I really need to get this off my chest and get on with writing passionately and fearlessly again.
I’ve always loved writing and pouring my thoughts, mundane or not, to the world. As a child, I had the habit of penning down the most inane happenings into a physical diary and as I grew older, I started building simple websites to house my first “blogs”. I never feared writing badly. I just went ahead bravely to bare it all.
The more I wrote, the more I desired to read what others wrote and in the process I picked up new phrases or noticed how other writers made their pieces more compelling. As I tried new styles and developed my own “voice”, I’d get friends or strangers mentioning that they loved to read how I described my experiences. I don’t think I ever consciously wrote anything in “standard English”, but it was just how I thought, how I’d speak. It was my way of authentically reaching out to another person online. That said, how I write today is probably an amalgamation of all the gems and garbage I’ve consumed in my life so far.
I have to admit that my experience with self-publishing has been mostly positive. It helped me grow in my various passions and also pushed me to keep writing. When people confided in me about their own desire to self-publish and start a blog, I always told them to go for it. Perfect English be damned! We write to be understood and with time, we could always learn to write better and add more flair to our written work, right?
That’s what I thought anyway until I came down with what I term “internet cancer”.
Hey Carrie, welcome to the internet.
Is this your first day here? Get real! Don’t you know? It’s a cesspool!
It’s understandable that the internet is not all rainbows and butterflies. In fact, it’s the opposite: a stinking cesspool. I didn’t think that being exposed to cesspools would kill my love for writing, but what do ya know, strange things happen.
I’ve lost my zest for writing. I don’t think I can’t, I’m just held back by an irrational fear of failure. (It took me more than two weeks to get this out.) Honestly, I know that anything I post online is open for critique, but the vitriol and general anger towards bloggers (and “influencers”) is a real source of background stress. You know its there, you try to ignore it, but it just leaves you feeling sick.
The straw that broke this camel’s back was a particular Facebook Page that
was is (still) skewering Singaporean bloggers and influencers regarding their poor command of written English, mostly focusing on food blogs with bombastic descriptions and bad grammar. Reading the way they roasted others and placed themselves up on their pedestals made me lose my appetite to write.
I published a couple of posts since then, but those were already written some time ago and scheduled for publishing. I had to kick myself in the butt to publish another food piece on The Cambelles. If this was old Carrie, I’d have done so without hesitation.
Is it because I fear criticism? After some thinking, it was just a general distaste for how things are panning out in Singapore.
Be the change you want to see.
It’s easier to say something sucks than to write an excellent piece yourself.
Instead of being the change we want to see, there’s so often a barrage of merciless criticism of how others could do better. As I often tell my friends in jest, “Singapore has the highest concentration of marketing geniuses/ English teachers/ customer service experts per capita judging by the amount of criticism that’s dished out with ease online.”
Instead of dissing someone else for propagating “shit English”, why not start a blog writing the pieces you think would make a difference? Why not take the time to research a topic, write something from scratch? Why not struggle with the reality of clickbait titles so that your well-written piece gets the clicks and views it deserves? Why not learn to pick up a camera and try to catch a great shot before a meal to go with that perfect piece you’re writing? Why not? That’s because everything is so simple until you do it yourself!
With the amount of time spent picking on the “poor” work of others, perhaps you could have shared some well-written pieces online.
The argument that since someone puts it out there in public, it’s open for critique? Yeah, sure. You continue to tell yourself that and take the easy way out.
Why do we find a need to criticise others mercilessly?
Is it about others or about you?
There are so many different ways to convey a single message and our intent is clearly communicated when we choose each word. That’s what’s beautiful about the written word. Don’t fool yourself into believing that the only way to make a change is to shame others. Even more important is becoming aware of our own true intentions. Is the criticism for someone else’s benefit or your own? If you delight in that next like on your comment or get excited about the 30 seconds of fame you’ve received from correcting someone else, here’s a hint, it’s probably the latter.
All that brutal criticism best achieves is instilling fear rather than inspiring excellence. If we want to create an environment where people hold themselves to higher standards, the best way is to encourage more people to write better, not shoot people down when they do.
The only way out is through.
Let’s not give up out of fear.
I wrote this because I thought it was time someone changed the conversation.
I wrote this because I still believe people who can’t write “perfect English” shouldn’t have to fear about what people will say when they write.
I wrote this because we should all write fearlessly and with passion while taking pride in our craft, which may I add, will always be a work in progress.
To all those who are afraid to write, I feel you, I stand with you and I urge you, that no matter what others may say, you should never remain silent out of fear that someone out there will embarrass you.
Could we be better? Always. There is no end to improvement.
For taking that step of pursuing your passion instead of being an armchair critic, you are already one step ahead as opposed to relaxing in the safety of being unaccountable and anonymous. Let’s take the criticism as more reason to keep writing, badly or not.
Photo Credit: Cathryn Lavery