Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Secret Writer Shame

Words I cannot spell without the spell checker:

  • Caribbean
  • sergeant 
  • medieval
  • satellite
  • bureau
  • caffeine (ironically)
  • occasion 
  • jeopardy 
  • jealousy 

  • Actually, I can spell them correctly NOW, because the spell checker has trained me. But every time I type them, I have to consciously remind myself: two p’s, s not t, put an i in there somewhere... and so on. 
    Or I just take random stabs at it until the little red line goes away.
    Because some words I don’t even get close enough for the spell checker to take a stab at. Like...

    • silhouette
    • camouflage 
    • guarantee 
    I am not lying--one day I had to type “shadow” then pull up the thesaurus (ha! Got that one on the first try!) and look for ‘silhouette’ among the synonyms. 
    Do you even have to take spelling tests in school any more? (You wouldn’t know it from some of the posts on the Internet... Including mine sometimes.)  Well, spelling tests were the bane of my existence. So when I told my guidance counsellor (there’s another word) that I wanted to write books, she said, quote, “Oh, your spelling is much too bad to be a writer. And your grades in English aren’t that great, either. You need to stick with the sciences.” 
    (Just as an aside--when I had English teachers I loved, I had fantastic grades. It’s always easier to read books you don’t want to read if you get to discuss them with a teacher who’s opinion you value.) 
    Anyway. She was the grown up, and I figured I could write books no matter what I had a degree in. College is really about learning to learn, getting a firm foundation for the knowledge your going to spend the rest of your life stacking on top of it. My advice to young want-to-be-writers is get a degree in something you will like doing, because it’s can be a long road to selling a book.
    So THAT part wasn’t bad guidance. The REAL whammy was someone telling me I was unqualified for what I loved to do. Even though I had one of those new-fangled computer things (which my counsellor had apparently never heard of, because they didn’t have spell-check on stone tablets), the lesson--”You are only good enough to do this as a hobby.”--stuck. 
    Fast forward ten years, when I’d been writing as a “hobby” and talking about writing a book but not following through. And I looked at my writing, and I looked at the books that were on the shelves, and I said, “You idiot. The only difference between them and you is THEY have managed to finish a book. You’ll never know if you suck at this until you DO it.” 
    So I did it. And it worked out pretty well.  I guess I don’t suck at it. 
    Of course, spell check and a good proofreader help. 
    Now, it could just as easily have turned out that I wasn’t a great writer, and that no one but my mother would see my genius. There are people who love to sing but sound like a dying cat when they do. 
    My point is not “Ignore everyone who tells you not to follow your dream.”  It’s: "Don’t let anything stop you from trying."
    Fact: I’m a bad speller. So I learned to use spell check.
    Fact: I needed to support myself while I learned to write more better. So I got a degree in something I was good at. 
    Fact: People asked me, “When are you going to get a real job?”  So I stopped talking about writing and submitting a book and actually, you know, wrote and submitted one. I made it my real job by working at it, not necessarily by succeeding at it. (Though that helps shut people up.) 
    Then there’s this: If you sing like a dying cat, you may never be on American Idol (except maybe the audition show).  But don’t let anything ever stop you from singing in the shower. 
    Question: What are YOU bad at?  Do you love to do it anyway? Have you gotten better, or do you just do it for the love of doing it?

    17 comments:

    1. That's some good advice, that right there.

      And I also find typing words I can't spell into google usually helps locate what I'm after, fyi! ;)

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      1. I've done that. I figure, I can't possibly be the only one who can't spell this word. And I'm usually not.

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    2. I won my school's spelling bee in 6th grade, but I don't know what happened since then because I can't spell AT ALL anymore. Actually, I think it's BECAUSE of spell check that I can't spell anymore. It's made me lazy. Just like I use to have perfect cursive penmanship and now I have illegible chicken scratchings because I barely ever write anything by hand. Technology has made me so lazy! I'm addicted to all things techy though, so I don't see myself changing.

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      1. Agree. I'm quite dependent on my spell check, calculator, typing. I haven't given up hand writing stuff yet--though my penmanship is terrible, it has nothing to do with technology, it has to do with always writing in a hurry.

        And yes, my addiction to tech means I won't be changing this side of the zombie apocalypse.

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    3. My sixth grade English class did a mock spelling bee once. Until that point I was the golden child who always knew all the answers. Well...

      We went with "two strikes you're out" rules. The first word I got was "bearing." I spelled it b-a-r-r-i-n-g. After me came the kid who always fell asleep in class, and he spelled it right.

      Then I got "arise." Now I've always been really bad at knowing what words are -ise words and what words are -ize words. So I thought to myself "I'll just blur the end of the word so you can't really tell what I'm saying." The end result: my spelling came out sounding like a-r-i-z.

      And of course, yet again the other guy spelled it correctly.

      So after English I had History. Halfway through the History class the boy who always fell sleep in English walked in and said, "The English teacher sent me in here to make sure Audrey doesn't need help in this class too."

      I don't know if I've ever turned so red in my life.

      So yeah, I've always been a horrible speller too. If spell check was a person, we'd be attached at the hip.

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      1. lol. Poor you! Those early humiliations never go away.

        Worse trouble I got into in a spelling bee was correcting the teacher on her pronunciation of the word. She had a thick Texas accent and I couldn't tell what the word was until she used it in a sentence. (Your "bearing/barring" story reminded me, because it was something like that. Hereabouts, those would be pronounced the same way.)

        Me: "Can you use it in a sentence?"

        Her: "Jane wuz BARRING a heavy load."

        Me: "Oh! You mean BEARING."

        I wasn't even being sarcastic! (I can pronounce and define, I just can't SPELL.)

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      2. Same with me, except that there are some words I've always mispronounced since I only ever saw them in books.

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      3. Oh, me, too. And I love how around book four of Harry Potter, Rowling explained in text how to pronounce Hermione's name. (Here, readers! This is how you say it!) :D

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    4. I went from being a poor speller to a pretty good one, but I'm still struggling with words like bureaucracy and diarrhea -- two words that make combine for a horrid experience.

      Still, I think writers suffer with this more than other folks, because most people settle down with their comfortable 20-30,000 words and do most of the communication with those. Not to say that writers are wasting $5 words when nickel ones will do, but sometimes when you reach into your word toolbox, you really do need the arc welder because glue isn't going to cut it.

      But what I am BAD at? I can't draw to save my life. For that matter, I can't draw someone else saving my life, but I had all these great images in my head. After ten years of frustration, I found a work around (computers for the win!) and created artwork for four or five years before getting back to writing more. I wasn't Picasso, but I was good enough to sell stuff.

      And for the record, I needed spell check on four words in this comment. :)

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      1. This...

        "sometimes when you reach into your word toolbox, you really do need the arc welder because glue isn't going to cut it."

        ...is awesome.

        I can't draw either. I admire people who can, I wish I could at least doodle. But not enough to work at getting better. :)

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    5. I've done the SAME thesaurus trick when I've missed a word so badly even spell check couldn't figure it out. (I've also had to use my computer's dictionary and scan an entire letter's worth of words when I couldn't think of a synonym to use in the thesaurus.)

      My two words that I can NEVER spell on the first try - mustache and villain - I think my auto correct just sees them coming and fixes them for me now.

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      1. I, too, have scanned the dictionary looking for the word I want. My dad actually had something called "The Bad Spellers Dictionary" where you could look up a word by how you thought it was spelled... which only worked if you spell badly the way most people spell badly.

        OMG. Mustache should be on my list. I can never get that one right.

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    6. License and independent get me every time.

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      1. I had to look up license just to make sure. It didn't look right. :D

        And independent used to get me, too. That's one I just trained myself to remember. (Though I type it wrong half the time anyway.)

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    7. And,yes,I did just look them up.

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    8. I am a hobby writer (by choice! - I don't love it enough to commit) and I used to have a trick for words I couldn't spell. I've always been a good speller so there aren't too many that consistently give me trouble, but what I used to do was write a short story about a character whose name was the word that was bothering me. Trust me, after writing a thousand words about two girls named Medieval and Renaissance, I'm no longer capable of misspelling them!

      It's funny, Rosemary, to hear you say that you can pronounce and define but can't spell because I'm the opposite - I can spell words that I can't pronounce or define. When I read I basically guess at meanings of unfamiliar words based on context and my knowledge of Spanish, Latin, and ancient Greek. But I can't tell someone else what it means, not for sure, and I often mispronounce a word if I try to use it in conversation because I've never actually heard it before, only read it. Just recently my boyfriend and I were debating the use of the word "ameliorate" - one of those SAT words I picked up in high school that he'd never even heard of. I know how to use it but I didn't know what it technically meant, so I had to look up a word I've been using for years so I could explain it to my boyfriend.

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      1. Now I have to amend my statement...

        Nuclear. That one. I *always* pronounce it like a certain Texan former president even though every time it comes up I think, "pronounce it right, pronounce it right." Then it comes out "nucular" any way. It's like I psych myself out on it.

        By the way--I hope it didn't sound like I was disparaging writing for pure enjoyment. I know many really talented (or really enthusiastic) people who do it for love. :-D I still write things for no one but myself (or a few select friends). It's wonderful, because i have no one's expectations to meet but my own.

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