P is for Principles: #atozchallenge2015

Here’s me in super-pretentious mode for the Alexandria Publishing Group challenge: http://alexandriapublishinggroup.com/2015/04/18/p-is-for-principles-atozchallenge2015/.

froot-loopsKnow you of Messrs. Strunk and White? They of The Elements of Style? Anyone who considers herself a wordsmith would do well to pick up this slim little volume. I recommend it mainly because you’d be hard put to find a more condensed and sensible approach to style in writing.

I bring up this subject because in certain enclaves, aspiring writers claim they are not bound by mere conventions of grammar and spelling. These free-thinkers seem to say, “If you don’t like seeing bits of eraser, buttons and mouse droppings in your Froot Loops, move on and have oatmeal or something. I won’t pick those things out for the likes of you.” (All types are required for the stew that is our world, I’m sure.)

Strunk and White have some interesting advice, though, that I think gives us all Froot Loops for thought. If it is natural to you to experiment rather than conform, they say, “Do not forget that what may seem like pioneering may be merely evasion, or laziness—the disinclination to submit to discipline. Writing good standard English is no cinch, and before you have managed it you will have encountered enough rough country to satisfy even the most adventurous spirit.” [Strunk and White, The Elements of Style, 4th edition, p.84.]

Stringing words together randomly doesn’t make you a writer. Writing is about communicating your thoughts and ideas, dreams and nightmares, the unique experiences you’ve had that no one else in the world can duplicate. You owe it to those individual, distinct stories, the ones that keep you up at night and pound on the inside of your head for release, to present them in the clearest way possible. That’s when we touch lives. That’s when we truly share the heart and soul of another human.

With that amazing goal in mind, could it hurt to learn a few principles of grammar and spelling?

Passion and Dreams


My latest blog post, inspired by Orion: Passion and Dreams.

What do you know about ignorance?

“Don’t know much about history.
“Don’t know much biology.
“Don’t know much about a science book.
“Don’t know much about the French I took.”

Okay, I get this litany of how ignorant the singer is contrasts with the fact that s/he “loves you,” and how reciprocation of such would engender a wonderful world. But singable though it is, the conceit behind it has always annoyed me. What we don’t know is perfectly acceptable as long as we have a warm, fuzzy emotion to go along with that lack of knowledge.

I’m not really sure where or when the inherent anti-intellectualism in our society originated (sure, I could google it, but if you know, post a comment). I nearly entitled this post, “Ignorance is piss.” Why is ignorance a positive trait?

In this age of instant access (which I alluded to in the previous sentence, in fact), ignorance is inexcusable. Writers in particular need to combat ignorance. It’s what we do, right? Create knowledge and/or information where none existed before? Knit up diverse strands of data into a coherent whole? (Hello? Is this thing on?)

(I feel quite curmudgeonly as I type this. I must’ve pushed one of my own buttons.) I’m frequently annoyed by writers who protest, “Oh, I just don’t know how to use Twitter.” Why not? Find out! I can think of at least three e-books off the top of my head that explain in detail what Twitter is and how an author can use it in marketing her books. Can’t afford the e-books? Ask! Independent author sites abound, with lots of free help available. Saying “I don’t know” without proceeding to remedy the situation is just plain lazy.

The world is such an amazing place, full of intriguing and insane and annoying and wretched and intense and blissful and spiritual and stupid people. To my mind, writers fight ignorance with every paragraph, every sentence, every word, filling in the vast emptiness of ignorance with glittering webs of information, with new discoveries, with new ways of looking at existence. The creative writer enlivens dry facts, giving birth to brand new life. One of my greatest joys in reading is not necessarily the words on the page or the pixels on the Kindle, but the ideas for my own writing that spin off in little creative whorls. Usually these ideas have nothing to do with the words on the page. Something just clicks. Because the writer took the time to write.

Writers, don’t be lazy. Before you type the words “I don’t know” on Facebook or complain to someone about your ignorance, stop. Remedy that lack, fill in that lacuna, google it, and instead, share the knowledge with the rest of us.

You’re lifting up the entire human race when you do.

Drop a comment below and let me know what you think of the subject.