The Blinding Light of the Beginning Writer

I don’t like grammatical errors, not because I’m a grammar snob – I’m the first to admit that I don’t know every single rule and nuance – but because poor grammar in a piece of writing interferes with my ability to read it. Grammar can be taught; if someone wants to learn grammar badly enough, that person can learn it.

I don’t like grammatical errors, not because I’m a grammar snob – I’m the first to admit that I don’t know every single rule and nuance – but because poor grammar in a piece of writing interferes with my ability to read it.

Grammar can be taught; if someone wants to learn grammar badly enough, that person can learn it.

Most children learn grammar simply by listening to language. They may not be able to explain the difference between “is” and “are” and when to use those words appropriately. But they figure out how to use those words without thinking too hard about them. Later, in school, students learn the rules that describe the grammar they absorbed as children.

Sometimes, a child isn’t able to learn all the nuances of English grammar simply by listening to others speak. That’s why grammar lessons are helpful – they clear everything up for the student. Usually, as you get older, your grammar will improve, simply because you begin to understand and have rules for the way you have communicated your entire life.

However, having a working command of grammar doesn’t necessarily make anyone a good or imaginative writer. As most people grow older, their imagination fades. Imagination cannot be taught.

In fact, I think some of the best, most imaginative writing could be produced by enthusiastic, passionate young writers who don’t necessarily have the best command of grammar. I’m not trying to make excuses for native English speakers who don’t have a working knowledge of grammar by age 18. But the ones who still try to write despite their frustration with the language, the ones committed to expressing their ideas and emotions – those young writers produce some of the best, most imaginative writing.

Writing, without fully understanding how to do so, is quite brave, especially when we have so many other ways to communicate.

It’s up to someone who appreciates imagination and creativity to approach these writers and teach them the value of grammar, to possibly show them a new way to learn. Not everyone with poor grammar is careless, and many have ideas that they deserve to express.

When I read something by a beginner, I typically value imagination over order, but I value order because I know readers don’t have patience for disorder. And they deserve to see the beginning writer’s light too.

(Photo by Abulic Monkey)

1 thought on “The Blinding Light of the Beginning Writer”

  1. I can only half agree, to this. It’s my belief that both can be taught. Practice combined with willingness to learn really is the key. Perhaps it comes easier to some than others. When I first took on my career as an adult writer, a short 3 years back, I was a visual artist. The writing I did was, for the most part, supplementary to the images I displayed. Over time I became more consistent, both in production and in quality. Aside from a few errant English Lit classes in college, I had no real background in either grammar or creative writing. What I had was motivation. I was determined to be remembered, 28 staring down the 7-10 split of thirty years without any real accomplishments hit me hard. I had a crisis of faith in my life. Not a religious crisis of faith, mind you. I had a crisis of faith within myself. What did I what to be when I grew up? The only consistent answer over the last 15 years was “relevant”. So I put my chin up, clenched my fists, bared my teeth and took a chance on writing. Initially, as I said, the writing was secondary. Looking back it was pedestrian. Grammar, creativity style, all lackluster. So I started to ask for edits. Friends and colleagues gave me notes, I learned a few things. Eventually, I understood more. By then I had found a voice in terms of style. I say all that to say this, and let’s assume I actually know what I’m talking about just for the sake of argument, practice flourished the creative while a willingness to learn nurtured the technical. With a will there was a way. I believe given time I could teach any willing person to creatively voice themselves so long as that person wants to learn. The question is am I selfless enough to do it. Sadly, I think that’s where the problem lays.

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