Thursday, January 21, 2010

On a personal note, or also known as: Who the hell am I?

This post is a little more personal and a lot less focused than most of the other posts I'll be making. I figure getting who I am and what brought me to this point is a good springboard for what's to come. It also gets all the personal stuff out of the way in one fell swoop.

I loved writing stories (and a bit of sappy poetry) ever since I was just a little itty-bitty thing. Going through school I realized very quickly that grammar was not my strong suit. I got math awards left and right, but seemed to have a mental block when it came to diagramming a simple sentence. Not phased, I made the decision to work extra hard and learn all those rules and their crazy names.

That's about the time I switched schools. Turns out, the school I transferred to was done explaining rules and expected all the students to apply them expertly. According to my English teachers, I should have learned all that years ago and if I didn't know it by now, I never would learn.

Hiding my lack of knowledge in shame, I struggled and resorted to playing it by ear. If it "sounded" right, I wrote it, then prayed it was correct. Getting graded papers back was always an extremely painful and embarrassing process. I'd get them back riddled with red pen marks telling me about the numerous errors I made, but not why it was incorrect or how to fix it.

I would pour over each mark, trying to figure out what rule I'd broken. After years of this torture, I finally gave up. Then it was just a matter of pretending and going by the "sound."

Since then, I've gotten a lot better. I'm now a successful business professional who relies on her communication and writing skills on a daily basis. Entering the business world had helped me with spelling and punctuation. I had gleaned a few more grammatical rules as time went on, but I was still terrified of doing what I wanted to do. Write fiction. After all, writing a business letter is entirely different than writing a novel. Different rules apply in several cases. What's acceptable, and expected, in the business world is often frowned upon in fiction circles.

I had always been a good story teller. A bit long winded (as this post can attest), but my stories made sense and usually made people laugh. A few months ago, I decided that the only way to do what I really wanted was to bite the bullet and face my fears. Facing down years of traumatic experiences with schools and teachers, I gathered my courage and started scouring the internet.

I came up with a few ideas and just started writing. Yeah, what I wrote sucked, but I enjoyed every second of it. The more I wrote, the more I learned. My writing got better, still not great, but better. I went back and edited my story, improving it each time I re-read it. Eventually, I got to a point where I needed more. I needed outside help.

I stumbled across a very supportive group ( and forced myself to submit one of the stories I'd been working on. I knew I needed a lot of help in several areas, but there's no way of improving those areas unless I went for it.

The responses I got were amazing. Even though they shredded my story to pieces, they told me what rules I'd broken and how to fix it. They gave me examples and suggestions. Suddenly some of those elusive rules started to make sense. There was no judging or condescension. I noticed a drastic improvement in my writing almost immediately.

Since then, I've been pouring through forums and discussions, absorbing everything I can. Honestly, a lot of the conversations go so far over my head, I don't even see a smoke trail. But hidden between all the intellectual discussions are questions from other people who struggle just as much as I do. Some got answers and some didn't.

It was then that I realized that I'm not alone. There are others out there that were never taught or weren't able to learn correct writing rules and techniques for whatever reasons. I'm not the only one that didn't know what a split infinitive was or that there are so many possible points of view when writing a novel/story that there are whole books written on the subject.

So that's where I am and who I am. I'm a 37 year old wife and professional who is hoping to add "writer" to the list of things in that statement. If I can help someone else by explaining what I learned in terms that someone like me can relate to and understand, then that's even better.


zellakate said...

I feel for you, Elizabeth. :) I had a shaky but basic grasp of grammar until I entered college and took English Comp. 1. Fortunately, I had a good instructor who helped me not only understand grammar but also fall in love with it. I still am struggling with self-confidence about writing, but CC and blogging have helped me, too. Writing is a long learning process (which sometimes overwhelms me!), but it's well worth the results! :)

Martha Skye Martin said...

Well, I noticed you're a follower (thank you) of my blog and I was told last night by someone (no profile, thus hiding) "Ever think that maybe you just aren't cut out to be a writer?"

Boy, that makes you feel good!

IRREGARDLESS of L.D.'s remarks, I'll keep writing and selling my articles.


Elisabeth said...

Oh boy, that's a bit harsh. (And thank you for following.) The way I see it, if you enjoy it, then you were cut out to do it. I realize not everyone is going to like what I write, that's why I do it for myself and not them. Of course, saying that and not taking the harsh remarks to heart are two separate matters. Just continue to do what you enjoy and to heck with everyone else!

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