She Writes, an international online organization serving over 20,000 writers, featured this post last week. It was #4 on their “Top Content” rating, which lists their top 20 posts.
Last week I posted this on my facebook fan page: “If I’d realized as a child that stars were never scolded for shinning, I might not have been embarrassed by—or ashamed of—my own light.”
Thirty-five people “liked” the post, a couple thanked me for it, and one person had this to say: “If you’re going to pay for a post to be featured on the walls of people who don’t know you, effectively spamming them, and tell them what a great resource you are for writers, you might want to spell-check it first. I’m just sayin’. Shinning?”
My heartbeat accelerated. I googled the word “shinning” and realized I’d meant to write, “shining.” At first I felt embarrassed, offended, and defensive. Then I centered myself and connected with my core, where I know who I am and what I have to offer writers.
I recalled another post I’d written earlier in the week on my fan page about inner gremlins trying to sabotage my writing. Fifty people had liked that post and three had shared it. The attention that post received had surprised me. I almost didn’t post it because I was afraid to show my weakness and appear less than perfect. I mentioned this on my page, and then added, “Who wants to read anything—or spend time with a ‘perfect’ person. The more transparency I allow, the higher my chances of connecting deeply.”
Grounded in this awareness, I understood that the heated energy of the post I’d received had less to do with me, and more to do with the person writing it. I consciously chose to release all feelings of shame and defensiveness. From this place I penned my response:
“Thanks for catching that. Wish I could say it was a typo, but it was an error, and since ‘shinning’ is the present participle of ‘shin,’ spell-check didn’t catch it. I apologize for the eyesore. I never thought of promoted posts as spam. My intention is to be of service. I’m a midwife of stories, not a copyeditor. I’m sure you know the art and craft of writing consists of much more than spelling. I help people reach into deep, dark places. Still, I understand your frustration, and as a fellow lover of words, I don’t enjoy seeing them mangled either. So again, thank you.”
Soon after, I received this private message from the woman who’d sent that comment: “I appreciate you taking it without offense. As a former newspaper copyeditor, I cringe when I see errors like that, particularly when it’s someone promoting writing! I almost didn’t post because I didn’t want to be snarky, and I should have been kinder about it. I’ll have to check out your site. I’m working on a book and might need some help!”
The point of this post is not to suggest spelling and grammar don’t matter. They do. I’m meticulous about having my work copyedited before sending it to journals, agents, and editors. My spelling has improved over the years, a result of my love for reading, which blossomed as a young adult. I’ve grown to enjoy grammar, too, tools of my trade. A recent article, “Ten Mistakes Writers Make,” inspired me to buy The Chicago Manual of Style, which I’m looking forward to reading—for fun! But not all writers are great spellers or grammarians. Last week in class two of my most imaginative storytellers felt embarrassed for not knowing what a “gerund” was. I’ve also worked with people who never finished, or even attended, college, and don’t have a strong command of the language, but can still tell a wicked story! So don’t think if you can’t spell, if you’re dyslexic, or if you don’t know the rules of grammar that you can’t write. Learn everything you can about your art and craft, have your work proofread by a pro, and never be ashamed of what you don’t know.
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