I look at words differently. I use them not unlike how an artist would use his color palette. I don’t care too much for rules or structure, which I know seems weird given my background. The truth is I grew up not studying words, but living in them. I dove into stories and lived in different worlds—real and make believe.
I let great people’s words show me what was, what is and what could be. I have to admit, the dictionary wasn’t of much help to me growing up in understanding different concepts. It was Twain who taught me the word adventure, Austen the word pride, and Alcott the true meaning of family; she also showed me what heartbreak was like. Rowling gave me magic; Salinger taught me what reality is, while Murakami, Nothomb, and Gaiman showed me everything in between that’s possible. I didn’t know what magnificence meant when I was kid. But I knew that it was a poignant story about a girl and a man named Vicente. I didn’t know what poignant meant either. But somehow I understood it. I understood the little girl, I feared Vicente. And I cared not for the pencils.
I don’t know the rules in subject-verb agreement by heart. I’m always confused whether “beneath” is a preposition or an adverb. No, I don’t always know when to use on, in, and at properly. I think I’ve used the future perfect progressive tense only once in my life and up to now I’m still not sure if I’ve used it correctly. And for the life of me, I don’t get why anyone has to quit using the Oxford comma in formal writing. But I know that a comma may mean a second’s hesitation; an em dash a heartbreak trying to conceal itself in that long pause; and a full stop everything you know and love to be over forever—a sense of finality. I know when someone says “can’t” to mean that he “won’t”. I understand that ellipses may sometimes mean she’s sparing you from hearing the harsh truth. I get it when someone encapsulates your entire life together and tries to save it by saying two simple words: I’m sorry.
The eight parts of speech. Whenever someone asks me to enumerate them, I always miss out on one or two. I feel bad for the parts of speech I always forget. I know they are equally important, but I hope they don’t punish me by evading my vocabulary when I need them. I hope I always get to scream “Ouch!” when I need to and say “Yay!” when the occasion calls for it.
I don’t know grammar. The rules do change every so often that I stopped caring a long time ago. Back when people still say “schedule” with a “k” than with an “sh” sound; back when people cared more about what you were trying to say rather than how you said it. I don’t know grammar the way linguists do. But I know how to express grief. I know what to not say during a eulogy and I know where to put the right pauses to emphasize a point. But I can’t recite the rules for when it is appropriate to use the past tense instead of the past perfect. I don’t know what a subject complement or an expletive is. And I can’t justify just how awkward saying “with regard to…” is when “regarding” or “about” would suffice.
But adjectives. Ah, they are my favorites. Those little words that give color to one’s emotion and qualify everything into something more. They make the seas, the mountains, and one’s love unfathomable, breathtaking, violent, and tranquil. They put depth into everything we see, hear, and feel (or not feel). They make things real. I may not care for a slice of cake, but for a moist chocolate cake with a rich swirl of dark chocolate ganache and caramel syrup, I may. People may not care about someone’s breakup. But when they find out that it was excruciatingly unbearable, that it was—let me borrow words from a slam poet—“wilder than grief”, they may just take things more seriously.
It pains me a little to admit that I, in fact, don’t know grammar. I don’t know how to explain why some words look “prettier” or are more appropriate than others. I just feel that they are. And most of the time when I’m lucky, I’m right.
All of this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to at least understand the rules. By all means, study them well enough to guide you, but not so much that they restrict you. Don’t worry if you can’t remember what SVO stands for or how many other sentence structures there are. Remember that there is more depth in words than its structure, than the technicality. Use the rules to let you express your imagination more. Don’t let them ruin you too much and filter your creativity. Just don’t. Ever.