Something I feel particularly strongly about in writing: If you are a writer you must learn the rules of working with words, just like if you are an artist you must learn the proper techniques for mixing your paint. For writing this means being intimately familiar with the rules of punctuation, grammar. That’s not to say if we read or produce something in its early stages with a bit of dodgy grammar that it has no value, but we have to try to get it right from the beginning, and to achieve a worthy final result we have to keep revising until we reach 100%.
Why am I saying this? Because I sometimes see writing which is based on a fantastic idea, but I am barely able to understand it because of the errors. I am really not trying to be a pedant here. Bad punctuation, for instance, ruins the way I parse sentences, cuts me off from any sense of immersion and leaves me unable to digest the ideas in what I have just read. Perhaps I’m just unusually sensitive, but I think it’s the same for everyone to an extent. We need to abide by the rules of punctuation and grammar to ensure our ideas are effectively conveyed.
And that is literally the entire point of writing. Communicating our ideas.
Once you know the rules, you don’t even have to follow them. You can break them whenever you like, because when you understand why the rules exist and what they do, your breaking them does something meaningful. Picasso can draw perfectly proportioned people, but he paints as a cubist. If he couldn’t do any better than draw sloppy faces we might not respect his artistic vision, but because we know he could obey the rules if he wanted to, we might begin to notice something special in what he does, for example, how sometimes the edges of the faces he draws are actually perfect profiles, and weird lines which intersect the cheek are three-quarter profiles.
You don’t have to like the results. Cormac McCarthy can ignore the rules of punctuation if he wants, but I still disliked the style used in The Road. Dialogue without quotation marks was a mess to follow. In spite of that, I still I trust him as an experienced writer to break the rules far more than I would a teenager writing their first story.
I encourage you to fall in love with punctuation, grammar and words. It is the stuff from which you forge your works. You need to hone your craft until picking the right words is like mixing fine colours. You need to know your grammar so you can carry your audience forwards without drawing attention to the seams. You need to sharpen your skill until you know how to balance all the tension of a scene on a knife-edge comma. You need to find the right mix of everything to make a delicious meal where all the ingredients work together.