It all boils down to the written word

YOURS truly does “casual.” Does the effort show? (Jim Guiao Punzalan)

FOR as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by the written word. For me, no medium requires so little to produce so much.

If written well, a book’s power not only to inform, but also to entertain, inspire, influence and move readers doesn’t require costly and elaborate sets. Nor does it need a huge budget, a cast of thousands and the collaboration of experts in various fields to help bring its message across. You only need a willing reader with enough imagination and deductive ability to come along and enjoy the ride.

And because a book is such a handy companion, especially with the advent of e-books, a good one has the ability to reach and affect more people over a longer period of time compared to a hit movie, stage play and even record.

And no matter how huge the budget or how advance the technology being used, say, to create the latest potential Hollywood blockbuster, its long-term success almost always boils down to a good story anchored on a tight, riveting and well-written script.

To a lesser degree, the same applies to a pop song. Its melody may be catchy, its arrangement groundbreaking and inspired, but if the lyrics are so-so, there’s no way it would end up on top of many people’s playlist.

Unless the author hires a ghostwriter and an army of researchers, collaborating on a book is solely between the writer and his editor. To a lesser degree, the same applies to writers and editors of newspaper and magazine articles, whether we’re talking of straight news or feature stories.

But whether you’re a veteran wordsmith or a tyro mining the written word, the hardest part, assuming you did your homework and have enough materials at your disposal, is always when you’re about to get started.

Among the initial questions that come to every writer’s mind are these: what am I going to say and to whom am I going to say or address it to. But once you’ve identified your target reader, settled on an angle and come up with a strong, arresting lead paragraph, almost half the job is done. Chances are, the rest of the story would soon write itself.

Although it would probably be ridiculous for me to say that I’ve always wanted to be a writer even when I was little (how could that be when we all started out not knowing how to read?), it was clear from the start, as soon as I discovered the power and magic behind the written word, that I wanted to carve out a career in journalism.

Not a few writers were initially drawn to the profession because of their rather limited ability to make sense of numbers. I was one of them.

My early relationship with numbers hovered between fear and apathy. It all began in elementary school with long division, before it progressed into something bigger as I began to face more complex word problems and equations I could hardly make heads or tails of.

WITH colleague Pam Pastor and leading stylist and Inquirer contributing editor Jenny Epperson, after our interview with LA-based Pinoy designer Monique Lhuillier in Manila (Jim Guiao Punzalan)

Spatially challenged, I sleepwalked through geometry in high school without a clear understanding what its supposed purpose was. I was made to believe by my trigonometry teacher that I needed to master the subject if I were to ace calculus and other higher forms of math in engineering class.

Who said I wanted to take up engineering? Through sheer dint of hard work, I could have probably crawled my way, earned a diploma and even passed the engineering board exams. But my life would have been more miserable, as I would have been a mediocre engineer at best.

But my decision to embark on a writing career goes deeper than my indifference with numbers. Apart from my love for the written word, I’m generally drawn to interesting people and events. What makes a person tick? How can a seemingly benign event change the lives of countless people without them even knowing it?

Although I keep to myself most of the time because, believe it or not, I’m painfully shy, I’m also admittedly nosy by nature. I also get a kick out of weaving stories based, of course, on facts, as expected of my profession.

But the evil twins a.k.a. lack of time and space have always been a recurring problem for countless writers like me who deal with real-time events and deadlines. As a result,  a myriad of things I would have wanted to expound on end up not seeing print. They either get a short mention or, worse, remain in my mind until a dream-filled sleep or a newer, bigger event pushes them completely out of my consciousness.

Before starting this blog (which, I know, is quite late in the day, given the fact that there are countless blogs already out there vying for your attention), I asked myself what my objectives were.

Funny, apart from my desire to have unlimited space to write my ideas, I can’t seem to pinpoint one even now. Making people change their religions is definitely not one of them. Since I want the blog to reflect my personality, I want the tone to be as informal, even funny, as possible, the pieces short and sweet (if I can help it).

I GET to sit on Dr. Vicki Belo’s chair at her posh Makati clinic, as I interview her and then boyfriend Hayden Kho soon after they announced their engagement sometime in 2011. Unfortunately, they’ve had a falling out soon after. (Jim Guiao Punzalan)

As for its contents, they would definitely be a hodgepodge of my ideas, opinions, reviews and reflections based on the times we live in. A good part would be devoted to “edible” scraps culled from my interviews and coverage. A nostalgia piece every now and then won’t hurt.

But the success of every endeavor meant for a mass audience depends greatly on audience participation or, in this case, reader feedback and suggestions. I welcome violent reactions, even malicious ones (who’s to say they’re malicious?), but let’s not spoil the fun, shall we, by resorting to cuss words, hate language and libelous accusations. I don’t have a lawyer on board.

Let the exchange begin. I can’t wait to hear from you!

2 thoughts on “It all boils down to the written word

  1. Loved this entry, even if I would disagree with your characterization of the medium as “requiring so little…” Unless of course you’re one of the lucky few whose work is actually as effortlessly elegant as it reads! In which case, I hate you, Alex! 😉 Looking forward to your future entries!

    • Thank you so much, Johanna. A lot of what I said are understatements. In truth, I’m trying to put up a brave front as I venture into uncharted territory. Although I’m quite familiar with the power as well as limitations of the written word, I’m pressured, too, because people, especially those whom I’ve unwittingly hurt in the past through my articles and posts on Twitter and FB, are probably just waiting for me to fall flat on my face. Oh, to hell with them. Hahaha! I’m giving myself too much credit. Kidding aside, I hope I’d be able to make a connection or two through my efforts as a newbie blogger. Thanks again for your vote of confidence. ;-P

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