A Writer must know…

DISCLAIMER– This article has used ‘he’ while referring to a writer; this is done only to avoid the hassle of shuffling between he and she. No sexism is being promoted through such usage.


A writer must know the meaning of this word; a writer must know the synonym of that word; a writer must be aware of this rule of grammar; a writer must not look up for the meaning of that word; a writer must never, ever, make a grammatical mistake; a writer must know this, and a writer must know that- this is a peek into something I’ve been hearing from quite some time now. These are the rules that a writer (here, of English language) must adhere to. A writer, if he wants to sustain his ‘position’ as one, must know this and also that.

Why, I always wonder. Why is a writer supposed to know the meaning of all the possible words? And why, on the top of that, is a writer to be mocked or questioned about, if he fails to know the meaning of one or two or three or more words? Did he ever claim to be the know-it-all? If yes, then the mockery is, I can say, justifiable, still not necessary though. And, if no, who are you to tell if he should stop considering himself a writer or a storyteller or alike, only because he isn’t aware of the meaning of some of the thousands of words? A verbivore, or a logophile, or an etymologist for that matter, might be questioned about his inability to know the meaning of words, as what is expected of these nouns is words, words forming no stories or poetries, just simply words; the noun- writer- is expected to deliver much more than just words, he is expected to make sense out of these words.

When I look around, I realize how easy and natural it has become for us to be insensitive. And why not? After all, insensitivity asks for the least of the human’s heart, least of the human’s empathy, least of the human’s humanity. And this is why it is always easier to hate, to criticize, to mock others, than to love, to appreciate, to acknowledge them.

We do not try to understand a field; we, rather, build up our fences of expectations around it. And whosoever fails to cross them, becomes a subject of ridicule. And why is that? Because he couldn’t cross the unreasonable fences built around the field by the people who did not even play any role cultivating that field. This is the case not only in writing, every field nameable suffers from it. Funny, isn’t it?

Criticize the work you find faulty. Yes, do it. Do it wholeheartedly. (There is this term called constructive criticism.) Not every work is pretty, not everything works out for everyone, and so it’s legit to not like one piece of work. But appreciate the other piece, the piece that made your heart flutter and soul breathe. Why can’t we be as open to providing appreciation, as we are to providing criticism?

People fail to realize, how vast, how inexplicably vast a language is, especially the one like English, and so are its rules. Rules keep on changing; they change constantly. The change they bring, is accepted by some, disregarded by others.

In fact, if I take a closer look, I realize there is no such thing as rules in here. Yes, tenses still exist; they follow the same old gold rules. Active and passive still go by their way. Yet, subtle changes creep in while one writes. While one writes, a new rule, what we may also refer as style here, is, unconsciously, given birth to. Writers around notice, notice the changes, and imitate them or mock them, as to what suits them. It’s not always easy to break rules, especially in a language. You break one, you hear thousand voices against you. Creating a rule, or modifying an existing one, is an invitation to many raging voices.

But isn’t that how rules have always been spawned?

Once upon a time, it was Shakespeare, whose writings created various words, phrases and rules, which are still in usage and are still being followed. Then came modernists, who did the same thing. And our progeny would go by the same way. Why? Because that seems to be the only way this can work.

A language isn’t physics or chemistry, it has nothing to do with the earthly elements or its phenomenon. It doesn’t adhere to the gravity, it doesn’t have to. All it has to do is make as much sense to heart, as it does to brain.

A writer need not to know the meaning of this word; a writer need not to know the synonym of that word; a writer need not to be aware of this rule of grammar; a writer can look up for a meaning of that word; a writer can make a grammatical mistake; a writer need not to know this, and a writer need not to know that. A writer can be guilty of any or all of the above, and can still very well go on without questioning his ability to write.

A writer is an intimate part of a storyteller, of an author, of a diarist, of a columnist, of a journalist; it’s not an entity in itself. A writer is an intimate part of a much longer list of nouns, but, here, I would suffice it to say that a writer is always a part of a bigger picture; it is, never, a whole picture in itself. Improved and better writing helps enhancing a piece already complete in itself. ‘A writer’ isn’t even an independent identity and wholesome entity, I gather.

How to put it out here? Let us just stop considering ‘a writer’, a noun (only in literal sense.) Let us start taking it as an adjective, an adjective that beautifies a noun, such as a storyteller or an author or so. ‘A writer’ is a way of expression; it’s not an expression in itself. And a storyteller, a journalist, a columnist, a poet, a person who writes anything, must not know everything.

I started off discussing how unreasonable the expectations from a writer are, and ended up deducing that ‘a writer’ isn’t even a thing. I, sometimes, surprise even my own self.

Have you ever been a victim of an unreasonable chastising? Or are you guilty of doing it? Do share. Let’s discuss.

PS– This article is being posted on a weekday, in the night (IST), after a tragic gap of 3 weeks- all of which is off of my usual schedule. But from now on, this space, like before, would again be regular and up in your service. Please show some love. * puppy-face *


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Copyright © 2018 by Idle Muser. All rights reserved.


8 Comments Add yours

  1. lynnefisher says:

    For me, it’s all about keeping perspective while following your heart. If all someone can do in response to reading a section of my creative writing is pick on the grammar (some of which we consciously choose, like starting sentence with And…) then they haven’t read it in the right spirit, because they’ve been judging it from a kind of schooldays inherited mindset. It’s so utterly trivial in that regard and belongs in the proofreading stage. On the other hand, academic writing has conventions that we just have to get right, and I quite enjoyed this when I as doing it in the past. Two very different kinds of writing here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      I totally agree with you, Lynne.
      Reading in the right spirit is what many of the readers fail to do. Sometimes, I feel, some read only to do the nitpicking. Which, I find, is sheer time wastage.
      As I had discussed in one of my articles (the one on reviewing books), judging a book (here, any write-up) on the basis of what it wasn’t meant to offer, is the fault at reader’s part, not writer’s.
      But the writers, who do not even get the basic technical (here, grammatical) conventions right, and try to mould them for no good reasons, they need to realize that some rules need to be followed. By challenging such rules, one might be creating challenges for his own writing.


  2. Ste J says:

    It is good to be informed but staying within the rigid confines of the rules would stagnate literature. Everything has to be malleable to a certain extent in order to create new ways of approaching things.

    I have mocked a couple of lazy bestsellers in my time but it is better to be constructive in any criticism, give as you wish to receive and all that. I am always open to criticism if it valid and especially if it helps me improve.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      Definitely, Steve. Stagnancy is nothing but slow death. And we wouldn’t want literature to die, would we? Yet, basic grammar rules and conventions, that were meant to keep present away from future, and differentiate active from passive, shouldn’t be played with. Don’t you think so? We already play so much around with words and sentences and punctuation marks and much alike, that we already have created many new ways, and many are yet to be found.

      I’ve been at the same place as yours. But, I have always tried to stay constructive while criticising for 2 reasons- consciously, it’s hard for me to be harsh, and second is same as yours, i.e. give as you wish to receive; this philosophy I apply in most part of my life. As writers, as much as we wish to pen gracefully, as readers, we should be as graceful and kind to others’ words. Constructive criticism is all that has ever helped in improvement.


  3. Sakshi Raina says:

    According to me, one is a writer who writes solely from his heart to the masses because he enjoys sharing his stories and experiences. Everything else doesn’t understand an artist or a writer 🙂


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Idle Muser says:

      Thank you, Sakshi, for sharing your thoughts.😊

      What you said is true to its core. It’s the heart that matters, for most of the writing. Starting to create art for one’s own desires is an artist’s birth. It can only be after this birth that everything else follows.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. sk0611blog says:

    Quite an interesting point you have raised. You are quite right that people have really very high expectations from writers.

    And quite rightly so. This is deeply embedded into our phyche. Try remembering your formative educational years. We learned to read and write from the books only. Every printed word was imperiously correct. Writers could write nothing wrong. That’s why people put writers on high pedestal. And when such expectations are belied people react.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Idle Muser says:

      This is a perspective I hadn’t seen the situation from before. Thanks for sharing it here.🙂

      Yet, I hope, people try to not to enchain every art with their expectations, and let it breathe and grow at its own pace.


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