Good Morning Starshine, or Gliddy gloop gloopy / Nibby nobby nooby

Hands on keyboard

Recently, I had cause to reflect on how different people approach the act of writing. Specifically, what a person finds important when writing to a broad audience (beyond family and friends) online and in print. Writing as a learned ability versus writing as a skilled craft.

Words

Those who dabble in words know their importance. Like Gustave Flaubert, I believe in finding “le mot juste” {the right word} and complimenting it with the proper punctuation. Words are like peanut butter, smooth or crunchy; punctuation is like jam or Nutella, sweet or decadent. Together words and punctuation become something delicious to chew on. Using words without the correct punctuation is like eating peanut butter straight from the jar – it fills your mouth and it’s tasty, until you realize that it’s thick and hard to swallow.

Scrabble tile orange

Take the word “tangerine.” You can feel your teeth biting down and releasing the juiciness just by saying it. Words can morph in color and texture simply by the way they are delivered. “Darling” stops, suspended like glistening sugar, until it falls on the ears of your beloved. Drop the “g” and say, “Darlin’,” and suddenly it’s an apple pie, brown and warm straight from the oven.

Knowing when to use what word, such as effect or affect, or then or than, can determine how your work registers with the reader. If you use them correctly, then the effect your writing will have can affect your readers more than you can imagine.

catastrophe

“The reason it’s worth standing up for punctuation is not that it’s an arbitrary system of notation known only to an over-sensitive elite who have attacks of the vapors when they see it misapplied. The reason to stand up for punctuation is that without it there is no reliable way of communicating meaning.” ~ Lynne Truss, Eats Shoots and Leaves

We writers are a persnickety bunch, aren’t we? (Or maybe it’s just English majors, English teachers, or English professor’s in general?)

We clamor that if you can’t tell the difference between:

“Let’s eat Grandpa!”  and “Let’s eat, Grandpa!” — then people may not take your writing seriously.

Or, if you know the difference and you don’t take the time to proofread and edit your work  — then you don’t take your writing seriously.

Unlike, say, a Catholic who must refrain from grimacing in horror retain a grace-filled expression when she realizes that her non-Catholic mother, who is attending mass with her, has disappeared during Communion, only to turn and see her at the altar receiving the Body & Blood {Why, yes, Darlin’. Yes, that DID happen.} — as a writer reading someone else’s work, I can feel my contorted expressions painfully molding my face. [Please don’t FREEZE that way!]  When my eyes absorb words used out of context, askew tenses, and rogue punctuation it.just.happens. The hair on the back of my neck rises, breathing becomes shallow, I can feel my blood pressure rising, and there’s a rumble bubbling up from the pit of my being with a scream surfing into the curl of my tongue, ready to burst from my mouth shouting, “BLASPHEMY!”

So Dowager Countess, Lady Grantham-ish, don’t you think?

Downton Abbey Maggie Smith

Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”

 Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”

 Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

Then, hanging head in shame and covering eyes in embarrassment, for both the writer reading and the writer of what’s being read, I exhale.

embarrassed monkey

At that moment, I must take a deep breath, consider the writer’s intended audience and take an anxiety pill. I must take pause and recognize that, as the idiom implies, the writer may be “preaching to the choir” and then, for all intentional purposes, it doesn’t matter whether their writing is good or not.

A writer inherently knows that words are art and they are a part of art.  Therefore, it’s up to the writer-artist, to determine what message he or she wants his or her art to reflect outward into the world.

BK 3

BKrueger 2

“I’m convinced that the negative has power. It lives. And if you allow it to perch in your house, in your mind, in your life, it can take you over…I say, ‘Take it all out of my house!’ Those negative words climb into the woodwork and into the furniture, and the next thing you know they’ll be on my skin.” ~ Maya Angelou

The words you choose, and the punctuation you use to deliver them, can make your work and your reader soar, or it can stagnate your message, swallowing both you and the reader whole.

Words attract readers based on their strength and purpose.  Do you want to use honey or flypaper; attract flies or honeybees? Which swarm would you prefer to hover over and land on your words?

dissertation

It’s important for a writer to line his or her bookshelves with resources. A writer, whether a scholar or not, shouldn’t always rely on memory and push, “Publish,” without reading through the piece at least once. If there is any doubt as to whether I have “le mot juste,” or the correct punctuation — then it’s time to seek out the resources that should always be within my own arm’s reach.  Oh, and put the tea kettle on. Tea helps, especially if it is served in an exquisite cup. {I prefer Lady Grey. Just sayin’.}

100_1503

If I want to be sure that the word I’m using is the right word, I reach for my dictionary (yes, I’m possessive that way).

100_1506

An often used, well-loved dictionary to a writer is like the Nursery Fairy in The Velveteen Rabbit — it can supply the magic to bring your work to life. A much thumbed-through dictionary to a writer is like a worn Bible to a Christian. The more you reach for it the better you will be able to apply what it contains.

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“By elevating your reading, you will improve your writing or at least tickle your thinking.”

 –   William Safire

It is the one consistent mantra I’ve heard or read from every serious writer, published or not: If you want to become a good writer, read some books. If you want to be a great writer, read many books of various genres. If you want to be an excellent writer, read everything.

“All the words that rumble about in my brain and those that will proceed out of my mouth, Lord, you be the author of those.” ~ Lisa TerKeurst

When I write letters {emails, Facebook posts, or Tweets} I allow for mistakes because they’re written in real-time. With everything else I write, my aim, like most writers, is to hone my craft by utilizing all of the writing tools I have at my disposal. Do I fall short and make errors sometimes? Why, yes. Yes, I do. However, as Brian Littrell once said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

What are your “go to” resources when you are writing? Do you ponder over, or note down, ideas prior to writing, or do you write whatever is on your mind at the moment? Do you proofread and edit your online writing before hitting, “Publish,” or do you write & send “off the cuff”?

Leave a comment –> inquiring minds would really like to know.

35 comments

  1. I just write and send off the cuff and after reading this I wonder if I will ever write anything again!! j/k……I think. ;-}

  2. I am terrible at punctuation. I really try, I do, but I just can’t grasp it. And I try to proof read. But, I end up seeing what I meant to write and sometimes miss oopsies. If you feel the urge to correct this post, you are more than welcome to. I’m kind of curious anyways. 🙂

    • Thanks for being honest, Kristen. Just like I mentioned in my post, mistakes are made even by me. It goes without saying {but I’ll say it anyway}, that we are all only human — ergo, we seek perfection, but rarely attain it. It’s no different than an artist who uses paint and canvas. They must learn how to use the tools of their craft to bring life to their work. The fact that you are curious to know what I “see” in your writing, shows that you welcome constructive criticism. You ROCK! {And I am SO looking forward to a “writing conference” at the beach this summer!}

  3. I usually have some pull to write before I sit down at the keyboard. From there, I write and write until what I mean to say unfolds itself. I delete words and phrases – sometimes entire paragraphs.

    Though I love grammar enough to have a board on Pinterest dedicated to it (and other writerly things), mistakes happen. It’s difficult to proofread on a screen, I think. Most of the time I read through my post a few times before hitting publish, but then once seeing it published, I always (ALWAYS) find mistakes. In fact, right now, one of my posts has a couple yucky errors on it. Have I rushed to fix them? Not this time – which is weird. Usually I do. lol

    Great post. My favorite quote was Maya Angelou’s!

    • Ah, another Kindred Soul. I know what you mean when it comes to finding mistakes AFTER you publish. Sometimes you just have to let them go — especially if you’ve already exhausted yourself writing & rewriting and proofreading the piece prior to publishing. Maya Angelou rocks! She nails it when it comes to fueling negativity. Thank you, Becky. 🙂 {P.S. And know that I’ve been following your current situation. Been there. Blessing & prayers going your way.}

  4. Posting this for Sue Shobert Jorgenson from Facebook {until I figure out what box I need to check or uncheck for her comments to post here} 🙂

    Here’s the comment I tried to post to your blog and I hope you’re feeling better today! —

    I freelance as an editor and a proofreader, and I have to tell you, Robin…your writing far outshines what lands on my desk or in my inbox. I so admire authors for being *brave* enough to put their words on paper or on screen for all the world to see, and at the same time, I, too, cringe when I hear or read “This was given to Mary and I.” Or they’re/there/their. Or it versus it’s. I breathe in and out and let it go. Except when it’s on paper with my red pen hovering over it. You’re in good company, Robin!

  5. well written! so up my alley. i have such a [bad?] habit of correcting grammar and punctuation, which makes me a great editor/proofreader but… i’ve corrected people under my breath before too. oops. 🙂

    • Thank you, Kristen! I know, I know. It’s a blessing AND a bane. I once was sitting behind a student in an auditorium-style classroom. He had his laptop open and was working on a paper. I.was.sooooooooooooo.tempted to tap his shoulder and say, “I couldn’t help but notice…”

  6. Thank you for such a good post, Robin! Here’s my crazy writing procedure. I often compose on my iPad and then send it off to my email. Ah, ha! I received a message from myself, so I read it again. I cut and paste to my blog. A good preview allows me to check again. I’m finally ready to publish! Can you believe it? There are still times I decide to alter something!!

    So sorry you’ve been feeling blue. But I certainly am glad you decided to post!

    • Ruth, you crazy gal! Yes, I can believe it! {And receiving an email to yourself is just about as wonderful as finding a package on your doorstep with something you ordered!}

  7. So it wasn’t the Facebook joke picture about the “Grammar Nazi” that inspired your post was it? Hee, hee =0)

  8. Ok, okay!!! Are you talking to me?!! If so, point taken…I will still comment! I love to read your blog whenever I am online to receive it…correct me any time! I hope you are feeling better!

  9. Dear Robin,
    Sending flying-sister-love-dust to chase the blues away! Thank you for the lengthy writing lesson. I read along, taking it all in, with a tingle of desire to learn and grow in writing skill. You are one excellent writer!

    • Thank you, Becky! The flying-sister-love-dust truly helps. As long as that tingle remains a “desire to learn and grow in writing skills,” and isn’t your writing or artistic hand going numb, it’s all good! 😉

  10. Robin, this was wonderfully written. Your style is so warm and inviting. As a fellow punctuation hound, I was especially taken by the following:

    “’Darling’ stops, suspended like glistening sugar, until it falls on the ears of your beloved. Drop the “g” and say, “Darlin’,” and suddenly it’s an apple pie, brown and warm straight from the oven.”

    That, my dear, was incredibly delicious. Now I feel like I need to go run!

  11. Oh the perfect peanut butter word… the perfect nutella punctuation… could I also tempt you with some homemade vanilla ice cream grammar? I tend to proofread and edit, especially as I’m juggling 2 languages on my blog and it’s not always easy to find the “right words” when translating. Some things can “flow” in one language and not in the other. By the way, I see you’ve got a link to my blog in your sidebar, that’s so sweet of you! I recently changed my domain name though, so if you don’t mind updating it when you have a minute, I’ve got a brand new blog button that you can grab at http://www.lalymille.com. Thanks and congrats on this great post!

    • Homemade vanilla ice cream grammar –> 🙂 Thank you, Laly! I do enjoy being challenged to practice my French when I read your posts. I’ll grab that new blog button right now.

  12. “A writer inherently knows that words are art and they are part of art. Therefore, it’s up to the writer-artist, to determine what message he or she wants his or her art to reflect outward into the world.” Love this, Robin! So true.

    I do pause and haggle over my writing, before hitting publish. I’m never quite sure if my grammar is correct and typically go with what sounds right to me. My big achilles’ heel is spelling. I die a thousand deaths when I re-read something I already published and find an error I previously missed.

  13. I love this! I am an off the cuff blog publisher… but should not be. I am an English major (and a teacher including my 300 English license) and am a perfectionist but there are many areas where I fall grammatically short! I love slang as well as archaic Shakespearean type language and feel that I have poetic license to mix the two and form my own generational representation of lingo. I also have some spelling issues that will never be corrected… but my computer often corrects them for me. If writing on paper I must go with my gut. I love this post… BIG TIME. “I SEE ERRORS” said as you would say the famous line “I see dead people” from Sixth Sense…. I also make errors but I have offended people by thinking I was doing them a favor by pointing out their errors. I hate errors SO MUCH that I WANT other people to point out mine so I can repair them yesterday(!!!) (except not in this comment!) and I think they will want the same from me… but they don’t. Did I mention I LOVE THIS POST?????

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