On Momentum

If there is one thing I’d like to learn from a Ph.D. degree, it would probably be efficient and impactful academic writing. I have always loved writing since I was a kid, which is why I have this blog until now. But blogging, or any other type of “leisurely” writing, is different from academic writing. The latter is still very challenging for me, especially building and sustaining the momentum for it. I think one thing that makes it really challenging is the fact that I always want to be handling multiple projects at any given time. If I’m only doing one, it is very likely that I would involve myself in two or more projects. Thus, my attention will be divided instead of focusing on writing just one paper at a time.

Take now, for example. I have a paper that I could’ve finished weeks before had my attention not been divided on other things. Project proposals, events organizing, class preparations, checking of papers, building collaborations, student mentoring, etc. I tell myself that I could’ve stayed up late just to finish this paper earlier. But starting last March, I promised myself that I would prioritize my health. Ever since I got back from the US, I found myself always sick. I was always coughing and even down with fever at the start of every month from Jan-March. So I said my staying up late, skipping breakfast to get to class on time, and other unhealthy practices just to get more work done, all of it has to stop. I eventually managed to start exercising regularly, to stop waking up at wee hours of the morning to prepare a lecture, to eat a decent breakfast and regularly take multivitamins. Fortunately, it all paid off! I felt good about my body again, I was no longer getting sick, and I had a more positive outlook towards work. Stress became more manageable.

Of course, these positive effects came with sacrifices, especially in work output. I have a tendency to demand too much from myself and my doing other things for health and wellness lowered that demand a bit, which makes me feel really uneasy. There’s always that voice in my head asking, “Hey, shouldn’t you be working harder?” But let’s see. I’m still figuring out if I will really end up being more productive with this new work practice of mine compared with the old one. I want to learn to work smarter, not harder.

I’ll end here for now. I really should be writing my paper instead of blogging. But since I’m building momentum, I reckoned that writing blog posts would get me in the mood to write the paper after. Gaaah. Let’s do this.

On Publishing

I’ve come to know over the years whether or not something motivates me. I have proven time and again that teaching is one. I can wake up at 2 AM to finish a lecture. Of course, there are days when it becomes too stressful. But even then, simple things can easily bring life back to my work — seeing the fascination of students when they learn something new, a thought-provoking conversation with a colleague, or even just the act of preparing an instructional plan or taking note of what happened in class for a certain day.

There is one thing, however, that I still struggle with: writing papers for publication. I have no issue with writing per se. I love it. It’s therapy for me. I would’ve gone insane a long time ago if not for writing. But academic publishing is something else. It was only in the US that I understood the phrase, “publish or perish.” It was true in every sense of that phrase. People race to publish articles in high impact journals. It is considered prestigious to have countless publications. I saw how people give up their health and relationships for the sake of publishing. Honestly, even though my career demands that I publish, I still struggle because I have yet to find the drive to do it. My reason for doing it is not strong enough to motivate me.

I guess one thing that makes it very challenging is that publishing is such a lonely task. You have to spend countless hours by yourself in front of a screen to study and write and study and write. Again and again and again. It’s isolating. Just the thought of it already makes me feel lonely. :( It’s the opposite of teaching. With teaching, you have to connect with people! Something I always look forward to. :)

Writing for publications is necessary in academia. I may not want it, but I need it. At least for now. I’m still hoping that it will grow on me eventually. Let’s see. Anyway, I have to end here because I have a paper to finish. If only I could write that article as quickly as I came up with this random blog post. Oh, how easier my life would be!

Wish me motivation (not only luck!)!

Storytelling

“My best guess is we tell stories to feel alive.” – Phil Kaye

A friend of mine posted about Sarah Kay yesterday. Unlike him, I was neither an instant fan of the said poet nor the art of spoken word poetry. I’ve always thought that poetry was meant to be written and read on paper (or a screen), silently. Of course now I know that I was wrong, but poetry then was like a painting that I could only admire when it was on some substrate. Moreover, I could interpret words written on paper more freely because you already (more or less) explicitly see, hear, and feel the author’s own interpretation of their work during performance.

Ironically, what made me change my mind about spoken word poetry was after seeing Harry Baker’s performance of “The Sunshine Kid” on TED. I say “ironically” because I really didn’t understand some of the words in the poem due to the poet’s accent and style of delivery. But somehow the parts that I did understand struck a cord in me and when I searched for the lyrics of the entire poem, that was it– I became curious and searched more about this form of art.

I now enjoy the poems of Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye (they are not related, as they always remind their audience). Oh, and did I mention that they both have amazing looking websites?

Below is a TEDx talk by Phil Kaye on why we tell stories. Have you ever wondered about it? Why are people fond of sharing stories?

“The act of telling a story is a vulnerable act in and of itself.” – Phil Kaye

Vulnerability changed my life for the better several years ago and since then, I kept encouraging people (not forcing! Okay, maybe a little forceful sometimes :P) to at least try to be vulnerable, usually through writing. But spoken word poetry made me realize something: if it takes courage to write a poem and have people read it, it takes even more courage to actually perform what you have written! I try to imagine myself performing some of my poems and it literally makes me shiver a bit with fear. I’m not even sure yet if those poems are meant to be performed and if not, I’m not sure how to write a poem for spoken word because whenever I listen to them they sound more like a narrative (in general) than the poetry I’m used to writing.

Anyway, one thing’s for sure– I now have high respects for spoken word poets. It’s something I’ll probably try in the, err, not-so-near future. Haha, at least for the performing part. The writing I can try soon. #morecourageplease

Hope you enjoyed the video! And Happy Easter, too!

May I Write to You?

If we write to him,
Can I trust you not to fall?
My dear heart, can I? 

It started that way before. A letter, an email. Opening up, ranting. Asking for advice, giving advice. Listening. Being mutually grateful for the friendship. This is all so familiar, yet beautifully different at the same time.

We walked together so many times now. Often with friends, sometimes just the two of us. That feeling of security, that feeling of joy, that very special feeling I have as we laugh and talk and share whatever stories or thoughts come to mind; laughing so hard until our stomach hurt, stopping to catch our breath, and losing track of time. Thank you.

You know what I’ve been through today and I want very much to write to you. But will it be too much a burden for you to read another letter? The conversations I had with them today drained me emotionally, and I have emails to respond to (and a lecture to prepare!). I need to share what they told me and what their words invoked in my mind. I wish to share what I learned from yesterday’s meditation. I need to share things that I can probably never share through speaking. May I write to you?

Dreaming

The poem below is a product of a funny, but somewhat amazing, encounter last week. A friend of mine shared that he dreamed of both of us getting a flower tattoo! The weird part is that I also dreamed of my friend in the same week and in my dream I was just a spirit (I apparently died in my dream) and he was the only one who could see me! Haha. Anyway, I searched the Internet for some dream dictionaries and among the many interpretations was that dreaming of getting a tattoo with one of your friends may signify “everlasting friendship.” Sounds good. :)

The Flower Tattoo
by jmanapat

Thank you for making me look at the sunrise again;
And the sunset;
And the stars.

Thank you for making me write again;
For keeping the notes;
For making me smile.

Thank you for sharing a part of your story;
For sharing your courage;
For touching my heart.

Fear is creeping again in me;
I know that everything is temporary.
But maybe, just maybe,
Friendship is permanent, too;
Just like the flower tattoo.

 

Something Random to Get Started

I miss writing in this blog. Unfotunately, some events the past few weeks have rendered me incapable of writing something worth reading. And so, to get me started, I’ll just write randomly for now for the sake of writing something.

Distance is indeed an illusion. Someone can be so far from you and yet seem very near. Similarly, someone can be so near yet seem very far, like they’re suddenly in some distant galaxy.

Honesty does set you free. However, that freedom may come with a price. Be ready to pay for it, even if it brings you tears and sadness. I believe that honesty will do us more good than harm in the end.

We really have to let go. Ignatian spirituality tells us that we “should not prefer one over another” in all aspects of our lives. Everything happens for a reason. God knows what He is doing. Keep the faith.

Anger is a waste of time and energy. Is crying the same? I think not. But both are extremely tiring activities and too heavy a burden to carry. Keep smiling instead.

Acknowledge and manage fear. Otherwise, it will destroy you. Keep learning how to use it to your advantage.

Being alone is a choice. God did not create us to be on our own. We are never alone. Embrace that fact and choose to be happy.

 

I’ll stop here for now. Thanks for reading! :)