When I was young my parents sent me to a small boarding school in Oxfordshire. These seven to fourteen age group schools were called ‘Prep’ schools and in the sixties they offered the very best in private education. At the age of fourteen I passed my ‘Common Entrance’ exam and became a pupil at a ‘Public’ boarding school, again in Oxfordshire.
My father spent thousands of pounds on my education. I passed most of my O and A levels with C’s and B’s. I worked hard in the exam years, I had to, because my spelling and grammar was terrible. So bad in fact that I received extra tutoring in the subject. Try as they might the tutors were at a loss to know how to instil the rules of the written English language into my mind.
I do not remember my father writing one letter in his lifetime and this includes business letters. The same goes for my mother. Toys like meccano, building blocks and cap guns were my educational stepping stones. A Rupert Bear book at christmas was my favourite present, I could not read it of cause, the pictures told the story.
Later on I decided to become a part of the Open University and the problem with grammar drove a deep wedge into the desire to learn and the probability of attaining a degree. A tutor suggested I talk to a specialist, who suggested I may be suffering from Scotopic sensitivity. What I know is words, letters and numbers on pages or computer screens float! Like small balloons of words wanting to free themselves from the ground of the page or screen. It’s a difficult for the writer and student who has a desire to learn and a difficulty in reading, as the fellow pupils and tutors inevitably believe the student is ‘thick’. And make no mistake, even today this problem effects every day of my life. For example it is one of the reasons I only keep one return bus ticket and receipts which need to be kept are clearly marked with a sharpie pen, so I can recall what was purchased.
I file all correspondence’s which are sent to me with regard to my writing. Good or bad all is filed for future reference under ‘Lessons To Remember’. One morning I received an email which read.
“Look at your grammar it’s fucking childish, you are an uneducated bastard, you must be pissed when you write”. On other occasion – “You’re no writer, the grammar is shit and self publishing is not being published. You are a fucking idiot”.
I have around sixty e-mail and texts about the lack of quality and poor grammar in my work. And do you know? The comments are not my problem. They are the problem of those who make the comment. I control them, not they me. If I allowed them to effect me in any way. You would not be reading this essay!
The certainty is this. Once the errors become scotomic for the reader, he will be able to see the errors with more prominence! Scotoma by the way is tunnel vision, either visual or mental. A scotomic mind only see what it wants to see. Scotoma can be limiting. For example, imagine watching a man who looks like Fagin. Mean, flithy, rotten teeth and greasy hair. And allowing the mind to recall the possible dangers of such men and then disliking him for his visible faults and appearance, rather than how or why he looks as he does. And then he offers you an envelope, in it there is a cheque for a million pounds with a note on which is written ‘I am a good man, live a happy life for me’. How would you remember him then? For the gift and the message or the way he looked? A scotomic mind would not accept the envelope.
My ‘hard won’ formal education knows and understands why this is so and how it effects peoples attitude, character and personality. Its possible the grammar is not the real reason for the comments on my work, certainly the two earlier examples are vindictive not ‘helpful’. Another consideration is that the grammar expert may find it difficult to accept that there are many millions of readers who do not know the rules of grammar and are able to decipher the stories, essays and articles without too much of a problem. If the writer is of low esteem or confidence, even a genuine observation of faults within the work can have a negative and sometimes catastrophic effect upon they’re continuing to write.
I can remember a ‘art critic’ talking about the edge of painting canvas’s. She said the side boarders MUST be painted in and not left white. The last time I was in the Tate Modern her ‘expert’ knowledge had obviously not been taken on board by many famous and wealthy artists. Its all well and good to have the theory. Its all well and better to actually produce a finished piece of work. The artist must be encouraged to express his mind. We all cannot understand the ‘rapper’ words, the ‘abstract’ painters work, and I’d suggest an hour or five with many of the ‘Beat’ poet, writer, artist’s work if you want to see the ‘rules’ being broken. We cannot like every thing we see, hear or read!
At this moment in time I am assembling an account of an incredible episode within a man’s life. His story will amaze and help people who are about to go through difficult surgery. He is a man of courage, kindness and love, an inspiration. The book is nearly finished has taken more time than I at first anticipated because it needs to be more perfected than my usual efforts. There’s no doubt he’ll be impatient to read the first draft, but he’d be disappointed if it was not up to his expectations. So I will continue to work toward finishing a good, not an indifferent book. That’s the way a writer should work, when the book needs to excel then time needs to be taken. All other writing is practice and exercise. Like the photographer who takes a thousand images to get the excellent one he is remembered for and the painter’s fifty canvas’s for the one that sell’s.
Maybe the reader will already know why this essay is written. The probability is that the reader may feel I am in some way attempting to vindicate myself for the poor standard of my written word. I am not! The grammar is poor and the essays are often not re-worked as much as they should be. What if I become Fagin with an envelope? And tell you this essay will, because of my ‘jumping words’ take five to six hours to get to its conclusion. Frankly I run out of enthusiasm for the exercise.
This essay is not about vindication, it is about understanding and acceptance. Two words which when placed together and unified become a key to happiness. The understanding and acceptance of another cultures religion, traditions and attitudes. A blending of work colleagues who all have specialist skills which turns an idea into a success. (Steve Jobs was the master of this attribute). An allowance for individuals to follow their path with the gift of encouragement, not disparagement. This is the blood of this essay. As is the idea that any human with aspirations MUST follow his path no matter what the opposition, personal sacrifice, or disability. To listen to those who find fault is as sure a death of ones hopes as a bullet through the brain. The man in the picture below has followed a path where many vipers and assassin’s waited in hiding to rob him of his ambition. If Darren had listened to the vindictive words spoken by the ‘few’, he would not have become admired by the ‘many’. If there is a desire to succeed, then there is a need to wear armour and fly the standard high so all can see you’re position and intent.
The reader may have noticed the name of the blog has changed from ‘Why Short Stories’ to ‘The Copper Staple’. This is because a man who self publishes and sells thousands of Kindle Downloads has formed a new business its name is ‘Copper Staple Publishing’ . The name comes from the copper staples used in the Zines which I print and sell through another distributor. It is my intention to print and publish the work of photographers who wish to be part of a secure distribution network. More about this in the coming year, although those who aspire to be published by Copper Staple Publishing are invited to send their details and C.Vs to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s not the way something is written, it’s the ideas expressed within. Some of your work is brain fireworks!
As a writer, my goal is communication. The exchange of ideas. If I am able to that, I have succeeded no matter the spelling or grammar. You have done this here. Well done! Keep writing. The world needs writers like you.
Wow! How kind and encouraging – Many thanks – Ian