There was a time when I really wanted to know the mechanics of a sentence. I was a beginning writer* and I thought that if I were able to get down the basics of grammar then I’d be a better writer. During this time, I bought a bunch of grammar workbooks, one of them being The Essentials of Writing. In this fifth edition, Hopper, Gale, & Griffith came up with a multitude of writing exercises that they deemed the essentials of writing.
I have to admit, I haven’t finished the book. The exercises felt like they should have gone with a grammar lesson book. Doing the exercises arbitrarily was of little help to me. Being able to identify the antecedent of a pronoun seems to have so little to do with writing anymore. I will admit that I did learn something about possessives and apostrophes, but underlining and pulling out the noun of a sentence does little for me at this point when it comes to crafting sentences.
I do care about creating sentences. I care about writing all the way down to that level, but something has changed in me. I still want my writing to be clean and clear. I don’t want to have erroneous commas or misspelled words, but I also don’t want to be thinking about adverbs and adjectives.
I want to be lost in the writing and the story.
I think I learned this week that some books don’t need to be finished, or that they can be finished in their own time. I feel like I’ve always inherently known that books can be finished whenever they need to be—maybe that means a decade later, but I have always felt that once I started a book I needed to finish it. This is the first one that I just don’t feel I have to finish. It’s like a sudoku, word search, or a crossword puzzle book, in that it’s okay if I only do half the book.
I’m not sure what professional writers do to vary their sentence work. I’m not sure if they pick up a grammar book here or there, or if it comes to them naturally from reading. I do know that the work lies here, each word building a path for the next, but I’m not in the frame of mind that I have to know what the words are doing on a grammar level.
I’ll leave that for the editors and keep myself lost in the story.
*I’m still a beginning writer, but this was before I went to school to be a writer.