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,


Anonymous said...

:) I must say, the police people picture at the top made a wonderful addition to your advise :) Made me smile. Good advise. The "inter turmoil" Ive been dealing with lately is actually starting a piece of writing and seeing it through. Poems, very short stories, I have no problem. Once I get into an indepth story, I seem to grasp it full force in the beginning, and slowly but surely ween myself out of it.

Well see. Miss you guys, I'll be over soon :)


TH Meeks said...

Writing takes us to the strangest inner destinations, doesn't it? I think sometimes mental anguish and turmoil does better on a diet of loads and loads of poetry. Maybe that's why your writing is taking you there. Poetry springs from the soul -- I don't exactly understand how it works -- I just know it does! I have to remember to focus on the positives as well as the negatives -- I know I can fall off the cliff of negativity when my mood turns dark. If I'm not careful, instead of getting therapy from my work, I just reinforce my bad mood. Nothing like looking back over a notebook of angry poetry to truly understand how depressed you were when you wrote it!!