The Bibliophile Chronicles: Mostly A Literary Blog

Home » love of writing

Category Archives: love of writing

On Reading

PhantomsTo a bibliomaniac like me, reading is utter bliss. There are, according to Jacques Bonnet’s book about books, Phantoms on The Bookshelves, two kinds of bibliomaniacs: the collector and the manic reader. I am both. I buy books whenever I feel the urge to buy one (which is most of the time), and I read whenever and wherever. I cannot imagine life without books. I cannot imagine life without the printed word.

Every chance I get, I read.

I read standing up, lying down, sitting, kneeling, and in every imaginable position where a contortionist could bend and flex body senseless. I read lying down in my bed while I wait for the sleeping pills to kick in. I read while using my little throne of a toilet trying to relieve myself of the eggs and bananas I ate for breakfast. I read while eating dinner and ingesting more food — food that I look forward to relieving myself of because I know I will get a chance to read again the next morning while sitting in my throne. I read at the back of my car while being driven to the office. I read while waiting, in a hotel or a restaurant, for a late client or investor. I read while trying to drown out the ambient noise and the mindless chatter of people in a coffee shop or at an airport.

Photo courtesy of www.wnd.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.wnd.com

Reading, I believe, is not just a mere hobby — it is a way of life.

Anthony Burgess once said that there is no better reason for not reading a book than having it.Yes, that may be true for most bibliophiles, who just collect for the sake of collecting, but does his statement apply to hardcore bibliomaniacs like me? Bibliomaniacs who read to hoard information, to learn, to be enlightened, to be entertained, and to just read for the pleasure of reading? Bibliomaniacs who read anywhere and everywhere, anytime and every time?

Perhaps Mr. Burgess, now dead, would have changed his mind, or perhaps, would have qualified his argument, if he met me back in 1993, when he was still alive to meet the future version of me.

Advertisements

Racing Thoughts Of A Bipolar Writer No. 5: Lessons From A Writing Hiatus

hiatus-imageI have made up excuses to myself for my writing hiatus far too long and far too many times, that it is no longer justifiably congruent to my current physical, emotional, and mental condition, which, if I am being honest, are complete pictures of good health as of late. I should have started blogging and writing last May, or at the very latest, the last week of the month of May. But I admit, and quite regrettably so, that procrastination and laziness overpowered me.

And just like that, with a week-long (or has it been a month?) difference to my blogging backlog, here I am trying to absolve myself of my proclivity to idleness and self-imposed writing hiatuses.

However, allow me to give you a brief summary —  a summary that I hope would serve to explain my recent lack of posts for the past months of April and May, but by no means be misconstrued to suggest that I be vindicated for my recent long writing hiatus — of the latest medical misfortunes in my life these past four months, which have, consequently, rendered me incapacitated to cogitate with the usual fervor and accompanying racing thoughts of a manic bipolar person. And to write with the potent gusto and lusty temperament of, ahem, a creative master.

Here are the following reasons for my writing hiatus:

Firstly, during my recent month-long holiday in Europe this year, I had planned on starting my first novel and blogging regularly (at least once a week) in Switzerland, where I would be staying with a couple of friends. It was February, arguably the coldest month of the entire year. The cold was much too cold, and despite the best efforts of the heater, the weather made it less and less conducive to write. Consequently, I was bedridden for more than a week after having caught the flu, after a trip to the morbidly cold yet lovely streets of Salzburg.

Still, Europe, during wintertime, is still as charming and as quaint as I had hoped it would be. I spent half my time visiting the beautiful and historic cities of Rome, Salzburg, Schaffhausen, Zurich, Munich, and other lesser known cities with unpronounceable names of Gaelic and Nordic origins; the other half spent on catching the flu, being in bed, watching films on the Internet, drinking with friends and clubbing, and commuting by car or by train to and from our points of destination and origin.

I promised myself I would finish at least one blog post before I get back home to the Philippines, but I ended up writing nothing at all. My friend Marie told me to extend my stay until the sunny March and April months. I thought it was a good idea, because it would give me a chance to acclimatize and possibly regulate my body’s European-time-synchronized circadian rhythm during the blossoming and gayer months of summer in Zurich. Also, I might be able to bring my hands out of its black caves — the leather gloves. But it was not meant to be. A family emergency beckoned me back home, which, incidentally, is my second reason for my lack of posts.

Secondly, when my father, Justice Undersecretary Francisco F. Baraan III, found blood in his stool, I had to cut my European holidays shorter than planned.  After a battery of tests, the doctor found polyps (a group of malignant tumors) in his colon, and had to undergo immediate surgery. I did not want to miss the operation, so I booked the earliest flight back home.

Thankfully, the doctors had surgically removed, with 100% success, all the visible tumors from my father’s colon. However, the biopsy results revealed that his cancer was stage 2B, a more advanced stage than the stage the doctors initially suspected and hoped for, stage 2A, a stage that does not necessarily require the patient to go through chemotherapy anymore because the risks of the disease recurring within the five-year survival period (if the patient is cured, he can live without these time parameters) are far less likely than in the stages 2B and up, where the cancer cells are more aggressive and could metastasize into other parts of the body, and remain invisible and undetected to the naked eye.

At this juncture, my father has already gone through two chemotherapy sessions, and will undergo ten more sessions for the next five months. I ask that you please include him in your prayers, too.

Thirdly, somewhere between the time my father was recuperating from his surgery in his spacious suite in Makati Medical Center, I was, unbeknownst to him and Mother, also lying in a hospital bed in a lesser room (I can’t afford a suite) right across the hall of suites where my father was. The reason: I had to go through immediate microsurgery for my right index finger.

The story: I was intoxicated and dived into an argument with my brother, Dr. Deo, and my sister, Cielo, over something I could not remember, try hard as I may. It’s not really something I would like to remember, anyway.  All I could remember was the feeling of anger building up inside me. And due to this anger that spread fast like the malignant tumors found in my father’s colon, I hit a glass with my right hand with a Hulkian force that left the entire pulp and fat of my right index finger flying off and detached, which left my finger guzzing out hemophiliac liters of blood, and leaving the nail bed looking like a decapitated head.

I had to undergo two expensive and grueling surgeries weeks apart from each other for just one index finger, which ended up giving me three conspicuous scars in my right hand due to my surgical wounds, and I also had to undergo two weeks of physical rehab after the doctors removed the bandages and the arm sling from my hand and arm which, as a result, did not help in making me gain back my passion for writing.

Fourthly and lastly, eventually (of course), my parents found out about what happened, and all is forgiven. However, the incident left me unable to work and perform fully my duties as CEO of our family’s business. It had also left me unable to write and blog, and practically do anything I used to enjoy using my right hand, the hand which I rely on for almost everything. It is quite easy, I imagine, to lose one’s momentum and drive for writing and blogging because of a long writing hiatus, especially after the circumstances I had mentioned.

In my case, I did lose my momentum due to a series of events that led me spiraling down onto a place of complacent procrastination and unproductive idleness. It even dried up my drive at one point. In fact, until recently, I have been battling the residual effects of my recent creative writing break: guilt over having spent too much money (an inordinately obscene sum for just one lilliputian index finger), time, energy, and effort on trivial and frivolous pursuits; self-doubt as to my abilities, ideas, and thought processes; and feelings of uselessness.

Though I know that, in retrospect, I could have (during the time I could not make use of my hand for writing and working) used my time doing something productive by, say, buying a Dictaphone and recording my experiences for my as yet unfinished memoirs and transcribing them later onto paper for future references, let it be known that there really is no point of having regrets.

A writing hiatus, I realize, whether self-imposed, brought on by personal circumstances, or caused by sheer lack of motivation for the time being, can actually be more good than bad, and should not be a cause for misery and regret. The way I figure it, a writing hiatus should also serve as a time for relaxation, a time for rejuvenation, and even a time for reflection on things past, present, and future. It could also just as well be used as a mental vacation.

First lesson I have learned from my recent writing hiatus is that when one really is a serious writer, one will really miss with utmost fervency the sense of fulfillment one gets from the act of writing itself.

The void created by a writing hiatus can only be filled by supplanting it with literary activity. My recent writing hiatus created a writing hunger in me that could only be quenched by the act of writing, and not just writing, but by ferocious writing. So I did. I recently started writing my first novel, and it was liberating. It’s as if a higher creative intellect that had been suppressed for a long time suddenly found a way to possess me yet again . It also brought out this innate compulsion inside me to chronicle everything, to make sense of things, to creatively purge my feelings and thoughts, to keep a record of important details.

Second lesson I have learned is this: whether one writes for personal pleasure or for publishing posterity, one thing remains constant — writers are natural custodians of memory.

It is the pecking order of things in the grand scheme of literature. Writers write in order to remember — to immortalize, to memorialize, and to never forget. If one wishes to be a serious writer, one has to make a habit of diarizing and journalizing anything and everything — life’s series of ups and downs. For it is precisely these ups and downs that make life more interesting, and that need to be written and told.

After you come out of a writing hiatus, it would behoove you to collect your thoughts and write down everything you have felt, experienced, and learned during the hiatus. You will thank yourself that you did that once you start writing your memoirs.

You see, when I really think about it, a writing hiatus is, essentially, neither good nor bad. It is what it is depending on what we make of it. But I suggest we choose to see a writing hiatus from a healthy standpoint: that it brings more good than bad; that it effectually makes one miss writing with a voracious appetite; that it makes one want to seek more ways of coming up with more original (or less derivative) work; that it gives one more stories to tell; and that it reawakens one’s prolific creativity with sudden bursts of eureka-esque epiphanies.

Third and last lesson I have learned from my writing hiatus is this: in life, there should be no such thing as regrets, only blessings and blessings in disguise.

It would not do one any good in dwelling over the past, beating oneself black and blue, and mentally kicking oneself over things one can no longer change. What has been said and done; what has happened before should remain in the past — as everything in the past should.

Because, ultimately, all we can do is to try and learn as much as we can from these little breaks plus all the things that coincide with it. To turn the negative experiences into positive motivators, and hopefully, be the better for it.

The Perks Of Being A Literary Blogger: 207 FREE Books Approved For My Review By NetGalley Publishers And Authors (And Counting)

injThe problem is I am just using my left hand now. Therefore, this post will be just a short, four-paragraph post. You see, I had a right hand injury, particularly my right index finger, and I am now wearing a bandage and a cast in my right arm. It’s hard to write and type away in my computer with just my left hand which is why I’d like to inform you that I couldn’t blog as much as I’d like to for two more weeks. I shall tell the whole story after April 3, the day the doctors will remove this inconvenient dressing in my arm, along with some updates about my Dad’s condition (for those who prayed for him and left some comments) which I posted prior to this post.

Still, I haven’t forgotten my obligation to you, my dear readers of this blog The Bibliophile Chronicles, to provide you soon with tons of literary content (I hope quality content, too). I have now, at the moment, been approved by some of NetGalley‘s (will tell you what NetGalley is all about in a succeeding post next time) registered publishers and authors to read and review some of their most popular, and some yet unpublished, latest titles. Now, from the hundreds of books I requested to review, 207 books have already been approved for me to review, to be exact (and counting) — delivered straight to my Iphone’s Kindle.

And the best part is: I got them all for free! The prices of the free books I received must have a total amount of, give or take, $1,000 already. Indeed, being a professional literary blogger, and being what NetGalley calls a professional reader have their charming perks. (Thank you for the books, guys!) Of course, there were some rejections, those books the authors and publishers didn’t approve for me to review, but that’s part of life. You win some; you lose some. C’est la vie.

Life goes on; this blog goes on.

So, my dear friends and readers, please be patient, and please watch out for my next posts this coming April. I can hardly wait to share with you some of my latest book finds, reviews and recommendations, and some of my latest literary milestones. With this bandage and cast getting in the way of my blogging and writing this March, I will most definitely make up for my lack of posts these past few weeks with a large number of consecutive literary-slash-semi-personal thoughts very soon. Until then. God bless.

Happiness And The Endless List Of The Wonderful Effects Of Blogging

463406_3360068930269_2066252411_oI did it again.

I published this article about the resignation of the Pope only to find myself redrafting and re-editing almost the entire last paragraphs. I published it, unpublished it, and then published it again. After reading the entire post before the redraft, I felt there was something wrong with it. Some of that oomph was missing. There was something in the last paragraphs that seemed incoherent and that just didn’t seamlessly connect and flow with the previous paragraphs, even the entire text. And then, I saw it.

I wish I had saved a copy of it so I can show here the difference between the first edition and the latest edition which is the one I just re-published now. But I had already deleted it. In the previous paragraphs, I was talking about being a convenient Catholic, and quoted an author’s views about being one, from an article in his newspaper column. After that, I went about discussing the Pope Benedict XVI’s health and age, but failed to make a connection between the Pontiff’s health and my being a convenient Catholic.

I didn’t succeed in connecting the three intended themes of the article which were, namely: the Pope’s resignation, his health, and my being a convenient Catholic. Now, with the latest edition, I think I succeeded in doing just that. Well, at least I hope did. After 21 blog posts, one would like to think that one gets better at writing and editing.

With blogging, I get to do, albeit in a small way, what I’ve always wanted to be (among other ambitions):  writer and editor. I have always had this dream of becoming an owner and editor of a publishing empire,  and of writing a good novel, too. And blogging has been tremendously instrumental in making me want even more to become an Editor-in-Chief of reputable magazines like the Paris Review, and publishing houses like Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

And of course, to become a damn good novelist.

Because of blogging, I began to be more objective when it comes to my own writing. I started to see my writing from another writer’s and reader’s perspective. And it made me ask five important questions that I think became my own formula for discerning good writing from bad writing — especially of my own. Being critical of one’s own work makes it easier to be truly objective. And if I am to become a damn good novelist someday, I’d better start by being hard on myself because friends and family may say you’re good even if you wrote them the most unimaginative article in the world.

So with the unreliability of objectivity from others, I came up with my formulaic good-from-bad-writing discernment questions. They are as follows:

1. “Is this idea brilliant or relevant enough to inspire, educate, and entertain or terribly amorphous and irrelevant?”

2. “Is this verbosity really necessary or just an exercise of monstrous self-indulgence?

3. “Is this a reflection of a writer writing from the heart or or a reflection of a writer just trying to impress?”

4. “Is this good enough to make others think it is serious writing or bad enough to be marked down as amateurish?”

5. “Is this a catharsis of pent-up creative energy and artistry or just a feeble attempt at self-expression?

I came up with these questions because the blogging process is for the most part a thinking process, too — a creative one at that. Indeed, blogging forces you to become a better writer and editor. But also it makes you a better thinker and questioner — a very objective thinker and questioner.

Good writing, I believe, is something that should reflect your passions and personality. With blogging, I hope to do just that. To write something that reflects my passions and, in my case, multiple personalities.

Kurt Vonnegut, the author, says that when you write about something that you love, familiar with, and passionate about, it will come across as something that comes from the heart. And my heart I give completely to everything I write. (I hope that’s what comes across in all my blog posts). This is exactly why I think most blog posts by serious bloggers are, in essence, effective and persuasive because the people who write them are those who truly believe in what they’re saying. And they’re sharing things that are really going to be of use to others.

But of course, the downside to blogging is that sometimes one can be a little too narcissistic and whiny, if left unchecked. Nowadays, it’s easy to believe or to delude oneself into thinking that we are the center of the universe because Internet has made a small global village of  the world that it’s practically easy to be an Internet sensation now. But there’s nothing more unattractive than self-indulgent and narcissistic writers.

Trust me, I’ve gone down that road before, and quite ironically, they were not my proudest moments, and it didn’t produce the best writing, too. It is almost always is a recipe for bad writing because it doesn’t do anything except to shamelessly promote and glorify oneself. Narcissistic writing is an act of tomfoolery that should not be allowed further if one wishes to gain a steady influx of readership.

Like I said in a previous post, there’s only so much about oneself that one can talk about. Blogging is a great avenue to talk about topics that interest you, and should make you search your mind and unleash that untapped imagination. The possibilities are practically endless.

There are so many things out there you can talk about that doesn’t always have to be about you and what you bought yesterday at the grocery store, or about how you have a fabulous pimple right at the tip of your nose, or that you have mood swings all the time because of your bipolar disorder. People don’t want to hear about your endless shopping lists, or your latest pimple alert, or your temper tantrums and how you almost knocked someone out just because you are deliciously bipolar like me.

No. What people would rather hear you talk about is how one of your shopping lists can help remove the stain of their soiled shirts. Or how you tried out this new topical ointment that could help that cute pimple at the tip of your nose go away. (Oh, and don’t forget to strike a pose, take a picture of your top model pimple look and show the after photo, too, of your new pimple-less face). And people would rather have you share how your new medications helped stabilize your Britney Spears mood swings, and made you stop believing that you’re Jesus H. Christ the Superstar.

The key is to connect with the readers. That’s what blogging or any form of writing is all about. Blogging, I believe, if I may say so myself, brings out the best in me. It forces me to be a better writer and editor. It makes me talk less about my numerous, prodigious talents and  my unrivaled genius. And yes, it makes me a better thinker. But more important than all of these combined, what blogging does is it makes me become a better sharer, dreamer, and imaginer. And it gives me such a horrible sense of humor, too. At least now I know, thanks to blogging, that comedy is not for me. Still, blogging makes me happy — and terribly, terribly so.

.

An Open Letter To My Dear 233 Readers (And Counting): The Joys Of Having One’s Own Literary E-Column

Franwork2

Dear Readers,

Have you ever felt like there was something missing in your life before? I did. I just felt like there was something I had to do. But what it was, I knew not. It felt as if there was a bottomless well of void within me that had to be filled constantly. It eluded me, prodded me to chase it in the dark. But then one day, last year, I had an epiphany: a sudden flash of myself hunched over a typewriter, typing away for what seemed like a manuscript of some sort. Yes, that was it. I saw myself clearly. I saw it clearly. I am going to be a writer. I want to be a writer. I need to be a writer. I have to be a writer. I now had a name for the once nameless and bottomless well of void: Writing. Since that day, I decided I didn’t want to be just a writer, I decided I want to be a serious writer — a real writer. I want the whole shebang. I want to write my own good novel like that of Wally Lamb’s This Much I Know Is True, and to write as good as my favorite columnists at the Inquirer, Winnie Monsod and Conrado P. de Quiros.

Yes, I am going to be a writer. I want to be a writer. I need to be a writer.  I have to be a writer.

But how could I have not seen it before? It’s all coming back to me now. I used to express my feelings by writing long love letters to my former girlfriends and professing my unwavering love in those letters. I used to tell friends or loved ones just how special they were to me and how happy I was because they were born by writing them personalized birthday cards. I used to be an editor in the school and university’s papers back in high school and college. And looking back, I remember that I used to tell myself how some of my experiences like that of my month-long mental vacation at a mental facility would make such a great story if written just the right way.

But, being an English Major is not enough. Writing love letters and personalized birthday cards, being an editor at schools’ papers, and having great stories in mind aren’t enough. I knew I had to start somewhere, but where exactly that somewhere was, again I knew not. Then suddenly, I thought  of  maintaining a blog. It would be a great exercise at honing my writing abilities. If I could maintain a blog, I thought, I would eventually be forced to be even more serious with my writing. I wouldn’t just be an occasional scribbler or just another bored dabbler, I would actually  be real writer — one who truly practices the art and craft of writing. And this, I believed, I could do by blogging — by creating a new blog. But my question was, what kind of blog will it be?

The truth is I already kept a blog somewhere before, but  I forgot my password, and since I wasn’t really that decided back then about anything in my life, per se (8 years ago), I didn’t bother retrieving the password anymore, and dropped blogging altogether. Years later — now — I finally decided to create a blog that would make sense to me — something inside a familiar territory, one where I could talk about my passions: books, reading, and writing. So I thought why not a literary blog? A literary blog whose main theme would revolve around, in part, on some highlights of my life and my struggles with manic-depression, and also revolve on other people’s lives seen through rose-tinted, sometimes rose-wilted lenses, of different writers, authors, and through the pages of the books they have written (and the books they are still writing).

While I have no problems with people who blog mainly to diarize and rehash their day’s events (or lack thereof), I really don’t like the idea of using a blog as just another avenue or outlet for scribbling away, for reciting a litany of life’s series of tragedies and comedies, and for bemoaning the  frequency of mood swings and other symptoms of manic-depression (I’m referring to myself here). You see, I have this proclivity to talk about myself too much sometimes, and I don’t think it’s exactly an attractive quality.

There’s only so much things you can talk about yourself, albeit highly interesting. Eventually, you will have to run out of things to say about you, you, and you. Nobody is that talented to be able to talk about oneself inexhaustibly, no matter how egotistical a cow one could be. The only talent would be losing people for getting tired of listening to you talk about yourself.

No, I don’t want to talk about myself, at least not that much. That would be an exercise in futility and would defeat the purpose of creating a blog whose main goal is supposed to improve my thought processes and writing. No. What I want is a blog where I can talk about something in my life that others might find useful, not something that will irritate others. What I want is a blog that will give my life a sense of meaning and purpose, one that will allow me to discover and rediscover things, old and new; one that will make me share and talk about my passion for books and reading; one that will, at the same time, help others in making literary decisions  like what books to read or not read. What I want is a blog that will help me become a serious and real writer.

Hence, The Bibliophile Chronicles. A blog that chronicles my dogged intellectual and philosophical pursuits of truths, even half-truths, and the unselfish and honest sharing of parts of my life (even my bipolar disorder and other crazy stuff) that I dearly hope would prove helpful, and if at all possible, even inspiring. And this blog, more than anything else in the world, gives me as do, I suspect, what all serious blogs give to their serious bloggers: a sense of meaning and purpose.

The sense of accomplishment I get from being an entrepreneur and from other non-literary endeavors is not the same as the sense of meaning and purpose I get from blogging and from other literary endeavors.

I treat this  blog as my own literary and opinion column as if it were a column in a syndicated publication of national (in this case, global) circulation. I believe that if I am to be taken seriously, and if I am to really write seriously, it’s the only way I think I should treat it, and I suggest it should be the only way one should treat a blog that is serious about being taken seriously. This way, it will force you to come up with the best ideas and content for your readers, not just some half-hearted and half-baked attempts. This way, it will force you to have the best interests of the readers at heart.

The mere fact that there are people out there who actually read my posts, like it, and then take the time to leave comments, is, I think, quite an accomplishment it itself.  I guess I must doing something right. This, I admit, gives me the kind of instant gratification and validation that lingers on — that never seems to quite go away. I’m glad I went through with this blog. Despite myself being unable to sustain interest in much about anything, keeping what I call my own column on the Internet has greatly increased my passion for literature, and had made me become even more serious about writing. It has given me an even deeper understanding  of duty — it given me a deeper sense of duty to others, particularly,  to you: the readers.

Had I known that keeping a column on the Internet could lead to so many fulfilling doors, I would have done it a long time ago. Still, I have no regrets in the past, only great, realistic expectations and bright hope for the future. But for now, what’s important is that I am able to make peace with the abundant creative energy inside me. And what’s even more important to me than making peace with the abundant creative energy inside me is giving all you readers quality content.

So now, let me take this chance to thank all the people who follows The Bibliophile Chronicles. For subscribing to and for supporting my very own literary e-column, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much. Because of you, there are no longer a bottomless well of void within that needs to be constantly filled, only the blank, white pages of my computer screen. You make me want to become the best writer I could be.

And for that, you, my dear readers, can rest assured that the blank pages will be filled only with something that has your best interests at heart. 

Francis Baraan IV — author, The Bibliophile Chronicles, a literary blog and e-column

%d bloggers like this: