My Fear of Mistakes, and a Grammar Book

When we are afraid of mistakes, we gloss them over, ignore them, or stop trying to accomplish what we have set out to do.

Do you fear mistakes? Most of us have that tendency. Maybe not for every activity we take part in, but the things we struggle with most can quickly become things we fear trying.

When I was a child, I hid my grammar book behind the couch and celebrated no one being able to find it. I told Mom I didn’t know where it was and shrugged as I got further and further behind. But why did I do this?

Fear of mistakes stifles learning.

I found grammar very difficult. My own eyes were at war with me and though I could understand the basics of language and the structure of English, my mistakes were constant. I didn’t understand why I struggled do much. I felt stupid. So I gave up.

Oh, how I wish eight-year-old me could have dug deep and powered through. Because of my fear, I am far behind my peers in the writing world. It took me over 25 years to overcome the fear of letting others correct my mistakes, so I could learn to be the writer I have always wanted to be. How much farther along would I be if I had not hidden that grammar book?

“Sorry Mom! I should have listened to you.”

I can’t go back and change what I did. So now I look ahead and do my best to put fear behind me, facing every spelling error and out-of-place punctuation mark with determination. I appreciate kind correction, and editors who can see the little things I can’t.

I also have learned acceptance. I have trained my brain to see many of the mistakes I would have missed ten years ago, but my eyes are still not normal. They probably won’t ever be, and that’s okay. Because I have people on my side now, people I am no longer afraid of.

©2022 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Pointed Short Stories

Short stories bring moments to a sharp focus.

It’s challenging to wrap a whole beginning middle and ending into 3000 words or fewer, just as it’s challenging to write a 150,000 word novel. In fact, I am not sure if one is inherently easier than the other when done well. The latter takes planning and perseverance. The first, a lot of word skill. I see both as equally valuable.

It’s addictive and helps propel one forward to the next project with vigor and a sharper focus.

One thing short forms have going for them is time economy. I am a slow writer, and sometimes I take months to craft a short story draft. But I can do it. Whether I take a day, or a few months, I have tasted the flavor of finished work. For a writer, that is huge.

It’s addictive and helps propel one forward to the next project with vigor and a sharper focus. If you struggle to never finish a writing project. Try a short story on for size.

What is difficult to do in short forms is world build. Only that which moves the story forward can be present. Only enough detail as to not confuse the reader should be used. Focus, a sharp point to stay within the intended word count.

Short stories come in many forms. 10,000 words, 5,000 words, 3,000 words and anything in between. Under 1,000 is generally referred to as flash fiction. These brief flashes of creativity seem a natural fit to our modern busy lives. I see them becoming more and more important as our world spins faster and faster.

Then there is the micro-story, anything under 300 words. I particularly enjoy dribbles and drabbles, 100, and 50 word stories. You can read my latest contribution to the drabble world here.

To weave a story with words that are implied, but not written, takes skill.

The shorter your word count, the less the story becomes about the words on a page or screen, and the more in becomes about what is not there. Reading in between the lines, writing with emotions that are not spelled out. It’s truly an art form.

To weave a story with words that are implied, but not written, takes skill. It’s a skill worth honing for any writer as that word economy can be what lifts a full-length novel apart from all the other books on a shelf.

Short stories written about the same people, or place, can be used as building blocks to larger projects. Use them as bridges between your dreams and reality.

But we should never forget the power of the standalone short piece. Their honed narratives and pointed emotions can drive truth and learning into our busy hearts and minds.

When was the last time you read a short story? Did you enjoy it?

©2022 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Reflections from a Dyslexic Writer

I remember one day trying to read my ‘A’ book to Mom, and being unable to put ‘gl’ together, to read the word ‘glad’. It took so much patience. My mother sat there, listening to me struggle over and over.

The first day I got the consonant blend out once, that was it. Only once after a half hour of trying. I have always had to battle language in written form.

I still mix up my B’s and D’s. Often write M’s and N’s wrong, have always hated grammar lessons. I even hid my workbook behind the couch and got away with it for a week, to my mother’s frustration.

So why did I choose to be a writer?

The quick answer is, I didn’t, it chose me.

Stories have been a constant in my life, and the desire to tell them and create has always been within me. I distinctly remember regaling everyone at a friend’s birthday parting, with the story of my dad using a rifle to ‘shoot down’ trees instead of cutting them with a chainsaw. That he was a logger was true, but ya, felling trees doesn’t work that way. I had the entire room in stitches.

It was an absurd story, but for that moment my dad was the hero, as trees fell around him with a single shot. A projection of how my heart saw him. It was great fun.

The need to be understood, and to understand are huge parts of my personality and I have no better way to attempt both, then to use language. But how do I deal with wondering eyes that just can’t see the words they write straight the first time?

I taking my time.

I am horribly slow with writing. I take weeks to craft these short blog posts, even longer for any of my short stories. If I am rushed, it shows. Time sensitive writing competitions are exhausting. Deadlines are important but often missed. My comments in chat boxes and social media are laughable. Even so, the landscape of language speaks to me.

I have learned there is no unfixable mistake in writing. Asking for help is not weakness, but strength. Every sentence, when you sit back and think about it, can tell a unique story.

I acknowledge I don’t have it near as difficult as other people I know. Years of repetition have improved my skills with spelling, and trained my eyes to work as a team far better than they used to. But still there are so many mistakes I miss.

Will I ever be a great poet? Maybe not… Will people ever take me seriously in the literary world? I don’t know. Will I ever write a best-selling novel? I will try. But as I try, I will do my best not to forget that day I fought to put ‘gl’ together. Remembering where we started keeps us grounded.

Where did you start your creative journey?

What walls did you have to clump?

I didn’t realise I was learning the lessons of perseverance while struggling to read at age six, seven, and eight. I thought I was just learning letters on a page. Resilience started building the first time they teased me for not being able to read my bible out loud in Sunday school. The foundations of those lessons were messy, hard work. But a temple can not stand tall, if we do not lay the groundwork.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Note: I have not been formally diagnosed with Dyslexia. Being from a homeschool family, we did not have that opportunity while I was in school. There are other members of my immediate family what have undergone vision therapy and deal with learning differences on a far larger scale than I do. ~ Mary Grace van der Kroef

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