Rules and Tools do not a Writer make

The purpose of this piece is to place a different perspective on the importance of grammar and the mechanics of expression to my newest and oldest favorite interest and activity, the writing process. Claude Debussy, 19th century French composer and writer is reported to have said, “Works of art make rules. Rules do not make works of art.”

After spending most of my interest, time, and energy on damn near anything and every thing I encountered, I have gravitated by fault and default towards writing as a dominant interest and activity. My other interests and activities have diminished in importance by virtue of retirement, fatigue and an ever diminishing reservoir of energy.  Somehow, my mind and memory still manage to not only function well, but also sometimes zoom into overdrive and hyperspace. Academically, as a student, a teacher, a music administrator, I have always found the study of grammar and the mechanics of writing words not essentially boring, but more of an aggravation and a hindrance to my compulsive need to communicate.  At the graduate level, I elected to write music not words.  My spouse of some fifty plus years loves to tell me that my choice to write music was the result of my overpowering need to be the one and only authority when defending my work.  That said, a recent class/course has once again reminded me of what it was that I didn’t respond well to in my past encounters with the material, methods, processes and analysis.  Although I think I now know the difference between a marsupial, a participial phrase and a gerund, it doesn’t help me write the thoughts and feelings I want to express; at least, not with the clarity of content, the focus of feeling and general dramatic elements of music. It just doesn’t work as effectively for me as the music I write.  I always enjoyed memorizing the vocabulary and definitions of science, mathematics, music and physical activities.  However, when it came to the same things in language classes, I just felt uncomfortable and did only the minimum amount of work needed to score well.  After many years of English classes, three years of Latin and a passing knowledge of spoken Spanish, Italian, German, Russian and Dutch, now here I am finally actually trying to override my distaste, distrust and disassociation with my native tongue to learn how to be an Effective Writer.

Perhaps it has all been in vain; a waste of time that might have brought better and more satisfying results spent differently.  But with some chagrin, I admit the study has been enjoyable for the most part, even the nostalgia bit.  This newest and oldest favorite interest and activity of mine has been fun as long as it lasted. To once more quote Debussy; “Some people wish above all else to conform to the rules, I wish only to render what I hear. There is no theory. You only have to listen.”  One closing thought; when the editing process drops to the level of a compulsive obsessive disorder, the writing stops.

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