There is a passage in A Mathematician’s Apology that always sticks we me. Hardy talks about his youth. He tells us that he did not choose mathematics because he was passionate or for noble reasons. He realized that he could beat the other boys for scholarships and exam scores. He says he did not become a mathematician until he read Cours d’analyse while at Cambridge.
My mind wondered:
When do we become professionals?
When does something we do turn into a career?
When have we acquired the knowledge to call ourselves experts?
What This Has to Do With Writing
The only thing that I can really brag about is my writing skill. I was encouraged to write from a young age. I was just reminiscing with my mother the other day about the easel we had in the backyard. I would attach these brown pieces of paper to it with these cute Little Twin Stars clips from Sanrio. The paper was divided in half with a place to draw a picture and the other half lines for writing a story.
We had a Macintosh in our home and I would type up my English assignments on it. I took to regularly writing on the computer and have many hard disks full of old stories from my youth. In third grade, we had to write a murder mystery. I have kept that paper work with my teachers comments encouraging me to write.
The point of this is, like Hardy, I knew that I was better at writing than other kids. I never thought that I would have a career as writer. I didn’t know what I wanted to do until High School when JPL launched the first Mars Rover. I thought I was going to be an Astro Physicist.
When Things Changed
It turns out in High School, I was no longer top of the class. At that time, there was a very particular style of writing we were taught for essays. I remember it was like a five paragraph structure. You had to have a thesis statement and then your following paragraphs were all examples to prove your points with the last paragraph being a conclusion. I hated it and I was very bad at it. (update: This is called expository style. It is how they teach you to do academic writing.)
So in my senior year, I took the writing standardized test for college admission and failed. I took the SAT 2 writing test and failed. I took Writing 39A, remedial writing, at UC Irvine and failed.
I felt terrible and lost all confidence in my skills.
Becoming a Writer
There I was taking remedial writing for the second time. This time was different though. We had a visiting professor from Ireland. This was a revelation and I’ll tell you what happened.
My professor called me into his office hours to talk about my latest essay. I was certain he was going to tell me everything that I needed to do to improve having failed again. The assignment was to analyze an advertisement. I choose Lucky Brand.
I’m pretty sure it was this exact ad shown in this eBay listing.
I braced myself for my professor’s critique.
What I got was sweet sweet praise. I had finally broken through to the other side of failure. My teacher was impressed with how frankly I discussed the way sex was used to sell the product. But that wasn’t the best compliment.
He told me it was very funny! I was in shock because no teacher had gotten my sense of humor before. I told him that and I will never forget what he said to me.
“Your sense of humor is very British.”
After that meeting, I never had an issue with my writing again.
That’s when I knew I was a writer.
Why I’m Telling This Story
I’ve kind of fallen for YouTube Shorts. I never got TikTok, but I like watching Shorts from my favorite creators. I can waste a lot of time on that app.
Through Shorts, I discovered a channel called Lost in the Pond. It’s the perspective of a British man who moved to the states. He uses humor to discuss the differences between America and the UK.
I watched this video discussing American and British humor.
The first comedy that I remember being exposed to was Monty Python. We would sing along to the music on tapes we played on family road trips.
Young Ones is my favorite TV Show of all time.
I was exposed to I.T Crowd, Spaced, and Red Dwarf by college friends.
I really like that understated and surreal/absurd type of humor.
I probably watched too much PBS as a kid.