Writing Takes Courage ~ Not Commas

In my daughter’s kindergarten classroom, the children squirmed with anticipation. Their teacher read a story while the mom-helpers finished preparing for the Valentine’s Day party.

I scanned the room, looking for a place to help out. At one station, three moms chatted while they arranged the red plates and napkins. At another station, one mom — a young Chinese woman — quietly busied herself with heart-shaped cutouts.

I walked over and asked, “Can I help with anything?”

She glanced up and smiled. Then she motioned to the extra pair of scissors on the table.

I introduced myself as I began cutting out hearts made of construction paper.

“Hi, I’m Denise.”

She hesitated before replying, “I’m Anne.”

We continued to exchange small-talk, but we struggled to understand each other. Anne spoke little English.

Then she asked me, “Before daughter. You work?”

I blithely answered, “Yes, I used to be an English teacher.”

Anne looked back to the paper heart in her hand as a shadow of shame fell across her face. She barely whispered, “I speak bad English.”

I reached out and touched Anne’s shoulder. I whispered back, “I’d say your English is a lot better than my Chinese!”

She laughed with me.

And we’ve since become friends.

Over time, I’ve learned that Anne came to America several years ago when her family arranged her marriage. Her fear of using the English language incorrectly has inhibited her from connecting with other moms at school. Loneliness abides.

I don’t think Anne is alone.

I hear the same hesitation in the blogging world. Women feel drawn to putting words on paper, ink on screen. They long to write and share their lives with others, yet their fear of using incorrect grammar hinders their hearts. They hold back. They worry. They apologize.

Dear friends, may I tell you a secret? There’s a new pedagogy in town.

What does this mean? It means that English professors, these days, are asking something different of their students — something different than what you or I might have experienced in our own English classrooms.

I recently went back to work. Every fall semester, I teach college composition, and I collaborate with other professors. We are of one accord.

We encourage content and clarity over “correctness.”

Please, write. Don’t hold back. Be brave. Put those words out there. Put your heart out there. We long to hear from you.

You have a story. And we want to hear it.

We can worry about commas later.

What is your biggest worry when it comes to writing?

Today, I’m joining Lisa-Jo, taking 5 minutes to write about “brave.”

Writing my life verse: 4 minutes
Writing this post: 7 minutes
Uploading photo and link: 8 minutes
Spending Fridays with you: Priceless

46 thoughts on “Writing Takes Courage ~ Not Commas

  1. What a relief! I often have this horrible feeling that I have made some glaring grammatical error that the rest of the world saw and evaded my eyes. Thanks for the encouragement Denise. I noticed you are going to two conferences. Have you gone to many? I am trying to decide on one or two and don’t have a clue. Any advice? I would love to meet you in RL!

    • I went to Mt. Hermon’s Writer’s Conference last year. And this will be my first time attending She Speaks and Allume. I might try to check out Blissdom next year. If you ever find yourself going to a conference, let me know It would be awesome to meet you in person and chat over a cup of tea!

  2. Great encouragement Denise! I didn’t write for many years because I feared my imperfections. When I finally decided to walk through that fear and write I experienced some of the most amazing joy I’ve ever had. Writing makes me feel alive…mistakes and all!

  3. Thank you for befriending the Asian mother. I know you are a gift from God to her. I shrank beneath my fear of Spanish while doing mission work in Ecuador. As an outgoing young adult, limited ability to communicate stifled me. I became shy for a time, as well as depressed. Then God sent a beautiful young friend who spoke excellent English and helped me with Spanish. She helped me be myself again. I loved her and am sad that we have lost contact!

    Thanks for encouraging others, as well, to blog from the heart and be themselves in blogland. We all need friends like you!

    • Tereasa, thank you for sharing a bit of your story here. What a blessing your friend was at a particular time in your life. Keep writing, my friend. There is so much in your heart to share. {HUGS}

  4. When I first started blogging, I would take hours to publish a post. I was so afraid I would have bad grammar or spelling, or that I would clearly convey what I wanted to. But over the last year or so I’ve begin to come into my own as a writer and rest in the Lord while telling His story. I don’t worry so much about the other stuff.

    • Barbie, it’s such a relief to hear you say that. When I first started blogging, I would spend hours on just one post too. And, yes, I would definitely say that you have “come into your own as a writer” because I enjoy your blog so much. 🙂

  5. You are amazing. I LOVED THIS POST.
    I have turned a critical eye on my own voice, trying to get it right— and when I am finished, often the end result doesn’t sound like ME at all. So I scrap it and start over!

    I just love you.
    And.. I totally need to check that I am subscribed, because somehow I missed this. *tear* Did you change your feed somehow recently??

    • Hey there, sweet Mer! I’m sorry you’ve missed some posts! I haven’t changed anything, so I’m not sure what it might be! As much as I love writing, the technical aspects of blogging sometimes stress me out because I don’t always know how to fix things!

      I so appreciate the journey you are on right now, being obedient to listen and follow His leading. You are a treasure. Keep writing!

  6. What a lovely blog! I found it via your mom, Marsha, @ Spots & Wrinkles (love her!!)

    That whole grammar thing can be intimidating, but I try to force it to the back of my mind, knowing it can all be corrected later. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Juliel, it’s nice to “meet” you. I love your name! I sometimes give my mom a hard time for giving me such a common name. 😉 I’m glad you have found my mom’s blog. I call her a writing machine because she can generate text like no blogger I have ever seen, and she does it without ever needing a prompt too! 🙂

  7. You have so blessed my heart today. Speaking clarity over correctness. I almost walked away from writing because I was a horrible English student. HORRIBLE!!! I wanted to write from my heart. I wanted others to feel my heart and get the message. I could have cared less about the correctness – thus being a horrible English student. After school I didn’t write much – gave. it. up. The teachers words haunted me. I wan’t about to put my bad grammar and misplaced comma’s out for anyone else to see. But God stirred my heart for years and I finally got BRAVE! Boy, I was vulnerable and scared! So thankful I stepped out. I’m still not good at all that English stuff, but what I love about just being me is showing off writing “voice” not only in what I say, but the way I phrase and punctuate. I just want to be real and speak to another heart. Love this friend. Hugs back to you!!!

    BTW – having a hard time getting this to post.

    • Alene, I am so thankful you stepped out too. I appreciate your voice so much. And I’m pretty sure that God isn’t concerned with our commas either. 🙂

      You’re not alone; I’ve had a few notes from friends who have had a difficult time posting on WordPress this weekend. I’m afraid I don’t know what it is that’s causing it. Bummer!

  8. Denise, I love this for several reasons. I’m a former English teacher, too, except instead of going the professor route, I chose the librarian route (you know that foreign language requirement?).

    I adore how you befriended this woman, and it really causes me to empathize with the LEP people in my life. I think of the custodians who come in to clean my library every day and how I try to talk to them and it’s all funny and they help me and I help them and we laugh about it, but they face that language barrier all the time. It must get old, and it must cause them to do as your friend did much of the time.

    The other thing I love about this post is how you say that you professors are noticing these new trends in clarity over correctness. I know that since blogging, that has certainly become the norm for me. Sometimes correctness just has no place in a blog post. I don’t know if it’s the informality of it or what, but I find myself commonly breaking all the rules that were so ingrained in me from growing up with my English teacher-father. In fact, most of the time I don’t feel I can even express myself at all without breaking those rules. I love the encouragement you offer here, to everyone.

    So, here’s to blogging! Woot!!

    • Amy, that’s so funny because one of my dearest friends is a librarian, and she’s always teasing me that I should have become a librarian too! 🙂 Librarians and English teachers are close kin.

      When blogging, I find myself breaking the rules too. And it’s so hard at first. But through blogging, I’ve been able to overcome some of the formal academic lingo I had become so accustomed to. And I like it better.

      May your weekend be blessed and bright. 🙂

  9. I like this, Denise. I really do. I struggle with trying to write my story yet be sensitive when it involves others – which it frequently does. But I love the fact that you aren’t worried about my commas!

    • That is, indeed, one of the biggest challenges I face too. Not every story is mine to tell. And even my own stories still involve others, so I must always be sensitive and use wise discretion when writing a story. Even in this post, Anne is not her real name.

      May you have a blessed week. 🙂

  10. “Spending Fridays with *you*: Priceless”! And this post is priceless, too. One of the unexpected things that blogging is teaching me is to loosen up. I’ve never broken so many grammar rules! And yes, usually on purpose. The conversational spirit here sometimes demands it!

    These free-writing sessions *made public*(!!) I often find downright scary, but that isn’t just about grammar, it’s about the transparency that happens, and the fear of what I’ll say! It’s easy to hide behind edited words, but this is often soul-baring exposure! (And maybe no one will like me?)

    Plus, I expect the output to be blather. I read these posts, though, like this one, and am amazed at the great thoughts, wording, and even organization that happens within five minutes. Wow. Epiphany! Freedom! Thanks!

  11. Thanks for sharing this. You know, when I started blogging, I read everyone else’s polished blogs with gorgeous photography and I felt I had nothing to contribute. I remember telling the Lord, “What do you need me for? You got thousands of women writing for you!”

    But nobody else can tell my story but me ….

  12. Denise, you have such a wonderful way with words – and your heart warming stories always cause me to pause and ponder, reflect on some of my own experiences. When you share these stories, many times I can think – oh yes, that happened to me too. I think my biggest fear around my writing is simply not being good enough or have anything of interest to say. Good enough for whom, I haven’t quite fathomed! If I leave my inhibitions I can write to share a story or something on my heart and maybe, just maybe, God can use that to touch someone else and bring clarity and healing to them, relationship and fellowship too. Often though, the writing is doing some healing and bringing and clarity to me! Thank you for sharing this today. Also I wanted to thank you for your prayers for my daughter last week. We are home from hospital! Yay! But the journey for us is far from over and she begins further treatment at the beginning of April. Your prayers encouraged us both though, thank you Denise.

    • Oh, Kate, I am so glad to hear your daughter is home from the hospital. I’ve been thinking about you all week.

      And I would love to read more of your stories. Your heart shines through your words.

  13. As the mother of dyslexic kids, this post really blessed me. My kids have the best stories but struggle so much to get them on paper. Grammar rules just don’t stick with them. I’ll let them read this and hope that it encourages them!

    • Oh, Marianne, thank you for sharing a bit of your heart here. The truth is, grammar rules don’t stick with any of us. Rules, in and of themselves, are not the most effective means of teaching grammar ~ which we English teachers have a been slow to figure out! (I should probably write more about this.) Blessings to you and your sweet kids.

  14. You write all your posts just for me, don’t you. I’m convinced of that… It took me so long to finally say ‘yes’ to God when He asked me to start blogging because–you guessed it. I was afraid of the grammar portion of it! I’m not kidding, that was my main reason. followed by others of course.
    Thank you for encouraging me to continue to share my journey even though my grammar may seem like fingernails on a chalkboard at times! ; )
    hugs to you, Denise!
    loved your post as always.
    All for Him,

    • Nikki, I’ve been reading your posts for a little while now, and I can honestly say that your grammar has NEVER seemed like fingernails on a chalkboard! Truly! You’re a wonderful writer and your words bless many.

  15. Found you through Gypsy Mama…and thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! It was a blessing and encouragement to me. I have always loved and enjoyed writing but recently have ventured out to sharing it through my blog. At times, I t find myself feeling stressed concerning the grammatical aspects of writing and it can be hard to discern what advice I should or should not listen to regarding such. This post reminded me to simply continue taking the risk of sharing my story from my heart. I look forward to following your website–thanks again!

  16. Fantastic post! Absolutely fantastic. Maybe it’s just the kind of day it is. Maybe it’s just me. But your post made me tear up. I’m an editor, a mom, a writer. And I do all of these things in a way to eke out a connection with others. Writing is something I have always done, but very seldom have I “released” my personal writing to reading eyes until fairly recently. Courage in my writing has slowly started to build as others have connected with me because of my writing. For me, it is mostly about connecting. I have noticed of late that my biggest worry is no longer what people will think of what I have written, but rather what if no one connects with what I have written. Thank you for your beautiful post.

    • You are so right on! Connecting has everything to do with writing! It’s why we write ~ to connect our deepest thoughts and feelings with others. Nancy, I love your heart, and I can’t wait to read more of your heart too. {HUGS}

  17. How Anne must have appreciated your kindness, Denise…so sweet/so like Jesus. Thank you for your words have ministered to my heart today…newbie writer, non-English major that I am…I’m pretty sure I have broken some grammar rules in my blog posts 🙂

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