Throughout my life, I have been praised as a good writer. In reality, I always dreaded writing. I am always afraid that my writing is not good enough. To be more precise, I often have the fear that others will not like what I write. That enormous fear transforms into an indissoluble writer’s block. As a child, I hated in-class essays because I either deviated from the topic, or I stared at my composition book blankly. If it is a take-home essay, my mom usually end up writing bulk of it on my behalf. I struggled and wrestle with the fear, and once I just let my thoughts go free, voila, there was the magic. My teacher lauded me in front of my mom that my writing skill has improved. One moment of stardom, but still not the best one in the class.
Once I came to the States, I could not write. The obvious reason being my very limited vocabulary. While in ESL classes, I just composed paragraphs in English but adhering to Chinese grammar. Grammar was not taught in any of these classes because some experts believe that grammatical structure can be absorbed while naturally learning a language. Since American education is praise-centered, I received compliments from many teachers that I wrote well. Perhaps it was because I was one of the few pupils in the class who actually did the assignment. One of the most prominent compliment was that my thoughts were creative and that my words were fluid. These compliment worked like wonders; they propelled me to learn and to write more. At the same time, being away from my family, writing has become my salvation. I could vent and say whatever I want to my diary without being criticized or scrutinized. Here comes the downside. Because I was encouraged to write in whichever way I want, I never fully understood the proper structure that governs word order. During the peer review, my writings were often characterized as “difficult to understand, but very innovative in ideas.” That was just a polite way to compare my chaotic writing to modern art; it could interpreted as a mess, but somehow appeared different from other types of art. As I was promoted to higher grades, my writing gradually became grammatical; however, this process was painful and slow. Admittedly I persevered and tackled obstacles, but not without tears and frustration. Why did not I get it? English is suppose to be one of the easier languages! Was I just too thickheaded to understand it all? I still remembered that I used to feel the need to tell every single new teacher I had that my English was not great because it was not my mother tongue. Was I hoping that their leniency would give me an easier time in class?
One of the hardest blows I received was during my first year of college. I did not pass the writing test because my writing style was unfit for an academic environment; it was too flowery. Again, I was in an ESL class. In that class, I witnessed some brightest students struggled. In my case, having a writing problem is detrimental. As a history major, not being able to articulate thoughts effectively is almost like a runner without legs. I recalled completing writing assignment well-ahead, so I could have someone proofread it for me. It was possible for one assignment to be edited three or more times. Thus began a time of sumo wrestling with writing. It was also around this time I became defensive when my work was criticized. I took pride in my work because I knew how much efforts I put in, even for the most mundane assignments. I was fortunate to have professors who were willing to overlook my grammatical blunders and cherished my ideas. Perhaps it was their tolerance that spoiled me that I became sloppy and insolent.
Years after I finished my undergraduate work, I encounter the very same problem yet again. This time, my adviser is a professional editor; therefore, he sees every little mistake and observes all the imperfection. His meticulousness both helps and devastates me. I can learn much from his expertise but every single time I receive feedback from him, my mental state will be forced onto a roller-coaster ride. There is no pressure cooker for good writers, but I really do not know what exactly does he expect besides a perfect paper. I notice that I am verbose to the extent that I overwrite, so streamlining my writing will be of utmost priority. The only option I have left is to write, write, and write more. I just need to keep on mulling over every word.