Back in my sophomore year I had an unusual English Teacher. If you’re anywhere near my age, you’ll remember the kind I’m referring to. They were the almost hippies types. With their hair hanging just over their collars, no tie, and yes, they actually wore those corduroy jackets with elbow patches. They got a kick out of ruffling the feathers of administration just enough to annoy them, but not enough to get fired. But it wasn't the way he dressed or picked on adminstration that made him unusual. It was the way he made writing come to life.
On the first day of class, this teacher set the tone for what would be he most exciting English class I had ever taken. He told us to open our books to a certain page. We did. Then he instructed us to place our right hands on that page. Again, we did. Then he said, “We have now met the state’s requirement for touching on the subject of grammar and punctuation. Please close your books and let’s learn something fun.”
That year, I learned what writing from the heart with creativity was. We had our choice of several novels to read. After reading the novel, the assignment was to get into a minor character head and rewrite it from their POV. I chose “One Flew Over The Cuckoo Nest.” It took the entire year to finish that assignment. We soon discovered how much work goes into writing a novel. What a great year it was. That teacher sparked something in me that has never faded. I love writing. It's as much a necessity to me as breathing.
Now before I get clunked over the head by the Grammar Gestapo let me clarify, I do believe grammar and punctuation are important. So important, that I’m taking a refresher course. Picture this, you're an editor with a slush pile a mile high. You come across two manuscripts both with equally great story lines but one is pristine while the other is riddle with grammar flaws. Which one would you choose? We may not like it, but editors will choose the one that shines every time.
Write from your heart and make it exciting. But if you are lacking the tools needed to deliver a clean package then go out and get them. There are plenty of refresher courses or if you are an ace at self learning pick up a book and learn the tools of the trade. After all, just as carpenter wouldn’t think of building a house with only a hammer and few nails. A writer mustn't construct a manuscript with only a pencil.