Most people find no pleasure in writing.
For many, the casual flow of oral conversation seems to elude them once they are tasked with taking thought to pen and paper (or keyboard really, in this day and age). They associate writing with the tedious rigour of academia or the informal and abbreviated conversations online. Thus they express themselves adequately at best and crudely at worst.
But can anyone blame them?
There has been very little in the way of endeavours made to emphasise the relationship between fluidity, creativity and clarity when it comes to the written word. In our institutions of learning, both lower and higher, our emphasis is on clarity and clarity alone. Dynamic events in history, processes of discovery and so many more are distilled into a surprisingly thin and unappetisingly bland gruel which we then force down the throats of our youths. After which, we have the audacity to become enraged or appalled with them when we find they have neither the palette nor appetites for learning or self-discovery.
I will not condemn our educational institutions for placing such an importance on data driven results. The burden of raising generation after generation of productive citizens is neither easy, nor, one that is readily glorified by the general public. But the enormity of such a task results in the loss of individuality amongst each new cohort of young and curious minds. Yearly, child after child is force fed this bland gruel we call the “new curriculum” under a strict timeline and thrust into the subsequent year for another helping regardless of their state of informational indigestion.
As such we starve the young of what they truly desire; the fat and meat of the world.
And so they find it elsewhere, in the outlets of leisure and entertainment brimming with bright and exciting visuals as well as alluring, sensuous sounds. There they find fragments of bold and innovation which they cling onto, hoping some of the glamour imprints itself onto them. But armed only with the knowledge to consume and regurgitate, the young minds we are entrusted with often fail to answer the simple question as to why they love the things they do.
I have often found that those asked to write about their passions and desires give pause. The readiness of a verbal response often dissipates into mild frustration and soon enough, contemplation. They rarely know how to put their convictions into the written form, nor convey the great sights and sounds that have shaped their experiences in ways that would move a stranger’s soul.
That is why writing, and writing well for that matter, is an art.
To teach someone to write and express themselves, is to show them that words are neither rigid nor restrictive–but expansive and fluid– able to be shaped in their hands into whatever image they wish convey with neither sight nor sound to aid them. It is to seize the raw facts and data and conjure them into a story that compels and even inspires.
The great orators and writers are remembered not because of their facts but because of the emotions they were able to stir with a scant few meticulously crafted sentences. It is a skill that grows with time and experience, and one that even thrives under the tempest of duress rather than calm sterility.
I have found that most students and even adults I have interacted with on a daily basis possess the desire to word-smith as well as the great minds that preceded them, but often lack the willingness to do so. Part of this, I suspect, is the all too omnipresent fear of failure which has loomed over the lives of many Singaporeans. From our earliest days of schooling we are taught that grades, not learning matters and that risk is to be avoided because the penalties for failure are typically so high.
It is this looming doubt and aversion to risk, I suspect, compounded with the sense that writing is merely a tool for everyday use or an extension of the rigid and rigorous education that many come to abhor which has resulted in an aversion towards writing as a means of expression.
In my own earliest attempts at writing after going through the rigours of academia, I discovered a strong revulsion towards my own written creations: They were too similar in form to the many essays and thesis I had written throughout the years, and so indistinguishable, mundane and ugly in composition that it seemed as if the vivid memories I fondly recalled had been birthed into this world as literary abominations instead, causing me to recoil from my creations as Dr. Frankenstein did from his monster in horror and disappointment.
But unlike Dr. Frankenstein, I did not seek to flee from my creation, and I would encourage others to do the same. For unlike bringing an imperfect life into this world, words can be revisited, remoulded and reshaped. Far easier is it to correct or change a sentence than it is mend the fractured features of a monster’s face. It was this willingness to return and face I had made, which began as the stepping stone towards becoming an aspiring writer.
I thus end with a simple message to those who would take the time to read this piece.
Do not treat writing as a mere tool, nor should you be afraid to revisit old and possibly embarrassing works. The ability to correct and change slight imperfections in your previous works should be testament to your growth as a writer, and just like one who begins a journey down a seemingly endless road without end, you’ll never realise how far you’ve gone until you look behind and see your footprints stretching out over the horizon.
By Brandon Chung
My name is Brandon Chung, and I consider myself to be a perpetual student of history with a tremendous appreciation for the English literature, particularly that of fiction.
I tend to tailor my courses around student’s knowledge base, and aside from teaching the necessary materials, I also see fit to add in extra details and bits of information that give a more wholistic approach to the subject matter at hand.
My Linkedin information can be accessed here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandon-chung-howe/