Since my fiction writing has taken a back seat to my academics (so far), I figured I should share a little bit about what I’m doing on the research front.
For the last two weeks, I’ve been doing field work for two different classes, which has taken me to so many places that I would never have seen if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone. Apart from my misadventures in Quiapo – which, thankfully, did not spawn a sequel – I’ve found myself cold-calling principals and skipping tricycle rides in favor of long walks. (I also ended up losing a pair of sunglasses along the way, but why weep when there’s so much work to be done?) I’ve also translated surveys from English to Filipino, and copy-edited research instruments to make them more effective. Last night I even gave a Powerpoint presentation about – vapors! – quantitative research, and I had so much fun sharing what I’ve learned about instrumentation and research that I actually forgot how much I was supposed to hate the quantitative aspect of my whole PhD program.
I could go on and on about how I feel about teaching and research when I should be Writing Important Works of Fiction (or at least marketable ones to help me pay my tuition and move to a nicer apartment), but the thing to remember here is that being in a field that has nothing to do with writing has actually made me a better writer, on top of being a better human being.
Here’s the deal: Authors, in general, are strange creatures. We wail a lot about not writing characters, dialogue, and scenarios that are not “true to life,” and yet we end up living inside our own heads because we can’t leave our magnum opus alone long enough to brush our teeth. Crappy writing happens when authors insist on a story that’s theirs and theirs alone, without taking into consideration that their stories would be better if people could relate to them.
And the best way for writers to come up with stories that are realistic and relatable (and ultimately readable) is to live in the real world, among real people.
While the work that I do as a graduate student can drive me nuts, the beauty of it all is that it gets me out of my own head. Now I get to meet new people and pay attention to how they relate to each other: teachers, students, principals, even entire bureaucracies. The stories I hear now are about overcoming challenges and shifting perspectives.
Someday I’ll be able to write about them in a non-clinical setting, and soon. Until then, there’s still so much to learn.