Thursday, December 15, 2011

[December 15th] Shoot Your Writer's Ego, Wallow in Self-Pity

I feel as if I'm wearing my insides out in such situations.

 I’ve had some time to think this through. For the reason that I can adorn any situation with far too much drama than it’s needed, I choose to stay away from personal topics on this blog, but I’m beginning to grow confident that I can present some ‘real life’ experience in my posts. It’s a good time as any to dispel some of the mysteries that surround my person [believe it or not I’m a prime suspect of being a sentient cat with the ability to type in QWERTY].

Since this story is more of a moral, which has a lot to do with writing, I think it’s best shared here out in the open. As you can see by all the ‘I think’, ‘I this’ and ‘I that’ sentences I’m all self-conscious about what happened at my day job, so here’s hoping that you don’t think ill of me [and you can definitely recognize how too many episodes of Downton Abbey have left a mark on my turn of phrase].

My office job for the past three months [I switched departments before attending Fantasy Con this year] has me writing eight hours per day. It’s simple writing with a simple purpose and a low level of importance. This means that as long as I manage a lot of it everyone is happy, but here comes the ‘but’ thing. Being a writer among non-writers can be deceptive of how good you really are and because my writing [influenced by my fiction-writing style] used English a bit more imaginatively my mistakes either have not been mentioned to me or could not have been pointed out to me by non-native speakers, which my day-to-day superiors are. What we have is a recipe for a big ego [being constantly asked to translate words and how to best write a certain phrase] with no safety net [so far there is no challenger on the front].

Since I pride myself in being this good in English [though I’m sure this blog post is filled with God knows how many imperfections, which I’m not picking up no matter how hard I try], it’s fairly easy for me to get my head stuck in the clouds. I love receiving the praise, not for the sake of attention whoring, but because I associate my childhood with weekends spent inside the house scribbling words ad infinitum. I think I had to write Thursday more than a hundred times to get it right and remember it. I still hate this day, when I mention it in English, mainly because of my ordeal learning it. My friends used to play outside. I had a dictionary and one hell of a mother, who fits the profile of the constantly ridiculed cliché of an Asian parent. I’m not regretful. I didn’t think much of being in the same private classes with students two-three years older than me. I just love English and when I’m praised, I feel validated to the point I may develop a bit of an ego.

Thankfully, that ego got shot down Tuesday, when the editor in charge of the sales copy team I’m working under [new set of duties for me] had me brought over to discuss changes to the first website copy I had written. Oh boy was it a humiliating. I can’t understand how a person [my editor is from Texas, so I’ll call him Editor Tex] can say that he likes what my material and at the same time chop down every sentence I have written and rephrase until you can’t tell it has been written by me.

Editor Tex is an awesome person, by the way. I can see that he is indeed trying to help me and where he was able to explain why the changes in some expressions was needed [words with negative connotations of any variety should be replaced with words that on a subconscious level are all about sunshine and smiles] I immediately wrote those down. However, there were changes, which I didn’t understand. Editor Tex couldn’t provide an exact answer as to why he made them and went on to explain how there are subtleties to language use [the purpose of the editing session was to teach me those], but without really presenting an argument for the changes in sentence structure.

My initial reaction to all of this was: Holy flying cow from Jupiter, can I string one sentence together correctly? It was as if I had never studied the language, as if the sacrificed hours had amounted to nothing. I fully realized that this is needless dramatic gut response, but at the time I couldn't help it. Thankfully, I kept repeating myself that this is not about me, but about the writing. At the same time, how I can separate myself from the writing, when my English is my work. It's my grand work, which has lead to this individual ones. All so complex on an emotional level. 

I don’t know what to make of this situation. To the people I have confided the situation, I’m to ignore some of the more perplexing changes Editor Tex makes as to a matter of taste and to take away what I do find useful. Another individual told me that to her Editor Tex abused his power as an editor, providing destructive-rather-than-constructive critique. It’s tricky territory to be in as I greatly respect editors and I’ve grown comfortable receiving bathed in red works I have given to readers with far superior understanding of the English language. It’s just proof that a language is so rich that it always gives you more to learn and I’m happy to learn. But I can’t deny that sitting there for closely 45 minutes [all spent on a page and a half] humiliated me in ways I can’t even begin to comprehend. I don’t hold anything against Editor Tex and I certainly can’t imagine having anything else than a verbal discussion. Yet, having to sit there and hear the editor wonder how he can make sense of my sentences, because my phrasing was so off and in real time… Far from pleasant. If there ever was a version of the SAW franchise to do with writing, then my experience would qualify.

In short, I’m grateful that I work in an office, whose superiors are invested in helping their employees work to developing their skill sets. I’m big enough a boy to understand that there is no chance I will nail this sort of writing from the first time around. I’m also grown up enough to admit to myself that I’m far from being the best, never will be and that the best I can hope for is constant improvement [but given that I shut up, shoot down my ego and get cracking]. I will have to grow thicker skin, because fine tuning how a non-speaker uses English so that it convincingly mimics a native speaker [while living in a non-English-speaking environment] is going to be tough, humiliating and humbling. No other way around it.

I’ll leave the floor for you guys. Do you think I’m a whiner? What are your nightmare stories connecting with editing sessions?