Sunday, February 23, 2014

Olympic Writing

Been watching the Winter Olympics? Nope, me neither. I don't know of many writers who are into sports, though of course there must be some. It seems mutually exclusive, at least to me, to have someone who is happy sitting in front of a screen or pad of paper, and who is also happy running around or falling or sliding on snow or skating on ice, always with the possibility of falling down. Hard.

I don't like to fall down, and falling down hard and breaking something is the absolute worst. I broke the radius and ulna—note the sciency knowledge of anatomy terms which one can pick up writing—in my right arm. I was writing the day after. My brilliant husband made me a sling suspended from the ceiling over my keyboard, out of a piece of wood and a rope. I could rest my cast in the sling, with my fingers dangling over the keyboard. Finished several short stories and a book while not being able to straighten my right arm.  

Show me an Olympian who can work in a cast. So there. Hah.   

There's a Mark Twain quote that goes something like: "A doctor or a lawyer or a teacher must spend years of study to deserve his title. But give a man a pencil and he thinks he's a writer."   

I'm sure all you writers out there know folks like this. "As soon as I have time, I'm going to write a book" is one of my favorites, as if 'having time' is all that's necessary. I've also heard "I've got a great idea for a story; you write it and we'll share the profits." Sound familiar?

A lot of soi-disant writers—see what two years of high school French can teach you?—seem to think that all it takes to be a writer is to sit down at a keyboard and start typing. Who needs grammar? Not me; grammar is so twentieth century. Spelling? Psstt! Spelling is for spell-checker. Clear, readable, concise, crystal clear prose? Nah, too much trouble. I'll just sit down and throw up a whole bunch of vaguely related words and voilá—see that French again?—I'm a writer.  

Not to dash a barrel of cold water in your face, Mr./Ms. Writer person, but really? Suck it up and acquire the basic tools of your craft. Grammar and punctuation and spelling and sentence structure are the bricks and mortar and trowel and straightedge of your trade. If you balk at learning them, just don't want to take the time and the trouble, then why should I take the trouble and the time of trying to decipher what the heck you're talking about? 

Olympic writing. Let's all go for the gold. [Insert tumultuous applause here, yay!!]




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