Monday, July 16, 2012

You Should Be Righting Write Now.

A few weeks ago I found out about someone saying some rather unwarranted things about me, and since I've really wanted to vent about it here.  But I'm resisting, and this post instead is going to be about the habit of not only writing, but the habits of writers.  (No I don't mean taking to alcohol.)

As a writer I have a fair network of writer friends.  And with any profession or even obsessive hobby, you get those fanatics that have difficulty dealing with the average person's menial mistakes.  When it comes to writers, number one on the list of offenses comes to be misuse of gramar, spelling, or even just confusing words.


Here's what I've noticed.  The people that predominantly bitch about this are usually not helping anything at all really.  The way I see it you can either gently and kindly try educating those closer to you if you know that they legitimately DON'T know the difference, or shut up.  Yelling at people mid argument on youtube comment threads and facebook statuses just to prove you have an education isn't really accomplishing anything."But I see people do this all the time that should know better!!!," you say. (BTW I threw in the extra exclamation points for effect just for you.  My personal gift.  Get over it.)  ;)  You may have proven you have grammatical skills and vocabulary vs your nemesis, but you've also proven you have the social skills of a 7th grader.  Congratulations.  The people you're attacking are really only thinking this.


Unless it's me.  I have a whole different category of thoughts for you.  ...granted, none of them too friendly.

As I mentioned earlier, I write.  I write a great deal.  Enough so that I'm developing issues in my wrists and joints, though I know the proper preventative positions I'm suppose to maintain at a keyboard.  I write so much that it is finally starting to pay the bills.  Not completely, but hey, more than previous years.  I never thought I'd make it this far.  When I began writing I did so as a means of entertainment, venting, and hobby only.  Going in reverse order:  It wasn't until my early twenties that I started to suspect that I could maybe make some money on the side with it.  It wasn't until my first attempt at college (an art school) that I realized that I loved to create and tell stories and that I wasn't going to be happy as an animator.  I wanted to create, not work on other peoples' creations.  And it was in high school that I HATED and even FAILED English.

I just didn't get it.  English was hard for me.  Back then I didn't understand the difference between too, to, and two, as easily as I do now.  I had been through nearly a dozen school transfers and picking up where the other kids, and sometimes states, left off was not always an easy task.  The teachers didn't care about ability to tell a story, or plot structure, but grammar and spelling.  Yet, at this point they weren't "teaching" grammar and spelling anymore, just telling you when you were wrong.  Eventually classes got bigger, less one on one time could be afforded, and instead of hearing, "wow, great story, but let's go over the mistakes you're making on spelling in these sections," I just got to read a giant red marker, "C-."  Instead of taking that as a criticism on the technicalities alone, I just started to believe I was a bad writer.  I still loved it though, and thankfully so did my friends.  They begged me for more pages of the novel I was writing in high school and passed loose sheets from desk to desk during classes as I scribbled.  This was the only thing that kept the flame for the hobby kindled enough under my ass to launch me forward later.  Point is, those who are only concerned about the other crap?  Not really supporting and encouraging the arts nearly as much as their delusions may be convincing them. 


Those of you who may personally know me might be thinking, "But, you're a really good writer and well educated, and we know you're smart!"  Yes.  Now, I have a fairly stacked vocabulary and understanding of "the rules."  But it took me a long time, and the initiative of going out and learning it on my own.  And yes, I too cringe when incorrect variations of words are used willy-nilly, but I take it with a grain of salt and have the sense to not publicly tear into people for it.  I have the competence to know the difference between those who just don't care, those who just haven't been given or don't understand the information of which version of a word is appropriate, and those who just made a typo. All that and the fact that I know I still have a great deal to learn still, and still use too many commas at times, or just plain make little slips.

This is where the bulk of my resentment comes in.  I was talking to a friend last week who was gracious enough to discuss paranoia over making a mistake in simple text messages.  She expects ridicule and must fight with her phone to fix it before pressing send.  I empathized as I do the same.  There is this extra ounce of pressure on those who carry a reputation for being well educated like she and I.  We not only hear, "you're wrong," but "you should know better."

Really, jackass?  I do know better most times.  And if I don't, as mentioned before, this is not the way to share your knowledge with me and help me to not make the same mistake again later, just a way for you to try and bully me by saying "I'm smarter than you."  This is something I encounter most often in other "writers."  And I'm putting that in quotes because these are people that aren't actually writers, but editors.  These are people that I know that write for magazines and various columns that really don't do much of anything on a creative level, but rather copy and paste facts into organized boxes.  These are not the people who have written hundreds of short stories, or four hundred page novels.  These are people who simply cling to wanting the label of "writer" as if it lends their cubicle life some pretense of prestige.  What these individuals fail to understand is the concept of muscle memory.

I have another friend that has really started to knuckle down and write much more actively than he used to.  He's noticed an odd increase in misused words/spellings and similar typos.  I found myself explaining how the more you write, the more the chances are that your fingers are going to go on autopilot and type the version of the word they are accustomed to typing out most often.  In other words, if you use the word "their" three times in the last paragraph, it is only going to be that much harder to switch to "there" in the next paragraph.  Or sometimes even the next day.  Problem is, when you're getting extra creative, your brain is so focused on the story as it is unfolding in your head that it really isn't putting your motor functions on the front burner.  Face it, you've been sitting on your ass, barely moving with the exception of the occasional reach for a beverage, for the last three hours.  Your fingers are flying and pretty much have a mind of their own at this point.  You start to trust that they are doing what you want, not what they are used to.  Mistakes happen.  And chances are they happen more frequently the more you write and more creative you are.

I'm NOT Hemmingway!  Stop IT!!!!

The next major pet peeve I have with my network of writing friends is their conceptions of what rules are rules instead of guidelines and their attempts at nudging me to conform to the format they (and most) expect me to follow.  Again... I should "know better" right?  This is wrinkling my brain.  I do understand the "rules" as many would call them: Don't change perspective mid chapter.  Don't give multiple points of view.  Have a narrator.  These are things that go beyond "voice" which every author has.  This is entering territory of "style."  Authors tend to choose to write in first person or third person, etc...  Really, a lot of the voice and style you choose is going to reflect upon what demographic of readers you're going for.  

The group I like to write for?  Movie goers.  Let's face it.  There are large groups of people out there that just do not care to read.  They don't have the time, or ...well, whatever excuse they choose to hide behind.  Truth is, for many, they find reading to be pretentious.  It kind of circles back to the whole, patronize people as idiots they will believe they are.  And reading is for "smart people."  And attempts at reading books like Twilight or Harry Potter only opens the door to ridicule as well.  Again, I'm going to ask what you're trying to accomplish here?  Would you rather this demographic of non-readers pick up a story that is designed to entertain that could serve as a gateway or stepping stone to other books, or would you rather they go back to the latest episode of Jersey Shore?  BACK OFF, They're READING at least!  You're hurting the very cause you're pretending to support.  

Before I side track off on THAT tangent, bringing the point of this section back into focus, I am not Hemingway.  The world already has a Hemingway.  And if people want to read his style, they will pick up one of his books, not mine.  I have no reason to imitate what he did.  Or Chaucer, or Steinbeck, for that matter.  The scenes in my books play out like TV and movies.  You follow one character until another comes into the room, the original character leaves, and now its the new character's story.  Every chapter an episode.  Every scene a set stage.  Is it going to make it harder to get noticed by a major publisher?  Absolutely.  Will I possibly never be rich since I'm trying to attempt the impossible and appeal to the people who have given up ambitions of reading?  Thanks for reminding me.  Is what I do fulfilling and important to me?  Damn straight.

But it's working.  The most frequent compliment I hear from my readers is "I don't usually like reading but I like your stuff for some reason.  I don't know why."  It could be because I'm not getting overly snobbish about the "rules" of writing, relaxing and just letting my reader enjoy the story.  I'm putting more energy into the plot and characters than I am imitating which authors used what devices and tricks.  Now there's nothing wrong with following the "rules" really.  I'm not going to say you shouldn't.  By all means, go for it if that's your style.  Just don't get snobbish with me, or others for that matter, and presume you know more about writing than I just because I've chosen to deviate.  In my case, at very least, it was a conscious choice.  I know my reasons even if you don't and I shouldn't have to explain them to you.

In conclusion, I'm going to wrap this up by my pointing out/overstating the theme of this piece.  If you're going to help, help in a gentle fashion.  Thankfully I've sorted out which of my writer friends can give me useful feedback without being pushy or condescending.  Do not try and act like you are the gods' gift to intelligence.  Stop being snobbish about writing and editing.  Stop complaining that people are dumb and don't read anymore, and then intimidate people for trying to read and write.  Remember that Facebook statuses are not crafted with intention of rank on the New York Times Bestsellers list.  Doing these things make you about as useful as the skinny bitch at the gym that snickers and makes the heavy girls too self conscious to show up to their workout class, and then complains about how many fat people there are in the world.  This isn't putting you on display as intelligent, only a bully.

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