Monday, July 6, 2015

Your Writing Sucks

I attract grammar Nazis like moths to a fire. I have been accused of abusing my positions in the church to publicize my ideas, I have been accused of misleading others from the prophets, I have been accused teaching false doctrine, and I have been criticized for my desire to write a book on marriage. People have been hurt and offended at what I have written.

I suck at writing. But I love it. I am not looking for sympathy, complaining or giving any excuses. I have a love hate relationship with writing. I have never pretended to be a great writer. I recognize that my struggles with writing often get in the way of what I am communicating. I leave words out of sentences, I abuse grammar and I almost never punctuate, at least correctly. At a very early age I was diagnosed with a pretty significant case of dyslexia (and probably and undiagnosed case of ADHD), reading and writing hurt my head. Reading was confusing. I remember clearly, as early as first grade when fellow students would share from our reading assignments. The information they gleaned was so different from what I read. I couldn’t identify emotions in reading, connect inferences and would read a page over and over and over again and get nothing from it. It was like alphabet soup. It was so bad; I had a third grade teacher question me why I was reading a Hardy Boy book? Instead of encouraging it, she said I was unable to read it. I remember her actually saying I was too stupid to read that book. But that seemed so harsh I often wonder if that is what I felt, not what she said. Surprisingly, throughout my schooling I got similar responses and criticisms from teachers. Maybe because they didn’t understand or they thought I was a goof-off. To their credit, I was a goof-off, it was a coping mechanism.

One of the constant criticisms and reprimands I got was, “if you only proof read what you wrote you wouldn’t have any mistakes”. This was so painful to hear was because I did proof read multiple times, often 10 times or more. It made me feel stupid, after all that work to be told I didn’t do it. I learned quickly to not say, “but I did proof read”, because I would be accused of lying and being flippant. Another criticism I got when I misspelled words was, “why didn’t you just look up the word?” There are at least three problems with this statement. One, this was before the time of spell check. There was no handy dandy red or green line under the words to indicated misspellings and grammar issues. I could not identify misspelled words, no matter how many times I proof read. I understand this is difficult for many of you to understand. I read what I was thinking something said, not what was actually written. Second, even if I knew a word was misspelled, how would I look it up? It didn’t exist in the dictionary. Remember, this is in the days before google! If I thought cat was spelled kat. How exactly would one go about looking that up in a dictionary? I spent hours looking for words that didn’t exist, never realizing I was in the completely wrong section of the dictionary. Third, to spell check my work; because I couldn’t identify which words were misspelled, I literally checked every word. That was painful.


Even today, with google, spell-check and all the technology we have to help improve writing. I still struggle, it’s not about the technology, it’s about what’s in my head. This is not for a lack of trying. As you might be able to imagine, because of my weakness in writing, it is one of the most vulnerable things for me to do. I am confident at speaking but when it comes to writing my thoughts, I am fully aware of my inability to effectively and accurately express my thoughts. Interestingly though, it is very cathartic for me. I learn best when I write out my thoughts. It helps me see things as they really are, see my flaws in thinking and strengthen my understanding in those things that are accurate. I am willing to put this weakness on the altar and make it stronger. With this vulnerability, I welcome others thoughts, I willingly open myself to questioning and whether it makes sense to others or not. This is my process for learning. Nonetheless, I have been a little surprised at the feedback I have gotten from my readers. I attract grammar Nazis like moths to a fire. I have been accused of abusing my positions in the church to publicize my ideas, I have been accused of misleading others from the prophets, I have been accused teaching false doctrine, and I have been criticized for my desire to write a book on marriage. People have been hurt and offended at what I have written.

I guess the negative feedback was expected. But I was surprised at who provided the negative feedback, which has made it most difficult. Those who have known me for most of my life or who are more than just casual friends. Those who, I would have hoped knew that I have an unshakable testimony of Jesus Christ and have no desire to mislead anyone. But have an overwhelming desire to bring my readers closer to their Father in Heaven. I never desire to offend anyone. I love the gospel with a profound commitment and desire to follow Christ. Often I feel like Peter in my sincere desire to honor my Savior, I might naively refuses a foot washing but eagerly receive correction and request to be washed all over. It’s hard enough when strangers accuse you of misdeeds and personally attack; it’s another when those you respect do it. It is always surprising to me; those who profess optimism and kindness are those who seem to first attack. If it’s not an attack it’s an assumption that you are intending to mislead. They don’t seek clarification; they accuse, assume and judge. There is NO edifying of one another. But prompt defensiveness to just “agree to disagree”.

Why do I write? In 9th grade I received an odd compliment from a teacher who taught me how to see things as they really are. On two separate occasions with two different teachers and assignments, I had written a fictional story. Both teachers spoke with me personally and passionately and told me what a profoundly imaginative and vivid story teller I was. They both said these two separate stories were “brilliant!” One even said he was confident I would be a published author one day. They both also, informed me that I had much to work on in the way of cleaning up my writing skills. It wasn’t threating and it wasn’t embarrassing. They were honest and sincere. They saw my potential and they were not put off by the weakness. They desired to edify. They help me realize I enjoy writing and I didn’t have to be discouraged. I began to write, I wrote a lot. Kept a journal, wrote poems, songs and stories. But I never shared them. I didn’t have the courage to share them.

Even now that I have the courage to share, it’s still difficult. My wife is very encouraging and supportive; she smiles and says, “you just need a good editor.” She has spent many hours out of her busy schedule refining my writings. Nonetheless, there are times she is not available or I think its “good enough”. But even when my writings are cleaned up, I am opening myself to criticism over the content. I don’t get offended when I hear the criticisms but I respect those who reach out and seek clarification. They trust my intent and even asked to help. One such person did this recently; she was like those teachers in 9th grade. She reached out, “I love reading your blog posts, so I hope you take what I’m about to offer in the spirit in which I intend it and that is that I’d like to see your writings reach and affect more people and that you become a successful blogger and writer. With that, I’d like to offer my editing help…” Wow! What a difference, what a wonderful reprieve from the short sided offense unforgiving readers take. An opportunity to lift, edify and understand.

I value good written language and admire those who are capable of articulating their thoughts well in writing. But until I have mastered this weakness I encourage others to seek the heart of the message, seek clarification and edification. I am quick to correct errors when the spirit has identified it’s as such. Reflect on your own response, is it driven by fear, duty or love?
P.S. errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation, incomplete thoughts and sentences were intentionally not edited out.