Learning new things can be really hard time times, especially when you don’t care about what it is you’re learning. Luckily for me that was rarely the case. When I was a young boy in elementary school I had a knack for picking up new things fairly easily. This was mainly due to the fact that I could replicate other people and what they did pretty accurately. When it came time to learn to read and write it’s almost as if I forgot I was learning at all. I don’t mean that it came so easy that it didn’t phase me but because reading and writing was already a part of my day to day life.
As most young boys do, I loved playing video games. In most games there’s objectives and tasks that you have to complete to advance through the game. To complete these tasks you have to be able to read what these tasks and objectives are. I used to dedicate a large portion of my day to playing games so I’m sure you could put together that I was reading a lot. Often times I was playing games meant for audiences older than myself so it was inevitable for me to run into words I didn’t know. Luckily for me I had my older brother Jordan there most of the time to help me figure the words out. Jordan would help me in a way that would affect how I learned forever. Instead of just telling me what the words were, Jordan would help me sound the words out and figure them out on my own. I also used to it with my Mom when she would read and most times she would ask me to read certain paragraphs to her. Like my brother, my Mom would help me with the words I struggled with. The praise I would receive from my Mom for my improved reading skills filled me with so much happiness that it quickly incentivized me to read to the best of my abilities. The better I read the more praise I received. This situation paralleled at church. My Dad was a very religious man so the Bible was always in sight. My family and I would go to church every Sunday. Unlike most kids I hated the children’s rooms so I’d go into the adult services with my parents. We had gone to the same church for a while so I had made a good amount of friends there. During the service I always wanted to show someone how good I could read. I’d usually end up reading some scripture from The Bible and you could probably assume I’d struggle with the strange forms of writing The Bible is filled with. My friends would always help me get the words down and I’d carry on reading. The Bible was challenging and I enjoyed it. The satisfaction that would fill me after reading a piece of scripture smoothly was more motivation to improve my reading skills. The praise I would receive from whoever was listening was always a nice bonus too.
Although receiving praise was good motivation for me, it didn’t compare to my fear of being inferior to my peers. I was never a prideful kid but I never wanted to give someone the chance to make fun of me. You know how competitive kids are. The second they can rub in their friends’ faces that they got a higher score, they will. The way I saw it was if I do better than everyone no one can say anything to me and I would just try to remain humble. I never read for recreational purposes but when it came to any form test, you can bet I was trying to read to the best of my abilities. To try to guarantee I read better than most of the kids in my class I sought out additional help from my teachers. I would read to them and they would tell me where I could improve.
Reading was never really an issue. As far as writing, I never really paid much attention to it. I mean I would write just as much as any other kid my age but it was never something I thought about all too often. When I had to start writing more mature, I struggled because I always tried to write in a formal fashion even when it didn’t fit the feel of what it was I was writing. I also struggled with writing because I was very critical of myself due to having a perfectionist mentality. Often times my writings would be too long because I wanted to make sure I got every point across. An older friend of mine named Brian was someone I always thought of as very smart. One day Brian gave me some advice on writing that would really change the way I wrote forever. Brian told me, “Think of writing as just talking on paper”. Although this advice doesn’t sound like it came from some super wise man, it really gave me a different perspective on writing. Rather than writing in a way that sounded like bullet points, I began to write as if I was having a conversation with someone. Brian’s advice helped me relax my style of writing and ultimately gave my writings a sort of personality.
Having to write at the high school level forced me to figure out some way of improving. My ability to copy others efficiently came in handy. Learning about the world’s most famous authors and what made their writings so famous was soon my ‘writing for dummies’. I would try to take note of all the parts that made these famous writings so famous. What kind of words did they use? How did they set up their words? How did they connect one idea to another? Etc. Once I had the answers to these questions I would try to apply them to my own style of writing.
Although I never realized it in the moment realizing what motivated me, consistent practice, help from people around me and inspecting famous author’s writings is how I learned to read and write.