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The agonist

I can often feel invisible drops of blood, not even sweat, leaking out of my head
/ 05:52 AM January 13, 2019

“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference.” —Stephen King

When faced with a blank Microsoft document and a blinking cursor, I can often feel invisible drops of blood, not even sweat, leaking out of my head.


Ever since I can remember, I’ve been an “agony writer” and talker, a struggler for whom words don’t come easy. This is especially so whenever I’m engaged in a verbal conversation. I feel my saliva growing stale, my mouth turning dry before I can speak.

Other times, on my occasionally manic mode, I can talk, engage my speaking partner at length and even inject some humor in the exchange of words.


But most times, I quietly bleed in a corner of a room that isn’t wholly mine, or I just observe people chatting. You’d think that after 42 years in journalism (full-time employment and freelance writing and editing), I’d be more confident.

Sometimes, some editors pass on assignments to me with the impression that I can tackle them with dispatch. If only they knew what goes on inside me! How many unwritten assignments (and opportunities) have passed me by, I can no longer count. I guess another problem I have to deal with is learning to refuse, and gently turn down, offers.

I have the inventor of e-mail to thank for helping me overcome my own anxiety over gaining an interviewee’s confidence. I just introduce myself online, explain where I’m writing an article for and list down my questions for the subject to answer at his/her leisure. Based on the answers, I then compose something.

But sometimes the subject balks at an e-mail interview. That’s when I seek him/her out for an “eyeball,” as they say, and hope he/she is not too reticent as I am in person.

These days I would rather write on subjects (people, places, events) I truly care about. The people are usually musicians, to the point that a few outsiders in my life have this mistaken notion that I have turned into an impresario for young music artists.

Project proposals

Here’s the answer: I simply believe in these kids, in making the public aware of what they’re doing, in being instrumental in finding ways and means for them to have performance outlets. To this end, I’ve learned to draft project proposals.


I am a great believer, too, in the feedback component of the communication process. When an editor sends as SMS after an article of mine comes out, “Write on!” I am transported to seventh heaven. Not only is the published work validated, but the effort that went into the writing, I also feel, is appreciated.

This is one reason I’m a believer in workshops or finding a writing partner. Or writing with music in the background so the loneliness of this most solitary of activities is lessened.

My daughter often scolds me for keeping the Spotify audios or YouTube videos playing while I’m writing. She explains that they slow down the WiFi signal in the house.

This becomes my cue to ask my husband to turn on the CD player and make sure Mozart’s “Divertimento in D Major, K. 136” is playing at a volume that’s loud enough for me to hear. That piece, especially when played by the Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra, has a way of speeding up my pace in drafting.

Am I indulging in too much navel gazing when I write of these things? Do excuse me, gentle reader.

I’ve learned many ways to fend off impending signs of writer’s block, chief of which is to begin an essay or a poem with an epigram. It oils the mental machine. Before I know it, a certain flow begins to happen. The challenge is to sustain the flow. That may mean being blind to the messy house, not heeding calls to join the family for meals or telling them to wait until I’ve finished my nth sentence.

Does this make me hard to live with, as I’ve heard some family members complain? You betcha!

But the psychic rewards of writing are unbeatable. One of the best feedback I’ve gotten is when a guy compared the rhythm of my prose to “a little piece of Mozart.” And that has made all the difference. —CONTRIBUTED

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