While earning a degree in Creative Writing guarantees me the liberty from academic humiliation and dignified bashing of faulty literary pieces written under pressure, it is still a wonder how often I find myself caught in life’s steady circumstances translatable to the workshop I used to undergo inside CAL’s sweltering classrooms. Living through quite a number of incidents after graduating, I realized how Creative Writing workshops resemble the ways how man handles experiences. It’s as if it were a microcosm of something real, something bigger.

I see it in the way we give feedback to workmates and colleagues, as if pointing out missing commas and misplaced pronouns. Or in the way we gather our friends and talk about problems and conflicts over cups of warm coffee. These conversations may inevitably cause the sensitive to cry, just like in any other bloody workshops.

I recall my sci-fi story in CW 111 being read and criticized the first time. At the beginning of the workshop, people extended amiable comments–how they liked the concept, the pace, the novum. They mentioned which my characters were round, who among them were profound. The positive comments would always boost the writer’s spirit that would surely make the writer want to do more of it. The good thing about this part is people are somewhat forced to find something beautiful about your work. But these sharing of the positive side is only transient, for what really matters in each workshop is the onslaught. Upon the mentioning of the characters in my sci-fi story, negative comments poured heavily like June rain. Classmates pointed out why my story couldn’t work, which part of the short story seemed inserted, and brazenly mentioned elements in the piece that they couldn’t “swallow” just yet. It was nerve-wrecking, that made me wish I could melt at that instant.

Problem is, if the writer forgets that these comments are an avenue for his improvement, the purpose of the workshop would be put in the periphery, or worse, in oblivion.

Just this week, I went back to the province to give lectures for high school students. And since the venue was relatively close to my home, I paid my family quick visits in between breaks. There I saw my siblings and my father whom I would usually see only once a year. Nothing extraordinary happened when I was home, just the usualkulitan moments with my siblings (I am the eldest child). But what made this visit different from the others was the conversation we shared over lunch yesterday.

There were five of us dining on the round table: Pa, Daniel, Niko, Dessa, and I (Ma is working abroad) when I began throwing random questions to my brothers and sisters about teenage life. They were uneasy to answer at first because Pa was around, but they eventually answered albeit reluctance. To my surprise, they too asked inquiries about my whereabouts in life. Having lived away from them for almost eight years now, they somewhat consider me an outsider already, somehow. We also threw questions to our father who was then enjoying to hear us talk. In the midst of these questions, we then began making comments about each other. Who among us needs supervision with drinking booze, who doesn’t help with household chores, who among them doesn’t study his lessons well, why I don’t pay visits that often, where does Pa go when he drives outside at night. Things like that. I won’t just go in detail now.

The younger ones admitted faults, most of us denied “accusations,” Pa and I just answered with trembling laughs. Daniel was even annoyed that we were having such conversation. I understood, he’s a teenager. In the end, in spite of the awkward atmosphere that hovered the round table, we understood singularity.

It made me discover things about myself and about my family. I admit that I am not really family-oriented; that my relationship with my immediate family works well when I am at my hideaway in the bustling city. Sometimes at night, I would think of them and wonder why we’re a family of contradicting personalities. That life would be easy if we all have the same range of faculites. Why weren’t we alike when we came from the same seeds? Sometimes at night, I would pray for enough understanding.

Yesterday, I was mortified again the way I felt in college, this time it was in front of my family who served as my critics. And it only took me a hearty lunch of adobo for me to grasp this whole spectrum of baffling motions.

That was a good lunch.

I took some photos before I went back to Manila.




From Left to Right: Daniel, Niko, Dessa, and Pa.

Someday when I get enough courage, enough convictions, I will write about you, guys. About us.

2 thoughts on “Workshops

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