Writing as Sketching (or Why I Don’t Write Any Longer)

Here I go…

This post is very personal (well, every post is personal in the end; as a follower of the theory of social semiotics, any written piece on Medium and out there represents an attempt to describe a perception of the world by which we attempt to change other people’s perspectives). I am writing only for 15 minutes. Only 15 minutes…

More than a decade ago, when blogs were a thing, I used to write about design (in Spanish; that blog is dead now and never backed it up). I remember I use to feel so in the zone while writing my thoughts about design. I felt I had something to say while, at the same time, I was trying to emulate the writing of Mexican design bloggers that I admire — rather than “fake it until make it”, observe, analyze, and copy until the patterns are instilled in one. Writing about design and presenting in academic conferences (basically, once a year) while I was having a “normal job” as a designer encouraged me to decide for an academic career and pursue my PhD.

I don’t want to say that the PhD killed my passion for writing about design. After about 5 years of having earned my doctoral degree, I think that I have a kind of trauma. I can now acknowledge that my personal insecurities took a monstrous form during the PhD, in the sense that I was from the sudden in an environment where my linguistic capabilities went down a lot! Start writing and speaking in English from the sudden, with a rustic training in English (thanks Cable TV and comics for supplementing my middle school English classes and my two courses in high school), was just shocking. Particularly, because I was (and honestly, feel fortunate about it) surrounded of very smart people whose level of argumentation and articulation just cannot emulate even nowadays.

Writing became that huge giant. I was just a little David. Ok, no — that might sound too pretentious. However, I did feel quite incompetent. All the paper rejections that I had during my doctoral studies and the first years of my position as a Professor in the United States seemed to yell at me “You are fake and certainly are not at the level necessary to be a professor in the United States” You may hear about the importance of understanding critically and empathetically underrepresentation in academia (and the industry), mentorship, community, friendship, love, and well-being. Well, I won’t save the world with this post certainly, but one thing I could say, it’s all real! All these issues do affect the performance of an individual. As someone fascinated with the use of language (of any kind: verbal, aural, visual, olfactory, or tactile) and the notion of rhetoric, it became extremely hard to see that I didn’t know how to help myself deal with my own struggle.

There is one minute left… This post could’ve been about so many things. But I don’t think it’s about anything really. The title suggested that I was going to elaborate why writing is important, bla, bla, bla… I just had the urge to write and loose the fear that I will sound stupid in English. You don’t know this, but the analysis paralysis for a non-native speaker when you have to excel in a second language you don’t have an education started from your childhood can be too much. At least, it is for me, who, to be honest, ended up in academia because I was one of those bullied (fortunately all the time) kids who decided to show some value (and getting some appreciation from others, including the adults) by having good scores.

The time is up. This was about everything and nothing. This might be too much to put out there. But I needed. I needed to see how far I can get now in 15 minutes without writing the same paragraph over and over again, and without checking every single word in the MacOs dictionary (or Webster website or by Google), and thinking that they will get me. I don’t have anything to say, just as I expected.

This post, again, is just to feel comfortable and remember that writing is thinking, that writing is sketching ideas, that I decided to pursue an academic career because I could leave my ideas on paper and hopefully, making them useful to others, to my own understanding of the world, and yes, to put a plate on my table and a roof on my head, and to be heard (my bullied inner child would say).

Cheers!

PS. No grammar correction. All written (99%) on the fly. There must be typos and stylistic atrocities everywhere. Well… that’s it.

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Omar Sosa-Tzec

Omar Sosa-Tzec

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Assistant Professor of Design Foundations at San Francisco State University