Photo Credit: donsimon, www.sxc.hu

First Article

I never dreamed of writing before. I’m confused and didn’t have any clue about who I want to be. Most of the time, I’m engulfed in a video game, watching the rerun of Dragonball or just imagining battle scenes in my head.

It’s on third year high school that I tried to write something. And my very noble reason is this – it’s required by our strict teacher. So I stumbled for pen and yellow pad and start to bleed! I stared at the blank page for about 15 minutes and nothing was written. This is one of most boring and hardest thing to do (did I say that it’s boriiiiiiiiing?).

After about one hour, our teacher called us individually to read our finished article, oh no, in front of the class! We’re 64 students and how terrifying it is to read your innocent art to half-blooded critics. Laughter and mockery are inevitable. My stomach lurched when I heard my name called. I walked awkwardly to the front and faced my classmates. They are blurred in my vision and I got spider sense after few seconds of standing. I felt every perspiration in my body and I heard the beating of my heart getting faster and louder.

I took enormously deep breathe hoping that it would give me some genius in oratory but it didn’t. Our teacher is staring at me like a cat because I haven’t started yet. I grew in panic and started reading the first paragraph of my article – can it even be called an article?

“Louder!” taunted by my classmates. My voice is naturally low in volume so I took more deep breathes and read my article to the point where my throat pains. I got momentum and continued reading while gasping for breath. My hands are wet and I can’t control the weird movement of my knees. Then they started laughing.

“Hey! It sounds like Kapampangan (our native dialect)!”

I can’t remember anything anymore.

Second Article

Since then, I got phobia of writing. Dread feelings climbs on me when I had to write something. It’s like placing a mark and be opened to harsh criticism. So it’s something that shackled me when my English teacher on first year college announced that we will do creative writing one afternoon. I’m desperate to go to comfort room to pray to the hundreds of gods (I’m not yet a Christian back then). I want to craft an alibi, but it has no use because the campus famous motto of our teacher is ‘I hate excuses!’

We had to write the classic Filipino essay – Our Unforgettable Experience. I grabbed my pen and unleased all the creativity I think I have. After one hour of struggling, I finished the copy and passed it to my teacher.

The next day, we received our papers with marks on it. I didn’t get the highest nor the lowest score. But I got a mark higher than I expected and a hearty praise scribbled by my teacher. I felt like I won a thousand pesos. My face is consumed by happiness after class. I never thought that writing can be this rewarding.

But still, I didn’t became a fan of writing. I didn’t aspire to be writer. No matter how much encouragement my English teacher told us, they don’t have any effect on me. Duh! Can writers feed their families? Instead, as my IT course suggest, I want to be an UX or Web designer.

Discovery

But then a task is given to me that lead me to one of my life’s important discovery. I’m assigned to share a message on our next Dawn Watch – it’s like a mini prayer meeting at the dawn of Sunday in our school. I’m already a Christian for about two months and had an obsessive appetite for Christian books and the Bible. When everybody refused the offer, my friend saw me and use his salesmanship to persuade me to try. My heart pounded and I don’t want to look like a stupid naysayer at the front of others, but I accepted the offer, hoping it will turned out okay.

My schedule was broken, I planned of sleeping early that night, but ran instead into the Programming Laboratory and fired up Firefox to search for ideas. I brought with me a notebook and pen and jotted all the quotes, verses, and anecdotes that is in harmony with the topic in my mind. Curfew hour came so I continued my study in our dormitory room. In my bed, I rearranged the ideas and formed the outline of the message. I didn’t know that I’m actually writing a message but a weird feeling ignited in me. “Hey, I think I’m enjoying this!”

I can’t believe it, the art of creating a message magnets inspiration deep within me. I felt like I’m experiencing what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist, said as flow – an optimal experience when you feel like you’re losing track of time because you’re fully engaged in an activity. I finished the message on written form and I’m filled with satisfaction. I prayed and positioned myself to sleep. I can’t sleep! Not because I’m worried, but because my excitement is keeping me wide awake

I fell to sleep after one hour. Then morning came. I waked up one hour earlier for rehearsal. I came to plenary hall 30 minutes earlier to get the feeling of the room. About 40 students came and asked who is the messenger is. I don’t want to look arrogant so I just stayed quiet. Then the time of message came, I’m called to the front. With all of my courage, I started sharing it.

I’ve shared in a copycat-precher-point-no1-then-no2 way. No standing ovation. I’ve seen a number of yawns but still got some attentive listener. But the discovery was continuing while I’m speaking – boy, I felt like really living. After I stepped down from the platform, my heart was still beating fast.

Habit

That discovery lead me to form a half-baked habit – writing journal. When I got heavy dose of inspiration and ideas, I would write it on my journal. When something significant happened to me, I would write it down. I found that to effectively reflect internally, I need to write it down externally, on a paper or a computer. And it’s liberating and connects me deeper to my principles.

I got more opportunities of sharing message since then. It’s a little scary because I might stumbled. But I enjoyed the process of creating the draft and delivering. I’m not the most prolific speaker inside the campus but I kept on going on because I want to become the best speaker that I can be not the best speaker in the world. I felt like I’m contributing something meaningful, and the act itself is the reward.

Then as the opportunity presents itself, I joined a newly formed ministry in our school. It’s called Christian Education (CE) and its goal is to educate and inspire students to live a Christ-dedicated life. On our second meeting, when the position of the Head Researcher is opened, I’m chosen. What? I’m not the smartest in the room. But I accepted it with gladness for the prospect to do what I think is meaningful work.

On my internship, my half-baked habit continued. I’m slowly getting more and more committed to it. Besides, my addiction to reading draws hundreds of insights that makes my reflection complicated, I need to express it in some way to keep my sanity. I would write my thoughts on paper and whenever I have the opportunity, I would share it to others – on a formal setting like a Bible study or in a casual conversation with my friends if they are open to my peculiar thinking. Maybe they thought that I’m weird, but it’s okay for me. Frankly, I’m allergic to ‘normals’.

Confirmation

One month before our graduation, I received a call from my teacher and he said that I had to prepare a speech for the coming graduation. Me? I’m not fully convinced that I deserve the honor of being the student to speak at that event. But the privilege of sharing a heartfelt message to our beloved school is a burden I’m not willing let go. I pushed myself and prepared the first, second, and third revision of the speech one night in our room. Tears fell on the pages as the deep gratitude flows freely from my heart and to the pen.

The next morning, I typed it on a Word document and passed it to some respected grammar police inside the company. I got the revised article days later and started practicing it while I’m alone. I’m a crazy melancholy, I’ve rehearsed the speech for approximately 60 times.

The day of graduation came and I’m pretty nervous. Bad luck, I came barking like a dog – I got cough. But I believed a mini miracle happened when I stepped on the stage – the cough evaporated for a while. It seems that angel put some muriatic acid in my mouth to clean it for 10 minutes. I executed the speech, some pronunciation go to the wrong way, but still, I can feel my heart burning as I’m speaking.

I’ve finished it and sighed in relief. Then as I’m stepping down from the stage, I got a handshake from our guest speaker and he said the words that is still nurturing my heart to this moment, “You can be a speaker.” He gave me tons of inspiration and I owe a lot to him.

Months later, as I writing my dreams on paper. I finally wrote the dreams that I’m committed to pursue no matter what life throws at me. They are confirmed on that graduation day – I will be a Christian speaker and writer. I looked at that paper for extended time, praying and imagining the possibilities.

Teaching

I’m got an offer to be an instructor for our school, but first need to be trained as a trainer assistant for a year. I accepted it for three reasons: I love sharing thoughts, as a sign of gratitude to the school, and to develop my communication and people skills. Being there is a goal accomplished and I love every minute of teaching the students.

I believe that students must not just be educated but also be inspired to pursue their higher calling. So I frequently insert stories and twitter-length quotes with the hope of lifting their hearts. And I can’t deliver those motivating messages without writing them first.

Psychologist says that an introvert like me is inclined to the inner life like reflection (while the extroverts are for the outer life like socializing). I find it true. I’m the type of guy who is thinking about life issues while tying shoes. It’s normal for me to get out of the bath room with three or more ideas dangling in my hair, I immediately write them in my notebook.

My habit of writing got baked day after day. I bought an Android phone so I can take notes while on the go using Evernote. Journaling became a way of life for me and my thinking would wreck without this discipline.

Preparation

Preparation and learning is almost in my blood (I’ve taken the Cliffon StrengthsFinder test and confirmed it, Learner is in my top 5). I love doing research about the dream I’m embarking. And with the dream of writing, the drive for learning is even more consuming. I’ve read the books and subscribed into blogs that I can find related to my aspiration.

Here are the lists:

Books
Blogs
*If you know some more resources, please write it in the comments section.


Blog

I’m just casually browsing Facebook one afternoon when I saw a post by my former classmate. He has the most matured mind among all of my batch mates. And his life lessons are always relevant with good dose of unique Filipino humor. He posted a link that which led me to his blog. I read all of his post and after reading the last sentence, I’m infected. “I can also create a blog!”

It might not be a big deal to others. But a blog is one of the best platform where you can influence others. I’m so excited for the idea that I immediately opened Chrome and searched for quick information and how-to of blogging. Before I closed the laptop, I already set my own blog but with no post yet.

Resistance

I want to say that I’d posted an article since day one and became consistent like the sunrise, but no. I met fear and his friend procrastination. And the idea of posting my voice in the public is a daunting risk for me. What if somebody laughs at me? Or a grammar police put me in jail?

The questions tormented me and insisted that I don’t have the caliber to be a successful blogger. But one night, after being inspired by a child in a mall, I put all of my objections aside and just write. I watched the cursor blink for about 10 minutes before any thoughts are transferred into the word processor. I felt like I’m bleeding and part of my soul are spilled on the pages. But this is a good thing, art is a struggle like Jeff Goins said.

I’ve finished the first draft. Revised it to the fourth then hit the published button. My breathing slowly get back to the normal pace. My heart sounded like a beating heart again, not a drum banging in concert.

I checked the blog stats a day after and can’t believe the numbers. I have readers! They are not many, but it’s a starting point. Some of my students (No, I’d not paid them to read) even posted comments expressing their gratitude for the inspiration.

Now the challenge is the post regularly, or to write regularly. I typically write an article once a week and the hour I sat down at the chair to start it, my mind wanders to another dimension. It’s a constant struggle just to write one paragraph on the page. But one afternoon, I’ve read a post by Seth Godin about the importance of writing everyday (not necessarily posting everyday) for deliberate practice. That single post lead me to related posts by different bloggers and they kicked my butt to write every day. I got up from the chair and the veins in me are all fired up to wake up early the next morning and change the world (which means writing an article for 30 minutes)!

But I when the alarm clock on my phone rang, I just swiped it off. And said all of my stupid alibis in whispers.

Steven Pressfield tackled this dilemma. That thing that resist all our urges and sap our motivations to create an art is a real enemy that needs intense dedication to overcome. He called it the Resistance on his must-read book The War of Art.

I’ve taken hundreds of counsel from my mentors before I got to the position of banging the Resistance in its head and knock him unconscious one morning. Then I set a timer for 33 minutes and started writing. I even want to put a seat-belt on my chair so I won’t wander like a dog and keep my focus on the thing.

Since then, I’ve tweaked my schedule a couple of times so I can easily get up every morning and write. I sleep no later than 10:30 pm and set up my alarm clock to wake me up at 4:30 am. I even put my smartphone away from my bed so I would have to get up just to turn off the alarm, it’s a neat productivity hack (I’ve done it on the first few mornings for the habit of waking earlier to be established). Even I’m tired and harassed by lazy thoughts when the alarm clock rings, I would still wake up, pray, and start writing. I then followed it by reading the Bible, reading a devotional, and reading a book. That’s the order I’m adhering to, even right now while I’m writing this article. If I try to exchange their position, it won’t work because I’ll be too entertain by the book.

Writing every day is now a habit of mine. The Resistance is still there, but I won’t let him destroy my aspirations! I’m still developing the practice of posting 4 blog post every week. It’s a challenge to find the time but I’ll not accept any alibi. If this is my dream, I need to be committed to it.

Benefits

Writing has many benefits. Maybe I sound exaggerated but I’m not. Search it in Google if you don’t believe me. Writing clarifies my thoughts and pushes me to be firmer in timeless principles. It’s even a type of therapy that helps me to relieve stress. And the opportunity to make an influence to others is priceless, I won’t trade it, even for an iPhone.

Books

I’m also dreaming and hustling to publish books. I’m halfway finished writing the novel about a man struggling to regain his faith. It’s a story that touches atheism, hypocrisy, and the grace of being accepted by the Almighty again. I plan to finish it before the end of the year and publish it in eBook form.

Beginning

I wish that I’d started writing regularly when I’m still younger, maybe in high school or elementary. But as George Eliot said, “It’s never been too late to be what you might have been.” And those words are also for you, even if you already have granddaughters and grandsons.

I know well that I need to improve. Better prose, better flow, better vocabulary, and hundreds of aspects to improve on. Sometimes I wish I have the clarity and prose of these writers:

  • J.K. Rowling 
  • Stephen King 
  • Suzanne Collins 
  • Philip Yancey 
  • C.S. Lewis 
  • Malcolm Gladwell 
  • Daniel Pink 
  • The Heath Brothers 
  • Og Mandino 
But I kept on reminding myself every day that I don’t have to compare my chapter 1 of my journey to their chapter 47. It’s a journey, the most important thing is not the overrated talent, but grit, perseverance and willingness to get back up after failure and rejection. Better are always possible for those who hustle.

Critics will never be silenced once and for all. What they will say may hit a very sensitive chord in you, but always remember that it’s not your job to be perfect, compare or please them, your job is to create. The dreamers are the ones who count, not the chickens chucking criticisms. “The people who are crazy enough to think that they change the world - are the ones who do,” said Steve Jobs.

I won’t give up. God gave me the passion and the talent (which I’m nurturing) to express ideas. I want to contribute something and serve others in this way. Maybe I’ll not do an ambush evangelism inside a (I think it’s for the extreme extroverts), but I can glide in the online world to proclaim His goodness.

Walking alone yesterday in the fields, I received a thought. It may sound corny or sentimental to you, but I believe it is true - through writing everyone can ‘Make a difference. One article at a time.’

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