I've been churning through the next book in our Be A Better Writer series (this one's for business folks), and in so doing I'm learning a lot about my own writing.
I admit that I'm spoiled. Writing has always come easily for me (reading was a completely different story) so I've never given it much thought. I feel blessed to have something I'm good at also be something I can get paid for.
But writing this book forces me to bring some thought to writing and the differences between how I do it and how most people who struggle with it do. I know I'm a good writing teacher -- I've seen the results. But it's always been in a workshop setting, where students and I are working on real pieces and the lessons are all in that context. In a book, there's no collaboration between writer and instructor. And I'm realizing how much I don't actually say in a workshop or class session -- I show it in response to actual challenges that pop up. (Conveniently enough, almost every problem we can encounter in our writing occurs naturally in a room full of writers). In the book, though, I have to cover it all -- and make models for it all.
A big discovery is how little I know, technically, about grammar. Yeah, I diagrammed sentences, but I don't know what nominative predicate is, and I don't care! Except when I'm writing a book designed to address common problems managers find in writing and -- what do you know -- grammar's one of them. I have to explain all that stuff, but I realize I don't know how. Of course I use grammar all the time. And judging by my editors' comments and the volume of work I get, I must be doing it pretty well. How can this be if I don't know my past perfect progressives from my appositives?
Leave it to Steve to explain that I know the purpose and use of grammar, not the rules of grammar. Because I care about writing, I know how grammar works without being able to label every part I use. This isn't uncommon for people who do a lot of reading and writing, like me. Handy, yes, but not helpful for a book chapter. Luckily, I married a grammarian, so guess who's writing that section of the book? Right! (Learn more about Steve's literacy work here.)