Writing my previous Unearthed post made me remember the other reason I decided to become an actuary. I remember saying to one of my teachers, “I’ll never have to write another essay again.”
I find it somewhat ironic, then, that I’m now effectively writing as a hobby (quite apart from the fact that most of my work involves writing, or talking, these days). It’s made me wonder whether it’s me that’s changed, or whether there was something wrong with my education. It’s a bit of both, I think, but more that my writing education didn’t work for me.
I was addicted to reading, as a child. One of those children who read at every available opportunity. And yet, I hated English, all through high school. Partly because I had managed to convince myself that because I was good at maths, and not quite so good at english, that I was bad at english. And partly, because the way english was taught then – a forensic examination of text to find the author’s real message, was completely foreign to the pleasure I got from reading.
One of the things I’m enjoying (very surprisingly to me) about blogging, is trying to figure out what makes my favourite blogs so readable, and how, therefore, to improve my own writing. I love reading pretty much every one of jo(e)’s posts, even though her life is completely different from mine, for example. But what makes them so readable? I don’t really know the answers, because I never learned to examine writing that way at school. But I do wonder whether teaching me that kind of critical thinking would have made me enjoy English, and also made me like the idea of writing, rather than spending 20 years realising that my love of words included writing as well as reading.
Maybe because popularity suggests poor writing, to many english teachers, analysing writing for readability, let alone popularity, never seemed to happen at school. You seemed to more analyse it for the ability to pile as much meaning as possible into one line. And while that creates text that you can read and re-read, there are other legitimate aims for good writing.
I imagine that, as with many other skills, a very good writer is instinctively good. But, I’m sure a journeyman writer, like me, can be taught to write better. I learned surprisingly little about how to write well at school. Or at least, I don’t remember ever being taught anything useful. All I remember is that I used to lose marks because I made my essays as short as was allowable.
But right now, I’m enjoying trying to learn to write a bit better, just for fun.