Tim Tomlinson, one of the co-authors of The Portable MFA in Creative Writing (Writer's Digest Books), recommended this writing exercise at the Read Lit District: Third Philippine International Literary Festival at the Ayala Museum in Makati City. The New York Writers Workshop helped put together this manual, the only term I can call it, to help those entranced by The Word "to improve (their) craft with the core results taught to MFA students."
Tomlinson's point was that this exercise could be an entry point for future projects, whether they be a poem, essay, novel, play, etc.
I wrote this exercise at the crack of dawn.
1. I write at least 600-800 words a day, excluding sharing links in Google+ and Twitter.
2. I dislike persons who are unfair to people who work WITH them, not FOR them, then going about their merry little way using group, company or public funds for unofficial business, e.g., company car for private vacations to my personally beloved places like Baguio. Moreso, I disdain women tied to men announcing within hearing distance of employees that why can't her husband, a pipsqueak of an executive in a nationwide company, find a big enough, bright enough hotel suite for her when the company pays him a grand amount?
Another variation of my pet peeve is watching ambitious, social-climbing persons who cunningly disguise their true motives by invoking Marxist-Leninist-Maoist words so they can steal others' works and others' ideas outright without so much as a by your leave because these sensitively confidential documents pertain to women who had underwent spousal abuse in various permutations. Whatever they steal, these particular persons justify their act by saying that they are also part of the , ahem, working class (sound of blogger dry retching at this point).
3. I also have a strong personal dislike for private entrepreneurs of so-called organic stores (beware of health food freaks who are worse than holier-than-thou Bible thumpers) who get some of their supplies from the countryside through connections like state universities and colleges and because of their national stature are able to extort/extract for their stores, or for their provincial rest house, the harvest of others like vegetables, fruits, tree saplings, decorative flower and indoor plants, dairy products, virgin coconut oil, for free or at wholesale prices that leave producers, especially farmers, gritting their teeth and smiling with forced gladness at couples like this.
4. Enough of dislikes and nega-trons (fresh word for people reeking with negativity). Let's move on to the things that I am ceaselessly grateful for. I like how my 28-year marriage has more than endured its trials--it has lasted and worked out in the true sense of "for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health" because my partner, not in crime but in shared ideals, and I chose to live geographically apart most of the time so I can work, even at minimum wage level, to keep what's left of my dignity intact. Sometimes though, I have to stretch out, in the spirit of a Buddhist nun's humility and negation of ego, my begging bowl. So in a large measure, he is my lifeline.
5. At our age (the autumn of our lives), I like that he and I have also agreed to throw sex out of the relationship when the act of love had become painful and uncomfortable as we moved into our 50s and 60s.
6. I love receiving tight hugs and an absent-minded kiss on my forehead or hair from him, and I love to get up from my single bed early in the chill of a Baguio morning and move to his, slip under the soft but warm flannel blanket, and "spoon" him, two aging persons whose romantic love has gracefully slid to comfort seeking and the occasional dates on a table for two at what we residents up there call The Hill.
7. I am proud of the fact that I married a man of stamps (a serious philatelist), not a man of letters, many of who he dislikes because he finds them pretentious or members of the singing group The Pretenders. This way, I can encrypt messages and notes without his minding that he is a vital source of material for my younger-than-springtime eyes and writing fingers. He is secure in his person-hood so that when people ask if he minds that I don't use his surname in my profession, he quickly retorts, "May sariling pangalan na siya noon pa man."
8. I intend to have a glass of juice and a piece of banana for breakfast so I can line my tummy tum tum for the brunch friend Chit is laying out for one of my best chummy chum chums Pablo, and possibly his grandson Emman.
9. At exactly 1 p.m., I have to take a leave from our degustation to hitch a ride with a Benedictine monk so I and four other visual artists can make it to the San Beda Museum in Alabang Hills for a five-person show called "Lima Lima" to mark the museum's fifth year under the able management and curatorship of Joseph Renta who, by the way, is a children's book writer, too. I was just too happy to accept his request to translate his short story, dedicated to his children, from the original Filipino to English.
10. I so love to work before the brightness of another new day when light slowly envelopes the room of my girlhood.
11. I will garb myself in an extra-large size cotton Pinangga blouse and black pants for today's event/s so I can maintain my reputation, such as it has become, as Ms. Cool as a Cucumber.
12. I am comforted by the thought that Marj Evasco once told a group of women writers that in our yoga group, I'm the only one who can touch my toes without bending my knees, apart from our instructor, of course.
13. Anent to that, decades ago, in his tiny office at the top of Solidaridad Bookshop, F. Sionil Jose, already potbellied, also told a tinier group of writers that he would someday like to touch his toes, too, the way I demonstrated in front of the others when I weighed 80 pounds less. Can still do it, Manong Frankie, can still do. At that time (the 1980s), I was still enrolled at Julie Borromeo's Dance Arts Studio in Mandaluyong when it was still part of Rizal province.
14. I miss my grandchild Butones with a pain so acute, sometimes I feel my heart flutter as though it is about to shatter into a million tinier-than-tiny pieces. I am missing her because of work commitments in the lowlands. I miss witnessing, and actively participating in, her increasing grasp of verbal language. I've told her mom, my dearest Kimi, to please make Filipino the mother tongue of Butones and English a supplemental language later on. Also, I've requested our other family member Mackenzie who cooks like a whiz when not caring for Butones to speak to the little dear in Iluko, Mac's native language.
15. I love my mother more at 85 than when she was younger and busier than busy to help my dad (she was a real helpmeet) make ends meet as they raised eight children because now that I am an adult, despite my disability of having the emotions of a child, we can talk quietly. I can confide to her how much I had learned from her and Daddy's example to give to the point where it really really hurts already, then quickly forget how much you've given. Mom and Dad believe in what is now a New Age-ish standard belief that one must constantly create a vacuum, a gaping hole in one's life, even if it means loss of expected income or material goods, because the Universe is kind and quickly fills up the gap and patches it up.
16. I love the fact that my seven siblings have come to appreciate me, their ate, because they've seen how all these years I've worked hard and denied myself luxuries, except for books and some art materials. I luv it, luveet that the example shown by our grandest mother, Telesfora C. Lolarga, is ingrained in all of us, in my cousins, too: that the true measure of a person is not his/her material riches but soul riches (the company of friends, application of education where one can be of service to others, finding strength in prayer in whatever manner it is expressed, hooking up to The Source when frustrated because one cannot do anything or everything alone).
17. I am trapped on this swivel chair until I finish this exercise.
18. I consider the role of a teacher an honor and a privilege. I believe that one does not enter a classroom of young minds when one is just fresh out of college. One must be hardened, even nearly broken, betrayed and marginalized in the real world, before stepping into a room. That way, the teaching is enriched with experience. And the young have no illusions; that it is indeed a jungle out there, and they have to steel themselves for it by learning to trust in the power of The Word.
19. I wish for more Mondays like this one when I can look forward to a brunch and an exhibit opening, thus making Monday a fun day in spite of looming deadlines.
20. I've accepted that I cannot work towards perfection (e.g., my drafts, even my published works sometimes, are riddled with typos and missing close quotes). I am happy to admit such mistakes because I am all too human.
21. During the rare parties I co-host with Kuya Fern, I like that I can drink scotch on the rocks as much as I want without my partner objecting because he, too, is inebriated with light beer and/or red wine.
22. I also like that Kuya Fern is not fond of using terms of endearment like "honey," "darling," "babe" or "sweetheart". The still hard-boiled newsman in him makes him say "Hoy, kain na tayo."
23. I resent that he hasn't addressed me even by my nickname "Babeth" in a loooooooooong time.
24. Letter-writing is on top of my few favorite things, up there with brown paper packages tied up with strings and the music of the masters.
25. I know that I am loved, and even much better, I know how to love.
P.S. Good morning, world!