When Did You Learn To Write?

When did you learn to write?

When you heard another speak to you for the first time? Or after you painstakingly struggled with forming letters with a pencil between your fingers?

When did you learn to talk?

When you felt the rhythm of the voices that said, “Hello. Kootchy-koo. Good-bye. See you. How are you? I love you.” When you tried to follow with your own words? “Ma-ma. Da-da. Bye-bye. Go. Ball. No!”

You probably learned to hear words, such as “Don’t! Stop! No! Don’t touch. Keep up. Don’t cry. Be good.”

By the time you reached school age, you were learning, “See Jane. See Dick. See Jane run. See Dick play. See Jane and Dick run and play.”

Then came the confusion. Jane is not really a little girl. Jane is a “noun,” a “subject.” Run and play aren’t just fun. They are “verbs”!

Along with those nouns and verbs came modifiers, describing Jane as “little” and Dick as “funny” and both of them as running “happily.”

Ooooh! The bewilderment of identifying words. When all the time you wanted only to enjoy the antics of those two whacky kids and their dog Spot.

No wonder children find their own books to read – the books that teachers know nothing about. The books that aren’t on any “selected reading list.” The books that you discover at the library or the bookstore (or on the bookshelves in your home, if you’re lucky).

And no wonder children find joy in writing in diaries, expressing themselves – to themselves. Writing for the pure delight of knowing you can create your own world with your own words. Writing without the need for “form” and “rules,” writing for the simple satisfaction of articulating the feelings of running, sitting still, wonderment, pain, exultation, curiosity, anger, awe, or writing just for the fun of it.

Here you are, an adult. Have you found your way out of the maze of childhood “education?” Have you re-discovered that joy of writing for yourself? Have you tried writing down your thoughts and emotions lately?

If your answers to those questions are “no,” then you have a surprise in store. Find a pen and paper (or pencil or computer or quill), sit down after turning off all your electronic gadgets (except your computer if you’re using one), and start to write. Don’t be concerned about rules or form or grammar or spelling or punctuation (“Ye gods!” scream the stodgy teachers of composition). Simply write. You don’t even have to make sense. Just WRITE! Don’t stop until you realize you are writing something that makes sense – and yes, it will happen. Probably not until after three or four pages (or less if you’re used to writing). When you begin to make sense, you may want to continue with whatever is flowing from the tip of your writing tool. Or, you can throw it away – and start over later.

One surprise that may jump out at you when you re-read your words may be an opening into an area of your inner self you didn’t realize existed. You may feel a sense of relief after writing out your pain. You may discover an inner joy that was lurking there unnoticed.

Oh, for the love of heaven! Enough from me! Pull out your pen and start writing. Let me know what kinds of things result. Or keep it to yourself. Writing is a blessing you can cherish for yourself, or share, depending on your wishes. My wish for you is to discover the pleasure of writing.

Copyright ©2005 Val Dumond


About Val Dumond

VAL DUMOND is a writer who is enamored with words and putting them together to tell stories. Trained as a journalist, she also managed an advertising agency and public relations business. She has taught writing classes for many years and now focuses on her own writing, editing for other writers, and helping writers publish their books. She owns Muddy Puddle Press, where most of her books are published. Her favorite writing theme is historical fiction: She has done what-ifs for Klondike Kate — Queen of the Yukon, and the unlucky pilot who in 1933 tried and failed to be the first to fly solo across the Pacific. She also did a what-if about the status of women at a bank where she once was overworked and underpaid. (Kate received a new love interest at the age of 70; the pilot received a second chance at his heart's desire 50 years later; and the women of the bank rebelled enough to improve their wages and place women on the Board of Directors.) See: SUGAR, SPICE, AND STONE; WHEN ROOSTERS FLY; and A LITTLE REBELLION…. But Val's grammar books are the ones that draw attention. Her latest, AMERICAN-ENGLISH—The Official Guide (written for writers), is a culmination of five other books about language she has written. This new book urges writers to develop their own writing style by creating their own Style Manual, composed of preferences among the many choices that American-English provides. In it, she uses examples of uses for the various parts of language and punctuation, sets aside a section that's full of writing tips, includes a glossary and index for easy access to language solutions.
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