Sunday January 20, 2013
How a single letter changed my life!
By CELINE WAN
IT has been said that words can make or break a person’s day.
In my case, a single letter had ruined mine.
When my class teacher handed over my report card, I kept staring at it in disbelief for a letter “D” had tainted a report that would otherwise have been filled with a string of A’s.
As I checked which subject was responsible for ruining my first examination of the year, I was even more shocked to realise that the subject English was the cause of my “D”.
This poignant experience occurred in 2008. During that time, I had just transferred from a Malay-medium school to an English-medium school.
Everything was a big change — from the study system to the school environment.
However, to nearly fail my best subject has made me realised that I was deluded to regard myself as an outstanding student in English.
I was also dumbfounded to discover that my examination would be assessed based on an empty booklet that I was supposed to write in.
Searching for answers
After acknowledging the fact that I almost failed English, I began making it a habit to write.
In my first attempt to write a long essay, I became stupefied.
I never realised that presenting my inner thoughts in an empty space would be so difficult.
When I held my pen and stared at the empty piece of paper, I realised that I was not ready to creatively translate my imagination into words.
Disappointed, I thought, “How could I find such difficulty in expressing my inner voice when a blank piece of paper portrays the fact that such possibilities are endless?”
The entire situation was exacerbated when I discovered that I would not be promoted to the next grade the following year if I were to fail in any subject, what more failing a subject as important as the English language!
Hence, desperate to do something about this blatant “D” before my finals, I tried asking for help.
The common advice given to me was to read regularly.
I personally felt that time was severely limited for I was actively involved in extra-curricular activities and had other subjects to focus on.
However, I complied and eventually picked up the reading habit.
In the following examination, the improvement was nowhere apparent.
This time, I changed my strategy in reading; instead of just focusing on what was written, I diverted some of my attention to how it was written.
In other words, there was a shift in how I analysed written passages.
It was then that I viewed writing in a whole new light.
It’s all about style
After I started collecting books from the same authors, I noticed how each author had his or her own unique writing styles.
I knew then that through practice in writing, I too, would find and develop my own distinctive style.
Why is that so? In my opinion, it is because writing is analogous to allowing others to engage in your thoughts.
With writing, it is also an avenue for you to be in full control of sharing to the world something as intimate as your thoughts.
Therefore, it is no wonder that everyone’s writing styles are so different; everyone’s mind works differently.
However different a person’s writing style is though, they still share something similar if it is well written.
Some of the few common factors I have noticed are their ability to be emotionally moving, thought-provoking and engaging one’s attention.
With these three elements, the unique art of conveying ideas helped bring stories to life.
Through my personal findings, one way of bringing life to words is through vivid descriptions.
It was only after reading in a different perspective did I realise that my failure as a writer was due to my ignorance towards my surroundings.
It was due to my lack of skill in describing my experiences in minute details.
With this in mind, I edged my way to the writing desk.
Blank pieces of paper looked less daunting now and after several attempts to describe the mundane sights and sounds that had previously evoked no imagination on my part, every nameless detail was now amplified and presented its beauty to me.
By the end of my academic year, it was not the “A” in English that I was most proud of, but the habit of appreciating the myriad of simple pleasures people have more often than not disregarded.
To me, my change in character as an observer has elicited the greatest sense of gratification.
In fact, it is with this ideology that I plan to carry on my future endeavours and daily life.
The letter “D” has changed the way I view the world.
Gone are the days when my mind was filled with scattering thoughts or staggering ideas when trying to pen anything down. I have learnt to organise my thoughts and jot the findings down when required.
The harmful letter may have once ruined my day but it has saved me from the world of ignorance.
I am glad that I have embraced what was once failure and hardship.
Thank you dear letter, you have saved and improved my life.
> The writer is currently on a gap year. She will be pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge this October.