Monday, January 27, 2014

Unafraid of the creative overflow because we're fueled by faith

"You must not fear, hold back, count or be a miser with your thoughts and feelings. It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience and into writing. Permit yourself to flow and overflow, allow for the rise in temperature, all the expansions and intensifications. Something is always born of excess: great art was born of great terrors, great loneliness, great inhibitions, instabilities, and it always balances them. If it seems to you that I move in a world of certitudes, you, par contre, must benefit from the great privilege of youth, which is that you move in a world of mysteries. But both must be ruled by faith." - Anais Nin in a letter to an aspiring writer

I often wonder if I am in any way living up to my role as a teacher, even if I'm only part-time. Most times I have to mind my duties as someone who happens to know how to write a little or over-much, depending on the reader. Somehow I can still make a shaky living out of writing. It doesn't matter anymore that the earnings still add up to a little below the poverty line at month's end, and I always need a lifeline extension from family in Pasig and in Baguio, especially my partner of close to 30 years (I silently thank Rolly Fernandez and the heavens in my morning rituals).

There isn't much of a difference between me and the help that my family in both cities hires to do house chores. Part of my work sometimes involves cleaning up other people's manuscripts, making sense of them, even if these sometimes cause me symptoms of stress like falling hair and growing irritability.

In one of the articles I found in the Web, it said that those who serve--nannies, domestic helpers, gardeners, care-givers of the sick and dying, dishwashers--they are the truest philanthropists in these times. The work I do forces me to sit for hours and hours. I don't know how long I will hold out, but I always finish, or try to anyway, what I begin. Nothing ennobling about lengthy sitting and enlarging one's avoirdupois, but I'm grateful just the same.

I don't know where or how this morning's blog entry will end. I wanted to begin with re-telling how Teacher Maite dela Rosa and I accompanied some high school students enrolled in the Community of Learners creative writing class on a field trip to the Ateneo Library of Women's Writings and the Ateneo Art Gallery upstairs this past Saturday.

Born in the late 1990s, the students are part of a generation that woke to a digital age. Something like the notebook of poet Angela Manalang Gloria, with the Bureau of Education's logo stamped on the cover, looked supremely exotic to them.

As I carefully opened a page (for me the experience was close to touching the shroud of Turin, having worshiped for quite sometime at Manalang Gloria's altar, though invisible), there were audible gasps and comments like "Look at her penmanship!" I asked if they knew what a fountain pen looked like. A boy answered, "It's something you have to constantly refill."

I turned another page that showed Ms. Gloria's handwritten draft for a poem that left clues to her creative process: how she crossed out some lines, then replaced them with another. That detail started a short conversation on the process of revisions and discouraging the use of correcting fluid. But sometimes one or two kids can't help being obsessive about erasures--part of a young writer's quirks that I have to respect.

We saw the typescript of scholars Doreen Fernandez and Edilberto Alegre's interview of Edith Tiempo. It led to a brief discussion on what a typewriter looked and sounded like, how it used to be the writer's tool. A girl said, "My lola still uses one." And I saw that lola in my head composing her lines to the clackity clack of an Underwood or a Remington.

Maybe in my next life, I shall be working in the stacks, meaning, become a library chick.

Seated around the first table at ALIWW: Mark Lee, Bea Buenaventura, Julian Zapata, Teacher Maite and Miki Cabochan. Girls at the next table: Isabel Arellano, Mika Mamauag and Joan Torres. Standing are Gio Gutierrez and Janrick Razon.

That's us at the gallery with part of Rodel Tapaya's exhibit behind us. His show "Bato Balani" will be the subject of our next writing exercise.
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