I do not remember writing any paragraphs until I took a writing class in the third grade; where I was asked to write only one paragraph for each subject. At first, I liked the writing class because it was new to me. However, as the time went on, I started hating the writing class. To be more precise, I did not like the manner in which I had been taught writing. The subjects that I was asked to write about were boring and never changed throughout my high school period. I cannot count how many times I had been asked to write about friendship. I wondered why I had never been asked to write about freedom. I got the answer to this when I noticed the drawing or the word on the flag of my country. Furthermore, there was a conflict between what I was supposed to write and reality. In other words, my teachers wanted to read what they like and they did not want to read the ugly truth. For example, they asked me to write about how we protect our environment, but I had to avoid mentioning the fact that we live next to the biggest petroleum industry in the world. If they asked me to write about a future job, I shouldn’t mention that the unemployment rate is more than 25%. I think they wanted me to write about the perfect city of Plato. I might say that we had a “creativity killer system” rather than an education system in my lovely country, Saudi Arabia.
Despite my bad experience in writing class, I never hated the writing itself. On the contrary, I started to love it more, due to my conscious effort in reading. I read books from outside the school. I was 13 and the first book I read was a novel by Agatha Christie. When I read the first few pages, I couldn’t resist continuing. I was impressed by how she was able to describe the characters in her story. She emphasized the psychology of the characters; which made me feel that I was a reading story about real people. With her unique way, she grasped all my attention until the end of the story when the mystery is revealed. I have read more than 10 novels by her before I decided to read the rest of them in English. Since I am partial to psychology, I started reading some psychology books, watching TV programs and reading some Freud’s theories and many other psychologists like Abraham Maslow, who analyze the personality of people. Psychology was a starting point for many other readings like history, autobiography and NLB (Neuro-linguistic programming). I read a number of history books not because I am interested in history itself, but because I wanted to analyze the people’s character.
Being that I live in the Middle East where most of the people are Muslims, I began to read Islamic history and discovered many differences between what I just read and what I had taken in school in the history class. For example, there were many dictators who were represented as wise kings such as Yazid. From there I also read the history of other countries like the history of the French Revolution where there were many interesting characters like Marie Antoinette, Louis XVII and Robespierre. Similarly, I read or watched autobiographies and films about the successful people like Einstein, Addison and John Nash. I wanted to know what their motivation was. What are the similarities and differences between them? How did they become successful? This, I did so that one day I might be like them.
Furthermore, I read some NLP books which were about how we can use our brain power. The Secret is the most famous one in this category and I tried to follow their instructions for weeks. However, after a period of doing these lessons, I realized that these books are just using a beautiful expression and offer seductive result to manipulate some failures and most of what is said in these books are not based on facts or scientific idea.
My literacy is shaped from the previous sources and from many other books. However, there were many barriers. First, I limited myself to a specific area of knowledge and I only read what was interesting to me and what I could easily understand. Second, I lived in a discouraging culture where the priority for the people in the Arabic world except a few countries like Egypt and Lebanon, is to have money. For example, you will hear many people saying that as long as they had the money they will be fine and that in order to get the money they don’t have to be literate, so why should they bother themselves? Also, the number of literate people was low .For instance, I am from the second literate generation and many of our parents were illiterate. The third barrier is that many books were prohibited in my country and we could not even discuss some ideas. Fortunately, we had the internet and we have had some educational developments in the recent years.
Finally, last year was the time to show my capacity to write; when I came to the USA to learn English. I had a writing class and my teacher gave us a new subject to write about every week. Every time I started to write I followed the same procedure. First, I decide the type of the essay; whether it is argumentative, cause and effect, comparing and contrast or persuasive. Then, I do the brain storm and outline. After that, I do the first draft which I review and edit later to get the final draft. I faced some problem when I sometimes imitate the other writers’ style, but my teacher told me that it’s better to be myself when I write. Also, since English is my second language it takes me too much time to write an essay because when I write I think in my first language and then I translate my thoughts to English and by using this way I made a lot of mistakes in both grammar and meanings.
Writing for me is a way to express and share important things. For example, when I read what Einstein wrote, that means he gave me his experience of many years that he spent to figure out his theory in just a few pages. Converting many years into a few pages! How great that is. So by reading a few pages from a scientist, other from a poet and other from a writer and so on, I will have an experience of 500 years and I am only 20 years old.