No, you don't, but it is important. Bad grammar or the lack of it should not hold you back. I have known grammar aficionados who write terrible prose. I have also known people who have no grammar write great stories, stories that are direct from the heart. Here is one such writing by Bill Neidjie (Kakadu Man), an Australian Aboriginal elder:
My people… all dead We only got a few left… that’s all, not many.
We getting too old. Young people… I don’t know if they can hang on to this story… might be you can hang on to this story… to this earth…
You got children… grandson. Might be your grandson will get this story… keep going… Hang on like I done My spirit has gone back to my country… my mother.
What more could the above say – better grammar would not improve the power of the piece. And, even without grammar it is clear and easy to follow.
So do not let your lack of education, specifically a lack of grammar stop you. Rather, feel your writing, to be absorbed into it. If your grammar is not too good, don’t be concerned in the short term – just write. If you love writing, the grammar will come, and you will pick up bits here and there. Whereas, who learnt grammar for grammar’s sake? We learn grammar as a means to an end.
If your grammar is suspect, apply the following:
Make sure that the full grammar settings in your word processing software are on (checked). Usually, the default settings only make use of about a quarter of the options.
When you spell-check, take your time, and make sure you take heed of all those prompts.
Many writing coaches suggest to new authors to write from what they are familiar with. That makes sense as it is easier to focus on the writing. But once you are established as a writer, Elif Shafak (a novelist from Turkey) suggests that you expand your writing into what you don’t know. That way you grow as an individual and your store of knowledge can be drawn from a wider field.
There will be a lot more on What to write about in a future post.
The Discipline required to be a writer
Discipline is an earmark of a good writer.
Norman Mailer, author of the The naked and the dead spoke thus about discipline;
I used to have a little studio in Brooklyn, a couple of blocks from my house — no telephone, not much else. The only thing I ever did there was work. It was perfect. I was like a draft horse with a conditioned reflex. I came in ready to sit at my desk. No television, no way to call out. Didn’t want to be tempted.
There’s an old Talmudic belief that you build a fence around an impulse. If that’s not good enough, you build a fence around the fence. So, no amenities, just writing.