by MARIEN JOSE
It’s funny how I always, always struggle to fetch an appropriate answer when I’m asked how I started writing. I don`t really have a proper response to this as I’m of this notion that it is something that I`ve always been doing. Would you believe me if I say I just picked up a pen and started committing all my odd ideas as cohesively as I could to paper one morning? Probably. Probably not.
The first actual works I produced were handwritten fanfiction in Looney Tunes notebooks. Now that I look back, it felt like an early sign of pseudo rebellion. I loved those cartoon and those books dearly, but there would always be things that my eleven-year-old self wanted to change. Sometimes, I would make amateur tweaks in the plot or in the order of events. Most of the time, I would simply change the pairings. It sucks when a character ends up with someone for what feels like the mere sake of things instead of someone they had a deeper, more profound connection with. It’s been years since the story of Harry Potter came to a close, and I’m still bitter about our hero ending up with the unimpressive Ginny Weasley. I’m never going to get over that.
School-required writing tended to be quite enjoyable for me as well. While I struggled with trying and ultimately failing to understand that horrid thing known to man as mathematics, I would breeze through my reading and language classes with ease. Come high school, I was doing even better, winning a few essay writing contests here and there. I also started writing my own stories, which were not all that good (I used to cling to the concept of deus ex machina). I would let my friends read them, and they would say things like, “You have so much talent! You should publish something someday!” I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe them, though; I was reading The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown—my first “big girl” novel—at that time, and I knew for a fact that my skill level was leaps and bounds away from his. Before I depart from this, here’s one weird thing: I never thought of writing for the school paper. And I never figured out why.
My university years were a big turning point in my journey as a writer. I was taking up a liberals arts in psychology course and most of my requirements involved the dreaded group projects and paperwork. At that time, I wanted to look into doing other kinds of writing, so I decided to try out for The LaSallian.
I learned a lot from being in the organisation. It did not just help me improve my writing skills, but it gave me the balls to take risks and think outside the box. The most memorable issue that I worked on was the LGBT special that I helped my friend and colleague put together. The LGBT cause is something very dear to me; I believe that everyone is entitled to equal rights and a freedom to love who they want. I remember being gutsy enough to write Brent Corrigan, a former adult film star whose profound insights on the situation of the gay community truly impressed me. He was and always will be, I believe, a gracious man. “I would love to do this interview for your school,” he wrote to me in an email. “It would mean so much to me if I could help reach out to young people through this.” I thought I would get in trouble for even attempting to publish the story; the school remains to be a Catholic institution, after all. Much to my relief, I didn’t. Kindness and acceptance—which was what the issue wanted to address—must have prevailed that time.
After university, I wasn’t trying to get noticed as a writer. I was terrified of having to adult, and I felt I needed to attempt to make ends meet. I ended up accepting what I felt would be a seemingly dead-end administrative post at a prestigious company just to have a steady source of income. I am probably making it sound more dreadful than it was (it wasn’t; I was just bored), but that was also the year I got my first big break. At Adam Lambert’s Manila concert, I met and hugged the stranger who got me my meet-and-greet pass. That stranger—who is now one of my dearest friends—turned out to be the Features Editor of ClickTheCity.com. She quizzed me on my background, and, upon finding out I once wrote for The LaSallian, asked to see my portfolio. Days later, I was offered a freelance writing job. That was the day I realised that I was truly meant to write.
I am writing this from my office at Philippine Tatler, where I am suddenly struck with the realisation that everything seems to have fallen into place for me. The thing about pursuing a writing career is that you have to have a bit of luck on your side. For some, it takes a lifetime. For others, it simply never happens. I am one of the lucky ones; I’ve not yet reached 30, and I have found my place in an industry that is difficult to penetrate.
I’m not about to stop here, though. There is so much more to be done.
MJ Jose spends most of her time holed up in her office writing style articles for Philippine Tatler. What little free time she has is divided between shopping, eating, and spending time with her dogs. She dreams of publishing her own novel and becoming Chris Evans’ bride someday.