Monday, 26 November 2007

Writing, Grammar and Being Brave

This is something that has been on my mind for some time but I didn't know how to talk about it. I will give it a try and I will start by apologising to anyone who is offended by this. I mean no harm, really, I don't.

Language matters to me. Language is a glorious thing, a tool but more than a tool, it is the air we breathe and the water we drink. We couldn't live without it. I know we can but it wouldn't be the same.

Language matters and I use it when I write this blog. Language is the means by which you can see a little piece of what is inside my head and it is the means by which you can tell me that you have been there. It is about communication. It is through language I am not alone. It is through language I share and express myself.

Language matters for two reasons, if not more. Firstly, it is a means to express something and it is important that I can convey as well as I am able what I want to convey. Secondly, it may, at times, be a thing of beauty, this writing. There is beauty in the images that became language but also in the language itself. It is a thing of beauty at times. Not always but there are some moments of beauty and I value them.

Grammar is a strange thing. To me grammar is not the rules that guide the communication but a description of the mechanics that helps us understand each other. Grammar is important. I care about grammar.

But I am also sloppy. And ignorant. I am always unsure about what I write, 'does this sound good?' 'Does this work?'

My mind is a mind of images, not of words. I love words but I am not good with them. I don't understand written text that well. I get lost in complicated narratives. Too many characters in a story and I am lost. I need to read and reread to understand. I am a slow reader.

I want to be perfect. I know there is no perfect. I know this. Still it is a burden to want it. I want my texts to be flawless, perfect, always beautiful and always good. My worst enemy is this desire for perfection. It makes me ashamed of errors I make, it makes me ashamed of my sloppiness and if this desire for perfection was allowed to rule I would never put anything on the blog that wasn't read and reread, edited and corrected many times over. There would be no blog then. I would sit in a corner doing nothing.

I struggle with this burden every day. I decided that my blog should not be perfect. It should be a means for me to talk about what I wanted to talk about. It should never be a place for flawless writing.

I often reread my stories only once or twice before putting them on the blog. I don't want to be bogged down with questions about if it would be better to say something in another way. There would be no blog if I allowed myself to do that.

I am not proud of the errors I make, the typos, the sloppy grammar, the incorrect references. But they will end up on my blog because if I would hunt them all down I would not be able to write.

The blog was never intended to be perfect. It couldn't possible be my intention.

Someone once said to me that my writing was good but with his help it could be perfect. He then went on pointing out errors I had made. I had a terrible row with him. Partly because he was wrong about a lot of things and didn't understand (in my opinion) how language works. And partly because I found it arrogant and preposterous to think that he could make my writing perfect. And partly because I was hurt to be told I wasn't perfect.

I have a lot to learn about writing. There is no doubt about that and I want to learn. But the point with this blog is to communicate, not to be perfect.

When I write this I realise that this is a problem for me not for you. You must wonder why I rant about it. Maybe I am trying to tell myself that I don't have to be perfect. I will leave it at this and go back to writing my stories.


Paul said...

Janice, what are you worrying about, your English is very good, not perfect, but then neither is mine.
I am very widely read, but I cannot think of any writer that writes perfect English.
No one expects perfect English, anyone who says that they can teach you perfect English is a fool.
English is a living language, growing, changing, only dead languages are perfect.
Your writing is excellent and you communicate well, for which I thank you.
Warm hugs,

Wystan E said...

There is no such thing as "perfect" English (or Hindi, or whatever) because there are infinite sequences of words to express any one thought. To the extent thoughts are images, writing involves translation, which necessarily entails noise & inefficiency. I do believe, however, that there is, if not perfect prose (once in awhile I find something that seems unimprovable-upon) but at least better versus worse. Bulwer-Lytton versus Jane Austin, for example... But you, Dear J, are on the good side, the angels' side...

Dove said...

Dear Janice, I understand this need to be perfect as well as the need to let it go enough to enable you to write and express yourself. I find if a story draws me in enough, as yours certainly do, then the 'way' it is written becomes secondary. The odd typo here and there is usually corrected by the brain as it reads; I only stumble if there are a lot of typos, which you don't have. As to grammar, I feel that so long as the writing flows then most people would never pick up if it was correct or not. The other thing is there are so many ways to say any given thing that whether a thing is right or wrong comes down to a matter of preference rather than correctness.

Language is beautiful indeed but like so many things we don't want to analyse it to death but enjoy it for what it is and what it enables us to do.

Blogging is a wonderful tool for many reasons. Yes, for expression most certainly but what it really allows us to do is let others 'see' us. This in itself can be very scary, when we show others ourselves we want to be perfect, right, beautiful. Not asking much are we! Perhaps a better use of it is what you are doing, learning to not be perfect and still accept and appreciate your own ability.

Personally, I also use it as a way to get over worrying about what others think of me, my views and ideas. More importantly to stop being so afraid to express myself at all.


Janice said...

Dear Paul and Wystan, thank you ever so much for your support. It means a lot to me. My point with the post was not that I strive or should strive for perfection or that I believe in perfection. The point was that the idea of perfection is a burden and although it is good to be careful with what you do I don't want to get into the eternal loop of trying to improve what I put on the blog. To read, reread, edit and correct all the errors that are there. It was to tell you that I want to write more than anything.

Dear Dove, the flow is the most important thing there is in reading. Sometimes there are things that are like hurdles and you stop reading and have to think. I try to avoid that but I don't want to even try to get rid of them all, then I would be very silent.

Language is transparent, when it works we don't think of it.

And we should never, ever, be afraid of expressing ourselves, we are but we shouldn't be.



Julie Chastised said...

Wow! Thank you for this blog. I can empathise completely. My wish for perfection and my belief in my total lack of competency both with the written word and the spoken word does stop me form posting and blogging and talking.

The fear of being thought of as thick just because I loose confidence upon opening my mouth or putting hand to keyboard is over whelming and does inhibit my enjoyment and participation in things.

This blog has given me courage to just go out there and write stuff. Thank you.

The feed back I get is never horrendously negative but I am often misunderstood. I cringe when I re-read stuff I've written, so tend not to proof read a lot, until after I've made the commitment and already posted the blogged.

If I am writing on my own blog though, then who cares what others think.

I shall remember this blog and endeavour to be brave.

Thank you again.

Julie xx

Dave said...

no worries. your writing is great! nobody is perfect anyways. except me. Joke... :-))

anyway, keep up the great blogging,

Janice said...

Dear Julie, your words, really make me happy. If I can encourage you to be more confident in writing I have really achieved something. I have read your blog and I think you are clear enough. Some people will always misunderstand. But I know the feeling of cringing when reading what I have written. We should not let that stop us!!

Dave, you are a sweetheart. Maybe you are perfect...giggles.