On writing about the present

More than a thing that describes the present, writing about the current moment is a longing for what the present could be if only our writing had its way.

It’s a yearning for an alternate possibility that the present may be a complete opposite of or an aborted, unfinished version of our desires.

We write about our present as if it’s truth in its realized form.

The present written down is, for all intents and purposes, in future tense. Or that painful nostalgia we feel for the past that has long deserted us.

Back to the drawing board

It takes courage to admit to oneself that everyone has left and that the only thing to do right now is to go back to the drawing board, find out what has gone wrong, assess the damage, and see what can be salvaged and be included in the next venture. And perhaps attempt to live the remaining years of my 30s more meaningfully and productively.

I simply cannot fix a broken system, and that’s myself. I cannot go on doing what I have been doing these past ten years as all I see were casualties and hurt in the aftermath.

I dread graduating from this period of my life full of regrets and bitterness and causing the same ill-feelings in other people.

I’ll workout more often (and add more days I spend on cardio) and not to think of using my gains in the gym to bang the next guy.

I’ll be with my cat and play with him because I know he needs me.

I’ll value all my relationships–family, friends, and the next person I shall decide to love–because they are all I have in this life that’s bound to be catastrophic in the end. I will be spending the quiet days with them, without thinking that these days could be better.

I’ll take care of my health because no amount of insurance will give me a feeling of security that tomorrow I’ll feel good as I feel today.

I’ll make more friends not because I plan to go to bed with them but because no amount of books read will come close to actually being with a real, breathing person and the depth of character he will provide me. Because I need a community of brothers and sisters whose only bond that unites us is our desire to be in the company of each other.

I’ll think less of what I think and think more of how to be in the moment and enjoy the minutes that I will have no way of getting back.

I’ll try to see love less as a romantic. This time I’ll view it as a realist, that there is no one perfect partner. That as a couple we are both going to know things about each other that will shock, gross out, even hate each other, but that we/I shall be forgiving and accepting of each other’s broken-ness. I’ll love better this time, not to be afraid to communicate my thoughts and feelings, and spend 2/3 of my time listening.

I shall get more sleep, not to be afraid to be left alone with my thoughts, and trust that things can get worse. To be thankful that I enjoy the simple joys of life because anytime fortune can change.

And maybe, I’ll write more this time.


When a reader becomes too critical and reads what I have written like a professor of literature or psychology, I begin to be more wary and careful with what I write. I choose my words correctly, pick my verbs with caution, and fastidiously revise the organization of my essays lest I’d be labelled mediocre, and, worse insecure.

This is the danger of having an identified reader in mind and if that reader in mind actually reads one’s work. That reader in mind used to be an abstract concept whose impression I need not manage too closely, but the moment he makes his presence concrete and actually voices his opinion, then the writing process becomes more challenging, scarier, albeit more sincere, open, raw, vulnerable.

I have no issues with my written works criticised. I have heard and read more scathing criticisms of them, but for my person to be judged based on my written words, it can be a little hurtful, but I’m taking it in strides. Perhaps I’m just trying to run away from these gnawing suspicion that my writings are indeed too full of myself. And that he’s brave enough to tell me this thing I know all along but was too proud to admit – this too much focus on the self as a reflection of my insecurities as a writer, my fear of going beyond the self because I do not believe in my capacity to write about other people because I am afraid to be told I am wrong.

I enjoy observing people, but these observations are always filtered by the lens of the self, as should be the case. But often times what I make are not observations but a long confession of my longings via the observation.

And it’s refreshing to have a reader as unabashedly honest and candid as this reader in mind.

He, holding his about to be extinguished cigarette in between his middle and index fingers, naked, looking at me straight in the eyes telling me that it wasn’t an essay about Juanma but about me, taught me a lot of things about writing and reading.

And for the first time in my life, that reader in mind has responded very articulately. And I am floored.


There was a time before when all I needed in order to write were a piece of paper, a good pen, a constant supply of irony, and, of course, something intelligent to say. Much has changed since then. Nothing dessicates one’s spirit faster and more efficiently than work. Lest you misconstrue me a whiner and an ingrate, I love standing in front of my class and teach. I enjoy working with people  who like me also want to have their place under the sun. Yes, I hate the daily commute. How I curse with so much vitriol the routine. But they’re not the reasons I find work harder to bear each day.

It’s the virtual lack of justification for all these that sometimes gets me. Some call it mission, others refer to it as their vocation, the religious charism.

Much earlier in my life I had had completely abandoned the idea of a mission. I quietly declared it’s a mere construct, and that I did not want to fall into the trap where most I know had fallen into, like flies attracted by the promise of a sugary juice in the stomach of a pitcher plant, that trap of giving weight to one’s actions. Of seeing one’s life as an extension of God’s or whoever that supernatural being’s. Of changing the world.

They pursue their paths with full intention and meaning; at times, I envy them. What difference would it make to live one’s life every day knowing that everything he does is for a lofty purpose? For most, the answer is obvious, a lot. Some have easily figured out their purpose early in their lives. They’re the children of God. They belong to that group of elite individuals who do not need to struggle against life because everything’s cut out for them.

I know that knowing what all these are for, or at least coming up with a rationale for all these will make the daily struggle less of a drudgery and more of a worthy oblation.

But we are fooling who?

Writing requires more than a paper, a pen, and a bag full of irony.

Checking papers


The most difficult part of checking students’ written works is knowing where to begin followed by when to begin. Yes, the task calls for me to be unemotional and maintain that unaffected stance, but there are a few instances when I get swayed by a swell of powerful emotions, often good ones. And in some rare cases, bewilderment and it close relatives. Choosing the best words, strong but non-abrasive, used to be a challenge. However, after having done this for quite a time now, I learned to stop thinking about how the language of my comments will affect my students. Like white wine, critiques are best served chilled.

I cannot say I will finish checking all these before the next meeting, but I can try.

Two questions: negative capability

From a rumination while drinking beer on a hot afternoon:

It often comes rather late to an artist, writer, or to anyone who sees himself to be either or both, that the decision to be any (or both) is a disconcerting choice. In the end, consumers of an artistic production matter less because the production of a piece of art or writing anchors less on what the reader thinks than the artist’s. After all, the reader has long considered him dead, so might as well return the favor and do a piece of art or write as if the reader is as dead.

This graphic story by Linda Barry aptly captures this problem.







On old posts

I do not disown them, but as you reread old posts written three years ago, let me give you a disclaimer: they were my thoughts years ago. Then. Some are kept as they are aspects of my core that years gone by simply cannot erase; most, however, were a product of immature thinking. And who I am now, fortunately, is not exactly the same man who wrote those three years ago. Often I cringe while reading a couple of them. I had been careless logically, philosophically, grammatically. And it does not mean I have ceased committing similar mistakes, although I have been more aware of them now. Whereas before I generalized because I wanted the world to be neat and all the parts placed in their definite compartments, now I still generalize but without the contempt. I have been more forgiving, more reflective, and I care less about the unimportant (those vexations to the spirit).

I’ll still write.