Now that I'm somewhat in a position of influence (I hope!), this is something that I have always believed in -- that the younger you start writing, the more leverage you will have over other writers in the future.
In 2007, at 13, I began taking writing seriously. Throughout grade school I had been praised for my English skills, but I never really took it seriously, until I needed it the most. 2007 was my first year of high school, and simply going from a star student in grade school to someone who just got by in high school was enough to bring me over the edge, but I also experienced a lot of hatred and hurt, from someone I regarded as a friend.
Because of that, I took to writing -- it was the one thing that allowed me to close myself off from the world and just be myself. I wasn't judged by my class rank or my looks, because paper never talked back to me, and never has. Putting my thoughts down on paper was not only a way to let them out, being the introvert that I am, it let me be myself, amidst all the dirt high school was throwing at me.
However whenever I wrote, I always had my iPod in tow. My trusty first generation iPod nano was my best friend during that time, playing songs I liked, and songs that matched my mood. It was during all that time alone that I began thinking of music as more than just something I was forced into.
It was only in early 2008 though that I got the message. I loved to write and I not only loved music but knew so much about it, that I would've been crazy not to think of putting my knowledge and my passion together into one venture. That venture was Pop Reviews Now.
I was still 13 when I started PRN in 2008, but even then I knew that I was diving into the unknown -- there was a HUGE possibility that this new venture of mine would never see the light of day, and I would eventually tire of it.
Well, did I? Of course not. I'm still here, aren't I?
Less than a year later, in 2009, I had established PRN among other, bigger and older music bloggers. I was part of an elite circle of writers, critics and generally amazing people, and I was barely 15. Needless to say, I was the youngest of them all, but I was just a little behind, if not equal, to them.
Finally, later that year in October, Pop Reviews Now was named one of the top entertainment blogs in the country. Top. In the country. I had just turned 15 then, and trust me, that was the best 15th birthday gift ever, to know that a year's worth of hard work was not in vain. After my win, I began writing, as a permanent senior editor, for omgkpop, a major Korean entertainment news site. I had gotten that job because of my credentials with PRN, and my then-recent blog awards stint. I kept that job for 6 months, before stepping up as editor-in-chief and network administrator of The Kpop Nation, a major Korean entertainment network, in 2010.
I turned 16 in 2010, and it so happened that 2010 was also an eventful year for me, away from my awarded blog. I started my senior year of high school, and in the Philippines that was the time when we all took entrance examinations for major universities in the country. I only took two exams - to THE two top universities - University of the Philippines and Ateneo De Manila University. The pressure to get in to these schools is immense, as literally every valedictorian, every whiz kid and every single high school senior vies for the limited slots in these two universities.
You can imagine the stress I was going through, just trying to prepare for these tests. But it got worse. At the beginning of the school year, less than 2 months before I was to take the exam of my life, my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer. We spent countless nights at the hospital, and I suddenly let go of my studies. I collapsed in school due to stress and fatigue, I'd get panic attacks left and right, and it was all too much for me.
So what did I do? I turned to writing. Like always. I let everything out, then shut the world out. For a few hours at a time I'd just make myself oblivious to everything, and it helped. It helped me get through my grandmother's death, it helped my stay strong for my mom, and it helped me ace those exams. The top two universities in the country admitted me to their prestigious literature programs in early 2011.
Which brings us to now. It's 2011, and I'm now studying Comparative Literature with a concentration in Asian Literatures at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, the university's flagship campus. I'm also a columnist for soompi.com, one of the oldest and biggest K-pop entertainment networks. A few days ago, I found out that I'm nominated for not one, nor two, but THREE Philippine Blog Awards, alongside some of the most established blogs in the country. Because you know what, Pop Reviews Now IS an established blog.
But wait. Why am I telling you my "life story"? Because I did all that. Because I was THIRTEEN when I started writing, and look where I've come.
The reason why K-pop news is like that is because people put down other writers just because they're young. Just because they "have no experience" and "are kids". As someone who was, and IS, a young writer, I am so, so, offended when people look down on me just because I'm "only 17". Where do you think we're going to get the next generation of news writers?
Unlike other fields, in the arts, the younger you start, the more extraordinary you are, and the more time you have to home your craft. Do you honestly think I got to where I am now by just sitting in a classroom all day and solving math problems? No. I got here because I worked hard for it. I'm a competent writer now because I started young, and because I dared to enter a world dominated by people older than me. The internet allowed me to be judged by my writing, not my academic achievements or my age, and it should stay that way.
If you start young, you get ahead -- you get experience before everyone else does. Do you want to write for a site that requires strong credentials? Start early, build a portfolio, win awards. I don't mean to brag or anything, but after writing for all these years, my credentials fill an entire page. If I only started writing this year, my resume would be blank, but it's not, and now I can get virtually any writing job I want with the drop of a hat.
Your age has nothing to do with your abilities -- if you're a good writer, you're a good writer. Of course, as you grow older your writing will change (most of the time for the better), but that's another reason why you have to start young -- you have to keep writing so you keep getting better.
To everyone who has ever looked down on me, or other young writers, and called people like me "naive" or "inferior", this is for you. I hope this is a slap on the face to you, because that girl who was looked down on for being a kid, just got nominated for three national blog awards.
People looking down on you are never right about anything - they don't have to be the reason why you stop writing, they can be the reason why you keep on writing. So before you have doubts about pursuing writing just because of your age, remember that there's no harm in trying, and that you will get somewhere with a bit of talent and a lot of hard work. Please, we need more good writers around.