February 17, 2010

Grammar v. Creativity - False Foes?

As a former teacher, I have strong feelings about how writing is taught. I’ve seen the pendulum swing from “free” writing (creativity trumps all) back to strict formalized instruction and I can tell you, extremes don’t work. You can't write anything without the creative urge, but unless you understand how language works, you won’t get far.

Grammar is the foundation of good writing. Knowing the basics of written language frees you to create. Dancers begin with rudimentary steps. Singers begin with scales. Writers begin with grammar. In order to communicate effectively, you need to understand how language works.

Creativity and grammar are not mutually exclusive; they are, in fact, complementary. Together, they build sentences that soar, paragraphs that flow, stories that captivate, create meaning where none existed before.

You can be the most creative writer on earth, but if a reader stumbles through your work, as far as I’m concerned, you need to go back and bone up on the basics.

Thanks to Eileen Astels for beginning the conversation. Nothing like a spirited discussion to keep things lively, I say.

What do you say?