“It’s easy to write. You just open a vein and bleed,” says Red Smith, a brilliant and well-known sports writer. (I haven’t heard of him until I stumbled upon his witty one-liner and read about him described as such, which made me feel so not-in, even when it’s totally understandable because am no sports fan nor writing student, nevertheless I feel not-in because I am, and being manul about Red Smith is only among the many indications of that.)

(Now that am in-the-know,) Let me accord the great guy due respect and heed his advice. (Also, hide under the mantle of his illustrious wisdom which, if we have to be proprietory about it, could have been mine or someone else’s, or is actually mine and everyone else’s, just that Red Smith said it in words that make you bow, die this instant, and hope someone cares enough to dissect your mutilated artery.)

These days, I am trying to approach writing in a diligently reckless manner. I want to study the craft, start an affair with words, know the tricks and techniques. But, as many of them writers have said in many different ways, you can’t learn without doing. One must write.

I admit that among the first things that worry me about this particular act is my incompetence with syntax and grammar. Heck, I doubt if I can even define what they are, much less identify which is correct and which is wrong. I confess: My grammatical sense is a go-with-your-gut thing. Not really bad since I’ve heard a number of people say (my high school Literature teacher included) they simply write, unmindful of the laws of grammar. “If it sounds right, then it’s most likely right”, Ma’am once said.

I take comfort in this. Am just not certain whether all of my eloquent and dedicated English professors would be much pleased to discover I’ve forgotten The Basic Rules. It seems the only valuable knowledge I’ve retained from all that schooling is Subject-Verb Agreement. And, I can’t even claim my subjects and verbs are often of the same heads and rarely cross swords. The communist party and government panel may have bigger chances at striking a peace deal.

With that, let me ease into another matter that concerns my gut. See, I am scared of spilling it. Through writing, and in public, that is. Yet, if we were to go by my (shameless) invitations to anyone who so happened to sniff the air I breathe, one would think I have absolutely no problem with exhibiting guts. And if my self-perception is anywhere near accurate, gutsy is among the terms that could be embroidered in my pillow.

But we all know, am just being cute. Instead of cheeky, which is what I wish to be. And that, ladies, gentlemen and cross-dressers, is an illustration of why when writing I’m tempted to run for the door.

I dread the labels, those sweeping monster-like terms employed for the sake of efficiency, and the very same ones I flippantly use for fun (and sometimes for serious no holds barred criticisms). I dread them because they convey judgement/s of character (never mind skill). Anyone who has ever been entangled in cryptic wordplay knows a single term is loaded with a hundred meanings and a million subtexts. Luckily, as one who does the writing, I can qualify a label by stringing it along the other words that make up a sentence. Or, I can devote an entire paragraph, even a whole write-up, explaining away what a certain label means, connotes, denotes, implies, stands for, eats for, sleeps for, represents, refers to, alludes to, is or isn’t.

Unfortunately, no matter how adept in writing I can be, I know I cannot be held solely responsible for a reader’s reactions. And unless I want to be sidetracked by belabored (and therefore boring) elaborations (and therefore redundant) and adamantly refuse to rein in my out-of-control control-freakness, there is no way I can escape judgement (assuming there is at least one person who gives a hoot). I will just have to accept my eccentricity. (Yes, eccentric is the most dreaded dreadful word). It is already evident. Resistance is futile. Pay up.

So, at the risk of being called many names (assuming the one who gives a hoot decides to spare an opinion), whether arrogant or adorable, self-indulgent or sensible, mediocre or mediocre, I will take the pen. Use it. In diligently reckless fashion. Write with a snooty air, if I must. Dive from a high springboard and land nose flat into a waterless pool, if I must. Because when you’re fearful and in self-protect(-from-self) mode, it helps to imagine you’re way up above the rest, standing high on a shaky platform that could in any moment waggle you upside down. And when this causes a reader to chuckle, then, maybe then, any damage to your erstwhile beautiful pert nose would have been worth it. Else, you can look forward to next time, when you feel brave enough to slice open a prettier vein.