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Writing for Wellness: When Pen is Mightier than the Sword
Writing for Wellness: When Pen is Mightier than the Sword
Fitness & Wellness | October 9, 2020
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I don’t remember exactly how I got into writing but whatever the reasons were, writing definitely helped me and my sanity—and it continues to do so today

It all started with a fascination with words. I scribbled made up letters on a blackboard at the basement of our home in Baguio as if to copy words I have seen in catalogs where we ordered our cartoon-printed pajamas. I remembered my grandfather reading the newspaper when I was four. We scanned through the day’s tennis tournament results, and I watched him answer the crossword puzzle after. My mother nudged us to read books, sending us collections of The Hardy Boys and some condensed classics. By ten, I was a regular at the school library, with a dictionary by my side in cases when the words felt too big for me to understand. Home was pretty much the same. I read the Dragonlance series as soon as I showered, a lot of Stephen King with the flashlight on at night, and whatever borrowed book I had from the school library that day would be read in between. I never thought I was a fully-fledged writer, not until I wrote for a living.

I remember at four years old watching Ghostwriter on iChannel—about young sleuths who wrote down clues on a notebook which a ghost would then use to help solve the neighborhood crime of the episode. My cousins and I would write these words down on our notebooks and pretend as if we were solving mysteries ourselves. While most of these words were incomprehensible for me back then, I grew interested in scribbling regardless of what these doodles meant.

A blank page invites us to create and to begin. | Photo by Miguel á Padriñán

My first foray into the art of writing—where I understood what I wrote—came from an obsession with lists. I would list down family members, my classmates, my itinerary for the day, the list of books I’ve read that year. Listing was therapeutic. The more words I put, the better I felt. It was a display of knowledge and skill with memory. How many names do I remember? How many books have I read from the school library? How many things am I doing today? And in moments where I crossed out items, it gave me a sense of relief and a feeling of accomplishment. 

As I grew up, I then moved to journal writing. People from my generation remember a young Chantal Umali gushing over Patrick Garcia as she wrote in her diary while eating a plate of hotdogs. I think that was the first time I ever heard of what a diary was. And so, like her, I grabbed a used notebook and poured my feelings out. I was young. And petty. But I was able to capture my zeitgeist. I wrote about every slight irritation, the people I hated in school, my favorite subjects. It became an unknowing companion for the awkward child with little to no friends. 

Stringing words together is something, I think, you learn the first time you fall in love. I was in sixth grade when I copied words from song lyrics and wrote these in a piece of stationery I asked from one of the girls in the class. The girl I sent the letter to was puzzled by the gesture and did not understand why I meant to send song lyrics. Letter writing became a challenge then to put together words she has never read before and place them strategically between common speak. It was a strategy I used since, and not just for writing love notes.

There is something fulfilling about finishing a well-written sentence. | Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Editing was the most difficult lesson in writing. How does one erase a piece of an idea? Writing has always been a personal thing for me. Up until maturity, any critique on my work felt like a purposeful attack. It took a respected mentor to sit me down and explain every mistake in a draft and leave me feeling learned instead of hurt. But in the end, I have learned to edit more than enough to feel good about my work. There are rewards after all with restraint.

Today, I barely have time to write my feelings in a notebook. But there are things that I continue to do keep my mind in check. I have developed an anal-retentive mindset where the day’s to-do list is filled, though not completely finished by the end of the day. I still doodle on notebooks when I need to brainstorm, do mind-mapping, and create idea webs. I have learned that even in the digital age, the pen and the paper still serve its purpose. There is something primal yet personal about holding a perfectly-sized pen in your hand and getting your hands dirty from ink stains. With tablets, laptops, and mobile phones, pixels vanish and appear in milliseconds. With pen and paper, there is permanence, an indelible mark of achievement, and a lasting memory of its validity—the very reminder I need to know I am still breathing. Do you agree?

With journalistic experience spanning just about three years, Pipo has been working in the communications industry for nearly a decade with tenure in various sectors such as global communications, retail, advertising, events, and marketing. He has served as Copy Chief and Newsroom Head for One Mega Group, and for the last couple of years, has been Lifestyle Asia's Managing Editor for its print publication.
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