Tag Archives: writing

Change I Can Believe In

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Be warned: given my record as a grammar stickler, what I’m about to say may shock you.

I think the time has come to rewrite the rules.

Well, not all the rules.  Just one, really.  (Okay, two, if you consider that I’ve already embraced complete anarchy on the matter of sentence fragments.)  And what, you may ask, am I rambling on about?

Just this:  I think it’s time to rid ourselves of the archaic notion that it’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition.

*pause for collective gasp*

After all, when it comes to the spoken word, we already have a deeply entrenched habit of doing just that.

In school: Johnny, who did you just throw that whiffle ball bat at?  If you don’t stop throwing whiffle ball bats at people, you won’t have anyone left to play with.

On the job: You other guys can pay your bills if you want to, but I know what I’m going to spend my paycheck on!

In marriage: It’s not that I don’t find chess tournaments fascinating, dear, but isn’t there anyone else you can go with?

At home: Mom, Caleb’s nose just froze solid and broke off, but he still won’t come in!

Of course, common oral usage alone is not enough to render a grammatical construction unobjectionable (see: “aight”, “nucular”, and “ain’t no never mind” for examples), but it certainly merits a deeper investigation by the grammar police.  (And while we’re on the subject, who are these grammar police, anyway?  Is this an elected office or an appointed one?  Shouldn’t we get to vote?  If my word usage is being curtailed, I need to know that the curtailer has at least a passing understanding of poetic license, the all-purpose excuse I invoke to cover my personal grammatical anomalies.)

Sure, I could rewrite my sentence to say: “At whom did you throw the whiffle ball bat, Johnny?”  And Johnny, unexpectedly gripped by the complexities of proper prepositional usage, might just halt his reign of terror long enough to query: “Huh?”  But in the end, it makes for a dreadful sentence, a sentence marked out by all the other sentences, enraged by its high-falutin’ snobbery, for metaphorical playground whiffle ball bat attacks.  To put it simply, as a grammatical companion, “whom” is a bit of a dud.

I know, I know.  Just by writing this I’m running the risk of having Strunk and White break into my home to take away my copy of Elements of Style.  Fortunately, in my thorough research of this issue (by which I mean a single Google search for the term “ending sentence with preposition”), it has come to my attention that I am not the only prepositional rebel out there.  In fact, there is a whole groundswell movement of actual grammarians who agree with me.  Some of them even went to college.

You can do what you like, of course, but as for me,  I’m going to give “whom” the wedgie he deserves and start ending my sentences with prepositions wherever I think it looks and sounds right.

Some rules are just plain silly.

Or, as Winston Churchill once said it: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

A Word on Words

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I’ve always been a reader.

As a child, I used to stay up late at night, long after goodnights had been exchanged, reading books in the dim triangle of light cast from the hallway outside my room. Finally my parents gave in to the inevitable and installed a little reading light on my bed, allowing me to spend many of the hours between dusk and dawn lost in the labyrinthine passages of my favorite fictional worlds.

In school, I read while I walked down the hallway, finding the choppy waters of narrative conflict a lot easier to navigate than the shark-infested seas of junior high. Many days I missed getting off at my bus stop because I had my nose deep in a novel, years and miles and adventurous lifetimes away from the prosaic details of rural transportation in the Georgia school system.

From my lofty perch atop a pile of books, I learned how different two points of view can be. I developed a bittersweet understanding of the refining power of suffering. I traveled–not just to other people’s countries, but in other people’s heads. I stepped into whole other lives, trying them on the way a child tries on costumes.

I have had a library card as long as I can remember, and I’m a regular visitor there even now, when reading for pleasure is a treat that many adults have left behind. Though my “habit” is under control (I haven’t missed a bus stop in years), there are still times when a book sweeps me up in its whirling embrace, a tornado of beautifully turned phrases and arresting plot development, only setting me down when the last page has been turned. Those sorts of books are always over too quickly.

Occasionally, a book comes along that makes me fall in love in the first ten pages. Quite apart from the plot or the characters, it throws its net over me, and I know in an instant that, whatever happens before I reach the end, I’m going to love this book.

It’s about the words. Oh, how I delight in words! And some authors just have a way with them, as if they’re painting a masterpiece, or composing an aria. They swirl them about and fling them into the air for the sheer joy of seeing them fall across the page, a beam of light illuminating a feeling or a thought that the rest of us instantly recognize, though we couldn’t have expressed it just so in a million years of trying. A lot of writers can tell a story, but only a few can sing one like that. It’s like the difference between a plain juice glass and an intricately scrolled wine goblet. They serve the same purpose, and they’re made out of the same thing, but one of them lifts the experience into a whole other realm.

Nicholas Sparks has always struck me like that.  And Robert James Waller.  And recently I discovered Leif Enger within his delicious feast of a novel, Peace Like a River.  Now I’m reading The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, and only a few pages into it I’m getting that wonderful feeling again.

I know it’s a kind of jealousy, this intense admiration, but it’s not the kind that burns you up inside.  It’s the kind that makes you glad that the bar is set high, that there is such a thing as excellence in the world, because it gives you something to reach for, whether you touch it or not.

Meanwhile, there are the words.  What a gift.  I want to swim in them.

Thank You for My Blog

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I had heard of blogs, of course, but I was a little fuzzy on the details. I just knew that somewhere, “out there” in cyberspace, people were keeping online journals. I didn’t know where they were or that you could search for them or even that, unlike their RL (real life) counterparts, they mostly aren’t meant to be private.

Then I got an email from an old high school friend, Jill, announcing that she had started her very own blog, Egg in Spoon.

Suddenly, I was interested. Jill was one of a circle of aspiring writers I hung around with in high school, and I had always admired her talent. And she had a blog? I had to check this out. Clicking on the link revealed a large archive of Jill’s thoughts and prose that kept me busy clicking for hours, reading entry after entry and enjoying a long look into the past few years of the friend I had misplaced for nearly a decade.

It wasn’t long before I felt it. An itch. A tingle. An inkling of inspiration, begging the question: “Why not me?” I used to love to write, but then I got married, had kids, got involved in a lot of really great things, and the demands of being a “grown up” temporarily eclipsed the desire to write with a laundry list of activities and responsibilities. I just didn’t think about it that often, and the “extra” time I was waiting for never materialized. One email later, the desire to pick up writing again was pounding in my veins, and before I knew what was happening, I was logged in at http://www.blogspot.com, with my own brand new shiny blog, and my fingers were hovering over the keyboard as I tried to decide what to write first.

After I had a few posts under my belt, I sent out an announcement of my own to friends and family. It read:

I’ve started a blog. For those who don’t know, a blog (or “weblog”) is an online creation that allows virtually anyone, regardless of age, sex, or ability to string two coherent words together, to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences with the world at large. As far as I know, the world at large doesn’t read my blog, but you are certainly welcome. It’s mainly silly, with an occasional side of serious, and, most importantly, it’s a lot of fun for me! So please drop in—you can leave comments, visit my favorite links, see a picture of my eye, all kinds of wonderful stuff. Maybe you’ll even start your own blog—let me know if you do! Notes on a Napkin

I know that a lot of people choose to blog completely anonymously. I discarded that idea almost immediately, sure that if I didn’t invite friends and family to read my blog, then no one would. There have been a few moments since I started blogging when I wondered if that was a good idea, after all. Like when one of the sweet old ladies at church came up to me to tell me that she’d loved my post on bikini waxing. Overall, though, it helps me remember that I am accountable for my words, both spoken and written, and that’s no bad thing.

I’m thankful for my blog. It’s been a place I come to explore my feelings, vent my opinions, and confess my shortcomings. It’s been a writing exercise, a way to scratch the itch, and a workout for the part of my brain that still needs to know how to speak something other than Four Year Old. It’s been a vehicle for getting in touch with old friends, and for making new ones from around the world.  It’s been a tool for keeping track of my extended family and helping them keep track of me.  It’s been a way to share my faith and to ask the deep questions of life.  Not too bad for something that started on a whim.

With more than 80% of bloggers burning out within a month, I’m rather proud (and more than a little bit surprised) to find myself on the other side of my two year blogging anniversary.  It’s hard to believe.

It occurred to me the other day that if I died tomorrow, I’m leaving something behind me.  It’s not much, taken one post at a time, but all together I think it’s a pretty fair picture of who I am.  My kids and my husband would know that I loved them, and what I wished for them.  The next generation could read about my struggles, and God’s grace in my life, and I could do my small part to further the legacy of faith in those who come after me.

Good thing I back up my posts, huh?

Anyway, thanks for reading.

(And Happy Thanksgiving!)