Lu-Hai Liang

thoughts from a freelance foreign correspondent

Posts Tagged ‘literature is news that stays news

Reconnecting with an older self

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grapes of wrath

Literature, not news, was my first entry into the power of language and story.

I remember when I was a teenager, going through school, and being given assignments by my English teachers.

Read Macbeth.

Read Of Mice and Men.

Write a poem. Write a short story. Write a persuasive essay. Analyse this novel for how it builds atmosphere thought its use of language.

From about age eleven or twelve (Year 7) I found I was good at these assignments. It didn’t even need a great deal of effort on my part. Like how some kids are naturally good at maths or art or French, it was just one of those things.

It wasn’t a certainty, certainly not obvious, that I was going to become a journalist, at that age. When I was a kid my dream was to play football for England. Quite the dream for the son of a political asylum seeker. (My father was granted political asylum by Prime Minister John Major; I wrote about his journey here.)

I was born in a non-English speaking country and moved to England aged five and didn’t speak English as my first language until about eight or nine years old.

But, for whatever reason, my brain moulded itself to English at a rate and capacity that made this adopted language my core of self-belief. That is, because I knew I was quite good at English, I had this core, iron-clad, of confidence. It’s not even confidence; it was just a calming knowledge that I was quite good at something. At least this one thing, I was very, very good at.

It wasn’t until much later that journalism came into the picture.

When I was 17 or 18, I was considering which subjects to study at university. English literature and photography were my top picks. Growing up, I didn’t know much about journalists. I read magazines (mostly gaming ones), and newspapers sometimes, but I never really considered that they were written by people whose positions I could envy and emulate.

Journalism, at some point, entered the picture, and that is what I chose. I took two gap years before I started my journalism degree, and in those two years I read two books that whetted my appetite for the game of journalism.

In the first year of my degree I was published in a national newspaper, which made me very happy. Unfortunately, that was also the first step, I now recognise, to forgetting my older self. The one who was enjoying writing classroom assignments and discovering that I liked writing.

Journalism has its own ideals. It lionizes reporters. It lionizes those who “speak truth to power”. It admires hubris. It admires articles and bylines as badges of status. All that stokes ego.

The ego of journalists is a very dangerous thing. Ambition is a dangerous thing.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot what it was that originally drew me to writing.

And I am glad that I am rediscovering that original joy.

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Written by Lu-Hai Liang

March 1, 2019 at 12:07 am