When Inspiration Happens

Don’t take this the wrong way
You knew who I was with every step that I ran to you
– Hozier, “Someone New”

It all started at a hotel lobby in Seoul, where I found myself being overcome with a profound sadness that I couldn’t figure out the origins. All I know was that I turned to my mom that evening and said the words:

Mom, I’m going to quit writing.

Being the understanding mom that she was, she didn’t lecture me or make me take it back. She just listened to me while I explained that it wasn’t fun anymore, that I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing. And when all was said and done, she just nodded and said, “You just need the inspiration. That doesn’t always come easy, though.”

So I decided, on my own, that I was going to take a break, even though the rest of the Hideaway Trilogy was waiting for me at home. I promised myself that I only had those two books left in me, and that was it; from that moment on, I was going to take an indefinite break from writing altogether.

A few things happened when I returned to Manila, though.

There was Zumba, and walking, and nightly Netflix sessions with my sister. There was a near-obsession with the Avengers: Endgame press tour, and my semi-annoyance that RDJ and Jeremy Renner (remember him? hahaha) were in Seoul at the same time that I was there.

And then, for some reason or another, I ended up with an oppa on my Imaginary Boyfriend-slash-Happy Crush list.

(No, I have neither brushed up on K-pop nor succeeded in stalking Lee Dong Wook. But if you’re familiar with Korean honorifics and/or my social media presence, you would understand what I mean by Oppa Is Bae.)

And because I couldn’t deal with oppa being as oppa-worthy as he is–like I always do when I pick up a hot new imaginary boyfriend–I started writing. And writing.

Until I had two to three chapters of a thing that even I didn’t know I was capable of writing.

It’s not a perfect draft, but there are themes there that I didn’t expect to bring up. For one thing, it was the first time that I dealt with the subject of aging, which shocked me because until now I had been hiding or hinting at my real age for the last six years. I was dealing with characters close to my own age, which was scary and oddly liberating at the same time.

But most importantly, it was the first time that I started writing about how I felt about my time overseas. This may not have been the Hawaii story that I was meant to write–there are still a lot of emotions to deal with for that–but as I wrote it, a part of myself started healing the complex feelings that I had about living a sheltered life in the United States. I was not quite American, but not completely Filipino, and because of that I still have problems fitting in where I should be. Yet I started seeing myself in those characters, and while they’re not who I intended to write about in the first place, my connection with them came from a real place that I hadn’t imagined for myself.

As much as I wanted to keep this story a secret (for obvious, I-don’t-want-to-be-mocked-by-oppa reasons) I did end up talking about it with a few friends in person, and was surprised by the positive reactions. Though I’m still waiting for the beta reads to come in, there’s a part of me that’s still aching to write this–maybe forget about other people for a while, including oppa–which means that I must’ve made up my mind before I knew it.

That couldn’t be a bad thing, right?

I’m going to close out with a few more lines from our friend Hozier: “Would things be easier if there was a right way?/ Honey, there is no right way.”

Wish me luck.

Love, Stella

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Stella Torres

is the author of the adult contemporary romances Save the Cake, Crushingly Close, and Nine Years Away, as well as the short story “Be Creative” in the anthology Kids These Days: Stories from Luna East Vol. 1.

In her previous life, she has worked in public relations, taught English as a second language, and even attended graduate school (twice!). She has lived in Indonesia, Honolulu, and Quezon City before moving back to her hometown of Los Banos, a few hours’ drive (with traffic) from the heart of Manila.

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