Saturday, April 05, 2008

Things to do this summer

DO your community a favor. Tell its stories.

It's a good cue to take from Mass Communication undergraduates who traditionally apply in newsrooms for their internship this summer.

While talking about travel writing with a class last semester, I realized that there are two ways to write about something. You can cover what is strange and unknown: approach the subject as an outsider, immerse yourself, back away, and commit as much honesty to be able to write with an insider's intimacy.

Or you can write about what you've always known: take what might as well be coming out of your pores, magnify it by taking another look and another, and then let go and watch the story catch spark.

To write, no one needs a college degree.

Some of you feel that a bit of education is needed to write well, or at least write to be understood.

But you can read, right? If you have the time, patience and curiosity to stick it out with a story from opening to closing, you might want to double back and find out how the writer managed to do it: release, line by line, a story to hook and land a reader that, as fishermen like to brag, didn't get away.

I also know what the doomsayers--and newsrooms have not cornered yet the market on cynicism--have been foretelling for years: the death of English.

Who says you have to stick to a language that's not yours or you've not made into your own?

As I acquired an education long before a revolutionary decided that Cebuano could be taught and learned in class, English is the portal I've entered all my life (and perhaps into the next one).

While I love the words, and what the words do to me, I believe everyone is entitled their own take to English, a second tongue. That includes the right to make mistakes.

There are several remedies for those determined to tell stories despite false starts.

Long before the magic of word processing, there was rewriting. Even professionals have to rewrite. Writers might like to talk and talk about writing, but the truth is: there's more writing done in the moments you spend framing your thoughts than in several worthy hours spent in a writeshop, taking apart someone's work.

It's not to say that other people don't count. Writing is communicating: someone has to listen to you. If even your mother passes out after reading your first line, take the hint and rewrite.

If you're already optimistic, ask a friend to read your work. If your friends become optimistic, send your work to an editor. Let the article do the talking. Editors detest hard sell but dote on a well-written piece.

If you don't see your article published, call once, and once only, to ask the editor if he received your emailed contribution. If you get more than a grunt in reply, offer to rewrite, send photos. Mothers never give up on their children; so should you.

When you write about your community, you're not just whiling away the hours, earning cell phone load, reading your name in print.

You're also showing that the media is still about community. It's not just about selling copies or airtime. It's never been only about advertisers and public figures.

Media, critics say, are failing to connect with their communities. By your writing, you prove them wrong. So tell the stories of your place and time: the folks who do good when there are no cameras around, the people changing or being changed by the life that is taking place beyond media deadlines.

And writing is not a bad way to spend summer. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu's April 6, 2008 issue

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