The Guilt of Writing What I Want to Write

I have a confession to make: sometimes, I feel guilty about wanting to write the stuff that I want to write. Actually writing it makes me feel even guiltier. I’m not sure if it’s the Catholic upbringing, or the fact that part of me thrives on the good vibes of other people. All I know is that I occasionally feel like I shouldn’t be doing what I’m actually doing, because a lot of people will think that it is, on principle, wrong. I understand that some of those said principles are THEIRS, and not MINE; but I do admit that I agree with part of what they say – which often makes me wonder if I really am a hypocrite after all.

 

It probably doesn’t help that bits of my “social identity” fall under the umbrella of “minority” or “marginalized”, and that I had to study a lot of that in school. So now I’m having trouble getting the stories I want to tell onto a page.

 

Sad Cat
I always feel like I’m betraying someone or something. (Photo credit: nickellis74)

Marginalized identities and some implied duties

When I was in college, my classmates and I were preparing to pitch our thesis topics to our professors. I, for one, was VERY excited by the entire prospect. I had a list of topics that I really wanted to tackle – and that I felt were not tackled before. One of them, my very top choice, is an analysis of the Tarot deck as a potentially universal “language” through which we could tell stories. After all, they’ve been used as narrative devices by many people before (mostly in the context of foreshadowing, if not telling the story of a character’s past) – I want to see how far people have taken it, and how much further it could be taken.

Then I was told that our topics needed to incorporate a “Filipino” angle into it. That bit gave me pause. It’s not that I’m not proud of my country and heritage; it’s just that I found it so very LIMITING, especially since the three years I’ve spent so far on that Literature degree has not given me a very solid foundation in critiquing with the use of a local context. It’s not that we didn’t have Philippine Lit classes; we just didn’t have enough classes that could make me confident in my own ability to engage in Philippine Literature/Cultural crit. Most of the classes I had and excelled at focused on the works and the criticism of the works that come from other countries. And I had a sneaking suspicion that (at least, at the time), our country didn’t have a very stable critical tradition. As such, “objectively” approaching my subject through a Filipino lens is difficult despite the fact that I was born and raised with Filipino eyes.

While I still got to do a thesis on Tarot, my verve for it was gone – and I ended up turning in a piece of work that I know I could have done better.

My point is that I am constantly expected to REPRESENT something.

  • As a Filipino, I am expected to write with Filipino contexts – if not in the Filipino language.
  • As a woman, I am expected to write stories about women and their struggles – or at least make sure that my main protagonist is a strong female.
  • As a geek, I am expected to write something that will melt people’s faces off from the sheer “holyshit that is so cool why didn’t I think of that?” factor.
  • As a Lit major, I am expected to write “serious” stuff, not trashy stuff like fantasy and romance.
  • As a “free faith” sort of person, I am expected to ALWAYS criticize religion in my writing.

It’s just that I can’t represent those things, because that’s not necessarily what I FEEL I should be writing.

What I really want to write can’t represent anything other than myself

Most of the characters I want to write aren’t necessarily Filipino because they don’t HAVE the Philippines in some of the worlds that I create. They’re fantasy settings, for cripes’ sake. Which, by the way, ALSO means that I can’t be as literary as some people (probably my teachers) had hoped. Some of my protagonists, I have to add, aren’t female – that superhero character I was talking about a couple of posts back is a very good example of this – and that means that I’m disappointing some feminists out there. Some of my characters are, by necessity, quite religious – and they’re not villains – because frankly, I don’t see what good bashing religion in general does when it’s really the people who fuck it up (more on that in some other post, probably). And because I can’t write certain things very well (like action scenes and ZOMG plot twists), I’m sure I’ll be disappointing the geeks too.

It’s part of my paralysis as a writer: the sheer disappointment my work is going to generate. The way I see it is that I need to PLEASE someone because I want to sell my books. Someday. Maybe when I’m 70 years old or something. It’s all well and good to write for yourself; but if you want to make money off of stuff, you have to write for other people. It’s just that sometimes, other people want things that just don’t feel right to you.

On my part, I’m just hoping against hope that there are enough people like me – who appreciate the stories I like to write – out there to make a modest success of the stories I write.

I really should stop being so chicken and see if I can find an audience in Wattpad. oTL

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