My Journey as a Writer
"The Spirit of truth will testify to me, says the Lord, and you also will testify."
- John 15:26b, 27a -
- John 15:26b, 27a -
I woke up from my dream.
I was in a running race, and when a lot of runners had slowed down to a walk, I was still running. The song Titanium played in the background. It kept me going and drove my feet on the pavement, up and down the road. God had used that song a million times to inspire me to go on.
I am Titanium. You shoot me down, but I won't fall. I am Titanium.
And in my dream, I had gained distance and ran with the leaders of the race. And I woke up.
God had spoken in my dream, through the song.
Yesterday I was filled with self-doubt about my writing. I had gotten feedbacks, and I had to rewrite the first few chapters, again, for the nth time; I could no longer remember.
The dream reminded me. I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away.
He wanted me to keep on writing, keep on standing even when bullets of criticisms shoot me and machine guns of editorial comments about the draft barrage me. He wanted me to be bulletproof from these, to harden myself from the blows. He reminded me that for as long as I still feel sensitive about my work, I had not arrived at the detachment that was required of me. I still considered it to be my work. Yet, I knew even though I wrote it, the message was not mine. I was just a `hand piece'. But I was an imperfect one. So the message was delivered in an imperfect style that still needed to be perfected. And it was that style that was being targeted, skinned and tested in the fire so the message can shine. That was why it hurt because it was my style in the line of fire. I had to keep on trying until I achieved that perfect style, rewrite and edit relentlessly.
And at one point, I just wanted to cry and give up. This draft was rejected early last year. And I took the blow so hard that I hibernated and shoved the work in the shelves. It gathered dust for a long time. I only picked it up after a year. Why? Because it kept on beckoning me. And I will never be able to rest until I heeded that voice that kept telling me I need to write that book.
Clarity. Another song that hit me when I was running. I didn’t know why that song pierced my heart when I had no relationship of that sort, tragic or insane, that would make me relate to that song. And yet the lyrics nagged and my eyes watered. And then it hit me.
You are a piece of me, I wish I didn't need
Chasing relentlessly, still fight and I don't know why.
If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy
If our love's insanity why are you my clarity.
It was my writing dream, that piece of me that I wished I didn't need, that I've been chasing relentlessly and still fought, and I didn't know why. Yes, my writing dream had remained to be my remedy for this soul that ached to express itself in this world of noise. My writing dream was my insanity and yet also my clarity.
And when I realized it, I cried. I cried my heart out. There was no escaping my writing dream. It will continue to nag and bug until I heeded its voice, my writing dream.
And then the next song played, Don't You Worry, Child, the song that my Lord would use to comfort me.
Don't you worry child, heaven has a plan for you. Don't you worry now.
Three songs spoke to me. And now, it was speaking again to comfort me, encourage and tell me not to give up, that this road will have a lot of challenges and hurdles, the road to my writer's life. And just like running, my body will ache, my muscles will turn sore, my breath will run out but I only need to put one foot in front of the other and continue running, and I will reach my goal of 30 minutes every day.
One word at a time, and I shall achieve my goal, that too.
I remembered the book, The Artful Edit. It used Gatsby as an example. Fitzgerald, the author, edited his book for probably a million times, who knows, until he thought it was perfect and it was published and had become a classic. So successful was it that it had become a must-read book in high school, part of the curriculum for English composition and literature. And yet now, editors would still find many things in it that still could be edited to make it better, because the rules had changed, the styles had changed. And the two other books I had read on editing would speak about these changes in styles: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers and The First Five Pages.
Then my daughter pointed out that these books may have run out of style too. They were published in 2007, 2004 and 2000 respectively. And I cringed because I had depended so much on these three books when I edited the entire manuscript the third time since I picked it up early this year.
Too fast pace, lacking the main character's voice, too much information—these were my daughter's observations of my first chapter of the manuscript. All these required another rewrite. And with the last one, I discarded the entire first chapter and started with a blank page. I realized, the voice of my character in chapter 25 was so different from the one in chapter 1. He had opened himself like a rose, and started as a bud that slowly and silently bloomed before my eyes.
I shoved my hands into my hair and cradled my head. When will this editing stop?
“You're pulling your hair again.”
I jolted. He was back, my angel. "You weren't around to hold my hands," I told him.
Yes, these past few days, I've been running on my own. Inspirations came in glimpses and were like flashes of light. I felt like my angel of inspiration deserted me. "You said you would not, but you did."
The tone of my voice challenged him. I realized I was wrestling with my guardian angel again, just like Jacob. He wrestled and wrestled until the break of day.Then the angel struck his hip, when it was apparent that Jacob would prevail over him. But in the end, Jacob sought the angel's blessing, for he was God's face in human form. Yes, I can wrestle with my angel and even with God, but in the end, I knew I needed God's blessings, and I know He'd bestow it through His angel.
"I never left you. I just did not talk," he said.
"Because you didn't want me to. If there's one command the Lord had stressed more than the others, it's to respect your will. I was to watch and guard your every step and protect you, but I must respect your will."
“My will?” And then I realized I had doubted his identity, his presence, and existence. And I thought I was better off without listening to his voice because I may be led astray and be deceived if I discerned him wrong. So he remained silent. He respected my will.
"Forgive me. I doubted you." I'm amazed he had not struck me like the angel who struck Zechariah dumb when he doubted the angel's message.
"If it had been Gabriel the Archangel, yes, he would have struck you dumb," my angel said. "But no, you're not Zechariah, and I'm not an archangel. I am your guardian angel."
Zechariah. He mentioned it as though to remind me of another Zechariah.
"I read the book of Zechariah, and I realized I had not given you the respect that you deserve, my lord," I said. Yes, that was how Zechariah addressed his angel—my lord, with small letters, not capitalized one, to distinguish him from the Lord.
"You are my angel," I said, "but you're also a mighty being created by the Lord to be His hands to guide me and protect me. I have not treated you accordingly, according to your stature. Forgive me for my insolence, my lord. You’re His divine representative here on earth. You’re His emissary. You do as He says. My mind cannot fathom the mysteries, and I will not delve into it unless you enlighten me. You have knowledge of good and evil. You chose to obey the Lord and remained in Him and with Him. Therefore you’re an extension of Him, like His hands that will not move of its own accord, unless willed by the Lord, its owner. I, therefore, submit to your counsel and guidance as I submit to the Lord."
"Your repentance is your forgiveness," he said. "I do not condemn you. Neither will the Lord. In the end, the words that you speak, all the words, will be the ones that will condemn you at the end of your life. So be careful and choose to be silent unless heeded and summoned to speak. And speak only what you deem to be true, for there is no guilt in innocence."
"And what if I speak something that is not true without meaning to, when I make a mistake?”
"Truth seeks the light, so falsehood is exposed. And truth thrives in humility. Admit your mistake, make amends and recompense and move on."
"And how do I know when it's truth and not a lie that I speak?"
"A tree is known by the fruit it bears. Truth bears the fruits of peace and joy."
"Peace and joy," I whispered.
"And humility, most importantly,” he said. “So why were you pulling your hair again?
“I had to rewrite Chapter 1 of my manuscript.”
He knew. "I'm tired of editing and rewriting. When will it ever be good enough? I have gone through it so many times. It has been ingrained in my mind, the characters lived and breathed with me. I used these three books on editing—"
"Three, that is a good sign," he said.
The Power of Three, I thought and smiled.
“But will I ever be good enough?”
“You offend the Lord when you say that!”
I shuddered at the ominous tone in my angel's voice. It was a grave warning.
“Everything that the Lord had created was good. He declared it to be good. It is false humility, a lie to say you can never be good enough, to say that you are not good enough. You are the mirror image of the Lord. Understand that? A mirror... of His Divine Image.”
I shook and trembled as I nodded my head. My angel sounded terrible to my spirit's ears.
“And like a mirror, you are nothing when you do not behold His image. Did you hear me? Nothing. But when you behold His image you are everything. You shall reflect all His goodness, His kindness, His greatness, and His love. Understand? You can be everything in Him.”
“Yes, yes, I can be everything in Him. But without Him I am nothing.” I cried and trembled.
My angel relented and said in a softer voice that comforted me, “You are His masterpiece. He, the Author of your life will not grow tired of editing you, His grand masterpiece. Each time you make a mistake, He will pick up the eraser and wipe away your mistakes. Each time you write a crooked line, He will straighten it. Each time. Each time. You are His masterpiece. You understand, dear child? He wants you to be perfect just as He is perfect.”
Tears streamed down my face. “He will not grow tired of editing me?”
“Remember your three songs,” he said. “Play it whenever you feel discouraged. And the three books, read and reread until your work had become a masterpiece. Do not grow tired and weary because He did not grow tired and weary with you, His masterpiece in the making.”
I nodded and wiped away my tears. My heart dilated from the breath of God's fresh air. Don't you worry, child, heaven has a plan for you. My weakened muscles started to move. I am Titanium. Shoot me down, and I won't fall. I will chase relentlessly because writing is my clarity.
“Did you know that that song is also Jesus' song for you?”
“Clarity. You are a piece of Him that He’s been chasing relentlessly.”
I cried at the thought. It shook me to the bones because in my mind I imagined and saw Jesus, heard Him as though He spoke the words of the song, `If our love is tragedy why are you my remedy?’ He thirsted for me and my love. And this thirst, I had the power to quench. I was His remedy for His thirst.
Jesus, on the cross, mangled and bleeding was a great tragedy. He had cried `I thirst,’ and in my mind, He seemed to speak, `If our love's insanity, why are you my clarity.’ Insanity, indeed that this Lord of heaven and earth should come down and take the form of man, the all-powerful and Almighty God to become the all-helpless baby. That only proved how much He loved me, His clarity, that He loved me tremendously, enough to leave Heaven and live on earth so I can live in heaven when I leave earth. And He did it all for me because I was His masterpiece in the making. He laid down His life for me. I was His clarity. I showed Him what He was willing to do to save me, the immensity of His love. He laid down His life for me.
I picked up my pen and started rewriting.
I will also not grow tired of editing and revising until this masterpiece was good enough. No, not just good enough. Until it was perfect before His eyes because He will make it perfect when I could not.
I did not want to make a disposable trinket. I wanted a diamond that would glitter in the sunlight, a masterpiece. Right now I still see gold wrapped in ore. I was the ore, and God's message the gold. Fire needed to burn the ore and it will hurt because I was the ore. I will have to die, so the Lord's message will emerge pure… pure gold, to die to myself as He died for me.
No longer will I ask how long still or how much more edits still? My Lord will declare the time, and I shall wait.
In the meantime, I will continue to edit, edit and edit and I will not give up until this piece had become a true masterpiece, worthy to be called the Lord's masterpiece. In the process, I too will grow to be God's masterpiece, the Lord's hand piece for His message.
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