It all started in my first year of college. I had scored high enough on the placement exam to be offered a spot in an experimental type of class where four subjects were taught together, English being one of them.
About half way through the first semester my English professor put her bony little hands around my throat, leaned in until we were nose to nose, and said, “How can you be so smart and yet incapable of writing a complete sentence?”
Pishaw, what did she know? She’d only been teaching English for twice as long as I’d been alive. Clearly she was daft.
I passed the class with moderately decent grades, only to drop out of college two years later.
Fast forward almost a decade and I found myself back in college with a vastly different outlook on life. A steady diet of humble pie helped me realize that all the smarts in the world meant exactly squat if it wasn’t accompanied by hard work.
One of the first classes I had to take for my Bachelor’s program was Business Communication. I had just enough cockiness left to go into the pretest thinking I had it made. I mean, after all I’d been working for years at a corporate headquarters.
I did so poorly the professor emailed me and suggested I take a remedial English class. What the Heck! I was flummoxed. I could write hundreds of lines of code and actually have it work but I couldn’t write a proper sentence? I was mortified but, perhaps more importantly, I took it seriously this time.
I approached it like I approach everything else I’ve had to teach myself (programing, stock investing, quantum mechanics). I went on line and started at the beginning. Grade one.
When I got to lessons at the grade seven level I was floored. I’d never seen it before, any of it. What the Heck Squared!?!
Then it dawned on me. I’d had health problems during seventh grade and missed a lot of class. Lessons were brought to my house and I assume I did them, but they didn’t stick. Yet onward to eighth grade I went, then ninth, and so on and so on.
Somehow I managed to graduate high school in the top 10% without being competent at writing my native tongue. Now I find that horrifying.
Once I had my weak spots in the crosshairs I attacked. Amazon loved me for all the grammar books I snarfed up, but reading only gets you so far. I needed to practice, not just how to write but how to “see” the grammatical errors in other people’s writing.
Heh, luckily I had an endless supply of crappy grammar at my fingertips…. Corporate emails. So I set about carefully reading the emails I got and painstakingly composing the ones I sent.
I passed that Business Communication’s class with an A and went on to finish my Bachelor’s with a very high GPA. Along the way I awakened within myself a love and an appreciation for writing.
Am I perfect? Far, far from it. I still treat every business email as an exercise in proper writing techniques. But I have begun to be the person my coworkers turn to when they need writing help and I am very proud of that.
So enough about me, what have you overcome to be a better writer/artist?