Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Have You Got Style?

(In which the anatomy of my “writing style” lacks an organ.)


***

Brand this post insignificant or desperate. But be aware, however, that it is of great importance to writer wannabes like me.

A friend gave me Paulo Coelho’s latest novel, “The Winner Stands Alone” as a birthday present in the hopes that I will enjoy it as much as I did with “Veronika Decides To Die” and “Eleven Minutes”. Oh actually, I have only read an approximate of forty pages in the latter. (It still counts, right?) But when I read the first leaves of the world-famous writer’s latest work, I felt that it has lost the ”Coelho factor” that I’ve known and I’ve loved.

I told a new friend about it – as well as my sudden desire to collect books.

“What?”

“I said ‘The Winner Stands Alone’ sounds different from his other novels. And after running an internet search, I found out that I am not the only one who thinks like that. Maybe part of it is because he got a different translator.”

“Is that a factor?”

“Of course it is.”

“You know what? You just don’t understand the writer. Why don’t you just read it again?”

“I understand it.”

“You don’t!”

I was taken aback. As most of you might have guessed, it is freaking hard to keep one’s cool in times like this.

“Look. I am not trying to insult Coelho or anything. I am just saying that there is something strange with this novel because I used the other works that I’ve read as benchmarks.”

“Ah. Okay.”

He called again just when I finished posting my comment on a former co-teacher’s blog.

“I found her.”

“Who?”

“A former co-teacher... and her blog.”

“So?”

“I think she’s such an amazing wordsmith.”

“Why don’t you read her blogs? You might get something useful to help you.”

“I am actually doing it. Hmmm… I know. But of course I want to develop my own style.”

“Style? You know what you lack?” he asked in a manner that made the inquiry sound like “You know what your problem is?”

Again, I was taken aback.

“What?”

“I don’t feel the heart of the writer.”

“What do you mean?”

“Your writings are very simple. They’re just like you’re delivering news.”

Was that supposed to be taken as a compliment since I didn’t study to be a news writer yet I write like one? Perhaps. But when you’re trying to write personal essays on mostly personal matters and sound like a news anchor, that’s more than an insult. For a self-proclaimed writer bereft of a heart is equivalent to a struggling artist without any artistic endowment.

“But that’s my style.”

“Really? Well, I read all of your blog posts and they’re all the same. Go ahead. Ask me any question to see if I really did. I don’t feel any heart. Like the one about your anger toward your sister? It’s just mere ranting.”

Thank goodness we have to leave the office by then. Because if Chance is mischievous enough to give me a little bit more time, I don’t know what damage I and my big mouth have caused.

This is not the first time I received that kind of comment – it’s actually the second. The first was from my high school best friend. So far, those were the only “spoken” comments that I have received regarding the mediocrity of my works.

Before I become a writer in my own, personal and highly unprofessional criteria which are only made on the sole basis that my ability to write is beyond the sheer definition of penmanship, I was a reader. And like any other readers, I have my preferences. In the same manner that my college classmates disliked Leon Ma. Guillermo’s “sadistic” style of writing “The First Filipino” as he chose to use highfalutin words like “incarceration” for “jail”, I have a really low tolerance for unabridged Shakespeare and Chaucer.

My unuttered question however, was regarding the definition of the “writer’s heart” since it is somewhat manifested as something relative. If it cannot be felt by a certain reader or readers, then it defines the writer as incompetent. Or it is just another issue of the complexity of the difference in human preferences. Take your pick.

When I was in high school, one of my co-artists told me:

“Look at our paintings. They are very distinct from each other. Flor has her floral, neon and wavy effect on her subject and color combination. Most of the males use Angono-inspired imaginative figurism with a modern twist. Jaypee uses extreme color contrast. Bernz has adopted our teacher’s style while Charles is more of an abstract artist. And you use relatively light colors with a wide array of gradual color developments. I can’t believe we have made our own artistic signatures this way. We can readily point out who did which even if our works are unsigned.”

I chose not to reason out that this is a personal blog containing personal essays and that I don’t always need to write as if I am sending Ate Charo a letter. Besides, we all have our own ways of doing things. Some people appreciate you and feel your heart even at the simplest manifestation of your thoughts. Some know you well enough to identify you in a matter of a palette of colors and a prose or a verse.

As for him, perhaps he just didn’t understand the writer. I suggest he reads again.