Lately, a lot of things have been happening; I got accepted into a Journalism Program, I got picked up to write for an Indie Music Magazine, I have a horror film festival I am covering in 2 weeks and I just returned from a funeral. Then I was thinking admit my unfortunate travel to the US, “I might not be a good writer”.
I don’t think I’ll ever think of myself as a good writer; in high school, I was definitely a good musician and lacrosse player. But when it comes to writing, I just don’t think I am good. In university (America, this is usually synonymous with “College”) I took a class, Life Writing with Prof. Nikkila (I might be spelling her name wrong, her first name is Sonya), she made us read a lot of books real fast. We read books from authors like Primo Levi, Frederick Douglas, Elizabeth Gilbert (the person who wrote Eat, Pray, Love) and others; I remember there was even a graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel.
All these stories we read, the way we dissected books, passages and even layout helped me understand the best way to read books (in the graphic memoir, we discussed different ways how the spacing between the panels and how the writing was sometimes placed in them were significant). So, I understand books and artistic concepts quite well, but did it help me as a writer?
Nope, I think my highest mark on an essay was an 80%. I was shocked at that number as I already assumed that I didn’t deserve it (and like a douche, I told her that). I finished the course with a B+, and I never ventured into another English Department course. Even now, I don’t know if I have that great writing, before I entered university, I had a teacher at my Asian high school, who was named Dan. He told me that I am a good writer, and in fact told my parents that I should pursue writing!
That was the last time anyone said that.
Now, I am a bit of a joke to my family and friends, I barely have any fans online; because I identify as an online men’s rights activist, I have lost even more support (in saying that, I’ll probably lose my very few followers). So, I’m constantly trying to improve my craft, but how do I improve my craft?
By reading other material other than novels. It really depends what you want to do for writing, because what I learnt from writing a research paper (a meta analysis. and a real time experiment) is that
each type of written work has a different audience, that responds to different styles.
So, in my English course and cognitive psychology research I got the same mark, a healthy B+. However in my economic research course, I got an A=, now what does that mean? Absolutely nothing (as far as I can tell)! I mean, in the economics experiment I had pictures and stuff.
Really it doesn’t mean anything, anything more than I wanted to let you know that I think your marks in school are not necessarily meaningful (unless you end up falling for a genius polish girl, then they probably matter). My writing was and still is half-assed and mediocre, at least it seems that way. The only way that I can see that you get better, is by checking out your competition. I don’t like to phrase it as “your competition”, because they could be your friends, or people you admire and look u–, naw fuck it; it’s you or them.
“A person comfortable with how hard they work is not going to care if you’re trying to out do them in their craft, because they are trying to beat who they were yesterday.”
This saying can go either way though, so be careful people are savages out there. Lastly, I educate myself. I read a lot, I learn new words and will soon be learning another language (I started Mandarin, yet now I barely know how to speak, read or write. I also feel like they just gave me marks because a teacher called me a “black ghost” in front of the whole class, then a “fork”, yeah, think about that). Language is beautiful and it makes people feel a certain way, but it’s tricky; too much fancy language can make you sound egotistical, insecure, or just plainly not serious. To be honest, it all boils down to one word;
There is so much information, so many styles and words, definitely rules like grammar which is so important. But if you want to get better, you have to consume. For those of you who don’t know, calling someone a black or white ghost in Chinese, and you happen to be a black or white person; is racist as fuck.