After a probing and far-reaching conversation with friend, client, and self-care expert Dr. Sana Johnson-Quijada (who writes friendtoyourself.com and who is hosting a workshop series this month to bring her work to a greater portion of the local community), I found myself inspired…to dig through my trashcan.

This is probably not what she meant exactly when she said I should head toward the parts of life that I find painful, to confront those parts, and then to give myself time to embrace my passion for words, coaching, and yes, even judgment, as an Editor (I could hear her say that with a capital “E”).  How many times do we meet someone who encourages us really to be all that we are? And to celebrate that Self, to look at the parts we conceal more often than reveal and to fly the flag of our selfhood?

I found part of that self this afternoon covered with coffee grounds and moist with any number of possible substances.

Because the truth is…

…. that I can’t enjoy even the last little bit of dark chocolate gelato without getting freaky about the grammar.

Wait, scratch that. It wasn’t just the last bit: I noticed this mistake the first time I ever took the carton out of the freezer and had time to read it. “A chocolate lovers dream.” Why? WHY? Must we desecrate the carton of glorious dark chocolate gelato, smooth and thick on the tongue, simply because we couldn’t run it by an editor?

“A chocolate lover’s dream.”

A few days ago I wrote a post about gathering my joy while eating the last bit of that gelato with my daughter, Katie. Spending time with her and looking for the good in life are two of my passions, too. Writing about what is good and joyful in the day keeps me sane. No joke. Periods in which I have stopped writing/not had time to write are dark periods for me. Everyone needs a cathartic outlet. Often when I write, I edit out the poorly constructed parts of my day, much like I would edit a poorly constructed sentence. We don’t need to focus on the headache from being tired or the nail polish that spilled on the floor—not if it is not edifying. I usually only write about those types of issues when something positive is to be gained by lingering upon them.

The beautiful quality about grammar, though, is that pointing out and fixing an error is almost always useful. Clean and proper grammar is accessible to everyone—democratic—either through learning a set of fixed grammar rules and more fluid construction conventions, or by hiring wordy-nerdy people like me who were born with a passion for that sort of system. Did the gelato taste delicious? Yes! Did I love that moment with my daughter? Of course. It is my belief, however, that Gelato Classico would have more credibility as a brand if the grammar were clean. Okay, more credibility maybe just with me… Still, taking the time to clean up grammar—or to hire someone to do it—is a sign that a company takes itself seriously enough to want its image and brand to be pristine. It means the company cares about its productenough to get it right.

Reading too much into a simple grammar blunder? Maybe. Right about now the ever-present question comes up: Wow, Sarah is going bananas about a gelato carton! What must she think about my e-mail/text/Facebook status/etc? Or better, the juggernaut that barrels down the necks of editors everywhere: Eat the gelato, and be quiet already. I hope YOU never make a mistake when you write, Sarah, because then you’ll get what you deserve.

The out-of-the-closet truth in my world is this: I do not get through the day—any day—without noticing grammar errors. Yet while I determine and pronounce the error, I do not judge you. In our more informal world, we are more casual about our grammar. I have been known to play free and loose with grammar, too—okay, not really. Yet I do make mistakes. I go back sometimes and read past entries and just cringe…and hope to hope that no one has noticed.

The beauty of having an editor is that someone like me can do all the obsessive caring FOR you. And it is an obsession. I was re-reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, and one of his arguments is that it takes 10,000 hours (or thereabouts) of practice and study to be truly at the top of the field at any such thing. It is probably not possible to study grammar and all manner of word-related trivia for 10,000 hours without having an obsession about it. It’s so boring—except, that it’s not. 😉

And so I present the mangled, trashed, rinsed, and photographed dark chocolate gelato carton: the symbol of my obsession, which I sometimes relegate to the hidden places next to all things gooey and sticky and sometimes redolent of musty earth. I don’t often trot it out, because that sort of obsession can get looks in the schoolyard you know.

Here’s a new goal: to post something editor-or-word-related at least once a week, stay away from the preachy tone of a marm, and pay homage to the trials and tribulations of the English language.

What is your secret obsession?

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