Hello, faeries! I have an affinity for perfect grammar. I love when everything is played by the rules. Nothing soothes my soul more than when I read perfectly crafted sentences.
Around the age of 17, I fell in love with grammar and slipped into the trap of believing that a novel/short story/poem with perfect grammar is a perfect story. More than that, I started thinking that any story without impeccable prose wasn’t worth reading or writing. Why bother with subpar writing when in my head it wouldn’t create a compelling story?
As you’ll probably have gathered, I abandoned that. I threw my pursuit of perfect writing away after I achieved it. Or as close to it as I could get. Why? Why did I leave that ambition in the past? Why do I believe perfect writing is fundamentally imperfect?
Writing is subjective. And it always will be. I could write in only fragments or stream of consciousness and touch someone’s heart. I could pour my heart and soul into a poorly penned novel and still have great success. It doesn’t boil down to perfect prose when we’re looking at personal opinion. Yes, it matters. It matters so much. Having tight, well-written prose is incredibly important but restricting our writing to fit every grammar rule isn’t going to make our writing better because better is subjective.
Interestingly enough, my sort of style didn’t jive with adhering to perfect grammar. There are ways I like to write to convey emotions and thoughts that don‘t fit in with the idea of “perfection”. The longer I fought to beat that natural style out of my writing, the more I turned into a writer I didn’t recognize.
So obsessed with having perfect writing, I forgot that writing was about telling a story and taking the reader on an adventure. It isn’t about the success. It isn’t about crafting something everyone will have to like because it isn’t technically flawed.
Story writing should be about crafting a compelling tale, giving your audience a message you feel is important, and writing a story you want to write and enjoy writing. It should not be about fame, fortune, or perfection. It’s art. Please remember though, a good editor is absolutely vital to a story.
This isn’t the only issue with obsessing over perfect writing though. There is another.
Reading is marred when you’re looking for perfect prose.
Very few authors write “perfect” stories. And practically none write what you consider to be perfect since they are not you.
As I tried to read stories during this period in my life, I realized I hated the books. I couldn’t pick up anything and enjoy it. Now, maybe my AP Literature class was partially to blame for this but I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling that I was over-analyzing everything and failing to simply enjoy the story.
I wasn’t partaking in the most basic reason for art: creative enjoyment.
Then I had a revelation! I really, really, really enjoyed B-list movies. And fanfiction. And imperfect books. And art some people wouldn’t consider art.
I had a fun time watching Sharknado and all its sequels. I had an even better time binge-watching movie after movie on the Sci-Fi channel. This realization kicked me out of my hunt for perfection. For years, I had not been enjoying the art presented to me and instead searching out only for the “best” writing out there to fill my library.
Well, now most of those books aren’t a part of my library (more on that later) and I’m genuinely enjoying the things that I read. How about that?
It took some time, but ultimately, I learned to turn off my brain and just enjoy the stories presented to me for what they were: stories. I still have an affinity for literary fiction and impeccable grammar but not in my work and only if I want a mental challenge.
Are you this way? Do you tend to get hung up on how “perfect” a book is rather than simply enjoying the story? Let me know! And let me know if you enjoyed this post!