Everyone has their most hated subject in school. Mine was English. Specifically, the writing part of English. It just didn’t make much sense to me, and it was boring.
But you’re a writer! You said.
Well, not all relationship starts with love at first sight, let me tell you. I’ve never had a great relationship with English. English class was the most dreadful time for me back in high school, sitting there staring aimlessly out the window, hoping that time would pass faster. Looking back, I think my love for telling stories is what ultimately rescued my appreciation for the English language.
Recently, I’ve had the need to become familiar, yet again, with the process of writing an essay. That is something that I haven’t had the need to do since… oh… high school? (A long, long time ago, in a land far, far away…) And that was all because I decided to go back to school and take an English course through a distance ed program. Assignment number one? Passage analysis of a section of text from a short story in the course reader.
WHY!? Why on Earth would I do that? Am I crazy!? Those were the questions that circled my mind repeatedly as I stared blankly at the computer screen, trying to formulate the first sentence for the essay instead of banging my head against the keyboard.
You have to understand: English has never been an easy subject for me. I love to read, but there is a humongous difference between the consequence-free leisure readings, and the dry, dull and boring required readings of a high school English class. Immigrating here in my early teens more than a dozen years ago, I have never been convinced that I am ever going to be good at the language in any way, shape, or form. Writing in English just doesn’t come naturally to me, even though I speak it fluently. What made it worse was the pointless school essays that did nothing to improve my so-called appreciation of the language (bleh). I’ve long since realized that I simply cannot do a good job at writing about subject matters I do not care about.
And for a long time, I’ve tried to get away with writing as little as possible and only when required. My writing became confined to formulaic lab reports and scientific papers with no real need for style and finesse. My language became complex and wordy, but it was boring to read. I still read leisurely, but my appreciation were largely for the stories themselves and not the intricacies in the writing.
It wasn’t until I started writing fiction (this is quite a long time before I decided to publish) that things began to change. It was then that I really learned how to use the subtle difference between words. It was then that I really started to really understand all of the literary techniques that I learned in school. It was then that I reclaimed my appreciation for the writings that are not in my usual reading genres, and for the language itself. I’ve learned to like the process of taking apart the words on the page and look for the meaning behind those words.
So, back to the essay. Eventually, I got over the panic of needing to write an essay. And then something unexpected happened: the words began to flow. I went back, read the passage again, and I found myself going, “Huh, I actually understand what they’re trying to do here. This is kinda cool!” Maybe it was because I’m now older and more mature (ok, not by much…), maybe my understanding of the English language did improve over time, but I think the creative exercise of writing fiction played an important role in helping me really understand and love the language. I still hate writing essays, but it isn’t difficult anymore.
You know, if anyone were to tell me, ten years ago, that I’d be making a living one day with writing, I’d be rolling on the floor laughing at the absurdity of the notion. Funny how things change.