Saturday, October 23, 2010

The View From The Other Side of the Sentence

I've always believed, incorrectly, that there were some things that certain people just "got". For example: math. I have never in my entire existence understood math. From as early on as I can remember I struggled more with that subject than just about any other I encountered. It just wasn't something I 'got'. So, relatively early on, I concluded that my brain just wasn't meant to "get it" and I gave up on ever forming any rudimentary understanding of the subject. I mean, don't get me wrong- I can calculate the tip for dinner in my head, but that's really about it. You ask me to perform any basic mathematical calculations towards an end goal of, let's say... figuring out my taxes? Nope, not happening. It doesn't really bother me that I'm math illiterate save for times when my more math-savvy peers will ask me a question they think is extremely basic and I look at them like they're speaking Martian.
Another thing which I never really got is grammar. I know some very basic things- like the difference between your and you're and when to use it's vs. its and some other things like that. But if you asked me to explain adverbs and prepositions and split infinitives I'd be at a total loss.
It isn't that I wasn't educated. I can remember sitting in class and the teacher parsing out a sentence and having us identify the object, the noun, the verb, stuff like that. But when it came to using those concepts to check my own compositions it seemed much like looking at math equations that I didn't understand.
I like writing, obviously, Otherwise why would I continuously subject myself to all this? And I believe, on some level, that I'm not horrifically bad it. Save for my grammar. My elementary school teaching friend has told me that it has, somewhat inexplicably, improved over the years. I'm inclined to believe her simply because I wouldn't be able to tell.
I know that I could, with some time and effort, learn how to correctly use grammar in sentence construction. I could dig out my old copy of Strunk and White and start pulling apart some passages I admire and see if I can figure out the elements involved. I know that "getting" grammar isn't magic, that it takes practice like anything else.
But the fact of the matter is that, to me, that would be an exercise in torture. To dissect a sentence like that would defeat everything positive about writing and turn it into something... sterile, uninspired, bland. To me, the fire and passion that comes from writing is that momentary thrill from slamming your fingers down on the keyboard to get out a thought or an idea or a scene as fast as you can so you don't lose it.
Maybe that's why I like NaNoWriMo so much. And why I've never been able to really successfully edit. Any why I tend to prefer relatively simple sentence structures. And why I write in so many damned fragments.
Maybe it's a maturity that one reaches in writing? When you become more seasoned and gain the ability to hold onto whatever you loved about what you wrote while revising it into something more expressive and coherent. Maybe it's something I'll gain over time.
Or maybe I'll continue to butcher the english language and send Strunk on a daily spin in his grave. I don't know yet. Hopefully, in time, I'll learn.

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