A good half of my life has been dedicated to reading books I’ve always dreamed of publishing novels one day. As early as 11, I began my attempts to write one. Because of this love for literature, I went on to taking Communication Arts in college. I went on to focus on the Writing track of the program. Through that, I got to practice creative writing through the track, but it wasn’t all for the better.
I wasn’t satisfied with my final grades in creative writing classes. For someone who aspired to become a published author, those average marks weren’t something that I could actually be proud of. It seemed as though the time constraint for doing literary outputs drained the creativity out of me.
In my third year, I took creative writing classes taught by a professor who was respected in the field, having won national awards that many writers dream of. It might have been inspiring to be a student of such a prominent teacher, but it was also one of the hardest semesters that I had to endure. Afterward, I actually started to believe that creative writing wasn’t for me.
The safest thing to say is that I’m comfortable with the so-called “traditional” way of teaching. The workload and pressure were already strenuous enough to even have to endure emotionally draining treatment.
I took a leave of absence from school in the latter half of 2017. In the process of using the time in my hands productively, I found some literary magazines through Twitter. Literary magazines are, as the name suggests, publications solely dedicated to showcasing contemporary literature and art.
My first actual acceptance was from a poetry journal called Black Napkin Press, for an erasure poem that criticized the state-sanctioned Philippine War on Drugs.
It was a thrill seeing my name alongside some poets who already made a name for themselves in the literary community on Twitter. What’s more was that, upon reading my work, a former professor of mine messaged me to say that I should write more. That was when I became inspired to get to know more about the community and maybe get published once more.
Not only did I start writing again, but I also became more active in the community as a staff reader for some magazines. The job was primarily to read submissions and decide whether they should be accepted or not. Through these tasks, I was able to learn and develop my skills in both editing and writing.
Writing to get published isn’t the best motivation to keep you going, but it most definitely was enough to rekindle my love for the craft. The literary community that I found on Twitter, or at least the part of it that I managed to become a part of, has been nothing but supportive and welcoming. Fellow writers and editors soon became friends. What’s best is that I get to work on my pieces at my own pace.
There is a sort of discrimination of contemporary literature in the academy, which isn’t so surprising. People who have a degree in writing are often more likely to dismiss those who have no academic background in the field. As a student, I’ve often encountered professors who’d say that writers shouldn’t dare break the rules of traditional forms without having mastered them beforehand. Clearly, some amateur online writers in the Philippines are being given opportunities to have their work published in print. In their case, the appeal goes beyond tasteful deconstruction of proper structure and downgrades to mere relatability.
However, this is almost entirely different from the case of independent publishing in the literary community. The writers that I became acquainted with are nothing short of brilliant.
If it weren’t for Twitter, I wouldn’t have found such a supportive community that continues to fuel my passion. This revival of passion even drove me to found my own literary journal. Gaps remain in this new-found community. Writers and artists of color do not have enough platforms that are solely theirs, which was why earlier in 2018, I founded The Brown Orient, which exclusively showcases writers and artists from South, Southeast, Middle East, and Central Asia, as well as those in the diaspora.
This is the ideal learning experience: with people who give constructive criticism while also showing support in your craft. Published works may not always be compensated, but being a part of this literary community was the kind of inspiration that I needed to revive my passion for the craft, and I’m grateful.