A Great Story Does Not Have to Be Written Well

When I was younger, I thought I had to know how to write to produce a story worth reading. That’s why I attended a writing program – I wanted to learn so I could relate to others with my words. I felt vulnerable writing poorly because people would think I was stupid and wouldn’t read my work. Maybe it’s somewhat true, but that doesn’t take away from your story. If people think you’re stupid, it doesn’t mean you don’t have great stories, and just because people don’t read your work, it doesn’t make you any less of a writer. There’s much more to it, and I only realized that as I’ve gotten older.

I’ve become a Writing Snob

One of the negatives of attending a writing program is that I’ve become some sort of a snob. I’m not proud of it. I can’t stand lots mistakes in writing and loads of fluff. (I know someone could probably criticize the hell out of my posts, so I’m probably a hypocrite and a terrible person :( .) In all honesty, it’s my loss because I could be missing out on a beautiful story due to the fact I can’t see past the errors and wordiness.

A great story is a great story. A great story can carry awful writing, which is why people will always enjoy a great story even if it’s written poorly. The bad writing does affect the story to a certain degree, but the beauty in the story still shines through. I’m pretty sure that’s why Fifty Shades of Grey is successful. (In case you’re wondering, the answer is no, I haven’t read the book. But who knows, maybe one day! Haha.)

Bad Writing, Great Story: Fifty Shades of Grey

It seems that everyone either love the book, can’t get through it due to bad writing, or wouldn’t even read a book like that. For the two groups that dislike the book, their focus has nothing to do with the greatness of the story. Sure, bad writing may affect how the story is presented, but ultimately, the story is still the same. Those who won’t even read the book may dislike the subject matter, but that doesn’t make the story worse either. For the group that loves Fifty Shades of Grey, most admit that the writing isn’t the best, but the story is.

I’m not saying that it wouldn’t have been better if it was well written, but the point is that great stories do not have to be written well for people to enjoy them. There’s a reason Fifty Shades of Grey is one of the most popular books, despite how it’s written.

A great story can carry awful writing.

But great writing cannot carry an awful story. Great writing will make an awful story better, but behind all the technical skills, it’s still not a great story. That’s why there’s more to writing than the actual technical abilities.

Writing Advice: Forget Formalities

While I’m grateful I had the opportunity to attend a writing program to learn to write properly, I lost my ability to write with my heart. I traded emotions for technical skills, and if you haven’t guessed it yet, it wasn’t a good trade. I’ve become so caught up with getting things correct that I neglected writing about how I felt and what I wanted to write about. If we want to be writers, writing should be our number one priority, not whether the writing is grammatically correct, formatted properly, or used the best word. That’s what editors are for.

When I look back at some of my old writing, I see a paragraph that’s too long for its own good, full of grammatical errors, poor word choice, and incorrectly spelled words because I couldn’t tell the difference between Canadian and American spelling. I also see writing that has a story with beating pulse, bursting with emotions and heart.

When I look at some of my writing today, I see a dramatic difference. The writing is “correct” other than a few small errors that I may have overlooked, but there’s nothing more than the words on the page. It looks better than the one extremely-long paragraph, but it isn’t any better. I’m missing the most important thing in writing – heart.

That’s why great stories do not have to be written well; they have heart. That’s why we can forget formalities, because people will still read our writing if we have heart. That’s why writing is only one form of storytelling; there are other forms that don’t involve writing but are still effective because they have heart in their stories.

And that’s why the greatest story never told may be the one sitting in your diary (or Microsoft Word document), waiting for its opportunity to be told.

 

Yours truly,

 

PLIGC, Society’s Used Condom

 

P.S. It’d be beautiful if everyone could write well and have great stories, but that’s often not the case. I do believe writing well has its value when you don’t lose too much of your heart in your writing, as I sometimes have. But I’m making my way back to the writer I used to be! Stay tuned.

The Downside of Good Memory

I’ve always been told that I have good memory because I can remember details that most people forget. The last time someone told me that, they also added that “it must be great to remember things so easily.”

I replied, “You know, having good memory means I also remember all the bad things too.”

It’s true. I remember the time my best friend of about 15 years made fun of me three years before we became best friends. We were in first grade in the afterschool Cantonese class. Back then, schools would give out flyers and catalogues where we could order books, and I ordered a Clifford the Big Red Dog book because I liked looking at the pictures. I had just received my new book so I gazed through it, imagining stories of the characters in my head. He sat beside me that day and saw the content of the book. He made fun of me because the book was way too easy for first graders and told everyone sitting around us that I had a book for kindergarteners. They all laughed at me. I hid the book the rest of the class and never ordered a Clifford the Big Red Dog book again.

The story above has no significance in my friendship with him today, but it’s something I remember. I’ve never told him that because it didn’t matter; we were far past that now. I can rationalize that he was right because it was too easy for first graders, although my purpose for the book wasn’t to read it.

If I remember that, just imagine all the worse things I remember. (And sadly, there’s a lot).

Never Lasting Impressions

I think the saddest thing about my memory is the fact that I remember other people I meet, but they hardly ever remember me. In fact, I’m actually shocked when someone remembers me, and it actually makes me really happy because it’s so rare that it happens. What’s worse is that some of these people I spoke to on many occasions and were actually friends at one point, but they don’t remember me.

I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I’m from a big city (the one with the former crack-smoking mayor), that people have worse memory, or that it’s who I am, but it sucks because I almost always remember them and something about them. After it happens so many times, I start to believe it’s me because I’m the common denominator in every situation. Maybe I’m just not a memorable person. Maybe people would remember me if I was better looking, or smarter, or funnier, or more resourceful, or a better person.

I know I shouldn’t find validation in whether people remember me or not, but it feels worse than being invisible because I’ve been that too. If you’re invisible, they never recognized you in the first place, but if they forget you, they either have bad memory, you aren’t interesting enough, or you’re not worth remembering.

Sometimes, I just wish other people remembered me.

Remembering the Good and the Bad

In sports, it’s a common saying that “you need to have short-term memory” – you need to forget the last play and move on from it. I agree. Your past shouldn’t haunt your future; it should be a part of it which you learn and grow from. It’s not easy to move on when you remember things for the long-term. I take longer to get over things (if I even get over them) than most people, and I’m sure it has large ramifications on the rest of my life.

I’m not saying that being ability to remember things well is a bad thing. I’m also not saying that it’s good either. There are positive and negatives to both, so it depends on the person. It’s generally more important to learn how to cope with whichever you have. But if you do happen to have good memory which isn’t going away any time soon, I hope you have or learn to create a lot of good memories that outweigh all the bad ones.

That’s what helped me get over the fact my best friend once made fun of me in first grade.

 

Yours truly,

 

PLIGC, Society’s Used Condom

Staying up at Night

I used to stay up at night fantasizing about all the things I would do when I made it as a writer. I dreamed about touring the world and meeting everyone who believed in my writing. I dreamed about writing things that connected with people so they wouldn’t feel alone. I dreamed about having millions of followers that would discuss, share, and comment on what I wrote. I dreamed about how my writing would make people think, feel, and see the world from a different perspective. I dreamed about saving the world, being a spokesperson for causes that mattered, and helping those in need. I dreamed about a mansion with a go kart track around the perimeter, a swimming pool, an indoor gym, a basement with a full weight room, enough space to take in everyone I love in case they needed help, and a separate cabin where I’d go when I wanted to write.

Then time passes. You look in the mirror and you realize you’re no longer fifteen anymore. You wonder whether you’re good enough, because if you were, you would’ve made it by now. You wonder why you write less because let’s be honest, a real writer actually writes a lot. Even when you do write, it’s just not as good as you expected, and if it happens enough times, it’s not rust anymore; it’s the fact that you might not be good enough anymore and it hurts.

 

I used to stay up at night wondering whether I was good enough to make it as a writer. I asked myself where I went wrong. I asked myself whether I really wanted it anymore, and even if I did, I wondered whether I was too late. I asked myself what my world would be like if I didn’t reach my dreams, and whether I even wanted to live if I didn’t reach them. I asked myself what steps I should take next and how I could improve so I was more successful this time.

Then more time passes. You don’t need to look at yourself in the mirror anymore because life is a constant reminder that you’re getting older and further behind than everyone else. Your family questions what you’re doing with your life because you don’t have a career yet, and your friends seem to have everything together – a career, a significant other, or both. Your best friend has a son, and while you love his family for the happiness they bring to your life, you can’t help but feel like you’re in a battle against time that you’re losing and it isn’t even close. You don’t write anymore so there’s no need to wonder whether you’re good enough anymore; you know you’re not and it kills.

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Back to School

Tomorrow, I return to school for the first time in 1.5 years. I feel excited and nervous at the same time.

On the bright one side, it’s a second chance for me to do things correctly this time so that when I graduate, I won’t struggle as hard to find something that resembles a career. My Bachelor of Arts isn’t a complete waste since it’s a post-graduate program and it’s only one year. I have the opportunity to attend a new school, learn something new, and meet new people, all of which are a blessing.

On the other side, it makes me feel like a failure. The fact that I’m going back to school makes me feel like a failure for not getting it right the first time. I mean, I already did this whole school thing once and that didn’t exactly take me anywhere, so what makes me think it’ll work out this time? Sure, this time I considered the economy and the job market, but there no guarantees in life. It’s also been so long since I’ve done anything productive in my life. Am I still even capable of achieving good grades?

I know I haven’t been out of school for that long compared to older, mature students, but I still feel out of place. When I was in university, there weren’t any people I respected more than mature students. They always worked hard, chose their study out of interest, and had the guts to enter a room of students half their age. That’s admirable. I’ll probably spend the majority of my life trying to be half as brave as that.

 

My new focus in school is Human Resources because it’s a good field in terms of pay and job opportunities. I can’t say I dreamed about working in HR, but at least I won’t hate it. It’s starting to sound like I’m becoming more realistic, and I’m not even sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing. I’m used to being a dreamer. I don’t feel like myself when I’m not living in the clouds.

I do have a plan to pursue my writing dreams. Human Resources is temporary…. I hope.

If this school experience is anything like my past ones, I’ll love it. I’ll also fall super hard for a girl and reconsider my whole life even though I didn’t win her heart. I can’t say it’s a good thing, but I guess it makes for interesting writing?

And my new journey begins.

 

Yours truly,

 

PLIGC, Society’s Used Condom

 

P.S. Happy new year to anyone who made it this far! I made new year’s resolutions this year, and one of them included writing more on this blog. Stay tuned. I have to keep the writing dream alive somehow.

A Wannabe Writer

I used to call myself an aspiring writer, but that’s not really what I am. I’m a wannabe writer. The difference? An aspiring writer works towards their dreams and hasn’t made it yet, and a wannabe writer is someone who wants to be a writer and has hardly ever written anything. Most people would rather call themselves aspiring writers because it sounds fancy and people wouldn’t scold them as much, but I don’t care. I’m an honest person. I am what I am.

To me, wannabe writers calling themselves aspiring ones are like drug dealers calling themselves public pharmacists. (I’d probably use that on my resume if I was a drug dealer.) My first job since I graduated university was a general labour job at an egg factory (more on this embarrassing story later). I switched between lifting 25-pound trays of eggs onto a machine and searching for defective eggs. Most people probably tell others they were general labourers or quality assurance managers. I tell others I was an egg factory bitch and a defective egg finder.

I’d argue that wannabe writer is a level below aspiring writer. (I mean, seriously? Who knew there could be a level below aspiring writer?). The saddest part is I’m on that level. The question is: How does one become an aspiring writer?

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Bad Noun Poetry

As a kid, I thought I was the best poet in the world. I thought poetry was all about rhymes, and I had plenty of those. I scouted pop, soft rock, R&B, and rap music for the best rhymes and collected them in my very own rhyme dictionary. Then, I would write poems for the girls I “loved” at the time and write songs to prepare for my future career as a songwriter that never panned out.

Anyway, the best poet can’t be the best if he hasn’t won anything, right? So, I signed up for a few contests and let’s just say my heart shattered beyond repair and I never wrote poetry like that again. When I grew older, I learned poetry had more to it than rhymes and I realized I sucked at poetry. But I can still rhyme. And every now and again, I feel the urge to write something that rhymes and show off my bad poetry skills.

This is one of those times.

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Selfishness Sucks

Since I grew up non-religious, I never knew the seven deadly sins existed until high school. Yesterday’s awesome prompt from The Daily Post asks us to pick an eighth sin. If I had to pick an eighth, well, it’s all in the title—selfishness.

To recap, the seven deadly sins are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride.

Selfishness fits in to this group. If we weren’t selfish, we wouldn’t have problems with gluttony, greed, or envy. We would share what we had with others, and we would be happy for their success.

It’s a Dog Eat Dog World

Instead, we live in a world of fierce, competitive competition. So competitive that people will do anything for success, like break others down rather than work towards their goals.

I find that to be a tragedy. If they’re better than you, why don’t you work harder, or learn from what they did, or team up with them? Since when was destroying other peoples’ lives a key to success?

It’s as if people would rather have the highest grade in the class with a 50 than be second in the class with a 99. If you ask me, you’re 49 grades better if you have the 99, even if you’re not first place. But that hardly matters when people are selfish; they’d rather be number one with the 50.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for competition. I’m a competitive person. But I want to be the best from beating the best when they’re in the best shape, not when they’re injured or sick or caught off guard.

Sometimes, selfishness makes us bring down the level of competition rather than raise our own. And I wonder, what is the point of that? How are we progressing as people by bringing others down?

We aren’t. And that’s why I believe selfishness should be the eighth deadly sin, if there is ever one added.

 

Yours truly,

 

PLIGC, Society’s Used Condom