Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weak languages

So I'm going to write about writing today, particularly about weak, pathetic words (pathetic is much too strong is not?) that are widely and repeatedly utilised in writing. Probably due to habit and complacency. This was in part, inspired by one of Jeff Goins' blogpost recommended in the newsletter I signed up for. Jeff stated a list of 'weak words' that could diminish the strength of our writing, including words such as 'very', 'things', 'stuff' and etc...Can 'etc' be considered as two weak words? I too might have been writing in a careless, yawn-inducing manner before, but now...I am positively anxious about typing the next sentence. Oh, the horror. You can refer to his list here.

However, his post brought to mind my high school English teacher who taught me in my final year. Looking back to those good old schooling days, writing was mostly 'occupational', and frankly somewhat akin to an apprentice's feeble attempts to impress and hopefully, to score points off his/her master. Well, for some of us that is. What can I say? We were almost constantly racing against the clock.

One memorable afternoon, my then-English-teacher strolled into the classroom with a stack of our exam papers. Silence ensued, necks craned and arched as though it would enable a glimpse of the grades in circles and red. The tension in the air was tangible, possibly due to the approaching Malaysian Certification of Education or SPM exams (equivalent to O-levels). But that's not the worst part.

My teacher was rather displeased with that term's paper. She started by distributing papers that were considerably less offensive to her grammatically-conscious eyes. Then she came to several sheets with marked edges, while I fidgeted in my seat. My friend's formal-writing was criticized for its flowery tone, and she received her paper with a poker face. Then, my teacher read one paragraph from the last sheet in a single breath. Apparently, three lines of texts with no comma in the middle is not ok. I raised my hand slowly and take full credit for that sentence. It was the last paper of her deck, thankfully - I felt fizzled out already.

She then addressed all of us and our poor choice of wording, particular with the use of one word: 'nice'. She criticized that the use of 'nice' is lazy and vague. 'The dress is really nice'. 'She have nice hair'. 'He owned a really nice car'. As she quoted what most of us did for that test, I realised that some of our writing must have been rather foolish, and even ridiculous from her point of view.

In case you hadn't noticed, I have just described one of those embarrassing moments in my life. To this day I remember her lecture explicitly, and I have not used 'nice' unless I was being vague intentionally. But there's a silver lining to that incident: I learned that vagueness is not acceptable in writings. Mostly. I have come across instances where wording can be too strong. But that's for another time.

And this is day two of #my500words!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My 500 Words

I...really am not supposed to do this. You see, I'm sitting in my office reading other people's blogs when I know my boss is after my neck. But then I come across this "My 500 Words" challenge on Jeff Goins page and boy, am I intrigued. Honestly, I have always hope to write a book of my own but the question that have always stump out the flickering hope was: What on Earth would I write about? I mean, what do I have to offer my audience, if I ever have one? 

I’ve kept journals to rant and complain about how I have no room in my cupboard to fit new books in the past, but never had I once thought about composing my thoughts to write something meaningful or fun or entertaining. Just the thought of the contents in those old journals make me cringe.

My 500 words challenge. Right. I was talking about that. (Focus!) So basically I just need to write 500 words every day for 31 days, no editing required, only and solely focusing on the process of writing. I realised I have restructured this sentence itself for a couple to times so that it sound right in my head. No editing is one thing I definitely cannot promise.

This challenge is going to take all of what little ability I have to stay committed to a single goal, and all of my concentration. I suspect that I have probably carried some form of Attention Deficit Disorder all my life. Since I was a child, I could never sit quietly in the class, listen to what my teachers said about handing in that piece of homework tomorrow, or stop doodling in pages of all of my exercise books and then tearing them out to evade my mother’s detection. I still have no idea why she bothered checking my homework: I never even jot them down in the first place. The worst that could happen was getting caned on the hand or being made to stand on chairs. I think those were means of trying to make me learn my lessons through pain and humiliation…yeah…I don’t think it worked.

As I’m typing this, I realise the importance of commitment in creating a life that I want. After my undergraduate degree, I lost sight of what I knew was the most important thing in life: to move forward continuously, even if it was just a little at a time. I can only guess that the effects of chasing after the life on the fast lane are taking its toll. I want things and I want them fast. I forgot that I’d have to take the first step in order to reach my goal, and that it would take a lot of hard work, patience, persistence, sacrifice, and with luck, some good luck and opportunity.

I probably signed up for this challenge rather impulsively, as with many decisions I made in my life. But I do love to write, and I want to remember how it feels to write something that is not related to work or formalities, and rediscover the meaning of ‘little by little’.

So, this is day one for me! Let’s hope I have something to write in the next twenty-four hours.