WHEN you are poor, but smart, as a young child, there is no other way for you but to be competitive.
When your well-off classmates have books, and you don’t, you tend to go to the library more; and in a best case scenario, you fall in love with books, you read more than your classmates, and you even imitate great writings — those classic stories and poems, and you begin to dream to be a writer.
Around grades four, five, and six, you become even more conscious of writing to win, writing to distinguish yourself.
Because those are the ages when they start you on essay writing contests, and competitive campus journalism.
If you are any good, you hit the libraries more than ever, and read everything you can get a hold of because you feel your teachers are often inadequate.
In the modern age, this means reading up a lot, and getting resources from the internet.
Then, in high school, you become even more competitive because you don’t grow boobs, you got acne, and you can’t shoot a basketball.
Everybody else is coping, and you don’t want to go unnoticed.
Plus, you get f*cking hormones and begin to smell.
You also fall hopelessly in love, and mostly feel like a big loser.
Because you are growing, and you don’t understand what’s happening, you become difficult.
As you become weird, your family becomes weirder, your schoolmates become bullies, your teachers become either tormentors or stupid idiots.
And when there’s no one to help you out, you read more in the hope of learning ways to solve your pimples, to deal with the itch to get your first kiss, and to get rid of gonorrhea.
And when there’s no one to listen to you, you begin to write out the feelings you cannot say out loud.
You write love letters, love poems, angst poems, and all those sad, dark, depressing shit.
Unfortunately, at this time, you also try to rebel against the real classical poetry that embodies true literary art.
It’s easy to see why.
They’re so difficult to understand with their ornate vocabulary and hidden meanings, or allusions that are all lost to your generation.
Because when you are already confused and drowning in your teenage feelings of being a misunderstood alien or genius, there is no need for the additional burden of big f*cking literary words and high diction of Shakespeare and company.
So, you go around and read only the poems that are easy and easily relatable like verses in a Hallmark greeting card.
You copy these. (Okay, imitate—excuse me!)
And think of yourself as a romantic poet.
You publish your work in your campus paper.
That gives you confidence.
Because three people like your work, and your mother is so proud of your poem, you fancy thinking of yourself as a writer with an important message to say to the world.
Occasionally, you remember the great writing with those literary vocabulary.
So, you buy or steal a thesaurus, and masturbate with it.
When you have an itch to express yourself, you get the thesaurus like lube, and start a hand job on paper.
You don’t really care about the nuances of words.
You just want to ejaculate a poem.
Around this time, you, selfish prick/bitch, become arrogant with youthful pride.
You think you can’t be taught anymore.
You have been published in the school paper, you can take on the whole world.
Like the modernists, you rally for change.
The internet is a new landscape.
The opportunities of the computer age are different.
You can reinvent writing.
You can even put shit in a cup, and call it art.
You have f*cking 68,000 followers on Instagram!
You feel popular.
You feel competent.
But no publishing house will take a risk with your work.
They want you to put up the money to publish your book.
They want you to pay them instead of them paying you!
And then, you look at the literary scene of the country.
Who are these people lording over the canon of Philippine literature?
Who are these Palanca winners and National Artists in Literature?
You sample their work, and you feel that you are shityears away from what they do.
You try to save your face.
Down with these elitist upper circle writers!
But deep inside, you want to be accepted by them.
You want to be like them.
Because they’re the ones whose names will be remembered in fifty years.
They’re the authors and poets who get featured, and will always be featured, in high school and college textbooks.
You reflect on your career path as a writer.
68,000 fans on Wattpad, or one Palanca Award?
P30,000 flat fee for your romance novel, or P600 for a poem in a literary magazine?
You try to attend writing workshops to improve your craft.
You badly want to win some prestigious writing award to validate your being a writer.
The high school writing honors seem so far behind you now.
The online writing contests, by their sheer number and newness, do not have the respectability of say the Palanca, or even the seven-year old Peter’s Prize for Literature.
You find that most workshops play literary politics.
They are still run by academics who only favor their own students, and those willing to submit to their school of thought, school of poetry.
You long for a literary family.
But one that’s real.
Where the game is not masturbatory, not Look-who-squirts-the-highest-piss.
You question everything.
Can you trust who is talking?/PN