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My drug of choice is writing--writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Chris Brecheen's Fortune Cookie Wisdom for Writers Part III

 Prior fortune cookies of wisdom
When we consider that fields like anthropology, linguistics, and psycholinguistics are only beginning to discover just how much language shapes (and limits) our worldview, and how the connection between language and culture is so strong that it may not even be realistic to consider them separate things, it becomes very comforting that language changes and evolves--sometimes even quickly.  No matter how the purists grouse about words having meanings and needing a standard of communication, I would feel much worse living in a world where we couldn't culturally change because our language literally held back our ability to imagine new concepts.  We have difficulty enough with social equality's oftentimes glacial progress.

Never stop reading.

The fact that the arguments over a particular grammar rule are basically identical to the arguments for whether the toilet paper should go over or under is very telling to me.  ("How I learned it/I was taught," "Most people with sense agree with me," "It just makes sense," and of course, "Here is a source I found that verifies my position.")

Those guys that get together once a week and play baseball don't wonder why they're not in the majors.  If you only write a few hours a week that's fine; just don't turn around and wonder why you're not a world-famous novelist.


The internet is amazing, but its limitations must be understood.  The internet gives us data.  That's it.   Data is merely information of any quality good or bad.  Information is not knowledge.  And knowledge is definitely not wisdom.  Our predilection to call the modern era the information age is, in this context, very revealing.

There are going to be days where writing feels less like flying and more like crashing--like you're flying straight towards the ground at mach II.  But as long as you don't hit the bottom...just keep writing.

Just keep writing.  Just keep writing.  Just keep writing writing writing.  What do we do?  We write, write, write.

When you realize that arguing about grammar comes across in exactly the same way as arguing about manners, it's easier to be compassionate. Once you understand that everyone just learned things things differently (probably from a teacher who insisted on one way) and are simply starting from different points, it's easier to understand. Context and compassion are key.

When you (really) stop seeing writing as a path to fame and fortune, some very interesting things will start to happen.

Imagine yourself as a successful writer for a moment.  Go ahead.  Do it.  Did you do it? What did it look like? If you didn't actually imagining yourself WRITING, you might want accolades more than you love the act itself. If you imagined a book signing or putting up your feet on an Ottoman in the den of your mansion, or negotiating the movie rights with Hollywood moguls, you might consider that THAT is actually what you want and there are probably easier ways to get it than writing. Most serious writers I've ever talked to (pre or post success) say that their vision of "making it" means they can quit a day job and write more.

There might not be any real shortcuts, but there are many, many, MANY ways to prolong your journey.

No matter how much of an asshole you think the grammar wanks are being, you still have to learn grammar to be a writer. And that probably means you're going to be in a position to BE the asshole at some point. (Grammar jokes can be funny when your world is language.) Just think hard before you make those jokes at anyone's expense.  Remember how it felt when people were pedants to YOU.

If you pick up the right book, a person who walked the Earth years, decades, even centuries ago is, in a very real way, speaking directly to you from across space and time. Their exact words in your head....  It gives me chills just to think about it.


Thoreau was right.  Proceed confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Though, having a sugar parent helps.

More fortune cookie wisdom 

1 comment:

  1. Is there a way to have a good, healthy discussion about prescriptive X descriptive grammar? Preferably with you? :)

    ReplyDelete