Friday, February 16, 2007

The Grammar Police

One of the things that stymies the creative process is worrying about the grammar police. Early experiences can scar people. I assure you that your sixth grade English teacher will not look you up and chew you out because you misused an apostrophe or misspelled a word. Grammar is simply the mechanics of writing, and it can be fixed. But unless you put the words on the paper, nothing exists for you to fix – so banish grammar worries and forge ahead.

Give yourself permission to make mistakes. When you’re editing you can unleash your inner word maven. Until then, keep writing. If you’re writing longhand, limit your strikeouts. If you’re writing on the computer, leave the backspace and delete buttons alone. Ignore those squiggly red and green lines Word inserts under your grammatically offensive words (you can even turn the squiggles off). Let your thoughts sprawl across the paper. A few drafts later – after you’ve filled in the holes and patched up the roof of your story – it will be time for the finish work. That’s when you can stress about the commas and capitals.

While the grammar police won’t necessarily hunt you down and beat you with blunt punctuation marks, plenty of volunteer grammar policepeople are just waiting to give your work a thorough proofing. Don’t let these people see your early drafts, but be grateful for them on that last draft! After all, who would you rather catch your embarrassing error – your retired English teacher auntie, or the editor at a magazine?
Photo courtesy of Daniel Wildman,

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Writing Down the Bones

Natalie Goldberg's book, Writing Down the Bones, is a must-read for all writers. Goldberg is addressing the person who writes because she must, not because she dreams of publication. Each chapter stands alone and ends with a call to action or a writing prompt. Goldberg's theme is simple and powerful: Write because you want to; write because it gives you a way to relate to the world. Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or order one from the link on this page. Be sure to have a pencil and Post-It flags handy, because you'll want to mark such wisdom as "Writing is deeper than therapy. You write through your pain, and even your suffering must be written out and let go of." (p. 114)