On writing and being embarrassed

I hate writing.

For the past few months, I’ve been spending every Sunday writing a short blog post on a myriad of topics. Several friends reached out to express their enjoyment with the pieces, which was incredibly encouraging, so I want to share why I’m trying to make this into a habit.

Publishing a book has always been on my bucket list ever since high school. While many writers draw their inspiration from positive sources, my inspiration came in 12th grade, which was the year my confidence for writing was completely and utterly destroyed by my favorite English teacher, Ms. Weaver.

In school, English has always been the most difficult subject. As many of you know, I moved to the States during 3rd grade without any understanding of this new language, which understandably gave me a late start compared to my classmates. Though reading and understanding the language came relatively quickly, my writing always lagged behind. The ability to express yourself in a different language, I found, is far more difficult than decoding what’s given to you. Despite this, I started to test really well later on in elementary school and middle school, which placed me in Advanced English in 9th grade. And thus inflated my 13-year-old ego.

Ms. Weaver, by all accounts, was an amazing and kind teacher. I constantly refer to her as one of my favorite teachers growing up, next to my Economics teacher, Mr. Levering. But she was consistently known to be one of the toughest graders in school. So when I walked into high school with this emblazoned confidence, I wasn’t ready for the backlash. If I remember correctly, I never received more than a C+ in any of her essay assignments. Towards the end of the year I dreaded writing any essays, because I knew despite all my efforts I’d get an Asian F (a C for normal students). I walked away slightly discouraged, but always fell back on the excuse of “well, this is only my 6th year of English, I’ll be fine.”

After Freshman year, I did relatively well in English for Sophomore and Junior years of high school. I even received a near perfect writing score on my ACT. My confidence for writing, now being at an all-time high, let me to request Ms. Weaver’s 12th grade English class. big mistake.

I saw this as my shot at redemption, but whatever hopes I had were quickly shattered.

Much like 9th grade, no matter how hard I tried I never received above a C+ in any of my writing assignments, with a D+ being the most common grade. At that point, I gave up. I stopped trying to improve my writing skills because every ounce of confidence or self-esteem for writing was completely wrecked by Ms. Weaver. So throughout college, I made the conscious effort to not try hard.

Psychologically, pretending like I don’t care in the first place was the easiest way to deal with failure. How many of us go through the same thought process, using aloofness as a hedge to process our disappointments?

Though I spent the past decade avoiding any level of extra-curricular writing because of my experience in Ms. Weaver’s class, I am now finding that I can no longer ignore what a valuable skill it is to have in your repertoire. I have every intention of publishing a book and I want to start writing more about User Experience Design. However, I still feel like my writing skills are lacking. And I still hate writing.

However, I do find there’s a certain level of zen in forcing yourself to improve yourself in a manner deemed unpleasing. Swallowing the bitter pill, per se. Plus, trying to structure your thought process into a linear A to Z format is surprisingly quite difficult, but also a really fun challenge. Storytelling is not only an art, but also a craft. And much like a craftsman, I sincerely believe the only way I’ll ever improve is to keep improving and iterating.

The main reason I share my writing with you is to hopefully use embarrassment as a motivating tool to improve. I’m really self-conscious of my writing, especially since I want to soon start writing about other people’s stories (and not just my own personal thoughts). Despite this, I’m constantly reminded of this quote by Reid Hoffman:

If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

So I’ll keep writing. Shout out to Ms. Weaver, thanks for the push.
– B. Kim

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