The Ever-present Signs
I’m re-printing below, a slightly revised version of an article which got featured in WritersWeekly.com as a Success Story four years ago (December 17, 2002 to be exact) when I had just started freelance writing. It’s sort of my personal reply to the question, “How do I know if I’m really meant to be a writer?” It can even be applied to the perennial question, “How do I know my real purpose in life?”
No one escapes the signs. Others may deny it, but the signs are there, ever-present and unavoidable. I came from a Jesuit university, and was taught to watch out for the signs, signs which nudge and lead you to your true path, your true purpose.
It was therefore with a sense of resignation and epiphany that I accepted one of the latest signs: a video editing business which didn't pan out. (I'll spare you the gory details, but let's just say that it's more advisable to go into any business venture alone). The message: Earn by doing what you love. It wasn't exactly an infallible message; to try to subsist by writing wasn't the best of plans, mine or providential. Nevertheless, I moved on. No one argues with the signs. One usually does at one's peril.
I should know. In high school, I wrote sonnets for our school publication. But my father persuaded me to pursue computers in college. Not really happy with what I was doing, I had a solitary and asocial college life, which I spent mostly at the library. Not a bad thing, since I became friends with Arguilla, Santos, Joyce, Hemingway, and Frost. In my fourth year, I took a poetry class as an elective. One day, I read an erotic 15-liner in class. When I was done, my classmates broke into applause. That was one of the first big signs. I finished my computer course and abandoned programming altogether.
But one cannot really write for a living in the Philippines when even a national publication pays less than $20 for an article. Thus, the video editing business. The business would pay for my writing. Well, you know what happened.
In hindsight, I guess I misread the signs. For the signs--by way of the editing business--provided me with a computer and a modem. On the Internet, there were articles that said you could make a living off freelance writing. Well, I thought, only Americans can do that. But I discovered that there were Filipinos who successfully wrote for foreign publications and owned their Internet businesses. These were wonderful signs I thought, as I plodded on in cyberspace.
One of the best writing sites was WritersWeekly.com. Owned by Angela Adair-Hoy, it had free ebooks on freelancing, which contained markets. I came upon a listing of Billiards Digest Magazine. A light came on. A few days before, I saw a news item that said Jeanette Lee was coming to town to face Efren Reyes for an exhibition match. I had a wonderful feeling inside--this was an excellent sign.
After following Ms. Hoy's pointers on querying, I e-mailed a proposal about the match to Billiards Digest. When there was no response, I sent the proposal to Pool & Billiard Magazine. After a few days, the editor replied: Yes, they would love for me to cover the match!
I received $450 for that first international assignment and was able to pay my debts and buy more books on writing. Last week, I sent another article to Pool & Billiard, and they have accepted another proposal. Another U.S. newspaper has accepted a short film review, while I'm writing another article on spec for Filmmaker Magazine.
I'm more confident of sending queries than ever before, subscribing to writing zines, searching the Net for submission guidelines, or rummaging the local newspapers for ideas. My parents are still helping with my finances when I need it, but I know that it's just a matter of time before I can totally stand on my own. I'm sure of what needs to be done: to simply heed the signs. And they are showing up at a very fast rate.
Dino Manrique is the owner/publisher of FilipinoWriter.com. You may reach him at filipinowriter (at) gmail (dot) com.