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Brian J. W. Lee is a writer. When he's not writing, he's plotting to plunge the world in a deep chasm of terror, darkness and screams. Sorry, did I get carried away?

Sunday, 11 December 2016

On the Army & Writing

Some of you might have realised that there has been an awful lack of posts lately on my blog. Some of you might have hallucinated a choir of singing crickets when you viewed my blog for the umpteenth time only to see nothing.

Well, don't worry. I haven't sworn off blogging, I've just been busy with this:
If any of you need a boot camp in writing, lemme know :)

Basically, I'd been called up to return to military service for a week. It's a fucking tiring, soulless and thankless job. It's especially bad for me since I have additional responsibilities (just look at all those chevrons!) and none of the pride, way nor will to do it. But hey, at least I'd returned in one piece on Friday.

Some of you may know that I have a rather... dim view of the military. I'm always bashing on it quite a lot and for good reason. It pretty much clashes with my lifestyle of artistic ambitions. Every single day is a major struggle even when I'm not fully occupied in camp, and it'd be far worse when I am.

Despite my CO being kind and allowing my unit to return home each day, I was too tired each time to think about writing. All my time at home was instead used to maintain myself. Cleaning myself up after a filthy day, resting, preparing for the morrow as there's usually more gear to bring to camp, and sleeping early because I had to reach camp early.

But what I am going to say next is probably going to cause a Richter 10.0 Earthquake in Singapore (not that Singapore suffers from any form of natural disaster):

It's not entirely bad.

Yeah. It's not entirely bad. Well, in a masochistic sort of way. The army is a prominent topic to write about. Heck, I mean, my debut novel, The Keeper of Pulau Purba (available in Amazon now!), has the army as a major theme. In other words, I've spent a week walking in the shoes of my own characters. It's a good refresher on what it means to be in the army, willing or not. If it's good for a conversation in the coffee shop or a bar, it's good for a novel.

Then, I get to hang out with my wife:
I love the smell of gun smoke in the morning.

This time around, we get to brush up on our marksmanship. I get to shoot on the range. It's one of the few things I like about the army. So, the story goes that I get to team up with my storemen and drivers for the shoot. It's a team thing, which means all our scores are averaged out for the final decision as to whether we are marksmen or not.

We're driven to a simulation building the day before. It's the day I found out that there's a guy in my detail who couldn't shoot at all and he's in the twilight years of his tenure as a reservist. The final year, I might add. To tell you the truth, just like I told him, I couldn't be bothered with the marksmanship status and prize money that has been offered to us. I just wanted, then, to be done with the army and get out. The shooting bit was just an arcade sideshow for me. Therefore, my teammate's poor shooting didn't bother me in the slightest. The only problem was that everyone else were all thinking very differently.

I also found out that I was the second worst shooter. So I guess it pays to be humble (more on that later. Oh boy, a lot more, I tell you). Mainly, my excuses include the simulation screen, which was dark as hell, and my sports spectacles, which tends to fog up in the air-conditioned simulation room. Both problems were solved the next day, just in time for the big finale.

As if I'm in a novel myself (for all you know, we could all be figments of one person's imagination), the table was turned the next day. Everyone else started screwing up, and I became the team's best marksman.

By the second time we did a reshoot, I've only missed one or two shots out of 15... every time, except maybe the first time, when we had to do a night shoot, in which I forgot to reload when I'm out of bullets, and I did crossfires to hit the smaller targets to help my poor, retiring storeman, only to find out that it's not allowed. In the meantime, my guys continued to break the rules by cross-firing and hitting illegal targets (unwittingly, to their credit) or outright missing the target - Until they got it right the last time. I had to be on my toes all the while, performing at top capacity while they get their shit together. My hands were shaking by the end.

The story ended the next day for me, when we finally leave the camp and our uniforms behind, at least for another year, but with a cruel twist - The brass seemed to be impressed with me for some reason, and wants to make me a Company Sergeant Major. Oh, cruel fate! An idealistic writer who hates the army for a CSM. What the frickin'-!

Anyway, my point is that no matter how bad things get, there's always a silver lining. Here, it's that I get to mine this experience for writing and story material. Let's just say that the sequel to The Keeper of Pulau Purba is going to be even more awesome, the more I suffer. But don't worry, I'll happily bleed on the page for you guys! That's why we have blood donation drives, folks!

So for the rest of you who might be experiencing worse or something similar, when the going gets tough, and tears start dripping, remember that if you survive, you can look back and think to yourself, 'hey, now that's something I can use.' Whether be it to write a book, or just be all the wiser, it's something, even if it's evil.

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