#GetLit: Of Presidentiables, Of Writers

#GetLit

I’m straddling two political worlds, a Filipina immigrant in the Bay Area. I am shaped by my history, seventeen years of molding in a province north of Manila. I am also shaping a story of survival, twelve years in the making in the land of milk and honey.

Central to my identities is what I do with my hands: I write. Writing has always been a medium of personal and political expression, my words weighted by the struggle of a queer immigrant woman.

And as a writer living at this time, I am aware of the shifting political landscapes around me — both in the Philippines and in the United States.

The Philippines just had the most bizarre election season, wherein a mayor from Davao (in the Southern part of the Philippines) known for his vigilante-style tactics of fighting crime emerged as the winner.

Here in the U.S., Donald Trump’s popularity continues to rise as he racks up delegates across the country. His rhetoric reeks of misogyny, racism and xenophobia, reigniting the bigoted sentiments of conservatives.

While the presence of liberal pundits and progressive activists are to be expected, the situations in both countries have also given rise to another unlikely group: writers.

Banding together as vanguards of free speech and democracy, Filipino/Filipino-American writers have signed on to A Manifesto Against Silence, spearheaded by writer Miguel Syjuco.

A Manifesto

I am a Filipino writer.

I am one among journalists, fictionists, poets, essayists, bloggers, screenwriters, graphic storytellers, copywriters, playwrights, editors… Citizens, all—in a perilous place to wield a pen.

I stand for unfettered expression—to discuss, dispute, debate, dissent. For democracy is respectful disagreement—change persuaded, never imposed. And freedom cannot be dictated, for the right to speech empowers all others: to worship, and participate in society, to cry against injustice, and call for what is just. Speaking responsibly is my responsibility—but expression remains unconditional, essential to equality and universal liberty: To each citizen, a free vote; to every citizen, a free voice.

(To read the rest of the manifesto and its Tagalog version, go here.)

* * *

And just this week, I came across a petition of writers on Trump, opposing his candidacy. The petition has been signed by 450 U.S. writers including Junot Díaz, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Eggers and Tracy K. Smith.

Writers on Trump

Because the rise of a political candidate who deliberately appeals to the basest and most violent elements in society, who encourages aggression among his followers, shouts down opponents, intimidates dissenters, and denigrates women and minorities, demands, from each of us, an immediate and forceful response;

For all these reasons, we, the undersigned, as a matter of conscience, oppose, unequivocally, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump for the Presidency of the United States.

(To read the rest of the petition and sign on, go here.)

* * *

These two pieces, albeit different in intention, reaffirm the role of writers regardless of the political landscape.

The manifesto above is rightful in its claim:  that writers shall not be silent, and that they cannot be silenced. Write on, friends!

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. (Stephen King)

 

If there was ever a finer book on writing, it would have to be Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It is King’s childhood, journey and illustration of a map, an answer to the question: How did you learn to write?

To be honest, I haven’t read a single Stephen King book. I picked up this copy  back in 2012 because just like any amateur writer does (I think), I was hungry for the secret, the magical potion that rendered writers of their equally magical capabilities of pumping out word after word, of creating worlds for their readers. The reviews also bolstered the purchase; I was confident that this book contained the mythical how-to’s of successful writers.

Of course I was wrong. There is no secret, no magical potion. What I learned from King is that you have to arm yourself with four important things if you want to write: discipline, the writer’s toolkit, a big appetite for reading, and most of all, courage.

One could come up with a thousand excuses for not writing: of not having the right writing tools, of not having enough time, of not being inspired enough. I’m guilty of all of these, and I never cultivated the discipline needed for my writing. What King offers is a call to the essential, in its simplest and most honest form:

…you need the room, you need the door, and you need the determination to shut the door. You need a concrete goal, as well. The longer you keep to the basics, the easier the act of writing will become. Don’t wait for the muse.

 

Writing as Magic, with Stephen King

Book Reviews, Writing