The first rule of writing is to write small. Small, but not diminutive. If you want to write about love ... write about, spreading a blanket across the driveway at 7:30 a.m. to eat your breakfast of toasted pitas and raspberry jam, as your son winds his body inside the shape of your lap, and delights in the construction that is taking place across the street. Hammers and nails will be poetry for you then.
Dear Joseph Epstein, I find myself wishing I sounded more like you write in my daily conversation, but my co-workers would be confused by the sudden improvement in vocabulary and wit and I promise not to try.
I am a grammar Nazi. For example, I'm known for zealously defending the objectivity of Objects of a Preposition against infringement by popular song. Keith Urban, Rascall Flatts, Paul McCartney -- I'm talking to you: nothing is "between you and I." So "me" doesn't fit the rhyming scheme...big deal. If you can't find an alternate word ending in long e, you have no business writing songs. Someday someone is going to be composing something for internet publication and have to ask himself (note, it is not "themselves") whether it should be "you and I" or "you and me." He's going to remember your song, and write the wrong phrase. It will be your fault. Better to have a millstone tied around your neck than to lead one of these little ones into grammatical debauchery.
Here is the exquisite and terrible secret of the writer: That while the mind and heart are overwrought, the keen observer backs away and observes. And it is impossible not to think, at some point, "What can I use this for?"
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