Unconscious

I’ve been dreaming more than I usually do. Lately, the dreams have become aggressive and physical. 

Dreams of trying to catch items before they fall into a deep water-filled hole, having eggs suddenly thrown at me, being threatened by someone much larger and stronger than me. 

In my dreams I soothe arguments between other people and attempt to plead for forgiveness from someone I never even knew I wronged. I dream about post-apocalyptic cities and snakes made out of electricity. 

The last time I dreamed like this, it lasted for over a month and by the end of it, I felt like I hadn’t slept in forever. 

This time feels different. 

Back then, I felt like the dreams took me over, chewed me up and swallowed me. I spent nights wandering, crying, waking up feeling like everything was rotten and nothing made sense. 

These days, I think of it as my unconscious trying to speak. 

Instead of seeing the dream experiences as scary or traumatic, I think of it as another language — the only way my unconscious knows how to make sense. 

The temptation to silence it is palpable. The desire to shut it out is real. But these days, I’m trying to listen. And that has made all the difference.

Unwritten

Sometimes I feel like I’m always waiting for the perfect moment to write the Novel I have in my head. 

I’ll start when I’m done with this project, I tell myself. But when one work project ends, another begins. My so-called masterpiece (only in my head) goes unwritten. 

What I do have though, are the pieces I’ve written in stolen moments. 

In a two-hour frenzy the night before a submission deadline. Scribbled into my notebook in between tasks. Punched hurriedly into my phone in the wee hours of the morning before I roll into bed. 

Early last year, a friend told me that “version one is better than version none” and that has stayed with me. 

So instead of that Novel that I’m waiting for the perfect moment to write, I have — in version one — shitty novels and short stories, unformatted scripts and half-baked articles. I procrastinate by writing songs and social media posts. 

I’ve come to accept that my capital-N-novel is a fantasy. And it serves its purpose — to give me hope, to keep me going, to wrap myself in on nights when real life feels too much to bear. 

Meanwhile, I send my polished version ones out into the world and somehow, some of them have found homes.

Hallyu

I’ve been obsessed with South Korean culture lately. 

This obsession began by accident when, during the MCO (lockdown in Malaysia), Ming showed me the intro to Mystic Pop-up Bar and asked if I wanted to watch it. I thought it was a documentary about a themed bar, so I said yes. 

A minute into the first episode, I realised I’d been duped. But it was already too late. I was hooked. 

After Mystic Pop-up Bar, Ming convinced me to watch Crash Landing on You and then It’s Okay to Not be Okay. And my initial fascination gave way to full-blown obsession.

As I read more about hallyu and began thinking about it from a media studies perspective, I became curious about the concept of soft power. 

South Korea is so open, compared to China. It has access to Western media and culture, but has managed to hold its own as well. Just think about how different Parasite (2019) is, compared to other award-winning movies. 

So, as a distraction from my actual research (on pornography in Malaysia), I’ve been reading The Birth of Korean Cool by Euny Hong.

In it, I came across this term: han, which according to Hong is an untranslatable word that’s used to describe “a culturally specific, ultra-distilled form of rage”. 

For some reason, I found the idea of this rage-as-result-of-suffering that’s passed down through generations inspirational. Apparently, it’s how South Korea has developed so quickly in the last 50 years.

Research

Time is passing like a bullet train with no stops. In a month — just 30 days — it will be the new year, the beginning of the third decade in this millennium. 

2020 has been an especially anxiety-ridden year for me, and possibly, for many others too. 

The first movement control order (lockdown) in Malaysia happened in the middle of March, when work was just beginning to pick up. 

But as my clients lost revenues and my other businesses were unable to operate, I had to stop work and suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands. 

I decided that this was my opportunity to go back to school — something I’d been considering for a while but never found the time to get around to. 

Right after Jacob died, slightly dazed with grief, I started filling out forms. It was an impulse taken too far, just over two months into my Masters course and it still feels surreal. 

Especially because my research involves scouring the Internet for sex media… ahem, pornography. 

Keeping track of what’s happening in the sex industry is now considered productive work for me. 

They say time flies when you’re having fun. I guess 2021 is going to come (pun unintended) in a flash. 

Criticism

I take “killing my darlings” too far. In fact, I sometimes wonder if I have any “darlings” when it comes to my writing; I often feel as if my words become someone else’s once they materialise on a page. 

This is probably one of the reasons why I feel divorced from my work. Not only do I mostly write for clients, but when I write for myself, the piece doesn’t feel like mine either. 

I write, because I enjoy the craft of it. Twisting and turning a story, an article, a song, round and around — figuring out how to shape it into its best form. 

Sometimes I totally fail and sometimes I could be better. But once a piece is out into the world, it no longer occupies the same place in my heart. It suddenly feels less mine and I’m ready to kill it, if required. 

How did I get this way? 

Being a journalist made me heartless, I think. 

When you need to get a one-sentence tweet, 100-word email and 300-word article out 30 minutes after an assignment, you stop caring about whether your writing evokes such and such an emotion. 

Your writing becomes functional, not a part of your personality. 

I remember in the early stages, crying in the toilet because I didn’t get the right angle, because my lede wasn’t strong enough. Being told that I was a bad writer, that my work sucked, to redo an entire article from a different angle. 

Back then, getting harsh criticism felt like the worst thing. I guess the good news is that now, the criticism can’t get any worse.