Archive | 3:19 pm

Trust Your Instincts

11 Jul

I was talking to my best friend, Frank, on the phone the other day.  I’ve known Frank for fifty-five years now, so we have a good amount of reminiscing to do whenever we talk.  On this particular discussion we were talking about baseball.

Summers were for baseball when we were growing up.  If we weren’t playing for a team we were getting guys together for games of “pick-up,” and if we weren’t doing that we were watching the local AAA team, the Tacoma Giants, play at Cheney Stadium during their homestands.

Frank and I were pretty similar in our playing abilities.  Neither of us could hit worth a damn, but we were both excellent outfielders.  We had that innate ability to track a fly ball off the bat, determine how hard it was hit, envision the path of the flyball, do it all in split-seconds, and take the shortest route to where the ball would land.  Not everyone has that ability.  There are players who will play for decades and never develop those kinds of instincts.  Standing three-hundred feet from the batter, hearing the tone of the bat hitting the ball, following the trajectory of that ball, toss in a little trigonometry, adjust for the wind speed, and knowing exactly where the ball will end up is not something you can teach a young kid.  They either have it or they don’t.  Practice helps, of course, but we are talking about a talent that goes beyond practice.

I’m not bragging, mind you.  I don’t brag. I’m simply stating fact.  Some have it, some don’t!

THE POINT OF THIS

It’s not that different in writing.

I re-read “The Grapes of Wrath,” by John Steinbeck, a couple years ago, and one sentence in that masterpiece stood out to me.  It was in the first chapter . . . hell, it might have been the very first sentence . . . anyway, that sentence seemed to go on forever.  It was the longest sentence I have ever seen in a novel.  It defied all logic.  It really broke all the rules.

And yet it worked perfectly for that novel!

You can’t teach that.  In fact, most teachers do not teach that sort of grammatical freelance.  If a teacher tried to diagram that sentence they would need a strong shot of whiskey afterwards.

And yet it worked perfectly for that novel!

The point is this: a large part of the craft of writing is instinctual.  There are times when grammatical rules can, and should, be broken.  I believe voice, and rhythm, are much more important than strict adherence to grammatical rules.  I can teach someone to write in a grammatically-correct manner.  I cannot teach them their own voice.

Thus sayeth Bill!

Have a great week of writing; have a better week of living!

Bill

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”