Why I Still Think Writing Craft Matters
I remember the first time I put on glasses. I was in the fifth grade and couldn’t see the board even from the front row. My mom didn’t believe me but I wouldn’t stop complaining, so with my two brothers in tow, we traipsed to the eye doctor housed in a parking lot trailer. (He was a good doctor, I promise. It was a temporary office.) To her surprise and none to mine, he confirmed that I needed glasses. So guess what I got to do? That’s right, a Friday night at Lenscrafters.
Y’all remember Lenscrafters? Spending Friday night there IN THE MALL was a treat. We’d walk through the rows of glasses and pick out which ones would make us look the best. And did I mention, it was in THE MALL? We could smell the buttery pretzels from there.
I remember putting on my first pair: the largest, roundest cheetah print glasses a girl could find. I loved them. But what I loved the most was that I could see again.
The technician instructed me to look out into the mall at a green blob. I stared at it while she placed the glasses on my nose and behind my ears. Suddenly that green blob became a fake tree. I looked at what was another brown blob and realized it was a bench. Everything was sharp, in focus. I could see!
What’s interesting is that the green blob and the tree were the same. It didn’t become a blob one minute and a tree, the next. Its definition changed because of the glasses. They make things more clear. Writing craft is the same.
Writing craft and grammar rules are simply tools to make your message more defined. When you use them well, your audience just gets it more. The more you understand the writing craft, the more you can better communicate your message. That blobby message becomes a defined tree.
God’s going to take this message wherever he wants it to go, so it might as well be as clear as you can possibly make it.
Let’s look at a few examples, yeah?
First, this one’s a funny and obvious one:
“Don't ever, for any reason, do anything for anyone, for any reason, ever, no matter what. No matter where. Or who, or who you are with, or where you are going or... or where you've been... ever. For any reason, whatsoever.” - Michael Scott, The Office
What’s wrong with this? Everything.
He’s not saying anything. He’s adding on superlatives and prepositional phrases. The joke, of course, is that he doesn’t know what he’s saying, but sometimes as writers we do the same thing. We add on a thousand prepositional phrases and make a sentence three lines long with a bunch of caveats.
If Michael Scott knew his craft better, he would’ve found one point and stuck with it clearly.
Ok, let’s do another one but for real this time.
Which of these two options makes you feel more?
Option #1: I suffered from a lot of issues surrounding mental health- and didn’t always know what to do about those things even though, I have tried everything under the sun; and nothing seems to be working.
Option #2: I felt anxious all the time. When my husband drove the kids to school, I took three deep breaths and told myself nothing harmful will happen to them. I knew it wasn’t normal, but nothing helped. I tried listening to music, reading self-care books, even going to church every now and then. But nothing relieved that gnawing feeling of dread.
The second sentence isn’t perfect. But I got more specific. I used commas correctly. I changed my pacing. The idea in both sentences is the same (finding help from anxiety), but writing well communicates that message much more clearly.
Remember, grammar and writing craft only matter after you’ve written your first few drafts. This type of editing happens once you’ve nailed down the main ideas. If you have a sentence like option #1 in your early drafts, that’s fine!
Writing craft and grammar rules are here to help you clarify your message. That’s it. They are not here to stop you from writing. Don’t get paralyzed because you feel like you’re not a “good writer.” “Good” is subjective anyway, and craft gets easier the more you write.