Years ago, when I was in fifth grade, I had to take part in a spelling bee. It was a classroom only affair. Everyone stood then, one by one, the teacher asked each of us to spell a single word. If you got it wrong, you sat down.
I hated the pressure. I hated all the eyes on me. I hated the word that took me down. It was grammar. My teacher, Mr. Innis, said it wasn’t “grandma” so I went ahead and spelled grandma instead.
I had to sit.
I brought home a certificate and I believe I may have spelled seventeen words correctly, but that’s probably my memory doing some historical revisionism.
I hated that word grammar because I hated grammar. I loathed it. From memorizing the parts of the speech to diagram sentences, the entire process made me miserable.
As I grew older and read a variety of authors, I saw that they used grammar for effect. The rules, it turns out, were optional. I figured if the rules were optional for them, they would be optional for me.
This was an extremely idiotic choice as in future critique of my writing was met with “creative choice”. I didn’t listen and now, thirty years or so down the road, I realize how much I don’t know.
This year, I’ve vowed to stop coasting and reassess my language. The idea is to do a deep study of English grammar, then ultimately, choose a style guide for my writing.
And of course, when I do decide to break the rules for my creative endeavors, I will know what I’m doing as opposed using creativity as a shield for willful ignorance.
Here’s where I’ve been starting this grammatical journey:
More to come. Hopefully, it’ll be less painful than my fifth-grade spelling bee.