Tuesday, January 29, 2013

On Writing

Writing cover letters is annoying. Not only annoying, but incredibly depressing as well. Unless you have amazing life skills that are hot in-demand AND you are great at sales pitches, constructing a cover letter can be a painful trial-and-error process of learning how to sell yourself. This is especially complicated for those of us who learned English as a second language, because if you are a slow writer like I am, each application can take up to a few of hours to complete, especially if you include research involved for each job. The number of applications I can complete in one day is tiny compared to the number I should be sending out to have a decent chance at finding something suitable, which makes this process even more depressing. As a result, writing and sending out cover letters and resumes can be a long, consistent, and painful reminder of your sad state of unemployedness. Moreover, if you are a recent graduate who finds yourself with a degree that doesn't amount to much employability, it also serves as a depressing reminder of the amount of debt you have put yourself (and perhaps family members) into.

On the bright side, I feel like my writing has been getting marginally better with each job application I send out--which got me to thinking about how my writing had improved in the past. If I hated writing so much, then why am I writing this blog post about writing? After all, isn't this blog mostly photo- and art-focused?

The truth is, I don't actually hate writing. I only dislike one big aspect of it: the slowness. The thing I dislike the most is knowing how slow the process is for me compared with other people. I don't like being aware of how long the thoughts first take to form in my head, and then the length of time for them to get translated and transcribed by my hand. I began learning English at age 6, which delayed my having a proper grasp of more advanced writing abilities until much later -- probably over a decade after my peers had developed them. My mom constantly stressed the importance of reading. I know, now, how right she was -- how important reading books is to the mind's ability to not only build vocabulary and learn about society, but also the ability to synthesize complex ideas -- but when she was saying these words to me throughout grade school, they sounded like a constant nagging at something that I was doing inadequately, and the negativity shunned me away from novels. (I chose, instead, to indulge in graphic novels -- great stories, fewer words, and a burgeoning passion for drawing and art.)

The writing section of the SATs was especially grueling for me. At the end of the 45 minutes -- or however long they gave you -- I was struggling to finish 2 coherent paragraphs to get a score of 4 ("is mostly organized and focused, with a progression of ideas that is mostly coherent" but "demonstrates inconsistent facility with language and uses mostly appropriate vocabulary") while my friends were getting full 6s ("is tightly organized and focused, with a smooth and coherent progression of ideas," "demonstrates a facility with language through the use of descriptive and appropriate vocabulary," and "uses intelligent variation in sentence structure"). (I had a hard time finding a reference to the descriptions, so Sparknotes to what I found.)

On the other hand, I have grown up to be a highly logic-oriented person. I love puzzles and scored 800 on all of the SAT math sections, allowing me to indulge on the things I was good at and neglect those that I wasn't succeeding in. I was afraid of practicing my writing because things written were meant to be read, and the thought of my peers who seemed like they were born with the facility of the English language felt so embarrassing that I didn't do anything. I loved life, art, and ideas, and writing about them gave me a means to formulate more coherent thoughts. Over the years, I had kept up a personal blog, and I noticed that my writing for schoolwork flowed with more ease when I wrote more compared in it. At some point, I realized that writing was not an enemy -- that it was okay to send ugly incoherent drafts to be brutally ripped apart before they can be put back together into a slightly more intelligible package. I'm not sure I learned to get over my embarrassment, but I sure did learn to ignore it. After all, isn't blogging mightier than the sword in this day and age?

Thanks to habit, I am still not a habitual reader -- although I love it whenever I do read. There are quite a few books on my reading list, and it's always exciting to get best-sellers for $1 from second-hand stores. I've discovered that Librivox is a great solution for those of us who 1) never actually read the classics in school or don't remember them, and 2) don't really have the time to do it now, but 3) would still like to catch up with the rest of the edumacated world. I've gotten through most of my high school reading list now by listening to mp3s of really fantastic volunteers, but part of me is still optimistic that I may, some day, actually put in the time to read the actual words myself. Maybe.

Well, if you've made it this far, congratulations; I hope that my writing wasn't too painful to endure. :)

Alice statue in Central Park at night, not inundated with kids.

(Also, feel free to reach out if you know of a job opening in the health field in NYC!!)


  1. I wholeheartedly agree that writing is daunting and a huge pain even for me as a native speaker. love your background! is it your own watercolor?

    1. Hi Lorraine! Unfortunately, I just used one of the pre-made designs from blogger, but I am planning on working more on this blog (and maybe a website too!)

  2. Thanks for sharing, Yiz :) Writing is hard, and yet so important. I echo Lorraine in saying that writing takes me a significant amount of time and focus, even as a native speaker! I really recognize and value when people put the effort into writing well, and I honestly think you're one of them-- I also think that the logic orientation you talked about having is essential to being able to effectively communicate ideas, however complex they may be.

    Also, a great article I read recently that speaks to some of these same ideas:

    1. Thanks for the link! You're absolutely right -- I also really appreciate it when I come across pieces that are well-thought out and well-written. Now I just need to figure out how to balance this blog with pictures vs words (as well as being good about actually updating!). :)

    2. Thanks for the link! You're absolutely right -- I also really appreciate it when I come across pieces that are well-thought out and well-written. Now I just need to figure out how to balance this blog with pictures vs words (as well as being good about actually updating!). :)