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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.

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 I published it, unpublished it, and then published it again.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.

.

Don’t Worry, Everything Will Be AllWrite: Lessons On Writing And Publishing

306599_3590931461688_1645554321_nBenjamin Franklin once said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing.” Before writing this blog post, I published another one before this, and then decided to unpublish it ten minutes after. In the following paragraphs, I shall explain my reasons for doing so, but know that if it weren’t for that blog post, there wouldn’t be any lessons to be learned now. The deleted blog post concerned was a product of my active, and in this case, my rather unimpressive imagination. The main theme I had in mind was to make humans look superior to aliens, or at the very least to make aliens look inferior to humans. In my mind, I thought it was hilarious, original, and creative. Everybody knows what Martians are. They’re our alien counterpart in Mars. Yes, it’s going to work, I thought. While writing the blog post I considered including some things for effect, things from my past that I never would have thought about sharing publicly save for my very own memoir that I soon hope to write and publish. Despite my apprehensions, I still included it in the deleted blog post that I named “Racing Thoughts Of A Bipolar Writer No. 3: On Reading, Aliens, And Honest Recollections.”

At the time, it seemed like a great idea. I thought it could work, and it could quite possibly be my funniest work yet. I was wrong. I realized quickly that there was nothing hilarious, original, and creative about it. It was, in truth, rather dull, unoriginal, and uncreative. I tried too hard to make it work that the whole thing, after having read it and given it some real thought, felt even to me, contrived, constipated, and corny.

It didn’t take a genius to see what was wrong with it. Thank God not many people had read it as I had deleted it just as quickly as I had published it. Here are my reasons for doing so:

Firstly, for the most part I think I was too close to it that I lost all sense of objectivity, so much so that I was blind to my own work’s faults and flaws. And while we’re on the subject of faults and flaws, know that I take full responsibility for such a monumental lapse of judgment. I deluded myself into thinking that my writing talent knows no bounds and limits, and I deluded myself into thinking that I could write anything and everything on my mind without pausing for revision, edition, filtration, and intelligent deliberation. Now, the cliche-ish phrase “Think before you click” is beginning to sound “I told you so.” One wonders why.

Secondly, I think I was having a manic episode of some sort (I’m bipolar). I must have been in a state of euphoria that everything seemed funny. All I could hear was the sound of of my laughing voice inside my head while I was writing it. Yes, I had punch lines, backhandedly sarcastic and bitingly cold remarks and punch lines, but I didn’t ask myself whether what may have worked inside my head and said out loud might also work just as well when written. I now learned that there are punch lines that are better left unwritten and said out loud than written. I believe the expression “Say what?!” is a very good example of something better left unwritten and said out loud than just written. Admittedly, I tried to incorporate this in the deleted blog post, but I thought that it immediately lost its charm altogether after I was slapped senseless back to lucidity, reality, and objectivity by my medications–and by myself. Ultimately, I think It’s not so much about having overestimated my capacity for humor (although, I must admit, this could be one of the main reasons for the failure of the blog post, too) as it is about having underestimated the power of revision, edition, filtration, and intelligent deliberation. The manic-euphoric reason is complete bollocks. I’m just making excuses for my shallow, amorphous ideas and lackluster writing in the deleted blog post.

Thirdly, the deleted the blog post didn’t seem to have the soul I thought I’d given it. It might have been filled with private things I didn’t want to share with the public, things that might be seen as brave and honest and admirable, but they were just merely there for embellishment–to adorn, to entertain, to shock. They weren’t written from an honest place, they were written for ratings–for views, hits, and clicks. I still regret the fact that I published those private things there, however briefly they may have been published. Just the thought that I actually wrote them just as a sub-theme and as adornment for that deleted blog post seems, I realize, a little callous and deplorable. I shall never write of my memoirs that lightly ever again. At the expense of sounding sentimental, what I did feels almost sacrilegious. Memories aren’t supposed to be just sub-themes, let alone a sub-theme for an “aliens versus humans” blog post. I might look back on this overreaction tomorrow with laughter, but for now let me feel what I’m supposed to feel. What was I thinking?! Never will such an oversight be made again. You’ll just have to buy the book of my memoirs once it’s published. Rest assured that I’ll give it all the soul it deserves, as do all writings deserve.

Fourthly and lastly, I feel that I am still at a point where, being a relatively novice writer, I’m still experimenting with different styles of writing. But with my experience with the previously deleted blog post, I am now quite certain that aliens don’t mesh well with humans and human experiences, and that I’d rather stick to what I know about–aliens and Martians shall obviously be crossed out of the picture henceforth, as shall all pathetic, desperate attempts at humor.

Overall, it has been such a good learning experience. For that, I am thankful. Had it not been for my recent writing and publishing incident, I wouldn’t have learned the things I had learned today. Indeed, writing is both a craft and an art. In time and with constant practice, all we can hope for is to get better. All we have to do is write and write until we get it right. Write something worth reading, you say, Mr. Franklin? Well, by all accounts, sir, I think it’s safe to say that this blog post is more worthy of reading than the previously deleted blog post. Yes, I think this one won’t go to the computer’s trash receptacle like its predecessor. No, this one will be just fine–more human, less alien. Yes, now I can say that everything will be allwrite. 

Racing Thoughts Of A Bipolar Writer No. 2: Honestly, It All Just Boils Down To Insecurity

Is it just me or do you feel, too?

Is it just me or do you feel, too?

I feel an alternating tinge of admiration, respect, insecurity, and envy whenever I read something beautifully written. It elicits all these positive and negative emotions within me. How could something so simple a thought be so complex in form and substance, yet so profound and succinct? There are all these ideas and brain blurbs inside my head that I wish to say with the eloquence of T.S. Elliot or Ernest Hemingway, but get stymied by my inability to do so. But then again, as I have said before in this blog, one mustn’t compare one’s writing to that of others because it will only lead to despair. I am such a man of walking contradictions. Would it behoove one to search exasperatedly for inspiration through other people’s writings, or would it just cause one to be unnecessarily competitive and insecure–to feel mediocre and inadequate? Sometimes I really wonder: Did the greatest writers of our time ever feel this way before, or did they ever have time to entertain such thoughts?

Essentially, what exactly makes a writer good or bad? What makes a writer great? Is everything just subjective? There are countless literary critics out there, but what kind of literary criticism are the most objective ones? Moreover, is literary criticism truly objective or is it just subject to and the product of the personal views, prejudices, and partiality of just another human being? Who has the right to say when writing is good or bad? Even the great F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has received the worst reviews by real readers of the classics, even from other professional literary critics.

What, then, makes another writer truly better than the other? Is it the punctiliousness to everything–commas, periods, spelling, grammar, diction? A fanatical attention to detail? Is it the way one phrases one’s words and sentences, or is there really an inherent divine, genetic right to being a genius-artiste writer? Can mediocrity ever become mastery? And if so, where is one, as a writer, in the grand scale of the writing grade system? Can one really be ever objective with one’s own work? And more importantly, will others be truly objective when it comes to yours?

Erich-Fromm-quote-about-insecurity-unknownmami

Am I the only one in this world who has these thoughts and questions? Do these questions make me look foolish, ignorant, and stupid? Or am I right when I say I might just as well be voicing out the collective feelings of all the writers out there who are afraid to think out loud, to acknowledge their weaknesses, and to resolve their issues publicly? After all, isn’t being a writer all about the courage to speak one’s mind, and on even more honest level, one’s feelings–on a global and social media savvy platform–like a blog?

But then again, I think when all is said and done, all these thoughts and questions I have can just be boiled down to [my] nagging feelings of inadequacy, mediocrity, and insecurity. Or maybe, just maybe, this is the bipolar twin writer talking–the overcritical, hard-on-himself son of a gun who can’t stop thinking, obsessing, and shutting his mouth and keeping his hands inside his straitjacket. Well, It isn’t called racing thoughts for nothing, anyway. Ultimately, these are just the musings of a guy who is still unsure of himself–a guy who is still finding his voice in the world–a guy whose interior world is filled with voices of blurred reason, fantasy, chaos, and uncertainty. Yes, living in one’s head can be a drag sometimes. But hey, don’t get me wrong. It really is still fun to be me.

Oh, well. C’est la vie.

Racing Thoughts of A Bipolar Writer No. 1: Britney, Call Me And Let’s Drive Them Crazy

Francis Baraan talking to Britney Spears

Francis Baraan talking to Britney Spears

Britney telling Francis to meet her at the Betty Ford Clinic

Britney telling Francis to meet her at the Betty Ford Clinic

1. What do blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe and novelist Virginia Woolf have in common? What about pop star Britney Spears and poet Sylvia Plath? Manic-depression, otherwise known as bipolar disorder, is a mood disorder punctuated by heavenly highs and hellish lows. It is both a gift and a curse. I am both blessed and afflicted with the condition and the illness. Hollywood A-Listers Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ben Stiller, former heads of state Prime Minster Winston Churchill, and even President Bill Clinton, have been reported to have it, too. What is it about bipolar disorder and greatness? The population of writers, artists, poets, political and business leaders have been said to be more than likely to be manic-depressive? Does this explain why I almost always feel great (except when I’m having a depressive episode)?  Will I be great, too, or is that just one of my delusions of grandeur?  I actually love being bipolar. Okay, I hate it sometimes. But I have to admit, the good things about being bipolar outweigh the bad.

2. Despite a plenitude of literature supporting the correlation between creativity and bipolar disorder, it still remains a main theme in many a scientific and literary writings. It puzzles and befuddles me, albeit being manic-depressive myself, how a person of extraordinary talent like Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath could take their own lives. Were they born at a wrong time? Could they have been saved from themselves had the proper medications been available during their time or would they have refused them? Britney Spears is lucky she was born during these times. She would have eaten her children alive has she lived during the times of Plath and Woolf. She would have given them a run for their money and drive them crazy, er, crazy-er.

3. Novelists, short story writers, poets, essayists, memoirists, scriptwriters, biographers, and playwrights — these creative writers — have to be creative, and have to go beyond the realm of “normal professionaljournalisticacademic, or technical forms of literature (Wikipedia’s definition of creative writing)” —  and to go beyond the bounds of logical and scientific thinking.  Journalists’, academicians’, scientists’, and even bloggers’, writings are based on hard facts and supporting evidences, logic, numbers, formulas, and equations. Creative writers, on the other, have to make use of imagination, feelings, experiences, and memories, and make use of literary acrobatics in order to produce a work of art, a literary masterpiece produced from their fertile minds.  They don’t rely or base their writings on universal truths, postulates, theories, or hypotheses. I am more of the creative sort. I think the creative sort is superior to the scientific and logical-thinking writers. Don’t bite my head off, science writers and journalists. Jeez. It’s not my fault you weren’t born with the superior creative mind of the certifiable.

4. There are times when in one of my manic episodes, times when my entire being is wrapped up in a glorious wave of euphoria, I feel indestructibly superhuman. I can do anything and everything without going to sleep for days, my thoughts racing with a plethora of ideas that seem to spring out of nowhere like the brainchild of Zeus or one of the Greek gods. My thoughts crystallized, senses heightened, energy bottomlessed. See, I just made up a word. How creative can that get?

5. And at the other end of the mood spectrum, during my depressive episodes — times when I get deluged by an inexplicable surge of hopelessness, I become a shadow of my former indestructibly superhuman hyperself. I can’t do anything but get fraught with anxiety, riddled with guilt, and unable to concentrate. My mind and body horizontally languishing away in bed the whole day. What was once pleasurable would seem an automated routine of tedious tasks. What was once done out of passion and love would seem an exasperating and fruitless exercise. Labor of love turns into labor of hate. Passion turns into a stone of indifference. Life becomes the Angel of Death. I know, right?

6. So, what exactly is it about bipolar disorder that seems to almost always tend to produce creativity? Or is it the other way around? Is creativity the one that triggers a dormant bipolar disorder? Well, I really don’t know the whole truth. All I know is I wouldn’t love thinking, reading, and writing a much as I do now if I was just a normal, sane person. What pushes me to write, to be a prolific and accomplished writer, I believe, is this tinge of madness — this chemically imbalanced pendulum of manic-depression. To be a creative writer, one has to have at least a substantial amount of life experiences because different life experiences produce different kinds of emotions, memories, and insight necessary to bring to life convincing and relatable characters, and to tell a story as conceivably and believably life-like as possible. And empathy, the ability to not only feel what the other person is feeling, but to actually be the other person, I believe, is the most natural trait of a manic-depressive. You know why I know? Because I can feel it.

7. The interior world of a bipolar person is a hodgepodge of emotions, a veritable niagara of thoughts and feelings supplied by an overactive imagination and obsessive-compulsive behavior, exacerbated by real-life traumas, hopes, fantasies, and experiences. In short, we are self-absorbed, we love to live inside our heads, talk to ourselves, try out different personalities, and pretend to God, an English lord, a mad scientist, a celebrated author, or one of our characters in our book because there is so much going on in our head it’s practically a world within a world within a world. A universe of worlds! Oh,  I’m telling you, it’s an asylum of characters and plots inside my genius skull. If you had half my brain, you would realize that. But I guess only a few people are as gifted as me — or cursed — depending on how you look at it. Alright, let’s just go with gifted, then.

8. Oh, I could go on and on and on and on. The question is, can you handle it? Hmmm. I thought so. But hey, if Britney Spears is up for a lovely chat, I’d be more than willing to discuss with her our future accommodations at the Betty Ford Clinic. Britney, if you’re reading this, call me? Oh, I forget. You don’t read. Okay, to the agent or publicist of Britney, you know what to do.

9. Just like the Author Profile and Book Review series in this blog, this Racing Thoughts Of A Creative Writer No. 1 post is the first in a series of my opinions, thoughts, and views about books, writing, politics, business, bipolar disorder, films, and entertainment. This will be a collection of my reflections, essays, and creative musings. This is a literary blog but it doesn’t have to be all that literary. I like to mix it up with things that are relevant to the times like “Is Obama Really A Muslim? If So, Does That Mean There Could Be A Fourth Lady?,” or “Is Piolo Pascual Really Gay? Because If He Is, What’s His Number?,” or “Is Hilary Clinton A Lesbian? If Yes, Did She Also Have An Affair With Monica Lewinsky?,” or “Why Are Catholics Born With Original Sin? Isn’t That Just A Bit Tad Unfair?” I have a lot of questions about everything and opinions on practically anything. So, if you’re reading this and following this blog, you are one lucky son of a fan, because you will be entitled to my opinion.

10. If you want to know my answers to the questions I asked on no. 9, how the hell should I know? I ask the questions around here, you give the answers. Capisce?

So, here’s the thing,

I am bipolar, so is Britney.

And if you follow this blog,

we’ll drive you crazy.

Hey, I just wrote a poem. Well, what do you know? I’m a poet, too! Take that, Sylvia Plath!

*******

Books About Bipolar Disorder:

1. I’m Not Crazy, Just Bipolar 2. Diary Of A Bipolar 3. A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness 4. An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods And Madness 5.Touched With Fire

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