Unsung Blogger of the Week #5

This time I decided to cast the net farther east. This week’s featured blogger is a Filipino – Dean Francis Alfar. Dean Francis Alfar is an award-winning (about award) novelist, fictionist, playwright and comic book creator based in the Philippines.  His blog, Notes from the Peanut Gallery, turned 3 years old last month. Though, he is not exactly unsung, he may not be a familiar name in this part of the world. Text from the e-mail interview below: [Be sure to read Dean’s Guerilla Techniques. Its very interesting and useful. – Ed.]

1.  What motivates you to keep blogging? I think of my blog as many things: an online journal of my thoughts and opinions, a workbook for stories I’m developing, an exercise book for little prose or play experiments in form or manner, a scrapbook of things that affect the daily rhythms of my life – as a writer, husband, father and businessman. I blog to unwind, to exercise my creative muscles and to be able to have something I can read a few years down the line – to remind me of how I was and what mattered then. 2.  How do you identify the ideas that you post? Are there any secrets you can share? Sometimes I write vignettes, little stories that I can later use as a
springboard for something longer.  These ideas come out of the blue or are constructed piece by piece.  Once in a while, I compose an entire story on the blog.  Last year, I joined NaNoWrimo and posted a novel  (“Salamanca”) as I wrote it in the span of a month.  It will be published next year and may become a feature film. There is always something to write about, but that’s when personal capacity (or preferences) come in.  There are things bloggers choose not to post for personal reasons.  But I find that honesty makes for riveting content. 3.  What methods do you employ to overcome the “Blogger’s Block”? The occasional Blogger’s Block plus the demands of business and family life on time often make blogging a challenge.  So when writing becomes difficult, I engage in guerilla tactics, something I apply both for my creative writing and blogging.   Here’s a bit I wrote about it: Write when you can.  You are not working or studying or are
otherwise impossibly busy all the time.  Once in a while, there is a lull during the day.  Take advantage of it.  It could be 10 minutes or your lunch hour, but take it.  Instead of surfing aimlessly, start up your word processor and get down to business.  You need to learn to shut out distractions for this brief duration and focus on the task at hand. Have small goals.  You do not have the time to whip up a short story or a novel or a deep scathing multi-post blog essay indicting the government.  Choose something small, something that you can reasonable complete before your sequestered time runs out. Focus on a single idea and write a blog entry.  Challenge yourself with an exercise in point-of-view and write a vignette.  Toying around with dialogue?  Write a short scene or a sketch with two voices.  Read an interesting book last night?  Take one of the points that interested you and talk about just that.  If you like Flash
, use the writing parameters of 55 words and build a mood. Do not try to shoot the moon.  Time is against you and it’s running out fast. Write without editing.  You need to think fast and write quickly.
Ignore the occasional misspellings.  Block out the agonizing subject-verb disagreement.  Dispense with the ten dollar words unless they come naturally to you.  There will be time to edit later. Consider this your initial draft and keep in mind that if anyone tells you that they get everything right in their first draft they’re lying. The danger here is in being bogged down by glaring flaws.  But let me tell you, as you grow proficient in this technique, your automatic self-editing skills will improve as well, and it becomes easier to just move on, to get the next word down, to complete the phrase, then the sentence, then the paragraph.  There will be time for an
editing pass later on. Stop when you must.  You may not have complete control over the time you allocated.  Often, in fact, something will come up that demands your attention.  At this point, save your work (as a draft if you’re typing directly into your blog) and terminate the exercise. Do not bargain for time.  Do not attempt to finish things if they are unfinished.  You can always come back later to complete or fix things up when you have time. Spit and polish.  When time permits, retrieve the fruits of your
guerilla activities.  This is when you let your inner editor take charge. Strip, correct, delete, rewrite – but do it quickly.  This is a very short piece we are talking about, not your masterwork.  Learn to do this phase fast.  Then post it.  Or otherwise save it. The benefits of this technique are manifold:  you learn to make time
to write, you indulge your need to write, you learn to focus, you learn to write quickly, and you learn to conduct quality assurance on your writing efficiently. Note that these points apply on to guerilla writing – things are
different during the times you partition vast amounts of time for writing, like when you have an entire evening to write an essay or a short story. 4. What are your Top 5 Unsung Blogs ? (please include only those that are not in any Top 100/500 lists). Contradiction in Terms  – Nikki Alfar, author and wife
Eating the Sun – Ian Casocot, fictionist and literary critic
The Brass Buddha – Andrew Drilon, a young talented writer
Meditations in an Emergency – Christopher Barzak, one of my favorite speculative fiction writers
The Grin without a Cat  – Banzai Cat, proficient reader 5. What are your current book recommendations ? (1 or 2 is sufficient). Infidels : A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam by Andrew Wheatcroft – I just can’t put this fascinating historical analysis down.  It’s already inspired me to write a couple of stories set in Moorish Spain.

6. What is your view of the state of blogging in the Phillippines?
There is a growing community of bloggers – passionate, dedicated and quite entertaining.  The Filipino blogosphere is exciting terrain to explore. [You can explore some of the Filipino Blogosphere on this Meta Blog -Ed.]