I always ask Sung to read my newspaper columns before I submit them. He isn’t much of a reader or writer, but he has an innate sense of good vs. bad with anything art-related.
For this month’s column, I wanted to celebrate my marriage and highlight my new last name. I used my blog post about how Sung and I met. But chopping it down to 600 words did not do the story any favors.
Sung read my draft and shook his head.
“You hide your emotions,” he said, “it’s so dry. It’s like reading instructions for assembling a vacuum.”
I got prickly. “What do you mean? I put my heart into it.”
“The problem is that you’re writing to impress people. And there’s some block you have between what you want to say and what you actually say.”
All that room he found for improvement left me feeling discouraged.
In my gut, I know he’s right. But my brain can’t seem to translate his criticism into a solution. How do I be more vulnerable in my writing?
Is the problem what I’m saying, or how I’m saying it? Am I thinking too much about my words, or not enough?
When I scroll through my Google Doc journal, all I read is raw reaction spilling out of me. It’s useful material: a cache of nostalgia to jog my memory, a catalogue of phrases I like, years of free therapy. The one use it doesn’t have is shareability. It’s all out-of-context rants mixed with poems that don’t make sense.
There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’ll keep writing in private for the rest of my life. But something is pushing me to grow as a writer.
“Become a better writer” is a very vague goal. I guess to me, it means writing something that other people could potentially enjoy.
I started this blog because I hope it will help me become the best writer I can be. Like my newspaper columns, just the idea of a potential audience motivates me to work harder at expressing myself.
When I’m thinking about writing, this Shakespeare quote always pops in my head: “Brevity is the soul of wit.” I believe it means that using the minimum amount of words to convey a concept forces creativity. I think being concise is an indication of good writing. Here are some other things I strive to do as I write:
→Find a topic people can relate to
→Don’t use over-the-top vocabulary or metaphors
→Check that my explanations make sense outside of my own head
For my May column I eventually found a different way to tell the story, and Sung liked my final draft. I’m grateful he always gives me honest and helpful feedback to improve my writing.
I hope to figure out what is blocking me from taking my writing to the next level. Maybe it’s fear, maybe it’s ego. Maybe my ideas just need more time to marinate.
Maybe the key is to write for the benefit of other people with enough vulnerability that it sounds like I’m simply writing for my self?
Maybe I should stop trying so hard.
If I ever manage to unlock the level of writing I’m aiming for, it will probably be a happy accident.