Never Call Yourself a Writer, and Other Rules for Writing

Having read innumerable writing rules, I first thought the article is just another one about writing. However, I found one truth that I never realized, until now:

“Deep down, we all want to be poets.”

In the literati ladder, the poet occupies one of the highest rungs with his enigmatic way of making music with the pen as her instrument. Thus, which lover of words would not love a poet? Which aspiring penman would not look up to a poet and aspire to be one himself?

But alas! Not all of us can be poets. We can all write but not all of us can make verses sing because that is a gift poets are born with. Because poets are born, not made like the rest of us.

Still, we keep writing verses, hoping that with each poem we take one step up that ladder. A long way to go, yes, but still a little bit closer to that coveted spot because no matter what they say and what we know, deep down, we all want to be poets.

Sometimes, not even genetic endowment can restrain the desires of the heart.

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

shawna kenneyBy Shawna Kenney

First thought, best thought; revise, revise, revise. Write first thing in the morning when the mind is alert; write at night and never while sober. Do it alone, in an office with the door closed, surrounded by books; write in coffee shops, surrounded by stimulating characters and conversation. Use traditional quotation marks and capitalization Unless You Are a ‘Genius.’ Journal in longhand; always type fast. Sentences longer than three or four lines are unacceptable and tedious, unless you are William Faulkner, William Beckett, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jamaica Kincaid, Virginia Woolf, John Updike, Charles Dickens, Gabriel García Márquez, David Foster Wallace or one of those other people who can get away with it. Short is good.

Write with an ideal reader in mind; fuck the audience. Never show anyone an early draft; find a workshop for feedback. Write to please everyone; quit workshop and hire an editor. Take classes…

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Bionight: To go or not?

I know I have more important things to worry about — final exams, a possible removal exam in swimming class (yes, in my world it is possible to have a conditional grade in P.E. class), how to get rid of the mice in my dorm room (or at least, lure them away from my food basket because come on, what do they need coffee for?), and of course, facing the question, What’s next after college? (that’s assuming I will be graduating this academic year) — but right now there is this one petty dilemma that has been bothering me for some days now:

BIONIGHT: to go or not to go?

Bionight is a year-ender party organized by Bio majors that … well actually, I do not know what it really is supposed to be. But here is what I know: it is a college party which practically equates to booze and staying up all night, having fun (Read: Getting wild).

For seniors, this Bionight is the last one —  a marker that we are almost through our last year as undergraduates. Thus, for many, it is imperative that I at least make an appearance that might as well be a sort of confirmation that I have been here the whole time. But should I?

For the past three years, I have not gathered enough bravado to go to Bionight. Or to any college party, actually. The thing is, I have always hated parties, formal or casual.

First, I hate dressing up. Getting my face and hair done is such a bother and my feet and legs are no longer used to my former best friends — that is, my high-heeled shoes. No one can drag me into any party wearing my lowly flats. What would my mother say?

My ex-best friends.
My ex-best friends.

Second, it is always physically exhausting. Party music is also unhealthy for my delicate ears. It is difficult to pretend you are having fun when there is that painful pounding in your ears that you cannot simply ignore. Plus, with my resting bitch face, parties mean putting on my “friendly face” which requires too much work for my poor facial muscles. Anyone who tells me that aching ears and facial muscles are worth it must be absolutely crazy.

Me in parties. Facial muscles get tired, too.
Me in parties. Facial muscles get tired, too.

Third, the dancing. I love dancing but definitely not the kind that they do in parties (disclaimer: I am judging from what I see in their photos). Instead, I prefer slow dancing. Cheesy, I know. But slow dancing gives one a chance to actually talk with his or her partner. Slow dancing, thus, can help build friendships, solidify existing ones, and provide opportunities for future conversations. On the other hand, shameless grinding and shaking leads to awkward encounters days, weeks, months, or even years later. Trust me on this — some things I did in my high school prom still haunt me to this day.

Sorry but I do not need any more of these.

Lastly, the drinking. I will be a liar if I say I have never touched alcohol. But I have never been too wasted and I have no plans of trying to be, even for just once. You see, the morning after, people regret the number of shots they had. For the past three years, I have had no regrets.

Okay, I guess I'd rather not drink.
Okay, I guess I’d rather not drink.

People tend to quote Einstein every time they convince me into doing something I have never tried before (really, so many different people has already told me this quote that it’s getting creepy):

“A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

Of course, he is right. But I do not think I am ready to make this mistake yet.

So should I or should I not? Enlighten me, please.


“Dance like nobody’s watching.”

While walking along Maria Orosa Steet one quiet Friday night, I saw two teeners dancing to disco music — literally dancing in the moonlight.

It was a long weekend and the otherwise busy street was practically deserted. The stores were already closed except for one eatery from which the blasting music was coming from. There were few diners, all of them distracted by the girls who seemed oblivious to the fact that all of us, diners and passers-by, were staring at them.

Honestly, I think they knew. They just did not care. They shimmied, waved their arms, and tossed their heads as I looked on, feeling a mixture of amusement and envy. How I wish I could do just that — dance like no one is watching.

I love to dance, even back when I did not realize that I do.

My mother always gleefully recalls how, at age one, I would be made to stand on a table while Macarena is playing in the radio. Much to their delight, I would willingly wiggle my fat body in odd ways that made all of them laugh. Then, she would often jump to when I was four, when I was made to represent my nursery class in a kiddie pageant. I was painfully shy and I just would not participate as enthusiastically as the other girls did. But when the talent portion came, she would proudly recount, I suddenly shined.  I was dancing as if I forgot about the audience.

In high school, I somehow managed to tame my stage fright and joined the dance troupe. I was not one of the best nor was I one of the popular dancers but I loved being there. The group gave me an outlet to express myself when the spoken word just would not suffice. I found a way to make people see me. I found a way to say, Here I am.

But in junior year I was made to realize that my grades are dropping consistently so I decided, out of desperation, to lighten my extracurricular activities and focus on my school work. Dance troupe was the first to go. Since then, the only connections I have with dancing are waiting for the next Step Up installment and watching old episodes of Dancing with the Stars (but to be honest, sometimes I am just ogling Derek Hough).

Quitting was not a big deal for me then. I thought it was just a hobby. Until I started getting strange cases of tarantism. For example, there was that one time in the supermarket. I was then choosing what brand of shampoo to buy when Thinking Out Loud started playing in the speakers. I swear I wanted to just drop my shopping basket and dance, right then and there. But of course I did not. That would have been disruptive!


This used to happen only rarely but lately, I noticed that I have been being bitten by the dancing bug quite frequently. It happens when I am strolling in the mall. It happens when I am supposed to be studying in the library. It happens when I am in the shower. It happens when I am counting sheep in bed. It happens anytime, anywhere. Every time, I hear a voice that urges me.

Do it. I know you want to do it.

But I tell her, No, what would people say?

That is the problem. It is no longer about quitting so I could focus on studies. I am now quitting because I am afraid of what other people might think. I am afraid that they might not like me dancing. I am afraid that I am not good enough.

But the voice is persistent.

You’re not dancing for them. You’re dancing for yourself.

And I realize that she is right.

I dance not for show. I dance not for pleasing others. Rather, I dance because there is too much music inside of me that somehow has to break free. I dance for myself.

So the next time the dancing bug bits me again, I will drop whatever I am doing and dance. I will just pretend you are not watching.


Unconventional, Not Weird

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” (Haruki Murakami, Norweigan Wood)

A lot of people say I am weird because I have different tastes, especially in books. I usually do not like those overrated books, the songs with lyrics that do not make sense to me, and the reality TV shows that seem scripted. On the other hand, they say that I read books whose authors are either never-heard-of or have been dead for a good deal of years already and that I do not like anything that is fun. That I am weird has been said to me so many times already that even I eventually went on to describe myself weird because I am different. Then, one day while I was reading Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, I came upon this quote.

I read books that most people of my age do not read and this made me think and act differently. From the books I read, I have visited hundreds of places, met so many people from all walks of life, and time-traveled into the past and the future. I learned not to permit myself to be caged in my comfortable setting. I learned from history and foreign cultures. Hence, I came to adopt different values and ideas that formed opinions that sometimes do not mirror everybody else’s. This has made me different, the odd one out.

Before, I was really bothered by this. I thought there was something wrong with me. Why can’t I be just like everybody else? Now I know the answer: I cannot be like everybody else because I was able to become my own person. I do not conform to the standards that my generation has established and instead, I created my own. I dared to find my own identity. Yes, it is different. But it does not make me weird. It makes me unconventional.