My Persistence of Writing

On my last trip back to my parents’ place, my mom gave me what should be the very last pile of stuff they’ve kept around the house: my report cards from preschool onwards. Turns out, in depressingly stereotypical Asian fashion, I participated in a lot of schooling as a kid, with a sizable stack of cards to show for all that effort. And though these reports were meant to be a form of accountability to parents from the classroom, looking back at the details and grades I had accrued, I do question their exact utility; how much can one teacher accurately assess 6-or-more attributes of their class of 30+ students?

That said, I readily recognize and accept my poor showing around “Composition” in Chinese school. It was, in fact, one of a handful of memories I still have about schooling: I absolutely hated the task of having to come up with a couple hundred words around a topic, and had a habit of rambling on about irrelevancies to hit word counts. Most of my teachers were not impressed by this strategy, and marked my papers accordingly.

In fact, I struggled with writing all the way through high school and into college. Despite my pride in completing a B.A. and receiving an education balanced between the purely scientific/technical with the liberal arts, the toughest classes I took were my B.A. literary requirements, which I chose to satisfy via undergraduate Rhetoric courses. Specifically, rhetoric is the study of argumentative writing, and I was at best a mediocre writer who had no original or interesting arguments to make1.

But I have been blogging since 2004 or so, and here on since 2010. And though I can’t proclaim to have become a great writer through short bursts of online prose, I’ve gotten enough positive feedback from friends and colleagues and occasional strangers to validate a level of literary improvement.

This is more than an elongated and narcissistic patting of myself on the back. Reflecting on how much more comfortable I am in jotting down and eventually publishing my thoughts, I’m actually slightly bummed at how long it has taken; I sucked at writing for a very long time! It helps that the blogging format is quite forgiving, and that I only write about topics that I find stimulating2. Though this medium, I’ve been able to develop that elusive “voice” in my writing—itself, continually evolving—which has become a significant part of my self-definition.

All of this is to say that sometimes, persistence and practice pays off.

  1. I still believe that I’m a much better editor than I am an originator of ideas.

  2. My Rhetoric TAs will be glad to hear that I’ve deleted my fair share of draft posts that, while they had tinges of linguistic flavor and flair, ended up not having enough to say and were much apropos about nothing.

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