Writing like I know how


We’re having the biggest wind storm ever.

You know better than that, Gretchen, I told myself.  Show, don’t tell!

We’re having the biggest wind storm ever.

Our BBQ lid is in the middle of the lawn.  So is my watering can.  I haven’t ventured outside to see what else might be strewn out of place.  The large bumps and bangs are what make me wince, What was that? We’re in the midst of the biggest wind and dust storm I think I’ve ever been in.  And Ruthie and I are perched in our little house on top of the hill together.

I did end up stating the basic fact I had begun with.  But I think it was okay, since I showed then told.

They say practice makes perfect.  And goodness knows I’ve written enough through the years that I should have perfected the art.  But I don’t always write like I know how.

I always detested grammar back in my school days.  My mother never imagined that I would actually call myself a writer when I grew up.

I still can’t diagram a sentence.  But I like to think that I know a little bit about how to write them.

Until a friend catches me writing of the “respobsibilities” of editing.  (Nothing like a typo to keep one humble!)

They say that rules are made to be broken.  But in writing, you have to know the rules in order to break them well.

When I was taking college writing classes, I was constantly being reminded of the rules of writing.  Not only did our professor state them over and over again in each class, but he made us pick good work out of old literature, read us examples of excellent essay, and spurred us on to write well.

He cut my extraneous words (is, the, so, etc.).  He tore the endings off my papers (I always try too hard to write the conclusion, when it’s already there a few paragraphs above).  He made me write and rewrite until I always showed instead of telling (why is it so much easier the other way around?).

I thought I’d had it pounded permanently in my head—or, fingers, rather—how to write well.  But I find myself always falling short of what I know to be good writing.

Now that I have an actual office area, I’ve dedicated the top of my filing cabinet to my writing library.  The stack of dictionaries and language books is handy—and more helpful than the computer’s synonym suggestions.  A glance at the antique typewriter recalls me to the era of my writing heroes—Anne Shirley and Jo March.  The non-fiction books on style are always ready for everything from a grammar question to interview tips.

I’ve also taken a few more modern steps to improve my writing.  I stay away from the books and blogs with writing styles that drag mine down (just because one can use a keyboard does not mean one can write; just because one blogs regularly does not mean one writes well).  I’ve subscribed to emails with grammar tips and blogs with encouraging words for writers.

And each time I see a writing post in my blog reader, every time I glance at the books atop my filing cabinet, it’s almost like I hear my professor’s voice in my ear:

Say it with less.  That paragraph doesn’t do anything.  Active, not passive.  Grab the reader with that introduction.  Don’t moralize the ending.  Show, don’t tell.


  1. I like the beginning, where you SHOW how to show not tell! 🙂

  2. Great post: from one writer to another!

  3. Well, Gretchen, just for the record, I think that you are a splendid writer! (Splendid is a vivid adjective isn’t it?) =)

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