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Let The Sunshine In

In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

And so in high school I was declared ‘a good writer’. Apparently in our small town where English is but a third language, the only requirement for such distinction was the ability to string together a coherent, grammatically-correct sentence in the King’s language. :)

They gave me a spot in the school paper, sent me to student writing competitions and basically made me write. I was assigned the kind of topics deemed suitable for publication in a quality school paper like ours.

I went along with it but my enthusiasm was close to zero. So I wrote ‘serious’ stuff in a manner that was seriously horrendous, in a style that poorly-imitated those of the newspaper op-ed pieces that I forced myself to read. Writing was merely an obligation, an alternative extra-curricular activity for someone who could not pitch a tent, debone a fish, or march with a fake rifle under the heat of the mid-afternoon sun.

What I did love reading were funny stories, particularly the anecdotes that followed each article in my Dad’s Reader’s Digest. (I was shallow even then.) But it never occurred to me to try to write them myself.

When I went on to university, I wrote for the college publication. The Journal was full of student-written scholarly articles that were as interesting to me as a catalogue of high-speed industrial sewing machines. So it is kind of ironic that this was when I started to enjoy writing.

Without consciously going for it, I kept submitting articles about the lighter side of college life and, surprisingly, they were accepted for publication. More surprising to me were the reactions of my fellow students: I once passed a roomful of them enjoying one such article I had written, boisterously trying to answer the added ‘pop quiz’. I must have walked on air for a week after that.

Most of the time, though, I was slightly embarrassed at my output. I was never dissuaded from writing ‘fluff pieces’. But published alongside everyone else’s essays on politics, economics or theology, mine appeared lighter than helium. I actually started wishing I could write seriously, in a more ‘literary’ way, which I thought meant not allowing humor to creep into anything I wrote.

Just in time, Bill Cosby came into my life and said ‘bah!’ to all that.

My favorite thing on TV was The Cosby Show so when I saw that The Cos had a book out, I stopped eating for a week so I could afford to buy it. I got my investment back; Time Flies was the funniest book I ever read. Yet everything in it was authentic and real – Cosby’s battles with old age were not yet mine but I understood and loved his take on them.

Soon I was reading Erma Bombeck and Judith Martin. They, too, had their distinct humorous styles and I savored everything they wrote.

It dawned on me that what these three were producing was ‘literary’ writing, too. It was in a genre far removed from that of Tolstoy, Kundera and Asimov, but it was literature nevertheless. And it was through them that I finally gave myself permission to write about what I wanted to write about.

Near the end of the school year, I was asked to deliver a valedictory address. By university tradition such a speech must be dignified, i.e., meant to inspire and likely to induce coma. I sweated over it but got nowhere – exhorting others to go out into the world and irritate it like an oyster was just not me. On a lark, I composed the kind of speech I wanted to hear – light, peppered with references to pop culture but on point. I decided to show it to the college secretary, who handed it back with a wide grin and an enthusiastic ”Go! It’s perfect!”.

I made them laugh on graduation day and got a couple of standing ovations in return.

Lessons learned: first, everyone, including stodgy parents and strict university chancellors, appreciates little shots of silliness in their life; and second, writing is at its best and most enjoyable when it reflects how one really feels, thinks and is.

Blogging Silly

Many, many years later, while on a weekend trip, my friends, doubled over in laughter at another silly story I was telling, suggested I start blogging about my stuff. They said they’d surely read something like that.

Liars. They rarely read it, but yes, I started a blog. I posted anecdotes, put up pictures of my dogs, confessed about my fashion mishaps, and swooned over Channing Tatum. It had less than 10 readers but they were loyal and liked what I wrote. I was back in my element.

Eventually (and because I got older), I started another blog, initially set to private, where I tried writing about more serious matters. But my posts kept tending towards the cute, the fun and the positive. After a year, I made the blog public. Within a few weeks it got an unexpected surge in readership and my shiny-happy-people type of writing found a new appreciative audience.

For them I try to write better. I read books on writing and practice the craft that I now wholeheartedly enjoy, inspired by other bloggers (like my sister and Stef) who put such quality and thought into every post that I love reading them despite the sometimes abysmal lack of pictures. :D

Above all, I make sure what I write always reflects what I am.

At rare times, the old doubts about being just a ‘lightweight writer’ creep in. When they do, I just glance at the row of humor books on my shelves and remember the lessons I learned many years ago.

As in life, there is room for sunshine (and smileys) on the web, if not in literature, and I’m just happy that I took the opportunity to supply some of it.

~ tita buds ~

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33 comments on “Let The Sunshine In

  1. You never fail to make me laugh. I don’t know if it’s just me but most blogs I just tend to browse and stay if I like the picture or the title catches my attention. Some other blogs with bad (lighting) pictures, one minute into their posts make me feel heavy and makes me want to leave right away! Your blog isn’t in that category. Yours radiates enthusiasm, humor and positive energy that puts your reader at ease. It’s the kind I truly enjoy reading even without the pictures or funny caricatures. It’s the kind that makes people want to keep coming back for more. Come to think of it, it’s like reading a good book, you never want to put it down.

    I’m busy trying to be a good mom, wife and trying out everything at 35 (cooking, blogging, crafts, haha!) and I don’t have the luxury of time checking out all the blogs but your posts are something I look forward to. You have a very unique writing style and your silliness radiates in a very good, sincere way.

    Truly, the best things in life are free. Every morning, I just go to wordpress and I have different story-tellers for the day! Some blogs give me recipes while others inspire me to make something lovely with my felt fabrics. You – bring the sunshine in :)

    • Thank you very much, Marryl!
      One thing I do is write only when I feel like it, which is frequent enough (I talk all the time, too, so no surprise there). Plus I’m really shallow, haha, so it all comes together, I guess.
      I’m a fan of your blog, too, but you know that already. :)

  2. The authentic style of writing is one of the things I appreciate about your blog, Tita Buds. Even though Tolstoy is my favorite, literature would be so boring if everyone wrote like him. Light-hearted, humorous, natural pieces are just as essential and have the potential to be even more engaging.

  3. Good Morning Tita! It was your sweet sense of funny that led me to your blog. I love your writing style! I look forward to clicking over to your blog every time I see a new post. There is absolutely room for sunshine and smilies in literature and there are lots of people drawn to it. I love your words influenced by your sense of humor and I have loved using them. I so enjoyed this blog post! Keep writing the way that makes you happy and let Tita have fun. I am going to be reading for sure!

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  5. Oh, Tita Buds, I love this post! So this is how it all started for you. I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts and as I once said, “it’s always so you!” and that’s why I like reading ‘em because I can almost imagine you right in front of me with the twinkle in your eyes and your sassy and captivating personality. Thanks for sharing this journey and tip on writing and just being you. :)

  6. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that what other people do is Writing or Art, but what I do couldn’t possibly be considered anything but lowercase. It’s good to have a reminder that everyone has their own style and strengths that are just as valid. I’m so glad you read that Cosby book! It’s always a pleasure reading your posts, Tita. Keep up the wonderful work!

  7. What can I say, dear Tita… I for one, thank God that you did not volunteer to pitch up tents or took up cookery lessons back in school. I’ve lost count of all the times you’ve made me smile, giggle and laugh n the past couple of years that I’ve been reading your blog; besides, they say it is much more difficult to make people laugh than to make them cry, don’t they?
    Who said writing from and with humour is not serious writing?
    One of your appreciative readers, Aledys :)

    • Thanks very much, Aledys! (Hmm, has it been just a couple of years?)

      I do regret not having been more attentive in home economics class or I would be better at blogging about the intricacies of cooking, hah. As it is, that’s better left to you and the food bloggers out there. :)

  8. I just don’t get how you thought being funny was not good! I wish that came easy to me! Beautiful post Tita. Need to go see if your sister (Is she Madhu?) can make me laugh as well :-)

    • Thanks, Madhu!
      No, it’s not Madu. This sister is older and one of those born-with-it writers that I mentioned who seem to effortlessly weave together such beautiful, lyrical prose. The humor in her writing is much more subtle than mine and if you don’t read between the lines, you almost can’t tell that among us siblings, she’s actually the one who makes the most ‘gross out’ jokes, hehe. :)

  9. Hi, Stef. Thanks so much for offering me this space in your blog today. :) It was good to mull over the theme and write this post. This series is really a wonderful idea. Thanks again!

    • My absolute pleasure! I’ve loved all the posts and the comments they’ve generated – it’s so wonderful to be inspired to write :-D Thank YOU for posting such a gorgeous, honest post – complete with smiley faces :-)

    • Thanks, sistah! :) I remember riding in a jeepney once and remembering a line I’d read from Time Flies and I started snorting with laughter. People were looking at me funny but I could not stop, haha.

  10. Colour me envious, you see I’ve always felt the opposite: that I write too seriously and would love to be more naturally humorous and charming! :)
    Ah well, to each their own right?

    Very nice post and some familiar thoughts and feelings in there and I can see why people enjoy your writing style.
    Keep on writing.

    Cheers!

    • Thank you, sir. You’re right, we all have our different styles and abilities. I for one don’t think I can write creative fiction and short stories as you do. My head would explode from too much effort at a creative thought process. :D So I prefer to enjoy such writings than create them myself.

      • Well feel free to read and discuss mine anytime!

        Though I’m sure that sooner or later you’ll find your own version of the same – if not, guys like Cosby and Dave Barry and others weren’t really “fiction” writers but had great ideas and philosophies and such in the deceptively simple and humor-laced words. :)

  11. Tita, its the journey that counts and I see your reflection in every piece of yours so keep doing great work… :) I love those funny one liners sprinkled in between…

  12. Hi TIta,

    It is so cool to get that insight into your past and how it affected your writing. One of th things I appreciate about your style is the humor and your natural voice. I really enjoyed the post. Now I think I need to go get Bill Cosby’s book.

    • Thank you very much, Naomi! Oh, you’ll love that book, as well as ‘Childhood’ and ‘Love and Marriage’. Reading those is almost like hearing Bill Cosby speak. Really funny. (Although I do feel some sadness when he mentions his late son Ennis who was a teenager at the time.)

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