Having decided to
focus my writings for the Internet (and prior
to them, my personal studies and research) on
the preservation of memory, I begin to appreciate
more the importance and relevance of personal
essay to my interest. While thinking of a new
article to write, I noticed the "Quote for
the Month" at the right column of the Writing
& Publishing Center here at Suite101. It says:
The greatest part of a writer's time is spent
in reading, in order to write; a man will turn
over half a library to make one book. -- Samuel
Johnson in Boswell's LIFE.
True: unless we engage ourselves into reading,
we can never be good writers. Through reading,
we can get into the worlds those other writers
present to us. Yes, there are many things to learn
from our own experiences, but other people's can
also be a rich source of inspiration and insight.
We cannot possibly live through everything in
the world; there are no two same experiences.
There’s always the possibility of roads
not traveled, and other people may beautifully
share the experience of traveling through those
roads that we were not able to take.
The value of reading lies on the possibility
of shared experiences -- even though they're "imagined"
events (like in the case of fiction writing).
The "sharing" becomes more significant,
of course, when we are sharing a true experience
of our own, like whenever we write a personal
essay. The more we share, the more we feel connected
to the "other", in this case the possible
audience for our work.
That's probably the reason why memoirs are becoming
of large interest in the recent years. People
are beginning to realize the value of this shared
experiences between the writer and the reader.
Even though we are not aware of it, whenever we
read something, we are somehow having a dialogue
with the writer. While reading, there's an internal
process going on in our mind. We are not just
absorbing what we have on paper (or on the computer
screen), we are also trying to integrate them
to our present lives, and find connections to
what the other person, the writer, had experienced.
This somewhat proves to the universality of human
experience. Even though it comes in different
faces, it seems basically the same – the
triumphs, the hardships, the joys, the pains.
Being a writer, I don't just enjoy the books
I read. I also try to find reasons why I enjoyed
them, or what I particularly like in the book
-- the narrative style of the author, the tone,
the effective dialogues, etc. Unless we understand
the “power” that one particular narrative
has that made it effective (at least for us),
we can never really unravel their secrets. We
must remember that theories come later, after
If you really want to write your story in a personal
essay, live and read. When you get to experience
what it really means to “live”, you
already have a lot of materials for you to write
about. When you read, you can learn from other
writers the techniques on how to turn your life
That’s all for now, I guess. Thanks for
Copyright © 2001 by Edgar Calabia Samar