Books Magazine

Inspiration: Where Does One Find It?

By Maytpapa

Today I begin a series of posts, #behindthestories, where I will tell the stories behind my books. I do not get to talk much about the inspiration for my stories, but, nevertheless, I still think they ought to be shared, if only to encourage people to pursue their dream of writing stories because it is therapeutic and immensely fulfilling.

Writing is not easy. And not everybody gets to be commercially published, which still seems to be considered the legitimate measure of success of any writer. Like any job, to be good at writing, you need to spend an inordinate time on it and train hard-by attending classes or workshops, by keeping a journal, and, perhaps, most important of all, by reading a lot-of stories, of how-to's, of critical studies of writing. Also, prepare for heartaches. You might have to make several mistakes and live with rejections and disappointments along the way.

I knew I wanted to be a writer ever since I was 9 years old.

By then, I thought I had read all the fairytale books in the grade school library-at least all the books the school allowed primary graders like me to borrow - and I suppose I was getting jaded; I thought that the stories all just seemed to be variations of a handful of stories. And this was what gave me an idea to write my own version of Cinderella.

Years later, at the UP Writers Workshop in Baguio I attended, I met a Filipino literary great, NVM Gonzalez, who was a panelist, and I incredibly got to spend a whole afternoon with him in Legato, a bookstore now long gone, along Session Road.

I bought all his books I could find in the bookshop, including one he said that was never released in the Philippines, and then I had them signed by him. I couldn't find any of them now, save for one that was published by The Bookmark. I've moved houses several times since, and they might be in my parents' house.

We talked about his books and about writing. I told him that I was planning to quit advertising to take up graduate studies in Creative Writing (it never happened). He advised me to take Comparative Literature instead. I asked him a lot of slam-book type questions, mostly because i was embarassed to admit to him that I had never seriously read his works apart from the stories we were required to read in school, "A Warm Hand" and "Bread of Salt", and even then I couldn't even say I really got them.

But when I finally learned the story behind "Bread of Salt"-when he was a teenager he played the violin with a band hired by suitors to serenade their ladyloves, and with his very first earnings he bought a bag of pan de sal (bread of salt) and to use a typewriter he walked for a couple of kilometers to town, - it wakened something in me, and it was as if he had unlocked a door to a supply-room of endless stories for me. Your writing should be informed, he said, by all you had ever experienced and learned up to the point that you are writing a story.

From that day, I found story ideas everywhere. I took down notes from the stories of his childhood my dad loved to tell, I recalled my own reminiscences of childhood and recounted them in my journal, I encouraged my mom to recall her own childhood so that maybe we could collaborate on a picture book. I filled notebooks and digital storage devices with stories.

But, getting down to craft stories out of these ideas is an altogether different story on its own.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog