3. Cloud Memory

It looked like a commie missing a quarter of his head, his brains spilling out. Either brains or blood, but his first instinct was brains, and first instincts are hard to shake. Instincts were what kept him alive long enough to last the war. Long enough to watch every friend he’s made tagged with the three dreaded letters: KIA.

And eventually, long enough to return home and look at the clouds.

He was 19 when he joined the war, fresh-faced and excited. He was 23 when it ended a lifetime later. In 4 years, war had changed him in more ways than ordinary life ever could, in any number of years. Hell, most people didn’t learn how to spell correctly in 4 years.

He’s learned how to shoot a man’s head from a hundred yards. He’s learned how to shut out the awful sound of death and destruction while dragging a wounded man away from gunfire. He’s learned how to spot the light glinting off a sniper rifle’s scope. How to rip his lungs apart screaming a warning to his comrades.

How to duck and dodge the high-caliber bullet that would have taken his head off, if he had been slower by one-tenth of a blink. But he has always thought of that as more dumb luck.

Winning a war was probably about strategies and mathematical calculations for those seated safe in their underground bunkers, hunched over a map full of dots and lines and with little figurines, representing troops, standing over the designated areas. But in the trenches, ankle-deep in the mud that made it simply impossible to move, winning a war just meant surviving long enough to get home. And that – surviving – was dumb luck.

She came into his field of vision, blocking his view of the busted commie’s head- no, the clouds. Smiling. The sun couldn’t match her radiance.

What are you thinking about? He heard her ask.

What was he going to say? How could she ever understand? How could he say it all and pollute her soul? The commie’s scattered brains were visible behind her head, and he understood why instinct told him brains, not blood.

The man had been defenseless, his rifle jammed with mud and small stones. He had begged for his life in his own language. Begged to be spared. He was making some gestures – I have children, three of them.

He never managed to complete his sentence. The first bullet struck his left ear, taking it off in a drizzle of blood and small bone fragments. The second went into his eye, and it was brains, not blood, that flew.

Well? She asked.

Nothing. He gave her a perfunctory smile, and tucked her auburn locks behind her ear. Just you.

She smiled again – and for a moment, the war was far away.

2. 500 Words and 10,000 Reasons

To be a writer is to write every day of the year, except on Christmas and your birthday; but you secretly write on Christmas and your birthday anyway when no one’s looking. That’s what Stephen King said, more or less.

Side note: I’ve only recently got into Mr. King’s writing. Currently on the fifth book of The Dark Tower series, and loving every page of it. He wrote this book deceptively titled “On Writing”, in which he calls out every how-to guide on writing as complete bullshit. It’s quite a read.

But I digress.

This return to blogging was something I had not planned on doing, not until 2014. I could give you a whole list of reasons why 2014 would be the best time for me to start blogging – I would have graduated and free from worries about exams and assignments; I would be a person in transition, which apparently makes very good blog material; it’s a nice, new start…

(et cetera)

But that all went out the window during a conversation I had with Vivian after church. I was explaining exactly what I planned to do, the reasons and rationale of my plans; and she had the most eloquent thing to say in response:

“If you keep saying you’ll do it in the future, you’ll never do it.”

In other words: utter bull. If you don’t want to do it, you’ll find an excuse. If you want to do it, you’ll find a way.

I want to be a writer. I have wanted to be one since I was 16. I have wanted to be a writer ever since I stopped being indecisive about what I wanted to be. And it’s about time I found a way to be a serious one.

500 words a day, give or take. This shall be my commitment to this blog – through rain, shine, haze, and hailstorm. For every thousand good reasons why I cannot meet the challenge, one thing trumps them all and tramples them into the ground: I want to be a good writer.

(God be willing, a great one)

And to be a good writer is to write, write, and write.

1. On Embarrassment and Growing

Past-me embarrasses me.

(I’m ashamed to admit that I had to look up how many “r”s there are in “embarrass”)

Every now and then, usually biannually, I get the urge to revisit my older works. Open up dusty notebooks. Boot up the ancient 518MB-RAM Pentium III and listen to it struggle to start up like my grandfather’s Toyota. The process varies, but inevitably, I find myself closing the notebook, the word document, or the browser window feeling like I should bury my past work under a landslide.

Holy crap, I wrote that?

Past-me is such a showoff. There’s a whole 3-paragraph writeup that was specifically written how it was just so Past-me could include the word “epitome” in there, because it sounded like a cool, sophisticated word to use. Past-me writes long, drawn-out melodramatic scenes, milking it for all it’s worth. Past me has not a single clue about what on earth he is doing.

I’m sure it relates to anyone in any profession, especially when it comes to creative work, and especially if you have just started out to learn your chops. Inevitably, invariably, there’s going to be at least that one things that is going to haunt you from a forgotten part of the internet; or from a dark corner of your mind – whether it is an old work; a blog post from years ago; or a highly emotional facebook status. If you’re lucky, the world will never see it. If you’re not…

(shudder)

Still, it’s a good thing. It’s a good thing that Past-me embarrasses me. It’s a good thing that I cringe when I look at the words Past-me chooses to use in his narratives. Why, you ask?

Because it tells me that I have grown. As a writer. As a storyteller. As a person.

The fact that I can be embarrassed by my older works tells me that I have managed to elevate my thoughts to a higher level. That I have acquired better taste over the years. It reminds me of how much I have grown in the space of the past 5 years or so; and who’s to say what the next 5 years will bring? If I look back, 5 years from now, and go, “That was pretty solid writing I had there”… I will have cause to worry then. The implications would be that I have become complacent. Stagnant in the mastering of my craft.

(and that will be bad)

5 years – this very blog post will probably embarrass Future-me in turn.

And that will be a good thing.

0. The Blank Screen

(One, two…)

The blank screen is a daunting thing.

Since the abrupt end of my last blogging stint towards the end of 2009, I’ve looked at plenty of blank screens: at the beginning of my nanowrimo projects 2011/2012; my various copywriting assignments; and more recently, my scriptwriting ventures… I’ve had a fair share of looking at blank screens, and I’ve stared them all down, planting word after word until the blank screen properly becomes a writing piece.

Still, the blank screen is a daunting thing. Especially now that there is nothing to hide behind – no stock corporate phrases to begin with; no title page to kickstart the writing process. Just the blank screen and I – Goliath and a butt-naked David; and I’m David.

From here on, there will be massive geekiness; there will be wild musings (often about the most inappropriate things); there will be opinions being shared on uncomfortable topics; there will be complete, unfiltered, unashamed honesty; and there will be writing. Lots and lots and lots of writing. You can bet on that.

This is my third blogging attempt.

(…ninety-nine, one hundred.)

Ready or not, here I come.