There have been a few times in the past when I’ve been accused by some folks of being a somewhat skillful writer. Now it’s possible that these nice folks just don’t realize what skillful writing really looks like, so it’s also possible that opinions may vary widely among my readers (all three of them).
That being said, I was recently asked how I developed these skills. It all started with my mom. She was a stay-at-home mom when I was a wee lad, back in the early 60s; that’s the 1960s, not the 1860s. Anyway, mom took the time to teach me to read and write and appreciate books before I was in the 1st Grade. I will always be thankful for that.
Once I started on my educational journey, a classical Catholic school education, I was
inculcated er… I mean educated by Sister Mary Himmler and her ilk at St. What-His-Name’s Catholic Penitentiary. While I rebelled against the incessant brain-washing and militaristic discipline, I did excel in those three fundamental Rs that were offered in schools during that era… Reading, Riting, and Rithmetic.
I guess that some modicum of knowledge and skills were absorbed via osmosis and cracks of that 16″ wooden ruler applied to my knuckles (of the non-writing hand) and my ass cheeks during my stretch in the care of the Poor Sisters of Capital Punishment. Seriously, though… I do not regret my Catholic school education in the least. If there’s anything to rue about, it’s that I did not take full advantage and excel to even greater heights when I had the opportunity.
What brought this post to fruition today was a conversation with a friend a week or so ago. She had been admiring some article I had written somewhere (forget which/where now) sometime in the past and took a moment to ask me what reference books and such did I keep within reach near my writing desk that assisted me in my writing endeavors.
This then is that list:
- St. Martin’s Guide to Writing (1997)
- The Complete Plain Words by Gowers/Fraser (1973)
- The Chicago Manual of Style (14th Edition)
- Fowler’s Dictionary of Usage (1965)
- Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition (1969)
- Thorndike/Barnhart Dictionary (1962)
- Wheelock’s Latin (6th Edition)
- Cassell’s Latin Dictionary (1921)
- Roget’s Thesaurus (1969)
And because of the occasional need to brush up on my rusty Spanish:
- The Bantam New College Spanish/English Dictionary (1987)
*click to view the full sized image
Note the cool brown bag book covers. Bet you haven’t seen many of those around lately, huh? There’s a whole story about those covers on this blog. Check it out, if you’re interested.
I also regularly use Internet sources in my writing. A few listed below in no particular order:
- my local library online resources
- Google Search (of course)
- Writing Corner
- Purdue Online Writing Lab
So, you might be asking at this point, “What does it take to be a skillful writer?” Well, Hell if I know. When I become one, I’ll let you guys know. In the meantime, thanks for stopping by visiting with me for a bit.
Go learn something. It won’t hurt you none, I promise.