Chapter 38: My Brain & the Rules of Writing

My son recently brought home a punctuation and grammar word sleuth. Initially it was an exciting moment where I could finally be involved and contribute in the homework sphere.

“Ask Mum. She’s the writer”

We had to google most of the answers.

Epic. Fail.

In the past few years of my boy’s education I have most definitely taken a back seat in the homework segment of the parenting curriculum. I get rolled out for anything involving costumes, public speaking, news, history projects and right brained creativity which sadly becomes more scarce the older our kids get. This year’s homework has been math heavy and good ole Mum dissipates into the shadows every Monday afternoon when stained and crumpled homework is reluctantly dragged from the school bag.

So the G&P word sleuth was a big moment where I was supposed to finally bring some knowledge to the table.

Shamefully “Mum the writer” has a dark, dark secret. I have eff-all clue about grammar and punctuation. It has abandoned me. A subject I dearly loved and conquered as a child, one of the very few where I was actually in the “those who getteth it” group – has at some point sodded right off.

I hadn’t really noticed until I began immersing myself in writing circles again and fears of dummy exposure came back to haunt me. It was mortifying. I had finally reacquainted with “my people” and suddenly basic G&P terms had me flatlining before fellow writers.

Oh the shame!

Alas, all that the sleuth exercise did was highlight my 1984 skill set no longer cuts it. Flashbacks ensued and there was primary school me – heinous haircut, disproportionate gangly limbs, one big arse chomper I could whistle through, crammed into a stinking hot asbestos ridden demountable staring at a blackboard that looked like it too was sweating – that was the last time I saw the word simile.

Ironically the night before the homework puzzle simile was referenced in an episode of Russian Doll.

Nadia: “Me and cocaine are like oil and vinegar. I just think I’m not good at mixing substances.”
John: “Or metaphors.”
Nadia: “Did I not say like oil and vinegar? Is that not a fucking simile?”
Brillance Credit

Brilliant maybe, but no help to soup brain over here. Queen Non-retainable.

My So You Are… Pregnant! book is a beautiful butchering of the English language that even progressive, hip millennial editors would struggle to find the literary faux pas littered throughout – as anything but illiterate rubbish. The gamble I’m taking is – in order to communicate with the widest possible audience – it has been written more like a text message, or a social media post, or an email to a mate, rather than a piece of “proper” literature. Not because I’m a snobby wench who is dumbing things down (if this website proves anything – I am the poster girl of dumb, anti-snobbery), but more to encourage and give a chance to those who don’t really dig reading – to pick up a book worthy of their time and eyeballs.

I want the reader to feel like I am sitting in front of them telling the story – with all my silly theatrics, but without the stuttering, or hour long search of forgotten words from my sieve brain.

I want them to experience the same reactions I get every time I tell someone the tale – the shock, the sadness, the joy, the empathy, the questioning, the anger, the laughs… all of it. Because So You Are… Pregnant! is a “creative non-fiction” and things are often very grey-area-y, all that delicious word-bastardisation is far more powerful left alone and set out into the world untampered to do what it will.

However, I don’t want to release a bucket of sloppy shit with inexcusable grammatical errors that make me seem more nongy than I already am. There’s a level of forgiveness when reading blog/fb/insta posts with the odd error etc and it’s become the norm to scan over and move on. But, if you’ve paid for something, a certain expectation of professionalism is just good manners and I refuse to launch a half arsed effort to an audience who deserve better.

Here lies my never ending conundrum that from an outsider looking in may mimic OCD, but it truly is an inability to wrap my head around correct editing.

My dumb arse non-comprehension of G&P is hindering this process and really BOGGING shit down! Currently COMMAS are my absolute Achilles heel and I am most definitely not alone. Recently I was so over comma placement I actually typed into Google where the fcuk do i put commas and it was hilarious how many others are clearly paddling along the same creek.

When the fuck, should you use a comma? on Reddit

and my personal favourite

I’ll put a comma wherever, the fuck, i want

This has helped, but even he waffles on and my mince mind goes on a mini vacation the more academic sounding explanations become.

My journey is a long one because I basically don’t comprehend information in the conventional sense and the sacrifice of brain nerve endings in the past (that were probably never fused together properly in the first place) has defo not helped-o.

Attention smart people… or rather, people who comprehend relatively simple concepts without experiencing aneurysm type symptoms… if you are out there and you’ve either been in this blind situation and made your way through,

OR

you’re just an empathetic clever clogs who finds none of it complicated and like helping the clueless – here are some insights from the blurry front line.

The following information is not helpful. At. Effing. All.

Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of these seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet. Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause.

Honestly, it reads like French Martian to me and I wager a million other poor delusional people out there struggle with it too.

Exhibit A – the shit that comes up in a Google search is a red flag something has gone amiss with the peasants when dealing with comma placement and general comprehension of use. From a personal perspective these are possible reasons of why the clueless remain so:

  1. The majority of us were taught this information at a young age in the hopes that it would have the same planting in our brain and become second nature knowledge like reading, writing, walking, talking etc but for some reason, did not stick
  2. Many of us were taught to insert comma where there is a pause/breath – which apparently is not remotely correct now.
  3. Alcohol – kills brain cells and information learned along with it
  4. Mr Mackey had a valid point
  5. The brain commonly discards what it deems unimportant in order to make room for evolvement. Having kids probably stripped me of literary tools and clearly I took too long to return to what would now have been a handy well to tap into
  6. I could very well be on a spectrum of dyslexia and have thought this for a long time
  7. I’ve spent too much time on the right side
  8. I am just not that bright

Let’s run with number 1 for now.

I do remember nerding out over English at a young age and I adored the grammar and punctuation tasks that always lead to some sort of creative writing activity which meant we weren’t focusing on sucky maths. This was an environment that one could thrive, embed and retain information, yet I can no longer access any of it without a sharp pain in my temple.

During the 2.3 second stint I did at uni it was expected you had all this knowledge firmly implanted. Where lecturers would scoff at the very notion of students having zero comprehension of the laws of writing and publically humiliate those who dared expose their incompetence in front of a theatre of hundreds. I had never been so silent.

That level of horror is a distant memory, but the fact remains that the rules and a sound comprehension of them is necessary if you want to be a writer and not look like a moron when in the company of other writers and humans over the age of seven.

To be void of the basics is to lack the tools to create work that is readable – much like this jaggedy post. What is the point of literary genius if your sentences are disjointed because you lack the knowledge of where things need to be to achieve FLOW.

A woman I hope one day will be my publisher and mentor recently said,

“Why does everyone get so bogged down in grammatical correctness? That’s what editors are for and they’ll throw half of it on the floor anyway. It’s your story we want. Everything else can be fixed later.”

I contemplated proposing.

However, there is a fine line between an editor doing their job and them having to do your job because you’re an incompetent ninny.

These rules shall not beat me!

…and I know I’m not alone. Google does not lie. Okay it does, but the amount of search results, blog posts, and general natter surrounding this topic clearly proves there are some major grammar and punctuation epidemics out there. No longer will I be the only self loathing G&P deficient turkey in the village! I need a retainable crash course! I need a little street cred in front of my kids.

SOS.

Please send help!

Any quick fix course recommendations are thoroughly appreciated.

One Comment on “Chapter 38: My Brain & the Rules of Writing

  1. Pingback: Chapter 70: Copyright Confusion – what the hell can I write? – out of her tree house

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