I’ve talked about the importance of grammar and punctuation here, and believe me, I think they’re important, but they’re not the most important thing you need to know about writing.
It’s all about YOU.
A lot of people giving writing advice will tell you that you should think about your reader, focus on what that person wants to read. However, while they may be important, here’s the key thing: Nobody can write like you can.
You can ask 100 different people to write about a specific tree, and each one will focus on a different thing. One person will write about the willowy height of it. One will write about the colors of the leaves. One will discuss the way the wind sounds as it blows through the leaves. Someone will focus on the bird’s nest in the branches. You’ll hear about how there are other trees nearby so this one won’t feel lonely, the magic of such a thing coming from a tiny acorn . . . all that.
Every person will see that tree through their own, personal filter. This filter is colored by their personality, their life experiences, and their expectations, because all of these things affect their world-view. That is, an optimist might describe an accident by saying, “They really didn’t mean to go through that red light,” while a more pessimistic person might say, “They didn’t even care that light was red, they just flew right through it!”
Nobody else has the same filter you have. Your point of view is totally unique. The way you view the world is unlike the way I do. We see different details; we think differently. Our way of using language to describe things is also different. I couldn’t write like you any more than you can write like I do. (How many people have tried to write like William Shakespeare and failed miserably?)
The tools of writing are the same for all of us, and some people are better at using them than others. (I like to view the people who play fast and loose with their punctuation as the type who are forever dropping their hammers on their toes–they’ll get the job done but it’s a lot more painful than it needs to be.) Ultimately, though, when you set pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, all you can do is to write as yourself. You should never try to imitate other authors, nor sound overly professional and businesslike, nor agonize over points of grammar. You should endeavor to sound like you. Nobody else on the planet can do that.
It doesn’t matter if you’re seeing the world through rose-colored glasses or through bi-focals. Your own life experience is totally unique and solely your own. If you write from your heart about what you know to be true, there isn’t anyone who can quite duplicate that. There will always be people who are better–better descriptions, better sales pitches, better dialogue, better punctuation–but they’ll never be you. Embrace that. Find your voice. And write.