Monday, August 11, 2008

The right kind of conceit

I had once warned the personal essayists in my class that if they had been raped, millions of others have too, if they had cancer, millions of others have it too, & if they had parental problems, millions of others are in the same situation.

And as a continuation to the lesson on the proverbial so-what?, I asked  Rica Bolipata-Santos when she sat in w/ us how she decides whether an aspect of her life is worth writing about or not. 

"Oh, I'm very conceited. I think everything about me is worth writing about." (Another lesson bites the dust.)

My conceit isn't quite at Rica's level yet (though my blogging last week might've proved otherwise) so I'll take this opportunity to veer away from personal hullaballoo to focus on some valuable things Rica said in our class about creative nonfiction.

Now, let's go back to the conceit quote & add another statement: "When I 1st started out I didn't think I'd ever be a published writer. The writing is enough. I don't need to be published."

"Let me see your body," my boss just told my co-worker. "Nice."

Konteksto, kaibigan. Konteksto.

My co-worker is drawing a girl figure for 1 of our clients. My boss wanted her to open the .pdf file of the illustration of the girl character's whole body.

Now, back to Rica & contextualizing her statements, cuz of course she isn't 1 of them mere journal writers who operate solely on cathartics. She wouldn't be the wonderful writer that she is if she was (Google her if you still don't know who I speak of.)

Let's proceed w/ my favorite of all questions, w/c Rica said in class: "Why should I care?" And here is where I'll throw in her take on the proverbial personal-to-universal lesson: When writing, especially a personal essay, 1 is taking something from his private realm & throwing it into the public realm, w/ the intent of having another take what is given to the public to bring it back to his own private realm. It must be relatable, readers insist. I agree, but prefer to think of it as something worth investing in, or worth engaging. (Can't relate to  the events of the '60s but I can be informed of it, interested in it, touched by it; can't relate to the anger behind a manifesto but if written well I can be engaged intellectually to disagree w/ it.)

This brings us to what is dubbed the "burden" of nonfiction: insight -- expressed explicitly or implicitly. Nonfiction, said Rica, necessitates a relaying of information ("non") & a recognition of the self ("fiction" -- as in w/ characters if my interpretation is correct; a persona & the readers I count as characters), leading to the end-all of some semblance of enlightenment. Wasak. Good way of breaking it down, I think.

This is where I'll place my favorite quote from that morning: "You should be good at critiquing someone else only because you're good at critiquing yourself." Ang galing.

It becomes clear, at least for me, that 1 can be conceited if the work -- taken as a serious, cathartic craft -- is viewed as enough. This speaks of the kind of sincere respect & love for the craft that's unsurpassed by any other motive.

Thanks, Rica. Was a true pleasure.

(And a brief moment of unapologetic conceit: I'm Ok. We're OK.)

* * *

Birthday ni Japs bukas (August 12). Happy birthday, pards. Miss kita.


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