I write. But that does not mean that I write correctly. I am a college graduate, but that does not mean that I use proper grammar. I write intuitively – meaning that my sense of grammar drives my structure – and I am sometimes wrong. Any sophisticated endeavor requires both art and science.
The late 1970’s and 1980’s saw the maturing of the hippie class of the 1960’s. (I was a class drop out). Realizing that we had to actually get a job and be responsible but being unwilling to let go of the perceived value of self-examination, we fed the industry of self-help- literature. Transactional Analysis, 12 Step Programs, Self-Hypnosis – Cognitive Distortions, Rational Emotive Therapy, Family Systems Therapy, Jungian Analysis – if it struck at the heart of our humanness we did it. Most of this was done in a sort of hobby fashion – we had jobs and new families. In our great wisdom we found that these aspects of psychological science were important. With no time to explore in any deep and meaningful manner we excused our ignorance by saying things like, “Science without art falls short of the goal”. Thus we were able to justify our perceptions by simply saying that we were human artists rather than scientists. (The art versus science argument is referred to by rednecks as education versus common sense).
Art is like that; art can be developed but being ‘born with it’ was more important. What does that mean? It means that art was a good excuse for not having a complete grasp of the science.
Da Vinci and Michelangelo were artists. They were great artists because they were also scientists. They understood their medium. They understood the chemical composition of their paint and the quality of their canvas. Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I this case his canvas was plaster. He had to understand the interaction between the paint and the plaster to accomplish his masterpiece.
Writing is an art form. I use that form. But like all art, there is a science to the medium. My granddaughter, Miranda, is in college majoring in English. I envy her. Unfortunately, when I was in grade school and high school I did not pay attention in grammar classes. I now know enough to know that I do not have a complete grasp of grammar. I am so ignorant that I often make mistakes and am completely unaware.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote of Mark Twain, “People go to college to learn to do what he did naturally”. Stephen King said there are four classes of writers, “There are incompetent writers, competent writers, good writers, and great writers’. Incompetent writers will never be competent. Competent writers can become good writers. Great writers are born. I like to think of myself as a competent writer hoping one day to be good.
I will never be ‘good’ if I do not grasp the science. The following test is a nice place to begin in understanding simple rules of grammar and of understanding the meaning of words. (I scored an 84. That darn who vs whom).
Click image to open interactive version (via Staples.ca).