Archive for April, 2010

4 things I learned from a freelance writing workshop

Posted in entrepreneurship, learning on April 27, 2010 by gohelpyourself

Writing is a joy. But just like anything that involves thinking, it requires discipline, too. (photo courtesy of

By Anthony O. Alcantara
Becoming a freelance writer has a certain appeal. Anyone can probably become one. But not everyone would want to, and not everyone can become good writers. At least, not at first.

Though I have some writing experience, going full time as a freelance writer is beyond my ken. So I sought the experts.

Recently I attended a workshop called “How to Jumpstart your Freelance Writing Career.” It was conducted by three young ladies named Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou, and Niña Terol-Zialcita. They formed this group called the Writer’s Block Philippines.

They don’t teach you how to cure writer’s block, but they do teach you how to write well and how to market yourself.

Marketing myself as a writer is what interested me most. And finding more profitable writing jobs is another. I’ve long known that freelance writing for magazines and newspapers won’t likely give you that BMW. There must be more.

Here are the things that I learned, or relearned, during the workshop.

1. “It’s who you know.”

I knew this all along, but Wanggo Gallaga, who was a guest speaker during the workshop, delivered it as a profound truth. It’s different when you write for a company magazine, and I’ve only written two feature articles for a newspaper in the last eight years.

I never realized that it is a basic tenet of freelance writing. Sending your stories to an editor who does not know you is almost as futile as sending a letter to Santa Claus. I’ve tried both.

So what do you do? Use your network. I found the exercise “Circle of Friends” useful. It starts with your inner circle of close friends, then your not-so-close friends, and then your acquaintances. Now I could picture where to start tapping my contacts.

2. Opportunities abound in writing for corporations.

I’ve seen crap emanate from a certain PR company that charges P10,000 for a press release that will only be read by the editor’s wastebasket.

I’m not bragging, but at least I know I can write better than some PR agency writers out there. And there lies the opportunity. Advertising agencies, PR agencies, marketing outfits are all looking for freelance writers.

3. You have to develop the mindset of an entrepreneur.

The only successful business I had was my real estate venture in a Millionaires Game session a long time ago. It was successful for about 30 minutes before going bankrupt. Anyway, my background didn’t give me the chance to exercise any entrepreneurial skills.

What I learned in the workshop is that a freelance writer must also be a savvy entrepreneur. If you can’t sell your skills as a writer, you can never become a full-time writer.

That’s what I hope to develop. Aside from my circle of friends and the untapped opportunities around, nourishing this mindset will help lot.

4. You kindle your creativity by interacting with other people.

Being with people who are on the same quest as you are can help you gather information you may not get elsewhere. You also make connections with people, information and ideas.

I guess creativity expert Edward Glassman‘s findings in his recent survey can explain this. He found that the biggest factor in making people more creative is “other people.” Indeed, interaction with other people who have different views and ideas can help create an environment conducive to creative thought. And that’s what the workshop created: an environment for creativity.

Come to think of it, it’s the same with everything else in life. It’s who you know that gets you to your destination. Looking for untapped opportunities helps you get that promotion. Having the mindset of an entrepreneur makes you sensitive to these opportunities. Interacting with people helps you to think creatively about a thorny problem.

And sometimes, it takes a workshop for you to realize these things.



How to enjoy a buffet

Posted in food on April 19, 2010 by gohelpyourself

I guess you pay more for the art than the drink itself.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

No work, no engagements, no chores, nothing to do… but eat. It was April 9, a holiday here in the Philippines, and a perfect day for a buffet.

Early this year, I got two free buffet vouchers for Circles Restaurant in Shangri-La Hotel in Makati. It was my reward from a bank for zapping P25,000 worth of purchases using my credit card late last year.

When my wife and I got to Circles, there were only a few people. Soon enough, however, people started to arrive. I suddenly felt like meditating and saying,   “Ommm….” I’ve never seen so many Buddha-like figures in my life.
Fortunately, I snapped out of my trance and we started to survey the beautiful gastronomic landscape.

After 15 years of no-holds-barred buffet experience, I’ve come up with a few guidelines on how to enjoy buffets without appearing to be PG, or patay gutom, or famished. I can’t think of a better translation right now.

1. Learn about the terrain.

That’s rule number 10 in Sun Tzu’s Art of War. You have to know the exits, the weak spots, the points of entry, anything that would make your movement easier. We were near the Chinese section. Lots of dimsum, Peking duck, white chicken, etc. So we started looking there. Our eyes glowed like a lamp. Then we went on to the Indian section with all those spicy food, the Italian section with the pastas, the grilling section with the roast beef and pork chops, the salad and appetizer section with the vegetables and cheeses, the deserts section with all the sweet stuff, and the Japanese section with all the delicious raw food.

Learning about the terrain is important. You have to know how to get around and plan your attack.

2. Unbuckle your belt.

Wearing a tight belt won’t allow you to get in all the food you want in your stomach. So before you begin, it might be a good idea to loosen up your belt a bit. I used to wear my belt tight even though I knew my waistline grew by 2 inches. I was in a state of denial. Besides, I really thought I could reduce my waistline by keeping my belt tight. I also used to have a “high waist” before, wearing my belt 2 inches higher than narrow part of my torso. So if you have this same fashion sense as I did, forget it. It will ruin your enjoyment of the buffet.

By the way, wearing tight underwear is also a bad idea.

3. Remember the 80/20 rule.

I just love this rule. You can apply it with almost everything in life. And we have the Italian sociologist and economist Vilifredo Pareto to thank. It simply means you get 80 percent of your results with 20 percent of the effort, 80 percent of your revenues from only 20 percent of your customers, 80 percent of the important stuff from only 20 percent of the book, 80 percent of the country’s wealth belong to 20 percent of the population, 80 percent of your enjoyment from only 20 percent of the dishes. Of course, the percentages could vary.

For me, the salmon sashimi, baked salmon, roast beef, and the cheeses make up that 20 percent. They’re much more expensive than the other dishes, too. So go for the dishes that you really like.

I love roast beef. I think this is my 5th plate.

4. Eat with other people.

Some research show that people eat 28 percent more when eating with a companion. This increases to 35 percent when eating with a large group. So if you want to eat more, or if you’re a fierce advocate of the so-called “see food” diet, bring along the gang or your family. Since I was with my wife, I probably ate only 28 percent more.

5. Don’t order special drinks.

If you’re going to fill your stomach with only the good stuff you enjoy, don’t order juices or other high-calorie drinks. Drinking lots of fluids make you feel full faster. And they sometimes make you puke, too. With all that food in your over-extended fist-sized stomach, adding rich juices will make you feel worse. Besides, they’re expensive, too. We paid P300 for a fruit shake with a slice of pineapple shaped like a rooster, which, I think, made up 80 percent of the price.

Sipping a little water from time to time is the best thing to do.

6. Don’t fill your plates.

As I said, you wouldn’t want to look PG. So try to make it appear that you’re an abstemious food lover who only enjoys eating small amounts. You will enjoy your food more that way. Some people get overwhelmed with the food on the buffet tables. Why overwhelm yourself more with too much food on your plates?

The trick is to get a little food at a time and savor them while thinking, “This is the good life.”

7. Savor the food.

Oh, I think I just repeated myself. So there, savor the food. Try to identify the tastes in your mouth. Sometimes, we just gulp down the food without trying to really enjoy them. Savoring is enjoying the moment, enjoying life. There’s no need to hurry, except of course if there are a lot of PGs around.

My wife Em certainly knows how to savor the food.

8. Have a good conversation while eating.

Our parents taught us not to talk while our mouth is full. So make sure you talk when you’re mouth is only half full. Be careful not to be overeager when talking and inadvertently launch a morsel of half digested or half-chewed roast beef to your companion.

Talk about the food, your hopes, your dreams, your frustrations, your dog, your cat, the people around you. Having a good conversation while eating is very enjoyable for me.

In other words, act like a dainty aristocrat and keep the conversation going.

9. Reserve some room for dessert.

I sometimes forget about this. And I regret it afterwards. Desserts complete your buffet. In order for you to truly exercise your tongue and your taste buds, you have to complete the spectrum of tastes. Sweet is the perfect finale.

Cakes, chocolates, tarts, etc… they all help complete your buffet experience.

10. Have a stroll afterwards.

When you’re sated to the max and feel you’ve had enough, you can try strolling afterwards. Of course, that is after you pay. Otherwise you’ll be made to stroll into the kitchen instead and asked to start washing 1,000 plates and 1,000 sets of cutlery and glasses. It could be worse.

Having a stroll helps you digest. Walking probably helps push down the food into your convoluted intestines faster.

Eating at buffets can be truly enjoyable, provided you don’t do it too often. All that rich food could be cloying, too, you know. But we don’t have to be a PG. There will always be another day.