In what could have been described as a clandestine meeting, a good friend stopped by tonight to merely exchange a handful of cash for two spots in my football pool. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and we fell easily into a comfortable conversation about our writing. He is currently writing a novel as well and we both have been challenged with individual hurdles and brick walls in the process.
During our conversation he reminded me of a very basic rule that I had long forgotten. Writing is not about grammar. It is not about punctuation, capitalization or italics. Writing is very simply about storytelling.
Deep down, we both know that being able to creatively express our ideas is the basis for the passion we both have for writing. Being able to use words to introduce characters, describe beautiful imagery or construct interesting dialogue deserves more of our focus than moving commas, changing adjectives or repositioning quotation marks.
There are companies specifically formed to pick out those common mistakes that writers make in the moments they become truly lost in the story. That is their gift, their job. A writer needs to remember that his or her gift, his or her job, is creativity – the gift of being able to weave a tale like no other because that story comes from a magical well to which nobody else has access.
The writing is about those ideas that swirl around in our heads at 4:00 am and relentlessly linger until we write them down or record them on the closest available device. The writing is about those characters gnawing at our consciousness until we give them a voice, until we tell their story.
We both need to realize that our gift is that story deep within us. And the sooner we stop spending time worrying about how to properly punctuate a sentence we wrote six months ago, the sooner we can free our brains to let that story loose and see where the journey will take us.
This was food for thought for me, mostly because a lot of my own creative writing is creative in the sense of how I use language–which includes bending the rules of grammar and punctuation and indeed the language itself. I am not the most gifted of story-tellers but I believe my personal talent lies in being able to take something that has been said before and twist the language so that you view it from a different angle. At least I hope that’s what I do and not just bore the pants off everyone! In any event, reading this is forcing me to go and work on the next chapter of my own novel, something that I was putting off today for no other reason than feeling ‘eh’. Thanks!
As an editor, I would rather work on one well-crafted story than ten perfectly punctuated but boring ones. You can pay someone like me to help you with subject–verb agreement or too many semicolons, but your unique creativity is a gift you cannot buy.
I’m so glad you agree! Thanks for the comment. 🙂
It’s good to know the mechanics of writing because you will have more tools for getting that story out, but heck yeah, nobody cares about a well-punctuated boring story.
I adore the font in the body and comments by the way. Do you know what it is?
Thanks for the comment! And the font is Fertigo Pro. 🙂
I needed to read this! Sometimes I get so hung up on my sketchy knowledge of proper punctuation (I was not an English major in college!) that it holds me back on my writing. The editor above that agreed with your points is encouraging as well – maybe my best story will be good enough.
I’m glad it helped….it was the conversation I needed to have with my friend as well.