Wednesday, April 26, 2017

On Writing

Writing is an indispensable part of my life both professionally and in my private life also.

I write because I want to. But I didn't use to enjoy writing in the past mainly because I was pathetically poor at it. Years passed, and over the course of time, I've been lucky enough to develop decent ability to write fairly long essays on various topics and sometimes even fun short stories.

Two things helped me.  One, I read a lot. I owe the development of my writing skills to three writers, one British, and the other two Japanese. They are William Somerset Maugham, Yukio Mishima, and Ryu Murakami.

From Maugham I have learned condensed expression of reality with effective use of abstract nouns.

From Mishima I have learned metaphors and humors.

From Murakami I have learned insight into human nature.

They are intertwined in my mind like a multi-colored thread, and put to use effectively when I churn out passages.

As I become better at writing, I have come to write more often.

Frequent writing has provided me with two benefits.

One, I have become capable of thinking and speaking logically. When I say "logically", I have three elements in mind: main message, reason, and examples. When observing and analyzing phenomena both inside and around me, I interpret the world in these terms. This helps facilitate my writing process enormously because I can use the same pattern repeatedly without thinking each time I face a certain interesting phenomenon.

The second benefit is professional. I have become prolific. This is a big advantage in my profession. I am a language teacher. As a language teacher I write syllabuses and design lessons day in and day out. I teach five different levels regularly, and they require different activities. The more advanced the level becomes, the more creative you need to be; very often you must create situations in order to have your students "experience" some imaginary conflicts" so that they can practice overcoming those using the language they are learning.

Anyhow, there is a great excitement in becoming better at something you enjoy doing. But there is also a danger. Unless you have some systematic method of enriching your creative resource, you can easily run out of your stock of expressions.

Right now I have one such method. Every now and then, I get to come across essays on topics I like that are far beyond my ability of comprehension.  They are often written by well-versed essayists with rich vocabulary. Their vocabulary is so extensive that one cursory reading simply baffles me. Wh ifen this happens, I try to do three things. One, I keep myself from consulting a dictionary and read on till the end once. Two, I check difficult vocab as I read it aloud. Three, I read it aloud again and again till it becomes part of me. And finally, I write about it on Blogger or Facebook.

Right now I am reading a featured essay on The Japan Times about Japanese 'ama' divers. I am a skin-diver myself, and I like the topic very much. Picturing the landscape as a well-versed writer depicts beautiful scenery gives me a great pleasure. There are countless unknown words and expressions in the essay, but I am more excited to discover what they mean than frustrated by them.

Hopefully, in a day or two, I will be finished with my intensive reading of the essay about the Japanese pearl divers, I will write a paragraph or two about it.

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