Receiving A Valid Ticket From The Punctuation Police: And Pleading A Case

Readers who’ve been with me for a while know all too well my struggles via the printed word. I have been very candid in print as well as speaking: I can barely spell cat without running it through a spellchecker.

Punctuation? Please, I have an even harder time knowing what goes where, when to use commas, colons, and all the rest. Grammar? I hit that about 50/50. My only clue to this ratio is in direct proportion of violation alerts I receive via what I deem a more over-arching authority: The Grammar Gestapo.

These are the people I equate to as “the don’t mess with crowd.” For they take their position very, very, very seriously. I think of them all in my-own self-made  hierarchical order. The Punctuation Police are the locals; the Grammar Gestapo are the feds! And just like most federal agencies: Ignorance is no excuse. I might be able to talk my way out of a ticket with the PP, but the GG? Forget about it. I’m going straight to the slammer!

Since we’re going into the holiday weekend I’d like to take a moment and elaborate (or meander) on some of this and more. And why I decided it was important to write this post. (even though as I said it might meander)

The reason isn’t about me: It’s about many of you allowing yourselves to be hobbled into not taking risks for fear of criticism.

I am here to state rather bluntly: That is the worst, most soul sucking way you can go through life. Don’t let that happen.

If you truly desire you want to achieve something you must be willing to take the necessary steps and move into the line of fire approaching whatever your subject matter is, with the best of your abilities while simultaneously; not fooling yourself that you don’t (or wont) need improvement along the journey because of material gains made along the way. The journey is: Self-improvement. The money gained is only a tool to help fuel the journey. Nothing more.

Getting back to the title of this post. It was prompted when I was reading comments on a blog where I am a contributor. As many of you know I don’t have comments on my own blog and never have. However, this is the doldrums going into the summer season so I decided why not read a few.

My latest post, “Forget Shrugged Atlas May Just Throw Up His Hands” has been very well received. So when I was perusing some sites reading various comments I was struck when I read the following:  “Mark Sweety , the punctuation in this article . I would of expected this be written in crayon . Don”t quit your day job .”

As many people who have followed me know this type of commentary or snark I could care less. (not to mention the possible grammatical error contained within their snark) However, this time I decided to see if there was a valid point. (As opposed to inadvertently missing a glaring typo or a misspelling.) The point was valid. The punctuation wasn’t incorrect in places: It was down right atrocious.

Again, it’s rare that I read comments on other sites and the reason for that is I found out very early on from people who ran or started other blogs: it’s very easy to become obsessed with them. Whether they received 1 or 1000 it didn’t matter. The obsession developed as to try and read between the lines of every single commenter. i.e., What do they mean exactly by “the sun is rising?” Is there a hidden meaning that I should now use or eliminate “sun” in my posts? What if I use the moon? Will I lose them? Will I gain more comments? Should I write about planets instead?

Many curbed their views while some decided not to write at all for fear of writing the wrong thing. What has happened to most of these blogs over the years? They’re gone or abandoned. Some of these people I knew personally. Some were professional writers, editors, and more. Their command of language and all that entails by right should have allowed them far more ease at content or expression; with far fewer worries about criticism within the scope of typo’s and such. Yet, they’re gone.

People want everything to be absolutely perfect before and sometimes even while moving. You can’t in all situations. As a matter of fact you’ll find in practice more times than not: this is exactly the wrong thing to do. For it helps create more inertia rather than helping to start any form of momentum.

If you’re about 80% ready whatever the en devour: you should move or start. The remaining 20% more often than not you’ll find is unnecessary. If it’s found you do need it: You can acquire it on the go.

Your default position should be to move earlier or sooner with a hint of reckless abandonment, rather than waiting for perfection before proceeding. (Unless you’re constructing a nuclear facility. Just saying.)

Personally that’s how I’ve approached most things in my life. My writing is just my latest expression. I know I have issues. I struggle daily searching for proper punctuation, spellings, phrases, grammatical errors and more. But that can’t be a crutch as to not move.

I put my best foot forward and hope that readers will look at the idea expressed in context. So far like many of my past endeavors this philosophy has proved correct. I would rather be known for coming up short but trying my best, rather than trying to be perfect and not accomplishing squat.

If you have something to say, or have something you want to express (as in a business of any shape, size, or type) you must err on the side of moving too early, rather than waiting for everything to be perfect.

I can not emphasize this enough. Move and improve on the move. That should be your mantra. Forget all the naysayers. Move, move…..Move! Economic conditions and more be damned. Make your own conditions!

I was reminded of the importance of this while running yesterday for it gave me additional promoting to write about this very thing. As I was running I was alerted to a new single just released by friends of mine Godsmack (GS). Their newest release is, “1000hp.” (YouTube™ link here)

As some may know I refer and incorporate anecdotes from their success in some of my writings and talks because we both have done things at the same time where everyone told us: “No F’n way you’ll ever get there!”

Friends of ours that were other musicians, business owners and more all telling us, “Maybe you should rethink your goals?” We didn’t – we doubled down. But these weren’t based on pie in the sky thinking. We knew the risks. We knew failure was not only possible, but very well could be probable. Yet, we moved, pushed, ready or not, go, go….GO!

Why this song caught me were the lyrics. In 1995 we were struggling. Both of us. I was there when the band didn’t have more than a handful of followers. I at the time was in between career choices wondering just where and what I was going to do next.

I remember going to their first show under the banner of GS where I was one of an audience of about 20 when they played to a basically empty room. (They were opening for another of my friends band before they switched names and went full force under GS) When they first decided to try recording I was there with my other friend that owned the studio, bringing my gear for them to use if needed. (They were just cutting their chops in the studio and as friends do, I offered what ever I had if needed.)

Now nearly 20 years later I find it fascinating that no matter the success (watching theirs as well as living my own) the journey is still as fun and as fresh as it ever was. I continue to hit milestones others told me were basically unattainable, or rare if ever were going to happen. They are still touring the world playing some of the largest stages when most are nothing more than one hit wonders. Or as David Lee Roth once stated, “Here today, gone later today.”

For the guy’s in GS I know first hand what they were up against and how much commitment they made to their cause. I can remember like it was yesterday having discussions with others that were “the professionals” commenting on why they (GS) didn’t have a chance. What and why they were playing was already done and more. Now it’s they that are still sitting there watching as they (GS) continue reaping the benefits of all that hard work and risk taking.

I still find it amazing that my career took off at about the same time only in a different direction. For here I was at the same time, same place dreaming the “big dream.” Who was I to think without graduating from high school (let alone college) while always facing the finger waging of “You’re going to end up nowhere” then would end up running one of the largest independent food companies in New England, along with being involved with so many other ground breaking events. Retiring at 45 years old, then becoming a writer, speaker and more where my thoughts at any given time can be viewed (some in the millions) around the globe. I left the music stage behind deciding to immerse myself in business pursuits only to find myself back on one now commanding speaking fees of $35,000.00 and up. Just absolutely mind-boggling. (Again, all this from a person who has a hard time spelling cat without spell checker. Let alone fluent in grammar and punctuation.)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking proper feedback. Actually I recommend it. However, be very guarded as in not allow yourself to be swayed in your pursuits by listening to detractors or free advice givers.  Taking unsolicited advice is usually the worst thing one can do. Remember, most advice of this type is for the purpose of making the sender feel superior, not to actually help the recipient.

Many just want to take shots because they feel it’s their job as a self-appointed critic. Others just don’t understand what it is to think as “big” as you do, so they reflexively will say: “That wont, can’t, will never, ______ (fill in the blank).” etc., etc., etc.

However, if there are times when someone makes an observation where you’ll find there just might be some validity; it is inherent upon you to improve upon yourself if it’s found to be valid. There’s nothing wrong with that either. Just understand the difference and not allow it to immobilize you.

You can always improve, we all can. But do your improving on the move. That’s where you’ll find the highest multiplying effects. You’ll stumble, you’ll get embarrassed, you’ll mess-up. People will call you on it, call you out in public. Who cares! Move, move, move!

Be big enough to acknowledge a valid point even if it hurts and find ways to improve. Maybe you’ll decide to make this holiday of independence your own starting point where you claim independence over your own course, rather than allowing yourself to be blown too and fro, never setting a sail to mark your own place on a map to where you want to go.

Set your sail, get your bearings, and GO! Critics be damned!

It’s a great big world out here. You’re the captain. The destination is yours for the choosing no matter what anyone wants to tell you.

I’m living proof. (as long as I can spell it I guess)

© 2014 Mark St.Cyr

Addendum: I was asked after I wrote this if I could give an example of someone who was an actual writer that they would know as to give them more context. The name that came to my mind was Stephen J. Cannell. Mr. Cannell wrote scripts for some of my favorite shows to this day” It Takes A Thief, Ironsides, Columbo, Adam 12, and many, many more.

I remember years ago hearing him during an interview recanting his lifelong struggle with dyslexia. This would have stunted the ambition as to even contemplate the idea of writing, let alone actually pursue it. Most would look upon this condition as fatal. He looked at it as an obstacle that just needed to be dealt with. He was also known for describing his condition as something that enriched his life.

So debilitating was his condition I remember him laughingly state during an interview (I’m paraphrasing):  Nobody could steal his ideas because only his then secretary could decipher his writing. It would be like looking at code for anyone else.

Let people like this be inspiration for you to follow you pursuits as well. Just imagine how many people tried telling him when he was first contemplating a career in writing: “Steve, c’mon, you can’t spell properly and you want to be taken seriously as a writer? You better rethink that idea and focus on a career in your father’s business.”

Remember, there were no such things as word processors with spell checkers and all the other attributes we take for granted today. As a matter of fact, I don’t think WhiteOut® was even invented yet!