What if nobody reads me? But every young, hungry Pinay who crosses your path. Their eyes are so wide; they have never seen a Pinay like you before. You are a brown woman of letters. You speak like you have forgotten the fear of speaking, the harm speaking brings to brown women like you.
— “Winter Solstice: Pinay Writing Hard Truth”
I follow over 950 sites in the WordPress.com Reader — something that has happened over the years working at my job. But I’m only email-subscribed to several internal team blogs, and don’t email-subscribe to anything else. I’ve tried my best to keep my personal GMail inbox tidy.
But a month or so ago, while I was compiling stories for a possible Longreads reading list on being Filipino American, I subscribed to the site of Barbara Jane Reyes, a Filipino author and professor raised in the Bay Area, quoted above. So I receive her new posts in my inbox, and while I haven’t read every single post, I’ve felt lately that I’m not breathing all the air that is available to me, that my eyes are shut, that part of me has been asleep. I feel I need to follow a writer like her right now, for reasons I can’t quite articulate. Yet.
Haven’t dealt with a submission slush pile in many, many years. Nothing new here. Common sense.
- If you nominate your own blog, publish some posts first. Just a thought.
- Be specific. Telling an editor to “browse your site” is not the way to keep their attention.
- Share a link. No one will visit your site and then search for the title of a post.
- Don’t regurgitate your bio. Don’t summarize what you write about. Point to one piece you want me to read, and tell me in a sentence why I should read it right now.
- Don’t insult the person you’re trying to get to read your work.
- Don’t complain about how other writers aren’t as good as you.
- Don’t tell me you deserve something.
- Read what you write. Typos aren’t attractive.
- Be succinct. I don’t need to hear your life story.
- Be timely. Don’t suggest a post about something that happened last week.
- Be relevant. But know that your work can be relevant but still passable.
- Do your homework. Read the publication to which you’re submitting.
- Don’t call me sir.
- Or madam.
Facebook: a graveyard, for a long time now
Twitter: a dormant volcano
Instagram: a playground, visited daily
WordPress: a sanctuary, a treasure chest
My Instagram account comes alive when I travel, and I must admit I enjoy it so much. It’s so easy to share photographs, and the stream helps to shape the long and involved WordPress post that will eventually come. And I love this process: using the app for the quick and ephemeral, and then later creating and curating something more thoughtful and fit for my archive and online home. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my “blogging” habits have evolved and posting has slowed considerably, especially given that I work for WordPress.com, but it also makes sense to me to treat my website in this careful way — to create something that’s meaningful, that lasts.
From an essay by Teju Cole on his time exploring and photographing the landscape of Switzerland:
Light from the world could be fixed on a surface: It was possible to take the shadow away from the body and show it elsewhere.
I always enjoy Cole’s musings on photography and the wandering quality of his prose. And I like reading a piece that feels effortless: the type of writing that, for a moment, empowers me and makes me feel like I can sit down right here and now and type words, one after the other, like this person.
Sometimes, when I read Teju Cole, I feel like we’re wandering streets together, without a destination. Or maybe I retreat inward, and when I reach the end of the piece, I’ve returned to the surface. I feel my skin, this skin I’m in.
Miranda’s writing affects me in a similar way. Her musings are like water, and I sense she might think that as a positive thing, as much of her recent writing is about water, inspired by water. When I read her prose, like her road trip notes, I’m taken elsewhere, too. I’m not sure where, but it’s not a place I can reach on my own. Her first sentence sits at the surface, and as I read, I submerge. When I reach the end, I’ve come up for air, and it’s almost as if I’ve gone somewhere, but also nowhere at all.
It’s cool today. Looking out of my tiny house’s window, I see fog in the valley.
It meanders. It lingers. I behave the same when I think, when I write.
As I stare at it, the fog takes me places: places unknown, places I’m trying to reach.
The fog is freeing, but overpowering.
We have an interesting relationship, the fog and I. I grew up with it — it’s like a comfort blanket — yet we have grown apart over the years.
I don’t see it as much lately. Perhaps it knows that I’m not writing as much, that I don’t need it right now, that for the time being I’m here and am not drifting.
Sometimes you don’t want to drift.
Other times, you get frustrated because you can’t let go.
I’m sitting here, drafting a post for my tiny house blog in another dashboard. Two weeks ago, our little house was delivered to our new location, in the town of Sebastopol. We’re not living in it full-time yet, though have moved and unpacked nearly all of our belongings and have spent the night in it once, last weekend. We’ve connected the water and propane but don’t have power yet, so we have three lanterns for lights and a small Goal Zero solar panel to charge our phones.
It sounds like it’s coming along. But the past few weeks have been very stressful, and while I love how our house looks, the thing has been a nightmare. I’ve told myself a few times, tears falling, that this was a mistake.
Continue reading “The pressure to document”
A reader who has followed my blog for a few years sent a kind email and asked me a few questions about writing. I’m always surprised when people say they are inspired by what I write. It helps me and nudges me to keep going.
A snippet of her email:
But I also want to begin working on my fiction — short stories first. I have not completed a formal literary training. I would really love to know more about your creative writing side, and I hope you can offer me sage words on how to start. Do I have to spend n hours daily, writing xxx words? Do I need a strategy of sorts? Or do I just let the flow take me to wherever?
This is what I responded:
Continue reading “Letter to a reader”