Hello reader; we find each other again. I have an announcement to make. Over the last month, I found someone very similar, and at the same time very different to me. His name is Andres Melo, and like me, he is a Colombian expatriate in an English speaking country (Canada).
Like me, he has a reflective blog. Unlike me, he works in academia instead of industry. And unlike me (an engineer by training and trade), he studied Political Philosophy and is well versed in the classical and contemporary philosophers. His latest post prompted me to write a comment in his blog. But this comment grew; and grew; and grew! Suddenly, I realised what I had was not a comment; but instead an entire new post for my blog. And I had only covered the first topic of two that I originally envisioned leaving as a response to his insightful essay. As a result, I have decided to post that entry here, and refer him (using the comments section of his post) to come over and join us in this place.
I encourage you to read his essay before you come back to finish reading this entry; and the next one. You will have a greater understanding of my words and messages if you decide to follow my advise. I hope you enjoy this reflection, and that you will at least give Andres’ blog a try. It is a fascinating, if sometimes long, read.
-The crazy Colombian
REFLECTIVE COMMENT #1 – ON WRITING STYLES
As you know, I was born in Colombia. I lived there until age 24. Then I migrated to Sydney, and have been living here for 13 years.
You will also remember how I love writing. To those that know me in real life, this is strange in a way, given how I have always been classified as a ‘numbers person’ . I am an engineer, after all; My workplace is a bank; and my work regards ‘marketing analytics’ using sophisticated statistical techniques.
Yet I have experienced a deep stream of literacy in my life. I have written short poems. I have written small essays. I have written academic papers (none of which were published, by the way). I have written short stories.
I have also read. A lot. All types of books. Serious books. Frivolous books. Short, tall, thick, thin books. Fiction and Non-Fiction; From thrillers to biographies. I have enjoyed business books, science fiction books, and real science books. You name any style, and it is almost for sure I can find at least one book from the genre that has gone through my hands.
Sorry, I kind of went on a tangent there. There is a reason why I mention this deep interest in letters, this passion of mine for words. Throughout the last 13 years, I was forced to be more aware of my natural writing style. Through this increased awareness, I have come to the conclusion that Spanish is a ‘flowery’ language. Take a book by any of our highest-ranked writers: Garcia Marquez; Laura Esquivel; Isabel Allende, or any other of your choice. Then observe the length of their phrases; the lengthy, sometimes incredibly tortuous path of description and narrative that are used to describe the situation at hand; the complex minutiae of the moment they are trying to capture in simple and sometimes not-so-simple words. Go back and look at Andres’ own essay, the one that prompted me to think again about this. Observe the length and richness of his phrases. Then come back and contrast them with the first part of these reflections. Do you notice a difference? Long vs short. Beauty vs utility. I have found that English is a much more utilitarian language, as a general rule. And I have noticed how much better I express myself in English when I force myself to write shorter phrases. Now, don’t get me wrong. There are ways to embed beauty in short English sentences. There are great poets. Great writers. Great English masters who use a style of writing that goes through similarly complex paths as those of our Spanish-writing colleagues. By the same token, there are Spanish speaking writers with horrendously long phrases; with phrases which have no beauty and are hard to understand; with phrases made obscure through a lack of pauses and punctuation. Yet my observation still stands. As one that likes to call himself an Omega type of individual, I have also experimented with both styles. And in the process, I have achieved a higher awareness of the possibilities. I have also enjoyed the journey of discovery, and admired it for is beauty and the pleasure that it gave me. Like a surgeon that is awed by the beauty of his drawings of the human body; this engineer has at times been awed by the beauty of his ruminations in a different language.
I encourage you to try it out. There is no ‘write’ or ‘wrong’ (yes, I misspelled that on purpose). Try a different voice, and enjoy laughing at yourself if it sounds typically
burlesque. Admire it if it sounds beautifully different. Ignore it if it sounds honestly
annoying. But play nevertheless. You will find yourself a more rounded individual for the experience.