13 November 2016

Notes on journal-writing

Sundays — mine — are meant for reading under the late afternoon sun, coffee in hand and all the other beautiful clichés I work hard to afford. Today I deviate from routine. Not that I planned it. You don’t schedule an itch.

At the café, rather than taking a novel out of the bag, I took out a notebook and a pen. Dear A, fuck you. Nah, I’m better than that. (Nah, you don’t have the guts.) I said I would just draft the letter then move on with my reading.

Three hours later, I was still writing. With that time you’d think I’d fill out an entire notebook, but no, the finished product was a concise letter telling A that she hurt me, that her actions disgusted me — everything I wanted to say, how I wanted it said.

It was perfect. I was so satisfied that as soon as I reread it down to the last sentence and the final full stop, just to make sure the right words were chosen and arranged in the right order, I didn’t feel the need to send it anymore.


Porcelain is too expensive to break, not to mention too much of a mess to clean up. Shouting is cathartic, but the neighbors may not be sympathetic. Kicking puppies will land you in hell.

The paper can take a beating. But besides emotional release, writing cures the heart’s hangovers. In trying to articulate problems and feelings, you dissect them in the process.

When you’re (over-)thinking, words and images float around your head. Somehow the paper, its physical limits and intrinsic rules — go from left to right, from top to bottom, from one end of a train of thought to the beginning of another — force you to chill out and get out of your head to see things from a sobering distance.


Twenty things I should do/have before I turn 20: A handsome, loving boyfriend, preferably Edward Furlong(ish); 20,000 pesos in the bank; make a wish on a falling star; travel to the US; do something important; decorate my dream bedroom; a 23-inch waist…
Things to do before I turn 25: Publish a book, get a notebook computer, drive my own car, have my dream bedroom, earn my first million, have a wardrobe filled with fashionable clothes and shoes, travel to Europe…
Bucket list of sorts:


The Peter Justesen catalogue was one of my favorite reading materials when I was barely a teenager. I remember cutting out a photo of a cute laptop computer and then pasting it in a scrap book. While staring at it, I’d imagine an older me typing the day away at work and then coming home to a nice little apartment at night.

Little did I know that I was creating a version of a vision board. You lay out your desired narrative in images, like what scriptwriters and novelists do, and like what said artists do, you build a story that’s so good it deserves to happen.

It’s not that simple, of course. Otherwise I’d be married to Edward Furlong now (or divorced). The point is, maybe this bucket list, vision board, dream journal — whatever you want to call it — is a contract between our present and future selves. It’s a reminder to find ourselves and stay true to who we are.

Or maybe, these pages of desires are gifts from our past selves, who knew that we’d someday need the comic relief.

Collage by Sean Eidder


The pilot episode of the BBC drama, Sherlock, starts with retired soldier Dr. John Watson talking to his therapist about his blank personal blog. “John, you’re a soldier, it’s going to take you a while to adjust to civilian life; and writing a blog about everything that happens to you will honestly help you,” says the latter.

“Nothing happens to me,” replies John.

Then the opening credits play, and there, ladies and gentlemen, we have a quintessential example of dramatic irony. What will follow, as the viewers expect, is a life filled with textbook adventures — meeting interesting people like Sherlock Holmes, solving mysteries, getting into and out of dangerous situations, cheating death.

In real life, however, “My life is boring” is considered real talk.


English has no match for the romance in this string of Tagalog words: “May pagtingin ako sa iyo.” Saying “You’re special” doesn’t even come close. We say, “pagtingin” — I have a way of seeing you. The power, indeed, is in the beholder.

And while certain human beings inspire intrigue more than others, I believe we can train ourselves to see anyone and any thing, including our own existence — however mundane, however familiar — differently and with that readiness to fall in love. And that’s by writing.

Recording the day’s events, recalling the features of an acquaintance, we perceive the tiniest of details, we see more than meets the eye. The picture won’t always be pretty (side-effect of having a sharp vision), but at least it’s never boring.

—Originally published on GIST. Here are fragments from the early drafts.

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