Today’s post is courtesy of Michael Schechter.
I have the grammatical skills of the average chimpanzee. No, that’s not fair, I’m insulting chimps. It’s not something that comes naturally and when it comes to my writing, it’s not my highest priority. Regardless of this deficiency, I write. I write to become a slightly better chimp. I write because I have something I want to say. I write because I want to find my voice and by using it, I seek to make it stronger.
While I write to improve, it is not the driving force. I want my words to be readable and my thoughts to be clear, but I try not to let perfection get in the way of publishing. Learning to properly punctuate, avoiding an excess of adjectives, spelling things correctly are all important, but they’re far from my top priority. Getting words out of my head and onto someone else’s screen is. It’s not ideal, but often times, the desire to get a response trumps the need to be “perfect” or “proper”.
It’s a great thing to push writers to strive to improve, but it’s pompous to ignore them when they don’t meet some standard. If a writer is stubborn or closed off to feedback that’s one thing, but if they’re still learning, still striving and open to improve, then willingness to take risks is essential. It’s always possible to learn the finer points of grammar; it’s far more challenging to express an idea, find your voice or share a thought. Grammar is meant to serve these desires, not stifle them.
If you don’t like what someone has to say, that’s one thing. If you’re obsessing about how they are saying it, chances are you’re missing the bigger picture. The grammar obsessed often miss out on a great idea poorly expressed and overlook the very people they can help or, better yet, encourage. Perhaps I’m alone, especially on a site called Write Right, but I’ll take an interesting mess over pristine boredom any day of the week.
I’m not suggesting that you should publish crap. Read your work, reread it and read it again. Care enough to create something of quality. Care enough to learn and improve as you continue. Just don’t let the fear of imperfection keep you from caring enough to publish. If you lack the skill yourself, ask an editor for help while you develop. If you can’t afford or find an editor, publish and encourage your readers to show you where you’re wrong (there are more than a few people on the internet who are more than happy to oblige here). Look to improve, but don’t let the unrealistic expectations of others keep you from improving in public.
When it comes to my own writing, I always have my wife go over my work (actually, she insists…). She has more grammatical sense and skill than I could ever acquire (oh yeah, that’s my other writing tip, marry an 8th grade English teacher). She is teaching me to be a slightly better primate when it comes to the rights and wrongs of writing. Although for this post, I’ve abandoned her aid entirely. I’ve read, reread and read it again, but what you see here is entirely my own editing. I’m sure it falls short in several places, many of them grammatical, but hopefully the idea, the voice and the willingness to share are enough that you will overlook its imperfections. And if not, I’ll just try to do better next time.
Michael Schechter is a Mac geek who rambles about how technology impacts our productivity, our creativity, and our lives. You can follow him at his blog, listen to him weekly on the Mikes on Mics podcast, or connect with him on Twitter.