On Writing

I don’t consider myself a writer, let alone a great writer. Yet I find myself continuously writing these days.   But thinking back to the path of writing, it hasn’t exactly been one filled with pleasant experience either. As a new immigrant, English was not my strongest subject at school. I never enjoyed dissecting Shakespeare’s work, or producing a 10 page essay to analyze Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece.  I struggled to find the right word, the right expression, the correct sentence structure to express my thoughts. Often I knew my limitations – I had a tendency to create awkward sentences, make common grammatical mistakes and the end result was often distracting for the readers.

Even after I was admitted to pharmacy school, I was told I had to work on my writing. The admission was conditional, provided that I would pass the writing competency exam before my graduation. The pressure was on. There were additional courses to take and writing assignments to do.

One day after attending the mandatory writing workshop, I went home to work on the written assignment. I spent lots of time on it, re-organizing my sentences to make them more coherent and perfecting the word choices to improve on the clarity. I didn’t think much of it and handed it in.

The next day, my instructor talked to me in private about my assignment. I forgot exactly how she put it but basically, she accused me of plagiarism. I was immediately hit with a mix of emotions. I thought, wow it was so great that she thought I plagiarized. Yet it was also so great that she did not believe I could have written it myself.  I told her I wrote it myself.  I did not try to ask anyone else to write it.  My face must have been so distraught. The instructor went on to suggest I must have read someone else’s work and subconsciously repeated them in my own work.

I thought in my head, FXXX YOU.

She didn’t make a big deal afterward. She must have believed me but couldn’t openly admit that she was wrong.  After that incident, I knew if I wanted to be a good writer, I should stay as far away from her as possible.  I eventually passed the writing competency requirement but I was still not happy with my own writing.

So I enrolled myself in a writing course at the University of Toronto. I heard good things from my sister because she has taken the course herself.  So I decided to take the course to see how it could help me improve my writing.  That was the best decision ever.  My professor taught me to write authentically, and to avoid pretentious writing. He taught me to write with my heart. He gave me honest feedback. He taught me the basic mechanics in writing and encouraged me to keep writing.

Now as a clinical pharmacist, I write a lot. After reviewing a patient’s medications, I have to write up my recommendation(s). I have to write succinctly so that my points get across without so many words. I have to learn how to write in ways not to offend physicians.  In email correspondence, the writing also needs to be carefully crafted because using the wrong word, or omitting an important piece of information may lead to misunderstanding and hard feelings if misinterpreted.

I also enjoy writing now.  I still don’t think I am a good writer but maybe I should start accepting I am a writer.  I am also critical of my work. I am never happy with my work, always finding better ways to phrase my sentences. I still catch myself with grammatical errors.  But that doesn’t matter as much anymore. Because I am my own judge. I know when my writing is bad or not. I don’t have to rely on someone else to tell me. If I have written a decent piece of writing, my only hope is that the readers will find some enjoyment in it.    So on that note, I hope you have enjoyed reading about my writing journey. Perhaps you can share your writing experience too!

Thank you for reading my post.


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My name is Cynthia Leung and I am a practicing pharmacist in Kingston Ontario, Canada. This blog is for me to share my ideas, opinions and perspectives on how medications are used in our health care system. Note that these posts are my own opinions and do not represent the opinions of my current or former employers and / or organizations that I may belong to. Any possible case scenarios described in my posts would be modified to maintain patient confidentiality. This blog is not a platform for professional advise for patients or health care providers and the content is not meant to support any clinical decisions or replace professional opinions. Also the images are either taken or created by the author, or adapted with permissions. I hope you will enjoy reading my posts!

2 thoughts on “On Writing”

  1. Based on the easy way I can read your writing, I would never have known that English wasn’t your first language. You have done a fabulous job learning to write. I know from experience — when I moved to francophone Switzerland, that communicating in another language is not easy. So really, my hat is off to you and everyone else who can do it. (I failed miserably)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Elyse. It has been a long journey. It’s not easy to find a great teacher who knows how to teach someone to write. And learning a new language is already difficult – first to master all the survival skills (e.g. know how to ask where the washrooms are…), then to perfect conversationally and then finally to do so in writing. It is a lot of effort and practice.

      Liked by 1 person

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