Is Creative Writing a good take for an undergraduate degree? What about as a high school “major”? Three real-life students from the Philippine High School for the Arts answer.
WHY STUDY CREATIVE WRITING AT PHSA?
By Aika Riguera
Paced with this question, a creative writing major at a prestigious arts school might feel an uncomfortable twinge in her chest. After all, one would like to think that the late nights spent wading through seas of critical analyses and assigned stories are all endured in pursuit of some kind of sparkling, grandiose purpose: sadly, this is not always the case.
The reality is many writers who have achieved blockbuster success for their works did not need to pick up more than one critical essay or even write a graded short story, during their high school years. J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter began to write by the time she had become a mother, and Stephenie Meyer had a full-fledged family by the time she sat down and began to type out the first two pages of the Twilight Saga. On the other hand, how many PHSA creative writing graduates have made so much as the national bestseller list? Next to none.
Those who crave movie versions of their works, those who wish to gain a large following from their releases, need not even think about taking a single step into PHSA. For what we here at the creative writing program seek to achieve is an in-depth understanding of literature and what it means to us. We churn out stories with almost religious regularity every week to bring us further into the art of words; we tear apart literary works and study each and every fragment so that when we finally put them back together, we can truly sense their wholeness, their unity.
Therefore, we study creative writing at the Philippine High School for the Arts not to become famous writers. In fact, we might not even become writers at all, and in my opinion that’s perfectly fine. Whether we pursue careers in literature is up to us: what matters is that when we walk away from this mountain and the institution it houses, we have acquainted ourselves with literature in a way that many people twice our age can even hope to. It is again our decision how we utilize this understanding, if we wish to all in but in the end, nothing can change the fact that we have forever become defenders of writing and literature, and in the events of its widely predicted “decay,” we shall always find ways to keep it alive.
WHY STUDY CREATIVE WRITING AT PHSA?
By Lora Noreen Domingo
I have read a lot of literary works written by people whose careers did not have any proximity to creative writing, yet they were good and sought plenty of awards. I always ask why did they not take up creative writing instead?
Well, I could not blame them. Not all creative writers “sell” a lot of books. Some of them were just lucky. Whenever I attend talks of writers for inspiration, they always say that they only get a stable source of income from teaching or a second career. That’s why, when I was asked this question, I did not have any answer in mind. I could not answer “because it’s my passion” because it is possible that passion may die if I did not have any source of income. I used to believe that I was a practical thinker, and since my first year as a creative writing student at PHSA, I have been pondering on whether or not it was a smart to continue for five more years.
High school seemed like a very early stage for me to decide on a path. Half of our school days is dedicated to our respective art fields. For four hours, we in the creative writing class explore, analyze and criticize literature. Then we compose our own literary works to test what we have learned. It was a difficult task for us to do as high school students, knowing that children like us would already be having a hard time composing a title for a simple essay. I always thought, too, that writing stories or poems was just something I could do back home with even more freedom. Limitations on structures, length, etcetera have always been imposed on our works.
After a few months of lifting the load of analyzing elements of poetry and fiction, I learned the value of discipline. That discipline was hard to earn if I learned creative writing by myself. I shall forever stay in my comfort zone and would not be aware of the bigger room for improvement. With the guidance of my arts teacher, the company of my fellow creative writing majors and the motivation of my love for writing, I have improved so much more than when I was practicing by myself.
Right now, I am not really thinking about the future yet. I am still not sure how many books I must publish or if my talent could get me that far. This, however, was something even the architects, the businessmen or the creative writers knew themselves. Even if someone else will follow the path I have followed and study creative writing at the Philippine High School for the Arts, that someone would not really know who they are going to be years from now. The smartest thing to do is just to value every experience, even in creative writing. Such knowledge is not only put to use when we publish books. Even when we share it to other people or if we practice again on the pages of our journals.
WHY STUDY CREATIVE WRITING AT PHSA?
By Ligia Griselda D. Daroy
The Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) is a government-funded school. It is nestled in the lust forest of Mount Makiling and the cradle of the arts. PHSA offers courses in visual arts, music, folk dance and ballet, theater arts and creative writing.
The creative writing program is known as a “baby major” due to its recent emergence in 1992. It offers poetry, fiction, playwriting, a chance to write a manuscript for publication and the tutelage of various masters of the craft in the Philippines.
So why study creative writing at PHSA?
1. We are here to know how to write well. Anybody can write, honestly, but it takes something like PHSA to teach the essence and purpose of writing.
2. The students are given a huge playground to write on. It is said that a class cannot only be contained in one room because the whole world is your classroom. PHSA exposes its students to the best instructors, to conferences, workshops and various literary festivals.
3. To know the soul within a craft. When I was a kid, I thought writing was merely an expression of one’s thoughts, so I went to write about butterflies and things that make me sad. PHSA exposed me to the reality of the world, cutting the cloth hiding my eyes from the truth.
4. Tradition is a hard word to digest and is hard to forget, yet the people of today succeeded in doing so. We are here to revive what was lost and to share what we learn to the teenagers back home that before Casual Vacancy, we had Noli Me Tangere.
5. Understanding the world. The school instills critical thinking, aside from teaching us how to write, it is also how we understand what we write and read. Writing is an indirect teaching that deals with the non-literal comprehension of the world. We are decoders, using the power of creativity and logic to pick the world piece by piece.
We cannot forget the reality for young writers like us, who, fresh after high school, get discourage by pursuing a writing career. People rarely read these days, plus the cost of publishing a book is sadly very high compared to what you may reap from it. What we learn as creative writers at PHSA cannot only be continued to the literary world, because like I said, literature only opens our eyes to the reality of the world. The skill of writing could still be utilized in virtually any field in college, giving us a big advantage over other students. We are like kings standing proud in our own world, commanding an army of words.