Impressing or Expressing?

Pursuing excellence to impress or to express? Image courtesy of Google Images


My English mentor in my high school sophomore year, Sir Marvin, recognized my talent in creative writing.  I was glad to know that I have a particular strength that I can indeed be proud of.  As a young teenager then filled with my own personal insecurities, I was yearning to find that inner treasure I can bank on.  To be excellent.  To impress my peers and my teachers.

But amidst all the grammar lessons he taught us, the literary pieces and the neologisms and all the other English-related isms, there is one thing I would surely never forget.

He told me, “You write to EXPRESS, not to IMPRESS.”

It was a lesson that time that I did not fully understand.  As I began to hone my craft in little ways, I developed my own corolary to Sir Marvin’s words: “You write for IMPRESSIVE EXPRESSION”.

At that time, it made sense.  Find something or build on something that makes you passionate to say what you want to say, or write what you want to write – then find the right “techniques” to deliver them in an awe-inspiring manner.

In a world filled with Dips (from Seth Godin’s The Dip) and industry leaders, managers, bosses and superiors with limited time, the world has become a system of “who-can-impress-me-the-most-in-the-shortest-amount-of-time”.  Competition becomes ruthless.  People, advertisers, marketers, politicians – they compete for the audience’s minds and utilize all sorts of gimmicks to gain attention, then perhaps eventually gain traction on their own campaigns.

I thought that perhaps, impressing is more important than expressing.

But I was wrong.

In my experience when my creative juices run dry and I encounter all sorts of de-motivations and the most daunting of writers’ blocks, I have observed one thing: I have focused too much in impressing, more than expressing.

What I did not understand back then, is that words, in the greater scheme of things, are just symbols.  They have no meaning when not put into context.  They are not enjoyed when randomly juxtaposed.

In the greater scheme of things, words, pictures, campaigns, and any form of language or media – they are supposed to be representations of authentic emotions and ideas wanting to be EXPRESSED.

I realized that perhaps “IMPRESSIVE EXPRESSION” is the art of finding the most precisest (pardon the intended wrong grammar) symbols, images, and/or words that would closely convey what we want to express.  Without something worth expressing, no attempt of impressing would work.  Though some impressions-for-the-sake-of-impressing may work superficially for the short term, they would undoubtedly crumble and be exposed as half-truths or lies in the long-term.

Now I know why the lesson is stated as “You write to express, not to impress”.  By focusing on sincerely expressing one’s idea, insight, or campaign, impressing the target audience follows.

By stating “one writes for IMPRESSIVE EXPRESSION”, there is an assumption that he must have mastered already the basic principle of “writing to EXPRESS, not to IMPRESS”.

In a world wanting to be impressed, the irony is to do so, one must be truly sincere in what he wants to express.

Let not the fear of having to impress the world cloud our mission – to express our innate excellence and talents to the world.

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