MANILA –- Sometimes, people are told to learn from the experts, from the elders, or from the experienced professionals.

How about learning lessons from the country’s National Artist for Literature, Francisco Sionil Jose?

Perhaps you’ve read the name “F. Sionil Jose” since you were a kid, and have read some of his works. Do you know that before he reached his status, he also faced rejections? Yes, for many times, actually.

“When I was starting, I was rejected many times by editors of newspapers,” 92 year-old Jose told the Philippine News Agency in an exclusive interview.

Failure/rejection didn’t stop him from doing what he wanted. He has written short stories, novels, and has won various awards. Despite all his achievements, however, he said he doesn’t consider himself successful. “I’m not a success,” he stressed.

He explained that it’s because writing as an art (not as a craft) is a lifetime process. Moreover, you compete with yourself as you strive to become better.

The National Artist for Literature differentiated writing as an art as “creative”, while writing as a craft is that which involves the correct grammar, syntax, among others.

The writer further explained that in creative writing, one creates alternative images, alternative future.

“It (writing) is a learning process. I still write, learn, I read,” the father of seven continued.
Jose cited that he doesn’t believe in workshops, writing courses and PhDs. Why? Because one cannot teach imagination, creativity and originality, he emphasized.
“You can teach the craft. But good writers transcend the craft until he/she becomes a creative writer,” he remarked, adding that artists use the heart.

Clear thinking
I actually asked for five tips on how to write effectively. He cited just one, which he said is the basic – clear thinking. “What do you want to do?
What do you want to portray? Do you want to scare your readers (for instance)?” These things should be clear to the writer, Jose said.

Jose noted that creative writing is different, because here, writers can talk about their feelings, themselves, etc.

Apart from determining your purpose in writing, he said the style might also be different. Some people like to go straight to the point while others do not, Jose explained.

The multi-awarded writer said he sees potential in the youth today. For those who would like to follow his footsteps, his advice is to get involved in life.

“Get involved in politics, in anything, because writing is not enough,” Jose said, adding that he himself is into public service.

He has conducted lectures in high schools in southern Luzon, and is now conducting it in central Luzon.
“I’m doing whole day lectures. I’m doing it pro bono,” he said, adding that the Department of Education has tapped him for this.
Even if he sees potential in many of today’s youth, Jose told PNA he doesn’t want any of his kids to be a writer. He has seven children, 11 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
“Writers don’t make money,” the famous F. Sionil Jose remarked. Actually, this was also the first challenge he cited as among the challenges he encountered.
So I asked him if he still doesn’t have money despite his status. “I’m comfortable, but I’m not rich,” he answered.
“I have no regrets with having kids. All of them are well-employed, and they love us (referring to his wife who was seated beside him),” Jose said.
He then shared that his kids bought a new car for him this year.
“That is expensive, and I can’t afford it myself,” he shared.

His dream
At 92 and with all his success, is there anything else he would like to achieve?
“To write one more novel,” Jose answered.
Jose is currently working on a science-fiction novel, which he targets to finish this year, and hopes to get it published early next year.
“Sir, how would you like to be remembered?” I asked.
The Filipino novelist said he has already prepared what should be written in his epitaph – “He wrote stories and believed in them.”
“I haven’t told that to anyone. This is the first time I’ve said it,” he added. (PNA)