Picture a scene, set a decade ago, of a young girl sitting somewhere in a dusty library, reading a column in the opinion page of a national newspaper, getting inspired, and vowing, “Someday, I’ll get published here too.”
Then picture her ten years later, getting published in that same column. Talk about incredible full-circle moments and dreams coming true!
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Okay, I will cut to the chase and say it outright—I got published on YoungBlood! YoungBlood is a column in the national newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer, and getting to contribute there has been one of my greatest dreams for as long as my writing self can remember. This narrative details everything from my dream’s early beginnings, to the actual writing of the piece, to the day I got published, right down to my misadventures in trying to get a copy of the paper, and how you (if you’re a twentysomething-and-below Filipino) can get published, too!
If you want to experience the fulfillment of my YoungBlood dream the way I did, then by all means, please read through the entire post. 🙂 But to make it easier for you to check out just the parts you’re interested in finding out more about, I’ve chopped up this [long] narrative in sections so you can just jump to a particular portion of your own liking:
I. The Column – What is YoungBlood?
II. The Dream – The start of my YoungBlood dream
III. The Road to YoungBlood – The revival of the forgotten dream
IV. The Writing – On finally writing that YoungBlood piece
V. The Wait – After submitting, then what?
VI. The Dream Come True – The day I got published
VII. The Hiccup in the Happy-Ever-After – When the universe said, we need to balance the good with the bad
VIII. The Challenge – How about you submit a YoungBlood piece too?
IX. The How-To Guide – How to get published in YoungBlood
I. The Column
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.” — Dead Poets Society
YoungBlood is a column in the opinion section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of the Philippines’ mega-giants in the newspaper industry. The column, which was initially intended to be an avenue for young campus writers to write opinion pieces in, first came out in 1994 when the Inquirer was growing as a national newspaper and was thus in the process of expanding the editorial page along with the rest of the paper.
Through the years, however, YoungBlood has grown to be more than just a column through which campus editors and writers can discuss national issues. As former Inquirer Opinion editor Jorge Aruta pointed out in the 1998 compilation book The Best of Youngblood,
“Where the idea was once to get the youth to speak out on issues, young men and women are not only debating national issues but also writing about the whole range of human experience: birth and death, love and hate, friends and enemies, children and parents, studies and hobbies, jobs and joblessness, virtues and vices, joy and grief.”
Today, as it continues to receive an influx of contributions from the twentysomething and below from all over the country, there’s no doubt YoungBlood persists not only to be a stage for individual expression, but also an iconic column that chronicles the voice of a generation.
II. The Dream
I had been following the YoungBlood column since I was barely a teen, and all throughout high school. It was easy for me to do as my mother was the school librarian back then, and I thus had access to a daily subscription of the paper. Getting hold of a fresh copy of the paper every morning, I would check out only three sections: the Comics page, the Horoscope, and YoungBlood. YoungBlood was the only column I was interested in reading in the opinion page, and I remember wondering whether I’ll ever get to write something for it someday. I, after all, had always been an active member of the school paper, and it was one of my biggest dreams to get to contribute a piece to that column, too.
So even way back high school, I had started writing out drafts for YoungBlood. During that time, I never got to write anything past a second paragraph, much less submit a finished piece for the column. College came, I set aside my YoungBlood dream (or any writing dream, for that matter), the years passed by, and then hello, 23-year-old me.
III. The Road to YoungBlood
“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.” — Victor Hugo
It was in the 23rd year of my life that I got to look in the face a glaring truth I had chosen to ignore in the past—that though I could take myself out of writing, I could never take writing out of me. I found myself gravitating to the craft again, as though it was the most natural thing on earth. Amidst the brokenness I felt in my life, writing healed me, but more than granting me the gift of personal reintegration, I found that it gave me the challenge of a larger purpose, a vision I could realize only through fidelity to my own passions.
Bit by bit, and only God knows how, all my dreams and even those I didn’t dare dream about in the arena of writing came true: I was given the opportunity to write a weekly column for a local newspaper, I got to write a commissioned piece for a national teen magazine, I got Freshly Pressed, and another of my blog posts garnered views and shares (and such heartwarming comments) I didn’t think was possible for my page to even get half as close to.
So many things in my writing life were going well, and I could never be grateful enough for everything I had been granted in the writing world. But I kept coming back to one of my greatest (unfulfilled) dreams in the world of writing. YoungBlood, my unfinished business.
IV. The Writing
“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” — Joseph Heller
Writing, as a craft, is both a beautiful and a torturous thing. I’ve read someone assert that writing should be a joy and not work, and if it is considered work, it should not be done. It is true in some respects, especially when it comes to writing for personal reasons only, as in a diary. But I find that when it comes to writing for the purpose of sharing one’s experience to others, or expressing an opinion, or trying to initiate a shift in perspective, writing is really work. And it is hard work, even for writers — or more likely, especially for writers.
Writing my YoungBlood piece was an especially torturous time. For an entire week, I was rendered incapacitated to do pretty much anything else other than that special task which I had set for myself—I had to finish the piece and submit it before I could go on with the rest of my life, so to speak. The disquiet I felt was unforgiving, and I knew it would be abated only upon the fulfillment of the task—that of not necessarily getting published in print, but the task of finally submitting a finished piece.
And so, for days, I labored through that piece. There are times in writing when ideas and words would just flow out of you like you are no longer an agent but simply an instrument, like a funnel channeling a greater power to tangible form. The time I wrote my YoungBlood piece, however, was not one of those times.
Writing that piece was deliberate, with sparks of inspiration painstakingly sought out instead of freely given to me by the writing muse. I struggled with outlines, grappled with words, arranged and rearranged phrases, growled at awkward-sounding sentences, stopped exasperated, started again hopeful, and repeated that process which I wasn’t sure would ever have an end. I especially agonized at the last 3-4 paragraphs of the piece, where no sentences seemed to connect and flow smoothly out of their own accord, and instead waited on me to scrupulously sort them out and fix them where they seemed troublesome.
The problem with writing a piece for something like YoungBlood is that it doesn’t have a deadline, and it’s not even waiting for you in particular to submit just so it could run the next day. It’s just there, and you’re here, and it couldn’t care less whether you submitted today or the next year or the next millennium. Because of that absence of pressure, you could spend the rest of your life revising, or eventually give up and leave an unfinished piece abandoned for days, or years, or forever…in which case, you never get to submit anything, ever.
But as I felt the overwhelming need to get a sense of completion (or at least closure) in this phase of my writing life, I resolved to write and finish the piece no matter what.
I kept at it until the piece finally sounded “right,” stared at my finished article for a long time while asking myself, “Is this piece ‘right’ enough, or could I do something more for it?” and had to scold myself with a firm, “It’s not going to submit itself!” before I finally hit the send button.
V. The Wait
One of the most difficult aspects in writing for YoungBlood is the uncertainty and anticipation. The Inquirer never responds to contributors whether they’ll publish a particular piece or not. They just do, or they don’t. After submitting your piece, you could get published 4 days later, or 3 months later, or never. In other words, you can wait forever.
That was one of the factors that had prevented me from submitting earlier, as I didn’t want to have this sort of open wound which would possibly never get closed if I dared submitting anything. I figured, better not submit a piece, so I could save myself from the anticipation (“Will they publish what I sent them?”), and the constant checking of the paper (“YoungBlood is up today! Was I published?”), along with the regular disappointment (“Nah, not today.”). In the past, I thus felt better off with a definite no (“Of course I would never be published, because I never submitted”) rather than a possible but perpetually indefinite yes.
But I submitted. On the 3rd week of December, I finally hit that send button, with the consoling condition that I would give it 3 months, tops. If the piece I submitted was not published within that time, I would (ideally) gracefully let go of my YoungBlood dream as something that though I did not reach, I tried to at least shoot for before my time was up (they accept contributions only from those 29 y.o. and below).
VI. The Dream Come True
“Miracles happen, once in a while, when you believe.”
It was a fateful day in January. I arrived home late after a long day at school. During lunch earlier that day, I had yet another discussion with my classmates regarding careers and my decision to leave nursing two years ago after just a short time of working as a staff nurse. Every time that conversation is brought up, I honestly feel like I have to do a lot of explaining about two things. One, I feel that I have to defend my previous path—the nursing profession—and make it clear that I did not leave it because I thought it was an awful or unworthy profession, only that I felt that I was better suited to a different profession. Two, I also have to defend my current path—the road towards becoming a registered psychologist—and explain the reason why I chose this path and not another, like say, psychiatric nursing.
I think I’m getting better at sharing the whats, whys and hows of my career life to people, however, I still find it draining and at times fueling my own doubts about the questionable career decisions I have recently made. I arrived home that day not only tired from the day’s 8:30am to 8:30pm classes, but also a bit (ok, a LOT) frazzled, confused, and doubtful, questioning for the nth time whether I was really on the right path or I was better off sticking to nursing.
This kind of going back-and-forth is a very real struggle for me, and I fight it out every day, although some days the fights are fiercer than on other days. That particular day, I was feeling especially embattled, and so I decided to turn in early for the night, possibly after yet another crying session just to let all the stress out (drama-queen, I know).
But before turning off the lights, for some reason I decided to check on Inquirer’s website again, after more than a week of not doing so because I was busy with other things. And lo and behold, I see my submission posted there.
The river of tears I let out upon seeing my piece getting published was the result of so much more than just the realization that I got published on a national newspaper. Others may understand my utter happiness as something in the context of an “achievement” or a “dream come true” in the domain of my writing life, but as I experienced it, getting published on YoungBlood for that particular piece was so much more than that.
It happened at the exact moment in my life when I was seriously questioning my current path, and it was as if life was answering me back, “You’re on the right track; just hold on.”
The same thing happened to me last year, when during a trip away from home I was led to seriously doubt my decision to leave nursing, only to arrive home and see one of my blog posts get featured on Freshly Pressed as one of the WordPress editors’ picks. Call it confirmation bias, but I’d like to believe these events were not mere coincidences. During the times when my doubts were strongest, life had the most amazing ways to show me that I am exactly where I should be.
VII. The Hiccup in the Happy-Ever-After
“When everything’s going your way, you’re in the wrong lane.”
Okay, so I got published in my dream column, YAYYY!!!
Q: What more could I ask for?
A: A copy of *that issue* of the Philippine Daily Inquirer!
Getting a hard copy of the issue in which I got published is a very important matter to me. I am a zealous collector of memorabilia and tangible reminders of significant events in my life, and naturally, I wanted more than anything in the world to get a copy of that one issue in which my submission got published.
However, I found the posting of the article in the website already too late into the night, and I could no longer go out to grab that day’s issue of the paper. I resolved to find a copy the next day, even if I had to scour the streets for a back issue of the paper.
The next morning, as I set out to find that issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, I fervently asked God, “Lord, I hope there’s still a copy of yesterday’s paper available today.” I vowed never to go home without it.
At the first newsstand I asked, the vendor was visibly surprised to hear me asking about the previous day’s copy of the newspaper (who wants stale news, anyway?). However, I was even more surprised when he responded with a “Yes,” as if selling back issues of a daily paper was standard operating procedure. The vendor explained that the one who usually got the back issues was not able to collect them at the usual time that day, and said I was lucky that happened—if not, I would not have found any copy of the previous day’s issue anywhere. As I bought a copy of the paper, I was mentally thanking God for such a blessing.
I then opened the paper and checked on the Opinion section for the YoungBlood column. Nothing. I checked the rest of the paper cover-to-cover. Still nothing.
I should’ve known that was too easy.
I figured my published piece must’ve been published not on the previous day, but on that very day. Good, I said, I could simply grab a copy of today’s issue.
Only, that day’s issue was not available in the newsstand from which I bought the back issue. It wasn’t available in the newsstand beside it, or in another newsstand a few blocks away. The vendors all explained that the Philippine Daily Inquirer was not delivered that day. They would all offer me several other newspapers, to which I would of course say, “No, I want the Inquirer.” And they would all reiterate, “The Inquirer wasn’t delivered today.” It wasn’t delivered to them, nor (by logical extension and by asking several other newsstands in another part of the city) to any other newsstand within the entire city.
At that point, I could no longer understand what to feel. On the one hand, I felt like the luckiest person on Earth because I got published in a column I had dreamed my entire life of contributing to. On the other hand, I felt like I had the worst luck in the world, because the ONE DAY I get published on a national newspaper is also the ONE DAY no copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer reached the city I was in. Seriously, universe??? I mean, imagine the emotional torture that caused me. *tableflip*
But before I could conclude that the entire universe was conspiring against me, I carefully recalled what I had prayed to God: “Lord, I hope there’s still a copy of yesterday’s paper available today.”
Oo nga naman, pinagbigyan nga lang naman ako ni Lord sa hiling ko. Sabi ko kasi dapat ‘yesterday’s paper’ eh. AYAN TULOY. (Yes indeed, God only granted my wish. I did say that I wanted to have ‘yesterday’s paper.’ There goes.)
Another lesson entitled “Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it,” painfully learned.
I went home that day defeated, ready to commence the DABDA process of grief. I was just about to get past the Bargaining phase and sink into Depression, when one of my best friends (to whom I had ranted about hitting the roof if I didn’t get a copy of that PDI issue) told me he had a copy of the paper for me!! *does happy dance*
He had requested his mom (who was staying in another province at the time) to grab a copy from where she was, if the issue was available there. Thankfully, the issue was indeed available there and that, my friends, is the long-drawn-out story of how I finally got hold of the all-important paper that published something of my own labor.
VIII. The Challenge
“Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk—and to act.” — Maxwell Maltz
So all’s well that ends well for my YoungBlood story. How about you, my fellow twentysomething-and-below comrade? Are you up for the challenge of writing for YoungBlood too?
I could almost hear the refusals and the reasons being called out to me, reasons for not responding to the call for contributors. For those who really don’t want to get published in YoungBlood, then there’s nothing much I can say or do. But for those who have a story to share or a message to impart, and who also want to submit a YoungBlood article but are just too worried their piece might not be good enough to get published (I know, I had this fear, too), a case can be made as to why you should send in your contribution too.
First of all, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose, except maybe around a couple of months of freedom from anticipation after you do submit a contribution. If you can strike a deal with yourself that you are to retain your sanity if the worst happens and your piece doesn’t ever get published, then that is the key to conquering the paralysis borne out of fear of failure. You submit, and if you get published, HOORAYYY!!! If you never get published, don’t worry, you’ll live. (And no one has to know about it, so better keep mum in the early phases.)
Secondly, you don’t have to have overflowing writing talent to accomplish this. One of the main things I hear people say regarding writing is this: “I also want to write more or contribute a piece to so-and-so, but I’m not a writer like you. I don’t know how to write.” I think many people have this view of writers as being innately blessed with the gift of words, or having that easily accessible supply of inspiration such that writing becomes an easy endeavor for them every time they pick up a pen and set down on a blank page. I used to think that way about writers and writing, too. But as I immersed myself more and more into the world of writing, I had come to wonder whether such view is essentially flawed.
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso
Consider how I write, for instance. It’s not as if I get up in the morning, get meself a cup of coffee, sit down on my desk, and write a seamless publish-worthy article like it’s a piece of cake because heck, I’ve been published before. Writing still involves a struggle for me. It demands a lot of discipline and effort, and inspiration is so highly revered precisely because it comes so rarely. Inspiration doesn’t always get thrown into the mix, and whenever it does, I find that it always arrives when I’m hard at work, not when I’m waiting for it to fall from the sky while I’m lazing around.
Thus I have come to wonder whether writing really is a talent, like I’ve always believed it was, or simply a capacity to bear more—to bear more hardship in the process of seeking the right words to use, to wait long enough “for the mud to settle” when one’s ideas are so muddled up they don’t make any sense at all, to persevere hard enough and dare to create ideas when there is not much to work with in the first place.
Maybe, the people we call writers are not really gifted, with words and inspiration and several other names for it. Maybe they’ve just toiled longer and harder, enough to get to a place where words can meet them halfway, instead of expecting words to come to them from some obscure word-paradise. Think about it. Maybe for you, too—if you tried long and hard enough—maybe the words, in eloquent lines and fitting phrases, will come for you and meet you in the in-between too.
“At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.” — Annie Dillard
And thirdly, remember that only you can tell your own story in the most authentic way possible. Only you have the exact kind of opinions you do about national, social, political, or personal issues. There are other people out there who might be better writers than you are, but one thing they don’t have–and which the YoungBlood column is looking for–is your own unique story or take on things. It is this individuality, the quirks of our times, the experiences that define our generation, that the YoungBlood column aims to highlight and let known.
So, c’mon, don’t just watch there. You have experienced what you have experienced for a reason–and if its sharing may help one other soul understand what he too is going through, or comfort another, or nudge someone to take that next step, or inspire someone towards fulfilling a lifelong dream, then you are called to share that story, because it is in your power to do.
For those of you who do want to take a shot at it and get your opinion or story immortalized through the iconic YoungBlood column, here are some basic guidelines and a few other tips I can share with you on how to get published in YoungBlood:
IX. The How-To Guide
- Email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Instead of sending your article as a Word document attached to your email message, copy-paste the text in the body of your message. That way, the eds won’t have to download a separate file to view your submission.
- In your submission, include the following:
- Name (If you don’t want to be publicly identified as the author of the article, you may request the editors to use the pseudonym you provide instead of your real name in the byline.)
- Age (you must be 29 y.o. and below)
- If you’re a student: School, year and course
- If you’re employed: Job position and the company you work with
- The piece should not have been previously published.
- The length of your write-up should ideally fit the column length (around 1,200 words or 5,000 characters).
- For the subject line of your email, use the format “YoungBlood Submission – Topic of the article – Title of the article” (e.g., “YoungBlood Submission – Topic: Career change – Title: Transitioning”). This is not an official guideline, but I read about this suggestion from this blogsite which helped me a great deal in preparing to submit for YoungBlood.
- If you want more samples of YoungBlood articles, you may browse other previously published pieces at the Inquirer’s website, or get a copy of the Best of YoungBlood books (there are already 4 editions in circulation, I believe) which feature the best essays ever published in the column through the years.
- Other websites you might also want to check out for additional tips (these were a tremendous help to me!):
I will not be a hypocrite and say that it doesn’t matter whether you get published or not. Of course it matters. But it doesn’t have to be the only thing that does. It also matters that you take up the courage to speak out on issues that matter to you personally, to your community, or to the country as a whole, whether it ever sees the light of national-publicationdom or not. If you submit, at least there’s a chance your message gets published; if you don’t, your chances are stuck at zero.
The YoungBlood column is not located somewhere in the last-part add-on sections of the paper; it’s with the main, headline-bearing body of the paper, right in the Opinion section in the same spread as the paper’s Editorial. That in itself speaks volumes about the impact your words can have, the issues they can bring to light, the hope they may bring, the inspiration they might spark. You never know, your message or story might get published. And if it does, you never know how immense its impact or how far its reach will be —a young girl somewhere in a dusty library might get to read your work, be inspired, vow “Someday, I’ll get published here too,” and get published 10 years later too. 🙂
I’ll leave you with that final thought, and with this inspiring song by Sara Bareilles, which has come to be the official soundtrack I would play whenever I get discouraged or lack self-confidence in the fight for my own dreams. I hope its message touches you and moves you to push past self-doubts and misgivings, like it has done for me too. 🙂
All the best,