Hi, I’m Noelle and I write for a living.

Today, someone told me I had no right to call that someone out for writing something that may or may not be factual but had no official statement to back it up, just because I don’t write for anything more professional than my blog. (That someone also sent a few ad hominem attacks my way, but let’s stick to the merits of the argument.)

Whenever I receive any sort of criticism, I try to see if it has merit. Is there anything in my words or deeds that deserve such censure? It’s very much part of my personality to self-analyze and so I take comments to heart.

What is the definition of professional? According to Merriam-Webster:

  1. relating to a job that requires special education, training, or skill
  2. done or given by a person who works in a particular profession
  3. paid to participate in a sport or activity

Anyone can set up a blog with all the publishing tools now available — you don’t even need to go into the source code of your pages these days. So you don’t really need any special education, training, or skill to start a blog…

…Ah, but to write a blog that helps you make a living is a different matter entirely. What if your blog is a showcase of your skill in creating that turn of phrase that is just so, that pulls on the heartstrings, that calls to action? That is something someone somewhere is willing to pay for. I know I have that because I have been paid to write in the past. I stopped writing for magazines because I was writing mechanically — you know how magazines are: they cover the same topics year after year with just a tiny change in spin. With other jobs occupying my time I decided I only wanted to write about what I was passionate about and truly interested me. Instead of chasing the freelance writing jobs, I began creating content for my own blog.

And you know what? People visit my blog because what they find there is compelling and takes them on a journey they could not otherwise have gone on. They read my blog to get informed about our shared passion, and they know if I tout something it’s not because I was paid to say so, but because I have used it or tried it out and believe in it. That’s a reputation I have worked hard at building and sustaining. (It’s really up to them if they trust what I write and pull the trigger on a purchase.)

And now the writing jobs — which pay money! — come to me. Because of my blog I have been able to travel, clothe myself, participate in an expensive sport. I get paid to write. You know what I write on my travel documents as an occupation or profession? WRITER.

I do not consider myself a journalist; most of what I write opinionated and based on personal experience. But I do pride myself in the training I received while earning my graduate degree in Media Studies (Journalism), which taught me how to write the difference between statements of fact and statements based on assumption. And that’s what I called that someone out on.

Really, at this point when print magazines are losing readership and circulation (and they are all coming out with online editions to get people to read them again), someone wants to say I’m less of a professional because I self-publish on a blog?

The reason I’m writing this is because I have to let all this word vomit out before it causes me writer’s block. Now that it’s off my chest, I’m going to go back to writing some commissioned work and earn my keep doing it.

Ghostwriter

As a writer, the byline is important because it’s what formally tells the reader who authored the work they are reading. When you create something and are especially proud of it, you want people to know that it was you who created it that work of art — because as a writer you know it takes just as much creativity and passion to weave words as it does to craft sculptures or paintings.

As a writer, though, you know writing isn’t a highly-lucrative profession especially if you’re working freelance or per assignment or project. For some of us, we give up our right to a byline in exchange for a regular writing gig that pays out.

Yep, I’ve gone and turned ghostwriter, like many of my peers who love writing and express ourselves best through the pen but aren’t famous enough to be granted a column in a major broadsheet or glossy magazine. It feels just like any writing project: you write the outline, you fill it in and get creative. But someone else takes the credit for what you’ve done.

I thought it would be much harder to let go of that byline because I know that’s how big my ego is, and that’s how proud I am of what I write. But after a few months of it, I’ve learned to take pride in how well-crafted my work is, byline or no byline. I also believe in what I’m writing for, which is why it’s no big deal when someone else gets the credit. And whenever I see the impact of what I’ve written on another person, it gives me a strange sense of fulfillment.

Of course I can’t tell you who or what I’m writing for; that would take away some of the magic and mystique. But let’s just say I’m glad I have places like this where I can still write as myself. =)

Of Cruelty and Kindness

“That’s a nasty rumor,” she said quietly.

He replied matter-of-factly, “Didn’t really put much stock in it when I heard others talking.” He shrugged, “I mean, I’ve always liked you as a person.”

If there’s one thing I have experienced all my life, it’s that people are cruel. Unconscious cruelty I can take, when they’re just not self-aware enough to know that what they say or do hurts others. It’s when they gleefully and wilfully engage in behavior and talk that tears another person down that I wish the earth would swallow them up whole.

I’ve been on this planet 30 years and I still am amazed at our rapacious appetite for gossip, whether it’s about a celebrity or a nobody who just happens to be in our social circle. “Did you hear about…?” is a surefire conversational kickstarter. So who cares if what we talk about happens to paint someone in a bad light? As a matter of fact, bad news is even more enjoyable to share with others. It sticks longer in our memories, too.

Maybe it’s because we want to feel better about our own lives — that’s why we tell stories of other people failing at theirs. In an effort to make ourselves feel more significant, we attempt to make others look insignificant. Cruelty is a sign that there’s a deficit. When we are cruel, we are attempting to take from others what we feel we lack.

Notice that I’ve used “our” and “we”; I see this capacity for cruelty in myself, too.

And then I experience kindness, and all is not lost. I store up these moments in my heart. Our capacity for kindness is determined by our own experience of it.

When you can choose to be kind instead of being cruel, you can count yourself blessed that someone cared for you, so you can care for others. You overflow, so instead of taking, you are able to give.

I remind myself of the greatest kindness I’ve received and continually receive every day: John 3:16.

Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. — John Watson

Braven BRV-1: A Wireless Speaker for the Klutzy

Just this morning, I dropped my new BlackBerry Z10 in a parking lot. On the hard, rough cement. It’s a little the worse for wear. Anyway, that story has almost nothing to do with the Braven BRV-1 I’m about to review — except to show you how clumsy I am, which is a bad thing when you’re as mobile and traveling around all the time like I am. Inevitably, you’ll drop something you shouldn’t. It’s why I’ve always bought protective cases and shockproof, waterproof stuff.

Well, the Braven BRV-1 wireless speaker is touted as a hardy little companion designed to play your music wherever you are.Β I have to tell you, getting this in the mail for review made me want to book a trip to the beach the very next day! It’s lightweight enough not to be a burden inside a backpack, and it looks so much like a pair of high-tech binoculars so it won’t stick out like a sore thumb among other travel essentials.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Braven BRV-01 Wireless HD Speaker

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Slick packaging for this tough-as-mud piece of equipment.

The BRV-1 was a breeze to pair with my iPod Touch. All I needed to do was turn the unit on by a long press on the Power button, then a long press on the Play button so it could start searching for Bluetooth devices. Approve the connection on your music device, and it’s ready to go.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

Power and Play buttons

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

volume control

There are also volume buttons on the side so you can turn it up or down without having to fiddle with your iPod. You can also pair the BRV-1 with a Bluetooth-enabled phone and use it as a speakerphone to answer calls.

It’s also not just a Bluetooth speaker. The rear compartment contains an audio-in jack for devices that don’t have Bluetooth capabilities,Β like the iPod Classic . There’s also a USB port which enables you to charge other devices from the BRV-1’s battery. Unfortunately it only has about 1400 mAh, which might be enough to give you a full charge on a BlackBerry 9360, but not on phones with higher-capacity batteries. Still, it could come in pretty useful in a wilderness survival situation, like running out of phone juice while camping.

Braven Wireless HD Speaker

rear compartment

Read more

Uniqlo U-Shop, U-Win

Last Friday, I was given the opportunity to attend the launch of Uniqlo’s new game app called U-Shop, U-Win.

Uniqlo U-Shop U-Win

Uniqlo U-Shop U-Win

(The launch was held at Fully Booked in BGC as a nod to the opening of Uniqlo’s third store in the country at SM Aura Premium on May 17, 2013.)

Uniqlo U-Shop U-Win

the U-Shop U-Win virtual store game

The U-Shop, U-Win game app on the Uniqlo Philippines Facebook page allows participants to “shop” at a virtual Uniqlo store. Read more