April 26, 2019
“It’s hard to put excellence in a box . . . The nature of the work will always make you feel that there is a better idea, a better story, a better script,” says internationally acclaimed writer Benjamin Julian “BJ” Lingan.
BJ currently works as one of the head writers of ABS-CBN. He has written for various TV shows such as Bridges of Love and A Love to Last and an indie film called Ploning.
The sentiment of “maybe I can still do better” resounds with most of us—whether you are a student, a fresh graduate on your first job, or an internationally recognized writer like him.
Though BJ is referring in particular to his creative line of work, anyone can agree with him that excellence is not so easily defined nor easily attained. This is especially obvious in BJ’s field where there are certain standards and preferences set about by the management, the audience, and even himself.
The concept of excellence can be vague at times. We could have a grasp of what it means to be excellent as a student – doing our best in our academics, working hard in our organizations or other extracurricular activities – but what does it mean to be excellent outside of campus?
We’re starting off a series of articles on excellence beyond campus and for this first installment, we interviewed television and film writer BJ Lingan to see how we can be excellent in the field of creatives, arts, and media.
For BJ, being excellent in his sphere means doing the best that you can with the resources that you have, the time given, and the constraints that are part of your job.
Other people can attest to BJ’s dedication to excellence. His friend and co-worker, Rona Co, said that what makes BJ excellent is that he strives to be good in everything that he does, not just in his job. According to her, BJ is also a dedicated husband and father who strives hard to balance work and family life, and makes sure that he is actively involved in raising his daughter, despite the demands of the industry.
For a writer like BJ, vulnerability is the main ingredient that leads to excellence.
“The question of whether you are good enough is always there. And you just have to learn to drown out all that and write, knowing that I may not be the best but I can be secure in God.”
As he puts it, when a writer is “willing to be vulnerable enough — a thought, an idea, a line, a character… a story can flow.”
For him, when a writer is vulnerable, that is when he can create despite his fear of not being good enough.
A writer has to find the courage to open himself up through his work and become vulnerable to the judgment of others, knowing that he might be corrected or even rejected; being humble enough to receive correction and stand the possibility that his work might not be the best or might not even make the cut at all.
Beyond being modest in accepting praises, BJ learned to be secure in his identity in God. He knows that his work does not define who he is but it is dependent on God, who designed him for His purpose.
Consistent with being vulnerable, BJ also points out that to be excellent means to be teachable.
BJ is very appreciative of the patience and dedication of his mentors like Ricky Lee, Olive Lamasan, and Henry Quitain, who are veteran writers in literature and media. What also impressed him was their “generosity to teach and impart their genius.”
“They rooted for me not just to do good but to always strive for something better,” he says. He absorbs what he can from them and passes it on to other writers.
In turn, his colleagues attest that BJ also shows generosity in complimenting them; he never makes them feel like they are bad writers.
Rather than imposing standards, BJ believes that his personal excellence inspires others to do better. He does this by encouraging his writers and inspiring them to do better when they fail to deliver their best at work. Indeed, BJ’s workmates affirm that he is one of the most inspiring writers in their team.
BJ believes that “excellence gives you a voice so people will listen. It gives you credibility and the confidence to speak.”
He knows that people take notice of excellent work, and he hopes to create an environment where people would not just listen, but are spurred to take action.
His vision for his teleseryes doesn’t stop at providing entertainment; he wants to inspire the viewers and help them learn more about life.
Indeed, people do not merely notice but also give recognition to excellence. BJ’s first work as a head writer, Bridges of Love, was cited by a renowned award-giving body as one of four contenders for best telenovela. It was nominated in the 44th International Emmy Awards, which is considered the most prominent event in the international television industry.
It is certainly good to receive affirmation from people and accolades from established institutions. However, BJ emphasizes that putting out work is not motivated by seeking the approval of the world, but by the desire to give honor to God. Excelling in what we do is ultimately a heart issue. He maintains, “I am only excellent by the grace of God.”
BJ reveals that he is committed to pursue excellence in his work because it is simply giving what is due to God.
“Because I am loved by God, I will respond in loving and honoring Him. Excellence honors Him.”