girls don’t speak English all the time. They still used Filipino – actually, Taglish (Tagalog-English/Filipino-English) is the main language of the school. However, when they’re called to speak in English, they can speak in English.

Another thing I learned (which the judgmental people outside the all-girls school community didn’t mention or probably have no idea about) is, unlike in the grade school where I came from where students’ past times are just playing and watching animes, students in all-girls schools read books. A LOT OF BOOKS.

It was 2001 – the first Harry Potter movie was scheduled to hit the theaters. Before that year, I didn’t know what and who Harry Potter was. All I knew was it was a book and the Catholic church hated it.

A friend invited me to watch it with her. Unfortunately, I was the girl who wasn’t allowed to go to malls without her parents and I was the girl who failed her English subject because she didn’t took the practical exam for her Speech class which was to speak in front of her classmates.

I was grounded.

It was somehow sad because I thought could finally learn who Harry Potter is without having to read the book. Up to that point, I was still clueless about the whole HP phenomenon.

My Mom got an idea. It was pretty clever. She bought me my first ever book: “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” She thought it would help me learn who Harry Potter was and improve my English.

As the cliched English idiom goes, it’s killing two birds with one stone.

It worked.

I read the book. I still remember how I repeatedly read the first paragraph of the first chapter because I wasn’t so sure if I was understanding it. It was my first time reading a full-length novel. I was scared. I was intimidated. I was thinking I would never finish it.

Good thing, JK Rowling was amazing.

After getting over the initial “shock” of reading the first page of my first full-length novel, the rest of reading journey went on smoothly.

I was absorbed in the Harry Potter universe that JK Rowling had awesomely created. I wish I could really be in there and never would have to leave.

I was still a slow reader, then. I had to sleep early because of school. I had homework every time I came home. It took me a week or two to finish the book.

That’s how my love for reading started.

While waiting for the 5th HP book, I picked up Sarah Dessen, R.L. Stine and some others. I was introduced to fan fiction (I love Harry/Hermione and Draco/Hermione stories – my greatest frustrations). I was addicted to reading.

Late 2000s

Writing started when I was in college.

(My writing skills back in high school was totally nonexistent. When our Filipino teacher required as to write a short story, I went to Fanfiction.net and looked for some HP fic I could translate into Filipino for the said homework.)

I can’t remember anymore what day it was. All I can recall was it was 2008. I was in class, bored to my wits. I was addicted to the anime called The Prince of Tennis. I was reading a lot of PoT fan fics – I was a Perfect Pair shipper (Tezuka Kunimitsu/Fuji Syusuke) and, sometimes, others. I was having my own PoT scenarios in my head and they won’t shut up.

Out of nowhere, I started writing my first fan fiction. It wasn’t a love story. It was just a character-centric one. It’s a cringe-worthy story (not because it was badly written – though I admit my grammar back then was still atrocious, but because the story was dumb), but I posted it online. There were a few reads (and fewer reviews) but I wasn’t discouraged.

I wrote a love story after.

They were short stories at first. Then, they became chaptered ones. I wrote about my favorite ship, then I started experimenting with original female characters. Sadly, when I was already doing this, I started working and didn’t have enough time to focus on those stories anymore.

It’s impossible to finish an unfinished story if you leave it for a long time. Your mindset as a writer changes. Your writing style changes. Your vision for stories changes. Trying to go back to how you were “feeling” and “thinking” when you started your story is an almost impossible feat.

Early 2010s

I didn’t stop writing. Writing continued after college.

However, I moved to a different fandom.

I left the anime world and relocated to the KPOP universe. Though it was already 2010 when I started writing for KPOP, my KPOP obsession started way back in 2003 – back in the days of dial-up internet.

There, it was back to scratch.

Writing for an anime is easier, there’s a plot and an existing story. In KPOP, there are only characters – the artists. The only story you have is the news about them, the circulating anecdotes about them. I did write stories using real events as plots, but I couldn’t just focus on them only.

I had to learn how to make an original world, universe, reality for KPOP artists in my head.

I turned them to other things – students, parents, actors, angels, kings, princes, detectives, robots, etc.

Writing for KPOP did improve me as a writer.

2015

I decided to write my first original story.

(Okay, I did try to write an original story back in high school. After the translated HP fic incident that my teacher never seemed to have noticed. I can still remember the name of my main character – it was Dylan. However, I wasn’t able to finish it and I didn’t have enough confidence for it.)

It was November and I learned about this thing called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) from the authors I was following on Twitter. It’s a website you had to sign up to and, when you join, you had to write a 50,000-word novel in the whole of November. It seemed fun and even though it was already 3rd of November, I jumped in to join the excitement.

I already had an idea in mind. It was supposed to be a fan fic, but I decided to just write it as an original story. I reached the word count by the end of November. However, since the goal was just to write a 50,000-word novel, the whole thing was a mess.

2016

When New Year came, I told myself that I would get my novel published.

I planned to proofread and edit the whole thing starting in January. I was already looking and asking about publishers online.

However, laziness got in the way…

…and so are other things.

I lost my passion for writing. The three chaptered fan fics I was working on that time were all left hanging (and so were my readers). The only writing I did during those dark times was the letters and messages I was sending to a friend of mine.

I wasn’t reading any book. The reading I only did was the re-reading of the first four Harry Potter books and KPOP fan fics.

I got depressed.

Everything was left unfinished.

However, I had enough sense to decide that I should shift my focus on something – someone – more important: GOD.

2017

I created this blog.

Before 2016 ended, I said I will get myself back on track.

January: I jumpstarted my reading with Chris Tiegreen’s devotional book called “Hearing God’s Voice” and two other devotional books. I also read my first book for a long while – Mara Wilson’s “Where Am I Now?”

February: I attended my first writing workshop – How to Write Love Stories. I finally got to writing again.

March: I realized I don’t have the heart and appetite for books with steamy elements – thanks to Colleen Hoover’s “Ugly Love,” which I had to take deep breaths now and then just to get me through. Then, thanks to three-day encounter the church organized and through the 90 Days Challenge, I started reading the New Testament of the Bible.

April: I skipped several writing workshops because they were on Sundays and I could never put anything before God on Sundays. Reading Victoria Aveyard’s “King’s Cage” became really hard for me as well. It’s so full of unforgiveness, revenge, anger, and all things that the Bible told me to never dwell on. I was so focused on the things I was learning from my devotions, cell group and church that writing was put on hold again.

May: My love for inspirational and Christian books also started. I wasn’t writing still but I also realized there are still love stories that I can read like Jenny Han’s “Always and Forever, Lara Jean.”

June: I encouraged a friend who doesn’t like reading to read books. I lent Cecilia Ahern’s “Love, Rosie” and Colleen Hoover’s “Maybe Someday” to a friend at work. Another friend at work asked me read Bryn Greenwood’s “All the Ugly and Wonderful Things” but couldn’t finish it because my heart was continuously protesting against the things the book stands for.

JulyI finished the New Testament. Also, after a three-month writing hiatus, I started updating this blog again. I was convicted to write again after several devotions talked about putting God’s gifts to use and after our pastor preached about work on our God-given talents that would give us value (and eventually success) in the future.

August: I attended National Bookstore’s “The Philippine Readers and Writers Festival 2017” just this weekend (an event that I’ve been planning to go to since 2015) and I sat down to several talks about writing. I met amazing and interesting Filipino authors like Nikki Alfar, Mina V. Esguerra, Samatha Sotto, and Bebang Siy (my favorite). Also, before the event, I deleted all my fan fictions from the internet. I realized they can’t exist anymore. I misused my gift of writing to spread wrong ideas of love and lust.

— — —

I’m happy that it’s been good so far. I have been writing a bit constantly. Ideas for blog posts are pouring. Though I’m struggling with something I can’t identify right now, the drive to write is strongly present. I have so much yearning when it comes to my writing. I’m constantly lifting this dreams up to God, praying and hoping that He would continue to fuel this passion and gift that He had given me. I aim to use my gift to advance His kingdom. I’m not a good speaker, I talk better with written words, this is the best way I know how to honor and glorify Him (for now).

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reuniting with matilda

One of my favorite movies as a child was “Matilda.” I remember my mom bringing home a copy of it on a VHS so that we don’t have to rent it from the stores. I watched it a lot to the point I memorized the dialogues. But despite all that, I still suck as a fan because I didn’t know it was a book – a children’s book – by Roald Dahl until a couple of years back. I suck as a fan.

Last year, Mara Wilson (better known as Matilda to us who grew up with that movie) released a book. An autobiography. Upon the announcement, I knew I had to have her book. I remember going to bookstores in Stratford when I was in London looking for it. I was so excited because the UK release coincided with my stay there. However, it seems that book releases don’t work that easily even in the UK, so I came home empty handed. Good thing, my colleague offered to buy it for me online and I got it.

“Where Am I Now?” is the first book I read this year. I am still in a state of utter speechlessness. I didn’t even wrote a review on my Goodreads because I don’t know how to put all the feels I got from the book on coherent writing.

All I know is that I loved reading the book. Mara’s a really good writer. She’s engaging and funny. I felt everything she put down on paper. Which was why, reading the book was also hard for me.

I knew it was about her life since it was an autobiography. So, I knew I’d finally learn where she had been after leaving Hollywood. However, It wasn’t just your typical narration and I was caught off guard. I was shocked, confused, heartbroken, relieved, etc.

She didn’t just talk about her career and life after Hollywood, she talked about sex (how she learned about it and how she struggled with her thoughts about it), death and religion (which really got my brain working), mental health (this got me on my feet), relationships, breaking up with Hollywood, being in a choir, losing her mother, NYU, Robin Williams, and her present.

I wasn’t ready for the book. I knew it upon reading the first few pages.

It left me bothered, especially on the part when she let go of her belief in God. That really got me thinking. It’s not because I’m against atheism. I’m a very open-minded person and I respect each and everyone’s beliefs. I just couldn’t figure out how she just let it go so easily. Well, she struggled at first, but I guess I was looking for a specific huge life-changing event (like something tragic) that could’ve altered her perception about God. Anyway, my friend told me we have our own unique journeys when it comes to God.

I was also left worried when she discussed her OCD. Because of what I’ve been through last year, I wondered if I have some mental health issues of my own. I have put the thoughts aside towards the end of the year but this book brought them back and it brought them really strong. Thank goodness I have a friend who knows how to calm me down when I worry too much. Now, I’m all good once again.

Nothing could’ve prepared me for this book. I didn’t read any detailed reviews. I just knew it was a good book. Mara Wilson is that good. So aside from the confusion, I was left inspired. I learned a lot and I hope she’ll release another book soon. This time I know what I am up against.