I’ve been writing professionally since I was fourteen years old. I’m very proud of that fact. I’ve had a deadline for a paid gig since I was in second year high school. I got the job because I’m my Dad’s son. It was nepotism, I guess, but he had co-created the film Batang X with his partner Lore Reyes and they were approached by a comic book company that sold local comics to put out a Batang X comic. He waived all copyright fees on the condition that I would write the comic with Lore Reyes. They agreed.
I think my Dad didn’t mind that he wouldn’t get paid the royalties, as long as the story continued on after the movie. With me as the writer, he ensured that the spirit of Batang X will remain true to his and Tito Lore’s vision of the characters and the story that they conceived and put together.
I was fourteen. I was into comic books at the time and I had declared that I wanted to be a writer. So my Dad put me to work. At fourteen, I was delivering a script for a 30-page comic book every week, outside of my schoolwork. I was making my own money that I waived my allowance. I was making more than what my parents gave me for my day-to-day needs at school.
But, now that I’m older, I know for a fact that I was horrible. I was overwriting and I was definitely shallow. Completely un-literary. But I was able to do this all the way until third year high school, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t really remember how long the comic ran. I just remember I was working with a deadline every week for two years.
By the time I got to college, a friend of mine was interning at Businessworld and the Internet was starting to catch on in the country. She was able to convince them to put up an online magazine for teens. She tapped me as a writer and I started writing for the online website submitting articles on a weekly basis. So, I was working through college as well. It wasn’t enough to pay for my tuition (but I became a scholar on my second year when I became an editor of the school folio) so my parents weren’t paying for my tuition fee, either.
I was still a bad writer, at the time, as I was only beginning to learn the technique and craft in class. But I was learning discipline. I was putting in the work.
I’ve been writing professionally since I was fourteen and when I joined the work force after college, I’ve been writing for other people — be it formal letters, essays, articles, concept papers, scripts, and the like — all my working life. I love Sonata and T’yanak and the scripts that I put together on those two films, but, at the end of the day, they are prompts form my directors — my Dad and my tito Lore Reyes (again). I put a lot of myself in those scripts and those are me and I love them and the work I did on them, but it’s not solely and completely mine.
Of all my writing, really, the only thing that was truly and solely my own was my poetry, but it was not my profession. It wasn’t my profession. I didn’t write poems to earn a living. I love it. It’s probably up there in my list of passions, right beside dancing, but like dancing, I don’t make any money doing it. It doesn’t support me. (And at least, as a poet, I’m competent, I can’t even dance well)
Now, I find myself on a proverbial fork in a road (or is fork on a road, I don’t know, my grammar sucks). I’m working now on projects that are mine and that I can feel the entirety of me coming in and I’m now working for someone, I’m collaborating with people on this big project (more about this soon) and it’s fulfilling me completely. On the flip-side, there’s the work I do to pay the bills. The same old shit that I’ve been doing to earn my keep and put food on the table (another cliche).
And I find myself unable to find any sort of momentum to work on the jobs that pay the bill. It doesn’t interest me. It takes me forever to get started and it takes me much longer than usual to finish them. On the other hand, when I hear from the work that I’m enjoying calls, I’m quick to answer and I’m quick to respond.
A line has been drawn. It frustrates me because I’ve always been a reliable writer. I was never the best but I submitted on time and I submitted work that was always good enough for publication. I’m not that person anymore. I’d rather be doing the other project but, as with many passion projects, it’s not going to pay the bills. Not yet, anyway.
And I still have debts to pay.
It’s not really a fork in the road. I know that, at the moment, I don’t have a choice and I just have to be smarter about how I work. I have to suck it up and do what I need to do to survive and to feed my soul (yet another cliche) until I make better provisions so that I don’t have to find myself in this position again.
All of a sudden, not saving and not investing in a more stable future for myself has come to bite me in the ass. I always thought, at 36, I’d be in a position to pick and choose my projects and just do the things I want to do. And actually, I am, but I’ve lived a rather vicarious life and made a few reckless choices that has left me in a state of hand-to-mouth. No regrets. I’ve learned a lot from the experience and it makes me a deeper person and writer, I’d like to think.
But now, things have reached a point where I can’t just go off and do the for-work-only projects because I don’t have the will to work on them like I used to. I feel like I’ve neglected the part of me that demanded more from me in terms of what I was truly passionate about. That’s also my fault, really, as I should have been more courageous and did more things for myself back in the day.
I made poor choices and I may have created a stable reputation (maybe not anymore) but I still feel secure about my ability to ace an interview and get a stable job, if I have to. Let’s just hope that it doesn’t have to get to that point.
Again, it’s about making better, smarter choices from this point on.
It’s time to be a juggler. It can be done. It’s a realisation that has just come to me. It’s time to make the necessary adjustments.