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The Fact of Fiction

It’s interesting how written fiction can often be more real, more human than written fact.

Over the past few years, I’ve been writing feature stories as part of my work. Lately, I’ve also started a little experiment: was it feasible to support med school, at least partially, with freelance writing jobs? So I’ve been taking in random writing assignments for an hour or two after work, recording how much time and effort they take.

At the same time, I journal and write short poetry on the side. I also participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year, producing¬†a rough novel far longer than everything I’ve ever written before. It was then that I realized that I sorely missed delving into a world that is entirely made up, molding characters and watching them interact in my mind.

Basically, I’ve been writing both fiction and fact. And it strikes me as odd, sometimes, how the fiction can be more sincere. Continue reading

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Sea Boys

M. Graham Watercolors on Arches Rough Watercolor Paper (or at least I think it was Arches Rough. All I know it was on sale at National Bookstore last year.)

It’s been a year since my last serious art piece. And by “serious” I mean any work of art in which I use fancy watercolor paper instead of my sketchbooks.

And, also, I finally got myself a pair of gorgeous Kolinsky sable brushes that I have wanted since forever. They’re available over at Art Whale, an online store based in Manila, which incredibly has prices that match those of international sellers, minus the crazy shipping costs. (I wish they sold my favorite paints, but I think I’ll give the Shin Han ones they do have a try.)

So I guess I was due for another big thing.

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Last year, my boyfriend and I conspired to give one of our good friends a nice painting of a few teacups. This year, I wanted to surprise him with a painting of boys playing on boats in the sea which he took with his cellphone.

I like the overall shapes of the boys, although I know there are anatomy snafus aplenty. I guess I was so excited to use color that I didn’t double check on my sketch!

I wanted to amp up the blues and the textures of the sea. Pretty happy with what I got.

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Again, many thanks to Jonard Albopera for the reference photo and the inspiration. ūüėÄ

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Memorable Books Read in 2015

So my friend and fellow bookworm¬†@bookishremarks¬†asked me what my top 5 books were for the 2015. I knew instantly which 5 books I wanted on the list. But given the fact that I’ve lent out some of them, it was impossible to gather them all for one photoshoot. So considering that it is already 2016 and I needed to get this done with lest it end up on my ever growing list of the perpetually undone, I settled for the most reasonable alternative and drew (sadly inaccurate) portraits of each one.

Aaand so my Top 5 Books for 2015 are:

  1. Quiet by Susan Cain (or My Book of Self Discovery)
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (or The Book That Changed My Life)
  3. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (or The Book That Made Me Cry)
  4. Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (or The Book That Was Unlike Anything I’ve Ever Read Before)
  5. Movement & Form by Samantha Youssef (or The Drawing Advice I Wish I Had A Decade Earlier)

Over the week I will (hopefully) be posting one by one the reasons why these were my top picks for 2015. ūüėÄ

 

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Catching up over lunch

Given that so much has happened over the past few months and I haven’t been blogging a whole lot, I have so much to catch up on! I haven’t had that much time to draw, either. Although I do draw more than the average person (mostly because of low attention span issues, and it’s one of the only ways I can ever focus on anything), but lately it just hasn’t been enough to churn out a lot of stuff I would post online.

However that doesn’t mean I haven’t been drawing a lot of my favorite thing to draw: food. There are so many advantages to drawing food. First: It stays still. Unless someone else touches it before you finish, which is why in this case I do not recommend sharing. Second: It’s always pretty. Or, at least, it’s always possible to make it pretty or fascinating on paper. Third: There’s so much variety in form, textures and colors. Fourth:¬†It’s fun to understand your food. Sometimes you just don’t notice things when you’re so intent on eating them. Fifth: You get to eat it afterwards.¬†The only disadvantage, I guess, is that it gets cold after drawing. But that’s not something I mind entirely.

One of my favorite drawing places is Missy Bonbon. They have some of the best salads and breads. Also love their gelato. Plus, they have such a cheery ambiance and very reliable WiFi.

Salad and Tea at Missy BonbonSalad and Tea at Missy Bonbon

If you’ve been following for a while, you know I’ve posted sketches of their food a couple of times before:

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Another of my favorite drawing places as of late is Red Nectar. Their specialty is fruit and veggie shakes which, admittedly, I’m not all that into. They serve a decent coffee, though. And I’ve recently tried their Kori Kohi which is basically coffee cubes in milk. I dig this so much. It’s basically just milk that gets coffee-ier and coffee-ier by the minute.

Lunch at Red NectarPasta and Kohi Kori and Red Nectar

It’s a convenient chill place because it’s near my uni. A bonus is that it’s always fun as a 20-something to chill with a slow, solo lunch and listen to college kids overthinking their relationships out loud. Don’t worry, kids. I don’t judge. Was like that once. Although there was this one time¬†I was sorely tempted to tell some guy at the next table “Uhm, I’m sorry bro, but I just don’t think she’s into you, you know.”

For lunch, I usually go for anything with pesto, just because their pesto smells amazing.

Coffee and a Sandwich at Red Nectar

Yet another place I’ve gotten the chance to go to pretty often is Dave’s Beanery Cafe, which is a bit of a pitstop when I’m going around barangays for work. I only go there for coffee, although one day I’d like to try their cakes which are huge for coffee shop standards.

Display at Dave's Beanery

Dave's Beanery

There are a few other of my favorite coffee and lunch places which I haven’t managed to sketch. Mostly because I’m just there for a quick lunch or I’m feeling self-conscious about sketching at the moment. Perhaps I’ll make it my mission over the holidays to sketch them all.

(By the way, my Instagram is a bit more updated than this blog. Mostly because I don’t curate it with really high standards. So if you’re on IG, perhaps you’d like to check it out too.)

Things I Learned from #NaNoWriMo2015

I consider myself a writer not because I love writing.  After all, writing some things can be just about as pleasurable as hitting your head against a brick wall.  I consider myself a writer because, for me, it is the form of communication and expression that flows most naturally.

Which is why for the last half of the year, it has been frustrating not to be able to write a lot of personal work, even if only blog posts. There hasn’t been a lot of art either. And for those of you who understand, you know this is very unhealthy for passion, patience and imagination.

So in November, I challenged myself to take on National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is a yearly challenge to write a 50,000 word novel.

I did not win (i.e. reach 50k) this year, either, but I did manage to write a¬†complete story. Which I think is OK¬†considering it’s a Holmes-inspired mystery story and Holmes stories aren’t that long to begin with. (I even wrote parts of the prequel and the sequel to pad up the novel.) Here’s what I learned:

  1. Work in sprints. Word sprints were challenges in which you set your timer to a set number of minutes (could be as short as five, or as much as thirty). And then you type like crazy, your word speed sometimes exceeding your thought speed sometimes with comical results. Had I gone on word sprints every day, I would have gone past 50k words. (But unfortunately, a few out-of-town activities kind-of ruined that.) The value in sprints is that it forces you to think on the paper (or computer screen). Thoughts are nice. Thoughts are good. But they will remain thoughts forever until you make them tangible. Once they are concrete words in front of you, then you become free to revise, to correct, to expound, to explain, to rephrase, to rearrange. But at the very beginning of any creative process, the most important thing is to simply let it all flow.* Sprints are something that I want to apply to my everyday life.
  2. I am a planner.¬†As opposed to the pantsers, who just wing it all through November. (I tried pantsing on my first NaNo and… my novel just became confused.) Which is probably why I’m chronically cranky at things that are¬†poorly planned. (This has something to do with hospital training where, even if someone suddenly and unexpectedly drops dead in front of you, everything you do and the location of everything you need has been preordained.) It’s always handy to know your own working style. That’s not to say that you’re going to be entirely inflexible, though. It’s just that your working style is the one that will usually require the least effort, and is less likely to make you tired and give up¬†in the middle of it.
  3. Always carry a notebook (or at least something to write on). My best ideas usually come at inopportune moments. In the bathroom. On public transportation. When I’ve woken up at three in the morning. In the middle of a meeting. There never has to be an excuse not to jot that idea down, even if it’s only a quick note in my¬†phone or a doodle on a piece of paper. Granted, I don’t use every single idea I come up with. But writing it down also makes¬†it concrete enough for me to determine its usefulness. As opposed to agonizing over forgetting a fantastic idea that in reality wasn’t going to make it in the novel anyway.
  4. Lots of self-care.¬†Get enough sleep. Eat healthy and eat delicious. Drink lots of water. Freshen up with a bath. Brush your teeth. Floss. Take a walk. Phone a friend. Drink lots of coffee. Although this may also require a bit of self awareness. Personally, I can do anything on an empty stomach but if I’ve lost just an hour of sleep my concentration goes down the drain. (Admittedly, one of the reasons why I didn’t do any more sprints by the third week was that I had lost a lot of sleep to the aforementioned out-of-town trips.)
  5. “Problems of output are problems of input.” I posted a link to this post by Austin Kleon on my facebook during NaNo. It’s a short read, but very enlightening.¬†Basically: “In other words: all writers are readers first.¬†When I stall out, it‚Äôs time to start taking things in again: read more, re-read, watch movies, listen to music, go to art museums, travel, take people to lunch, etc. Just being open and alert and on the lookout for That Thing that will get me¬†going again. Getting out the¬†jumper cables and hunting down a battery.” So guess what? Being busy with NaNo wasn’t an excuse not to curl up to a good old mystery novel after all.

* Although for goodness’ sake, this does not mean that you are allowed to submit this first draft to your editor just because it’s “something”. As someone who edits, I cannot express the amount of energy it takes¬†not to strangle¬†everyone who submits me their incoherent first draft and expect ME to make it work.