They are not your people

The words I read came from the heart.  Admittedly, they were written a long while ago and never fully polished.  Perhaps they weren’t quite ready for a public airing.  Plus, they were a part of something longer which hadn’t yet been completed either.  And the audience was expecting a fictional story, not a personal essay.

Is that why the words were misunderstood when they were read to an audience?  Is that why the listeners took issue with the philosophy when all they’d been asked for was a view on the writing itself?  Is that why the whole thing was so painful and annoying?

I learned three things that evening:

  • Make sure the work that you share with others is work that you are truly happy with.  If you have none ready, share nothing and keep writing.
  • If they don’t understand what you’re saying, check whether you’ve written what you thought you had.  What’s clear in your heart and head may not be clear on paper.  It doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
  • If you stand by your writing and your words, then those who didn’t understand are not your people.  They can be your friends, but they are not your audience.

Typos, punctuation and grammar: a can of worms

How long will you keep reading after you spot the first error in a piece of writing?  Yes, I know I’m opening a real can of worms here, but I’m interested to hear what you think and feel about typos, misplaced apostrophes and the like.  (I know you’ll be kind and measured in your responses; I’m not going to rant and neither are you!  And please: if you spot a mistake – won’t that be just typical – do tell me, but gently.  Think about the extra hours I’ve spent making sure I haven’t made any real howlers in this particular post.)

The thing is, the creative part of me wants to feel that we should be able to see beyond the little mistakes in following what might be seen as arbitrary rules.  (Why shouldn’t I spell arbitry like that, since that’s how many people pronounce it?  Why does it matter whether or not I put an apostrophe in “that’s“?)

Oh, but the creative rebel is always shouted down by the stickler for accuracy in grammar, spelling and punctuation.  She’ll get very twitchy after the first couple of errors.  Somehow, it does matter.  (I realised I had something of an obsession when my then-six-year-old stopped reading Mr Men books because he didn’t like the way they were written.  The apple definitely stuck close to the tree there!)

I’m not saying that the stickler is necessarily right in her inability to see past a mistake.  It’s all very personal, I think, and the norms and conventions are always evolving.  The evolution seems to be happening very fast in this online age, and maybe I’m just an old fart who can’t keep up.  Maybe I need to let my creative rebel free and go with the flow.

So tell me – are you more forgiving of mistakes than I am?  What, if anything, does that say about each of us as writers?

[Writer ducks behind a wall and throws the open can of worms into the open street.]