There are many things I enjoy about my life as a writer. Like any life, it’s filled with profundities and superficialities: I love never, ever having to wake up to the shriek of an alarm clock ever again; I love the fact that the constant reading of good books is a required exercise for the betterment of my craft; I love being able to take a week off whenever I want, while I’m ostensibly “thinking,” and that the act of living is research for what I will one day write. More than anything, I love being able to see how things connect and work out, and seeing my skills grow before my eyes. But like anything, there’s the flip side—I wake up and have to have a tremendous amount of discipline to work and not just watch TV or think of titles for great works I dream of one day writing; I have a hard time reading books for pure enjoyment because I’m either reviewing them or unavoidably studying them for my craft; and I have to work long stretches—weekdays, holidays and weekends—to meet deadlines, or get bits of my work right. As a writer, I have many issues: Am I hamfisted? Am I relevant? Is my work worth reading? Have I lost touch with the world while I was at home sequestered at my desk? Am I pigeonholing myself into an ethnicity? Am I misguided in my experiments and theories about how my fiction works? Should I just quit and do something else? I write to better understand myself and my place in the world, and my writing is an articulation of what I’m working through. Those can’t help but be very private thoughts and ideas, but we write and publish because we have faith that what we’re writing has some value worth sharing. But there’s always that fear that I’m wrong, that I’m just like that guy at a party who is drunk and coked up and insists on telling everyone his great ideas. The search for self-knowledge can’t help but come with self-doubt. The quest for constant improvement can’t help but include growing pains.Eric Forbes interviews 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize-winner Miguel Syjuco about how he finds life as an author; his unconventional début novel Ilustrado (which will be published around the world next Spring), winning the Man Booker, and much more besides. The article appears in the Singapore Writer's Festival edition of Quill magazine, and is very well worth reading.
Syjuco will be appearing at the Singapore Writers' Festival (October 24 to November 1, 2009).