If you could learn any new skill instantly, what would it be and why?

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I want to be able to write well.

I’ve always loved writing since I was little, but I never thought I could write anything worth reading. I know it sounds like I’m fishing for compliments, but it really isn’t. I think it had something to do with how I was brought up, but I don’t want to go into details. Suffice to say, up until high school, I thought I was a bad writer. I had written short stories in high school, but I was too embarrassed to show anyone.

Right before I left China, I submitted a short story to Sci-fi World magazine. I received the letter that my submission was accepted after I arrived in the US, and I didn’t even see the magazine that published my short story.

I got involved with Hunter X Hunter fandom and started writing collaborative fanfics online. I think that was the first time I realized, hey, I can write. Because the story I wrote and submitted to the fanfic forum got a lot of readers, more than other collaborating writers on that site.

Then, I started writing my Renaissance historical novel in college. It changed format several times from a novella to an anthology that features a recurring cast until I settled down on a trilogy sometime during the early 2010s. I wrote out the first book of the trilogy. And it was published in China. Nobody bought it. LOL.

But through that experience, I realized I’m capable of writing long stories.

So, by 2016, I started to write my urban fantasy story. It was supposed to be a series, and each installment is a retelling of famous Chinese folklore set in the modern-day US and China. The first story is a retelling of 盗仙草 or stealing of the heavenly grass (although the actual herb was Ling Zhi, a type of rare mushroom). I planned out a story based on the 7th Fairy Princess and the Cow Herder, Lady White Snake, and other stories.

I ran into a LOT of problems writing the first story, temporarily named “The Ling Zhi Heist” (although it wasn’t a heist story). I found writing in English, my second language, very limiting. I couldn’t describe the scene I had in my head nearly as easily as I do in Chinese. And I was struggling with pacing and structure a lot. Still, I’m glad I wrote it. Neil Gaiman is right, “Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.”

It is a struggle. Writing is OMG hard. So hard. I wish I could magically acquire the ability to write beautiful prose. I wish I could structure my stories with ease with perfect pacing. I wish I could create relatable, diverse, and authentic characters with meaningful growth arcs. I wish I could describe everything that readers would feel that they are in that scene themselves. I wish I could write stories that move people, make them happy, sad, laugh, and cry. I wish my story is provocative, and challenge people’s existing world views, and show them a different perspective. I wish my stories stay with people long before they finished.

I know writing is a craft. And I started late, not to mention in a language that isn’t my own. I could never compete with native speakers. But I’ll keep trying. They say your first 1 million words are garbage. I felt that between English and Chinese, I’m pretty sure I was way past that. I mean, I wrote over 10K answers on Quora, and I’m pretty sure my answers were, on average, a lot more than 100 words each. That alone was already 1 million or more. Maybe I’m just that bad a writer. Maybe it’ll take me 2 or 3 million until I can finally write something good.

I hope get there eventually. And it would be great if I could skip all the hard work and get that skill instantly ;)

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