Background of the author
I was born and raised in Sri Lanka. My upbringing was mostly in the Sinhalese community, where the primary language spoken and written was Sinhala. I also went to a “Sinhalese Buddhist” school, which meant I studied in the Sinhala medium. English is a second language for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I have studied English as a language since I was a child. I attended Elocution (Speech and Drama) classes since I was three years of age. The elocution classes abruptly stopped at the age of about seven due to personal family reasons. But, my grammar classes, which also taught me to write, continued until about 16. I also studied English Literature between the ages of 14 to 16. But, from that point forward, I never studied English as a language. My university education was in English medium.
Although I’ve always kept notes for myself and written lengthy letters to family and friends, I’ve never considered myself a writer. My readers, mostly family or friends, really loved getting letters or emails from me, as I gave them so many details, and they were able to imagine the setting. Generally, it wouldn’t be uncommon for my aunts and uncles to call my mother and discuss the incidents disclosed in my letters or emails. They have used the word “innocent” and “funny” to describe my letters, which now I know referred to my “unfiltered” style of writing.
For the last ten years, I have been living in Australia. The primary language spoken and written now is English. I’ve been a somewhat “formal” writer since 2017. I mean, formality is a relative thing, so let’s not focus too much on that word. I am personally satisfied with the followers and views I have got for my writing, although I wouldn’t say “No” to “Success.” I like to write a book one day. But the primary motive for writing this book has changed over the last three years. So now, I don’t feel like I need to rush into it.
But to be a published author is a dream I would like to achieve one day.
Successful! That thing we all want to be
As a writer, I believed that success is when I publish a book, get excellent reviews, and be considered an “Award Winning Writer.” So, although I’ve been writing quite passionately for three years now, whilst sharing some of my personal journey and significantly important social findings (personal opinion), I did not see myself as “Successful.”
In 2017, when I started to blog, it was done in the last week of 2017. During this time, I was in Sri Lanka on holiday (Well, I was flat broke, and my mother summoned me home to Sri Lanka, but it was a holiday). My laptop was broken. I also had forgotten most of my passwords, and the only thing I had working was my mobile phone.
As per statistics given by WordPress during this first week of my blogging journey, I had written 85 blog posts and 12635 words. I have also got 103 people who like these blogs.
In my three-year blogging journey, I have observed the grammar, spelling, and word mistakes I make. Sometimes, I write words, and the letters are jumbled up, and even when I read it multiple times, I cannot see the mistake.
I joined a writers group on Facebook recently, which has about one hundred and thirty thousand members. This morning, I inquired how they perceive the mistakes I make. Whilst most of the comments were constructive, I also observed statements like below:
“If there are grammar and spelling mistakes, I cannot take the content seriously.”
“If a writer doesn’t care enough to proofread, edit, properly spell, and punctuate, whether it’s a text, a blog, or a novel, why should I care enough to try to make sense of it? “
“Yeah. Like typing wihtin instead of within. LOL” (Referring to a mistake of my post)
“In posts, I can understand because if you’re typing from a phone, it’s way easier to make mistakes and autocorrect is a real issue. “
Now, I had literally made myself extremely vulnerable and facing a crowd of 130K people online, pointing my own mistakes. This already was uncomfortable for me. To top it off, when I heard that my passionate writing, some of which had very serious social messages, so serious it broke me for a while emotionally, would not be taken seriously due to spelling and grammar issues, I got a little hurt. I understand this was merely their opinion, but I felt a little letdown.
The good news is, I love writing. So I didn’t want to wallow too much in my self-pity and tried to see the message within all the comments. So I purchased Grammarly, and this article is written using it. (Did you notice the difference? :)). I mean, I’ve written for three years now, and with all the help available, I don’t think I have an excuse to not correct my writing.
But, what if this advice came to me at the first stage of my blogging journey. With a broken computer, broke, with an old phone, sitting on his old bed, in his old bedroom of his mother’s house on a tiny island called Sri Lanka, passionately wanting to reach out to the world. If I received this advice and took it into my head (ego) and waited to be perfect before I wrote a single word, I might be still waiting.
What about level of education and writing – A story about my friend
I have a friend named Noel. I met him three years ago, and he is a disability pensioner. Since he is mostly home, bored, and has a lot of time in his hand, I suggested him to write. The idea was for him to pour out his story into paper for therapeutic reasons. He had studied only up to grade ten in school and later life trained to be a nurse.
One day he called me and said, “Nimeshe, I wrote my story for you to publish on your blog. It’s three pages long.” I drove over and picked up the pieces of paper with his writing.
Good grief, it was a task. It had next to no punctuation, and I struggled to read the message. But he was my friend, and I wanted to know his story, so I edited with my limited skills and got his story published on my blog. (Please refer to the references section at the bottom of this post if you wish to see these articles).
What if I had advised Noel to first study English properly, get his spelling and grammar in order, then write. I don’t think he would have written, and I don’t think I would have published a blog post of which the original story was written by him. It was actually quite therapeutic for him, and he was really happy with what I did to his story.
This is the world we live in. The standards we have created for ourselves as a society only allow a limited group of people to express their stories and ideas. In modern times, we have so many books, Ted Talks, blogs, and other types of content to consume. “Making it” within this social structure is only for a handful. Should the rest of us then feel “unworthy” or not give it a go at all? Lanugage inabilities or level of education doesn’t mean they don’t have stories. It just means they can’t express it eliquently.
For argument’s sake, if I die tonight, after writing my heart out using blogs, should I call myself a failure because I couldn’t get a book published or because my blogs had a lot of mistakes?
This is my plea to the world of editors and publishers to seek stories more than language skills. Maybe we can have a group of people to help the stories come out better. But, let us not dishearten those who want to communicate but don’t have the language skills to do so.
I perfectly understand if you are an editor of a big publisher, with the number of manuscripts you receive, you probably don’t have time for this. And I did hear your advice, which is why I purchased Grammarly.
I now especially hear the advice that was given as “I think you owe it to yourself to do a bit of editing/proofreading before you hit publish.”. Because, when I see my writing statistics under the topics of Correctness, Clarity, Engagement, Delivery, and Style Guide in Grammarly and see I have scored well, it is indeed a gift to myself.
But, I hope you do see the other side of the equation I tried to highlight in my article.
Thank you so much for your time reading this far.
– Nimeshe –