It's been a while since I last made any sort of effort to write for an audience that didn't involve an instructor of some sort. My last blog post, as you might observe, happened over two years ago; I stopped writing in journals once my angsty teen hormones subsided; and the guilty/sad/embarrassing pleasure I used to indulge in writing fanfiction was swept under a rug as well.
I could have given reasons and excuses - traced my fall from grace from the moment that last blog post hit cyberspace - but I'm not sure I could really justify my departure from writing to myself. If anyone asked me (and no one has, but for the sake of argument and for the sake of pretending I have an audience), I'd tell them I actually was a good writer. With a point and a voice and an overwhelming respect for the beauty of words on a page. But that was the past. I was a good writer. But how about now?
"Good writing" is a term that in many ways makes me shudder. It brings me back to the days of Honors English in middle school - to the Shurley method, sentence jingles, and formulaic five-paragraph essays. (Aside: clearly this guy had more fun with Shurley English sentence jingles than I did.) As if there were an actual formula to writing well.
I admit, there is some merit to these methods in learning to write grammatically and correctly, but there is no real formula to teach something as complex as voice and word choice; I have doubts about the ability to teach fluency or organization either. Attempting to teach someone how to write is akin to attempting to teach someone how to think. Maybe I should qualify that: attempting to teach someone how to write well is like teaching someone to think well. What does that even mean?
Arguably, it is not keeping your paragraphs to a strict five sentences or more. It is not conforming your thoughts to an introduction, body, and conclusion or using transition words and sentences to coax your reader along the orderly thought-path you've paved for him in arguments and analysis. And maybe I'm not qualified to say, but good writing for me is voice and content alone. What are you trying to say? And how are you going to say it?
Which is all for me to say: I lost my voice. I'm struggling for content. Here's to me, trying to gather it all together again. And here's to you, Yifan, for doing it first.