Quite a long time ago, I determined that I would never achieve success as an artist. Not only would I not achieve success, but that if success descended upon me from above (divine intervention, well-intentioned patron), I would not actually enjoy success as an artist. I didn’t give up painting altogether, at least, not right away, but it has now been at least six years since I painted my last paintings, and I can honestly say that the thought of dragging out my paints and tools of creation gives me pause. At least, it gives me pause enough to stop and consider the implications and thereafter to desist from engaging in that essentially wasteful enterprise.
Why would I create more things that no one wants, can’t be given away and I don’t want to store? Wasteful.
Now, I am approaching that same realization with writing. I first thought that switching from painting and drawing to writing was the answer to my dreams of being creative yet with little storage problem, no hope nor dreams of success, hence no “success baggage” that I have seen so many authors slugging around the country on promotional tours. Well, I needn’t have worried about achieving success in writing because the world has gone the way of Twitter and my two or three page tomes often get deleted without reading because they are just ‘too long to read.’ Some readers have confessed this to me, hoping that I would get the message and either stop writing or pare my writing down to an essential sentence or two.
No one wants context. All that is wanted is a sardonic catch-phrase or two with which to quickly summarize, encapsulate and judge. Then, thus informed, go about pretending to ‘know’ what’s going on because the reader has a catch-phrase to bandy that conveys the requisite degree of knowledge on a subject. A writer who hopes to capture nuance, context, understanding or to convey his appreciations of a complex, multi-dimensional environment is relegated to the dusty, mostly undisturbed space on the shelf of some antiquarian hermit who collects books and other oddities from the age of Gütenberg.
Lately, two things have happened that have encouraged me to shun the keyboard. The motivation for me to give up writing came not from disgruntled readers, nor from ‘gruntled’ readers for that matter, but from myself. I’m making too many mistakes that slip by me unnoticed.
I have never been a grammarian. I think I get the gist of grammarian principles, but that is about as far as my knowledge goes. Mainly, I hope to be able to make my meaning clear using word-choice, punctuation and emphasis to convey meaning. But I have recently had two mistakes that mortified me when I later read them and realized that my computer has no ‘unsend’ key.
One error was a simple misplaced modifier, the other was a homophonic error (one word that sounds exactly like another word but the two words are not the same and have two different meanings).
There is a difference in meaning between the below two sentences.
If a writer can’t instantly pick up the essential difference between these two sentences and choose the correct one, what could be the worth of his writing?
The other mistake turned out to be quite funny when I read it as my lower jaw sank to approach the keyboard and my forehead slap nearly knocked me out, but happily missed hitting my bulging eyeballs.
I wrote (and sent) a sentence like, “I found my piece in a rowhouse setting in the city.” In truth, I suppose one might say that though my intention of saying “I found my peace…” might well have been read that way anyhow, the actual meaning of the sentence could also be said to be true, (all apologies to my girlfriend). Despite the sentence’s effectiveness as a double entendre, it was not intended to be one. It was a bona fide mistake for which I take full responsibility. My failure to pick this one up during proofreading may indicate that my mind is preparing itself to be ‘cared for’ by others as it disintegrates into not caring about anything.
I must keep in mind a kind of affirmation suggested by Brené Brown, “I’m imperfect but I am wired for struggle and I am worthy of love and belonging. I am enough.”
I’m not sure which baseball great said, “We musta made the wrong mistake!” I suspect that it is properly attributed to Yogi Berra, but it might well have come from Casey Stengle instead. My errant sentence was just that, a case of having made the wrong mistake.
All of the foregoing brings me to the point of sharing some of my interest in baseball. What a great game it is! When people hear that quote, “We musta made the wrong mistake,” many assume that it was uttered by some Bozo who had no means of understanding the apparently self-contradictory essence of what he was saying. But no. Whether it was Berra or Stengle, it came from the lips of a baseball great who probably really meant what he said.
In baseball I have seen many intentional ‘mistakes.’ Mistakes sometimes fool the opposing players into taking actions that lead their team away from victory. I have seen a centre fielder park himself in position to catch a high fly ball even though he didn’t have a hope of catching the ball that had been hit too far for him to catch. That ‘mistake’ caused a baserunner to hold himself on base, unsure of what he was seeing in the outfield. The ball dropped well behind the centre fielder, but it was quickly scooped up by the right fielder and tossed into the infield for a forced out at second base.
Another example of an intentional mistake I saw occurred with runners on first and third. The first base runner took off in an attempt to steal second, but stumbled and fell along the base path. It was a ‘mistake’ that drew the fielding team into a rundown attempt between first and second. Meanwhile, the runner on third base stole home! The trip and fall was not really a mistake at all, it only appeared to be a mistake. It was the right mistake. The fielding team made the wrong mistake.
Alas, I can’t promise to give up writing despite my many mistakes, right and wrong. I’ll try to write less often, though I am disinclined to write fewer words. If I want to convey my response to a coloured glass orb upon which dust has settled, yet has been touched by the hands of a child whose fingers have lifted small circles of dust from its surface, I need a lot of words to convey the full image. Fewer words would be inadequate.
But enough of this pap! May you make all the right mistakes today and always!