What Did Mark Twain Mean By “Good Books?”

As a bookworm, I am always bombarded with book-related stuff that I see daily on my Facebook newsfeed. Over the years, I have repeatedly stumbled upon this quote by the great Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain, which reads:

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Source: Picture Quotes

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them. – Mark Twain

This quote always makes me stop and question myself, what did Twain mean by “good books?” I bet many bibliophiles would agree with him on this one, but even then, I wonder what others think about this.

“Good,” in this context, is such a vague adjective that does not imply anything unless Mark Twain explicitly defined this in one of his writings. “Good” is one of those adjectives (like beauty) which meaning entirely depends on the reader. That said, this single word makes the entire quote irrelevant.

Think about it. If some self-aggrandizing bookworm who prefers non-fiction books were to use that quote to justify that her taste is better than those who prefer Wattpad stories, her statement wouldn’t make sense at all.

Wattpad Reader: Wattpad is life!

Self-Aggrandizing Bookworm: Really? You should read the good stuff! Did you know that Mark Twain said that the man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them?

Likewise, if a World Literature professor were to use the quote to back her claims that classic novels are better than young adult novels, she’d be making a fallacy.

World Literature Professor: So, what did you read over the weekend?

Student: Young adult books! Harry Potter is life!

World Literature Professor: Young one, you should be reading books with substance. Why not try classics? Mark Twain said that the man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them. Mark Twain is a legend. Believe him.

Student:

Young Adult Books:

Floor:

Simply stated, quoting Twain to justify our opinion about which books are “good” is total BS. In fact, the quote itself is a generalization and somehow demeans those who can’t read books. You see, even the phrase “can’t read books” in this context is too indefinite. Was Twain referring to the blind, illiterate, or impoverished?

I know some people who do not read books who are as smart as some bookworms I know. My point is, just because you are a bookworm doesn’t mean you’re smarter than those who don’t read. Although I believe well-read people have advantages over those who aren’t, being a bibliophile does not give us a free pass to insult the intellectual capacity of non-readers.

I hope people would stop using this quote from Mark Twain if their only intention is to humiliate others. Perhaps the better quotation would be from J.K. Rowling:

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Source: Pinterest

If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book. – J.K. Rowling

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On Editing: Making Money From My Hobby

Back in college, my favorite pastime was to point out the linguistic shortcomings of people. I used to cringe whenever I spotted or heard spelling or grammar errors. I may not have confronted anyone but I always secretly corrected them in my head. Sometimes, my best friend and I would discreetly talk about them and make a big deal out of those issues, as if those trivial blunders were a reflection of their intellectual capacity.

Being a Grammar Nazi was both a pleasure and a burden. When I was younger, I simply couldn’t help but butt in whenever my friends spoke or posted something in broken English. I always believed it was an act of kindness. I thought that by doing so, I was doing them a favor–I did not want others to make fun of them, that’s all. What are friends for?

Although it was never my intention to hurt their pride, some of them did not like my giving out unsolicited advice. For some of them, I was a self-aggrandizing bitch so they deleted me from their social media for fear of being criticized for their mistakes. I couldn’t blame them.

Now, I realized being a grammar police pays off. Even though I still miss annoying little details when I comb through my own works, I am now happily making money from my hobby.

Autocorrecting a grammar mistake when I see one has been imprinted in my personality, so having a nine-to-five job that involves editing and proofreading is a no-brainer job for me. It’s like doing what I do best but being paid to do it. The best part? I have more time to spare for the people and things I love.

At first, I was hesitant to pursue this career because I wanted a challenging job that would allow me to develop my full potential. Later, I found out it was a wise decision, especially because I wanted to pursue blogging and do side gigs at the same time. A boring nine-to-five job allows me to be more creative, apparently. With more downtimes on my plate, I constantly want to challenge myself and have the urge to do other things outside my full-time job. Really, it sounds like a dream come true for me.

If you are a Grammar Nazi at heart and you want to pursue your creative endeavors, I encourage you to get a full-time editing or proofreading job. I hope that would work wonders for you as it had for me.

Confessions of a Former Grammar Nazi

Back in college, my favorite pastime was to point out the linguistic shortcomings of people. Whenever I spotted grammar or spelling errors, I’d unintentionally make the person feel bad for committing such mistakes. What a bitch. If I’m being honest, I love to make a big deal out of trivial things. Naturally, I’d receive sarcastic replies or get removed from their friends’ list. I couldn’t resist the urge to point out those flaws, even in informal settings. I mean, what did these folks do in their English class?

At school, my best friend and I always sat next to each other to judge our classmates and professors. Our fetish: to make fun of people who incorrectly used the words you’re, your, they’re, there, their, its, it’s, stuff, paperwork, training, advice, and more. In our eyes, we were better than most of our classmates. In our classmates’ eyes, we were two arrogant bitches who loved to give out unsolicited grammar advice just to humiliate others.

Back then, my idea of an intellectual was someone who can write and speak fluently in English. I was so vocal about my dislike for people who commit grammar errors to the point that some of my classmates and friends, especially the English majors, removed me from their social media for fear of being publicly shamed for a stupid grammatical mistake.

Recently, I found out that even my relatives have become self-conscious of their grammar, too, because of me. Ha! They told me they’d rather shut up than receive harsh comments from their Grammar Nazi relative.

My philosophy back then was it’s pathetic to try so hard writing or speaking in English when it’s easier to do it using our native language. If it’s not an academic or work-related endeavor, or if you’re not talking to a foreigner, using English isn’t necessary at all, unless you’re simply trying to show off or look and sound cool in social media (which is totally uncool).

Now, whenever I look back in my previous posts, I see errors every once in a while. Obviously, those errors are not the usual grammar or spelling mistakes that non-writers make. Half the time, I spot poorly constructed sentences, dangling modifiers, and parallelism issues.

To be honest, it is easy to miss those things when you’re a writer. Writing and editing are two different skills, after all. Although some multi-talented or gifted word wizards can do both, not all writers are good editors in the same degree that not all editors are great writers. Editors and proofreaders don’t exist for no reason.

Let’s take this as an example. In my previous job, I qualified as a one-pass writer. This means my works did not go through the editing phase–I sent them directly to the web designers. We had editors, but the purpose of the one-pass writing program was to expedite the entire production.

When I first learned that I was among the chosen ones, I cringed because I knew I’ll never be good at editing (not true), especially if it’s my own work (still true). In a BPO setting, everyone needs to hustle because websites are being ordered in bulk and a company cannot afford a disruption in operations. Long story short, I had limited time for editing the pieces I wrote.

Normally, I have a tough time seeing my works from a different perspective. The trick is to change the font type, preferably to Comic Sans, so it’s like seeing the copy using a fresh pair of eyes. It works for me, but it’s not guaranteed to work 100% of the time.

Comic Sans and the Grammarly bot aren’t humans and humans aren’t perfect either. No matter how many times I comb through my content, my brain always beats my eyes. I found out that most writers experience the same. According to Wired, “the reason we don’t see our own typos is because what we see on the screen is competing with the version that exists in our heads.” This allows me to commit errors that, no matter how minor,  are enough to make me feel ashamed of myself and hide in my room 5ever.

But that was then and this is now.

I’ve long accepted that people commit mistakes–both in the linguistics and moral sense–and there’s nothing wrong with it (pun intended). I mean, it’s obvious when some idiot is simply trying to show off–I’d say they’re pathetic, but I won’t judge their intellectual capacity (even though I just called them “idiot”). I am both introspective and perceptive, thank you very much, and I am learning to consider things from different vantage points.

Whenever I see a writer (as in a self-proclaimed writer or someone who writes for a living) commit this mortal sin, I let them pass because I know the feeling. Writing, especially for personal blogs, is liberating when done without fears and limits. I do my best writing when I let out the exact words and thoughts going through my mind as I write. Although I usually hate my darlings by the time they become visible to the public, I am more comfortable publishing pieces that the grammar police in me didn’t inspect.

Now, if a Grammar Nazi were to visit my blog and judge me for all my grammar mistakes, I wouldn’t feel bad at all. Actually, I have a message for y’all:

Been there, done that, and I’d say it’s normal, that’s all.

xoxo,

a former Grammar Nazi

A Writer’s Dilemma: To Read, to Watch, or to Write?

My blog has been dormant for years (kidding, just three weeks) and I’m starting to feel like my life is a complete mess. The thing is lately, I have been torn between three lovers: reading, watching, and writing.

My best friend gave me this Kobo e-book reader and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since I first laid my hands on it. At the same time, I’ve been binge-watching 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale and seeing some movies in between. As I also write for a living, I find it hard to make time for my blog or my project.

In this post, I’ll try to solve a dilemma that’s been boggling me. Believe me, I write as I think, so in a way, we’re in this together. I have no idea what I’d write when I logged into my WordPress account. You see, as a writer of some sorts, I’ve been struggling for years: should I prioritize writing, reading, or watching?

Writing

I can’t emphasize enough how writing has saved me for years. When I ran out of courage to keep fighting, I wrote my way through depression. There were also times when my obsession with fictional characters made me temporarily forget my problems.

Writing is my therapy. However, writing for my nine-to-five job and doing some freelance gigs make it nearly impossible for me to write for my blog (a.k.a. submit articles to various platforms and then repost them here).

Reading

No matter what you say, I will always believe that to be a writer, you need to be a bookworm. When my boss at work asked tips on how to write quality articles in a lightning speed manner, I told them reading is my foundation. If you already have an idea in mind, writing the words will come out naturally. There’s no other way to do it good and fast than to read in advance.

That’s the reason why I never let my busy schedule get in the way of my passion for reading. Whether it’s a book, a journal, an online article, or what have you, you don’t stop reading because that’s how great writers came to be. Athletes work out to muster the strength they need for competitions. Writers read to gather information, exercise their imagination, and widen their horizons.

Watching

Writing for foreign clients requires knowing how to speak their native language. In my experience as a writer and an editor, I discovered that the biggest struggle of most of my officemates was Filipinism. Meaning, Filipino copywriters tend to literally translate Filipino idioms into English, which makes their copy sound sloppy and awkward.

I also found out that to be a good copywriter, you need to explain your message in layman’s terms. If you like to use hifalutin words to sound profound, you’re a pretentious little word witch and you need to learn spells to write in simple terms.

Watching American or British movies and shows helps me get a glimpse of their culture, traditions, and native language. When I write for a British audience, I’d recall how the Harry Potter characters or The Beatles phrased their words or lyrics. For an American audience, it’s easier. Our country is dominated by American pop culture. By watching and observing them, I learn to write how they speak.

Juggling three hobbies at a time may be tough, but I realize there’s no harm in doing it. After all, these activities keep me engaged. There’s lesser room for the negatives and to be honest, that’s enough for me. I’d rather struggle to choose what to prioritize than lay in bed and wallow in depressing thoughts. It still visits me every day, though, those depressing thoughts. Can’t speak for my future right now, but I have to admit, it’s getting better each day.

Intelligent People Are Land, Idiots Are Water (Published on Thought Catalog)

Trivial things used to kill my mood. And by trivial things, I mean perverts on the streets who think catcalling me will make me blush in a good way, politicians who are so dumb you’d wonder why they even exist, people who don’t understand mental health—things that may be insignificant to other people, but enough to leave me depressed for a day or two.

Now, when these things come knocking on my door, I smile.

I have had many unfortunate encounters with fuck faces. One time, I dyed my hair blonde because I felt like it. Surprisingly, this made perverts think that my blonde hair is a free pass to a kinky fuckery. I would tell my boyfriend I’ve had enough, but then he would always counter my arguments with his favorite point: if you don’t want them to disrespect you, don’t dye your hair.

What the fuck, right? I wasn’t even baring my legs when an ugly old beast touched them in public because he was captivated by my ethereal beauty (LOL).

My boyfriend’s point: that’s just the way it is, there’s nothing you can do about it.

My point: fuck you all stupid creatures with a small hot dog between your legs.

I also used to share long posts on social media and write blog entries about stupid politicians who are too bad to be true. These people just can’t seem to understand that women are human too and killing innocent people is immoral. Tell me, reader, am I wrong to hate those politicians?

Here’s the thing: one day, I posted a 200-word Facebook status about this misogynist-slash-sexist-slash-immoral politician and my dad told me that I shouldn’t waste my time with those shits. That I was just stressing myself for stupid little reasons.

What the hell, right? I told him “okay” but I secretly hated him for being one of the reasons why this world sucks. If people would continue to ignore these “stupid little reasons” and let those monsters rule the world, we’re hopeless. We’re doomed.

My father’s point: that’s just the way it is, there’s nothing you can do about it.

My point: cowards should go to hell because their tiny minds will be of no use when the zombies come

And then there’s my best friend who lives on the other side of the globe. She’s my sistah from another mothah and she knows everything about me—yes, including my frustrations. Whenever depression swallows us whole, we find comfort in knowing that people do stupid things because, well, they’re stupid.

One day, she told me that I should not let those trivial things get the best of me. After all, intelligent people are land and idiots are water. No matter how we baby our idealist selves by dreaming about a goody goody world, intelligent people can never outnumber idiots.

My best friend’s point: that’s just the way it is, there’s nothing you can do about it.

My point: oh my gooood you’re right why didn’t u tell me this b4

There. Intelligent people are land, idiots are water—this changed my perspective in life. And judging by how things are going, I think that, as the saying goes, I know too much psychology because I now understand everyone’s reasons for doing everything. Big props to you, bestie.

This was originally published on Thought Catalog

If You Want to Keep Me, Love Every Bit of Me Including My Anxiety (Published on Thought Catalog)

Me and my anxiety, we’re inseparable. It makes me do things I wouldn’t do under normal conditions. The thing is, my anxiety is so clingy it keeps squeezing itself into my daily routine. What was once an unusual feeling now became a norm. I become so used to it that I’m afraid it’s already part of who I am.

So I’m taking this chance to say sorry for all the things I did when I’m anxious. I just want you to bear this in mind: if you want to keep me, you need to love every bit of me including my anxiety.

I’m sorry I flooded your phone with messages when you forgot to text me last night. I was worried. The last time it happened, your phone got snatched from you. Can you blame me? I stayed up all night waiting for you. I wanted to hear from you, to know that you’re safe and sound. I’m sorry I worry too much. I guess that’s just the way I am.

Please bear with me if I say I love you too often. I know I can be annoying at times, but let me tell you this: the reason why my love for you is so big is because I know the world may end any moment and if I were to die, I would find comfort in knowing that the last words I uttered were “I love you.” I’m sorry I’m too sentimental. Perhaps I was born that way.

Forgive me for being such a pessimist. I always expect the worst. Disappointments trigger my depression and expecting the worst case scenarios prepares me for what’s ahead.

I’m sorry for always imagining that we won’t end up together. That’s my worst nightmare, do you know that? There are days when I talk about our future without the other and I only ask that you bear with me whenever this happens. If we’re breaking up soon, at least I’m ready. I’m sorry for making you listen to my negative thoughts, but I just can’t help it. My mind simply won’t cooperate.

Trust me: you may not see it yet, but I’m trying to fight it.

I only ask that you don’t mistake my anxiety for being crazy, needy, or clingy—I am far from those things. If you just learn to love me for who I am, you’ll see that I am more than just an anxious girlfriend.

I am more than my anxiety.

This was originally published on Thought Catalog

When I Ran Out of Courage to Keep Fighting, I Wrote My Way Through Depression (Published on Thought Catalog)

Last month was the worst.

Every night, I would try to shut my brain for the day and tell myself tomorrow is another day. Unfortunately, as if the Great Universe conspired to bully me and belittle my battleground skills, unwanted thoughts would always get in the way.

I would take a deep breath, stare at the ceiling, try to fight the pain, but the demons would always win. I always came into the battlefield defenseless, but I was never hopeless. Hope is the only anchor that keeps me alive.

And then I would wake up feeling empty, like there’s a hole in my chest that I can’t explain. I won’t tell you about the hell I went through, but if you’re a girl who always get catcalled slash poor writer slash anxious, you’ll get the picture. To say that I couldn’t find the motivation to get out of bed was an understatement. Long ago, I started to accept that perhaps I am an eternally lazy human being. But I was far from that–my family and co-workers can attest to that. As the symptoms became crystal clear, I found out that I’ve always been depressed.

Because when you can’t find a reason to go on, would you even want to face the world? Or worse, get out of bed to do the same old things? Work like a robot in the office, go home, try to sleep, repeat until dead.

I could try to talk with my best friend who lives on the other side of the globe, but we both know that trying to comfort each other through the screens of our phones is not a permanent cure. We can’t be physically there for each other, after all. I can hear Taylor Swift whispering in my ears: bandaids don’t fix bullet holes, bitch.

When the pain becomes unbearable to the point that my eyes become watery and it becomes even more difficult to breathe for no apparent reason, I would console myself by putting my emotion into words.

I won’t care if my sentence construction, grammar, and punctuation marks are correct. As a writer, you would expect me to become conscious of those rules, but when it comes to writing my pain, those shits don’t exist. I would let the words flow non-stop as if my life depended on them and I won’t stop until the tears aren’t there anymore and my breathing becomes normal again. Funnily enough, I even had the guts to submit those writeups to several platforms. That’s what happens when you’re depressed–you’re vulnerable and yo do crazy things you wouldn’t even consider doing in the first place when you’re fine. And then it dawned on me:

Last month was one of the best.

Looking back, I realized that despite being the worst month of my life, March has also been one of the best. I even wrote a blog post about thanking the Great Universe for all the wonderful things that took place last month and to be honest, I almost forgot about the days I cried in public and nights I fought the monsters inside my head when I realized that. All 11 writeups I submitted was published on those platforms, and I couldn’t find the right words to describe what I felt when I realized this.

At the times when I couldn’t find the courage to keep fighting, I wrote my way through depression. Writing has always been my therapy and it hasn’t failed me ever since I published my first post in my personal blog. I’ve always known this, but I never knew that it could help me overcome the worst month of my life. And boy, what a month.

I welcomed April praying that this feeling wasn’t just the Great Universe’s way of fooling me. And even if it was, I know what to do now. If the monsters were to come to my door again (which is very likely), I’d turn my depression into art and hold on to the belief that if writing saved me last time, it would keep me sane today and for the rest of my life.

(This was originally published on Thought Catalog)