In a previous piece, we discussed how one can publish his or her work in the Philippines, as well as whether it was easy to be a writer in the Philippine context or not.
Now, in this second piece in a series that would (hopefully help fellow Filipino writers answer some of their everyday questions about writing, let’s go to the second question: Is being a writer in the Philippines hard?
Well, let’s be real here: It is hard to be a writer in the Philippines due to several reasons.
First of all, for many of us, English or Filipino isn’t our first language. As a matter of fact, it’s a second, third, or even fourth language; personally, Filipino is my third (or depending on the time of day, even fourth) language.
And the fact that this piece is written in English should reveal all that you need to know…
Regardless of whether we use English, Filipino, or Taglish (or any other local and/or foreign language), all have to step up our grammar, storytelling, narrative, vocabulary, and the like – we also have to understand the context and the age in which we write. These are skills that are only developed over time – and there’s no going around it, for these are the things that refine your writing and turn them into manuscripts.
Next is the material. We actually have a lot of ideas – but we need to refine and mold them so we can synthesize something that is novel and enjoyable to read.
As such, we have to read and experience a lot. This means investment in books and travel (or having a lot of life experiences). No, I’m not kidding – that’s how writers get their fuel for writing, as many bestselling authors would attest.
Unfortunately, physical books can cost quite a lot. That 100-200 you need to buy a used book could be used to augment the family’s food and/or utility budget these days – and let’s not even talk about getting a new one, especially those books that you need to improve your specialization or craft in general.
Travel? Even with the proverbial piso fare, you still have to save money for a passport and visa, as well for transport, accommodation, etc. This is true even for educational trips – unless you get one that is fully subsidized (do take note that it’s still possible to find though).
We also have to pay our bills. Unfortunately, for the majority of us Filipinos, being a full-time writer isn’t currently an option yet (the whole atmosphere is actually improving as the days go by), unless your book(s) happen(s) to be distributed widely (locally and/or internationally) and has thousands of sales per month (or something happens to your work that it breaks out. Alternatively, you could be a lecturer/speaker/full-time cultural worker – but then, the income does not really come from writing (though it’s still in the periphery).
Still, most of us would be lucky to have jobs that are close to home, including teaching, journalism, freelance writing (yes, this exists), content creation, publishing, and the like. This does not mean that good writers don’t come from other professions: Some of the best Filipino books out there come from doctors, engineers, anthropologists – you name it.
And if you’re a student? Good luck – you’ll have to learn things such as time management, discipline, and project management – while at the same time juggling your academics, extracurriculars, and whatever things you need to deal with at home. Oh, you’re a working student? That’s twice the effort and focus that you need to dedicate to your writing craft.
There are many other reasons, but this would turn into a very, very long piece when it’s just intended to be an overview…
However, the silver lining is that if you manage to survive all of this, you’ll be all set for the long road ahead.
Hoping that this piece helps you a little bit on your way!
Good luck, have fun, stay sane, safe, and healthy, keep writing, and keep slaying!