Finding Your Words

The holidays are a terrific time to do some writing. Most of us have a few days off to collect our thoughts, grab a pen or tap the keyboard.

For many, the writing impulse starts at a young age. I love watching kindergarteners express themselves by forming letters into words and words in sentences.

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.  ~James Michener

When people think about writing, they sometimes become paralyzed by their need for perfection. They remember diagramming sentences in the seventh grade and suddenly the fear of misplaced modifiers and past perfect verb tense grips their hearts.

I would argue that all of us can write — at some level. In our very core, we have thoughts that we want to convey in written form. I say write it down!

Put aside all the rules swimming around in your head and simply put your thoughts to paper (or computer). Once you’ve gotten it down, you can revise … and revise … as needed. That’s what editing is for — applying the rules of grammar and style. The more you write, the more comfortable you will become. Likewise, the more you edit, the more you’ll just naturally incorporate grammar and style into your writing.

If you just want to write something for fun, consider trying out some writing prompts. Here are a couple of good resources:

If you’re writing for a more specific purpose, whether it’s for your neighborhood watch group or local soccer league newsletter, just give it your best shot. Get your words down, then go back and feel free to rewrite as needed. But make sure you get someone else to read it. Even the greatest editors will read past their own errors.  That’s because they know what it’s supposed to say — whether or not that’s actually what it says.

So, friend, lay side your fear of conjugation; lock away your past tangle with onomatopoeia. Jump in and give writing a try. Let your inner perfectionist be your editor not your paralyzer.

Donna Dunn, who is just back from a pre-holiday trip to Disney, knows how to spell M-I-C-K-E-Y with the sing-song rhythm of a four-year-old.