On Writing Poorly, Still

By Zhenyi Tan

Three years ago, I decided to turn my portfolio website into a blog. I wrote an embarrassing post about how bad I was at writing. Now, I’m happy to report that I’m still terrible, but at least I can churn out terrible posts at a faster rate now. Yay…

Anyway, my fear of writing isn’t about being bad at it (though that’s also true), it’s more about my struggle with English. I was Chinese-educated until I was 18, so English doesn’t come naturally to me.

We did have English classes in secondary school, but they were mostly about memorizing vocabulary, not about using the language in the real world.

For example, these questions are from the UEC exam, the highest-level exam we took at 18 years old, just before we graduated from secondary school:

Some questions I OCR'd from an exam paper.

So, you can imagine my shock when I moved to Singapore. Everyone spoke English better than I did. I remember feeling so embarrassed when I didn’t know what ‘aroma’ meant while reading my landlord’s 8-year-old son’s homework.

I decided to immerse myself in English. I read English books, listened to English podcasts, watched English videos. Many years later, my Chinese got rusty, and my English… well, it got a little better. I still make basic mistakes like using the wrong tenses and prepositions, and Grammarly is still my friend.

Because of my struggles with English and because of my, uhh, “perfectionism”, I was too embarrassed to write anything at all. This even extended to replying to emails. I would write down the important points but struggled to string them together with correct grammar.

I tried starting a blog a few times. I would write down my talking points but didn’t know how to continue. I eventually deleted those drafts.

The only place where I felt comfortable writing was iMessage, maybe because people don’t care so much about grammar mistakes when texting.

So, I created this weirdo writing app to help myself. My plan now is to make writing a habit. Practice might not make perfect, but I’m hoping that if I write enough, I’ll eventually come up with something good.

When I asked my friends from secondary school to test Gibberish, most of them declined, “Sorry ah my English too lousy, cannot write blog one. Paiseh!” It seems I’m not alone in this struggle.

So, if you’re reading this and you’re also scared of writing, know that you’re not alone. Gibberish was created for people like us. Give it a try—the water’s warm.