Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tip O'Day #306 - "Don't Change a Word!"

Guest blogger Salvatore Buttaci on learning the writer’s craft.

As a former English teacher, I often heard young people sharing their dream of becoming professional writers. Yet, just as often, these same students did not make the connect between the dream and the labor required to satisfy that dream. Many times I heard, “Spelling doesn’t count.” Or “Grammar ‘don’t’ have to be perfect.” Or “Imagination is what a writer needs more than good English.”

Why is it so obvious in sports, trades, and professions that education and practice are prerequisites for success, and yet many aspiring writers believe they can stop at the gift of a wild imagination and play down the skill of language use and the daily application of this skill in actual writing? While it may be true that there is a book in all of us, that book most of the time remains unwritten. Why? Because it’s easier to dream than to act.

As editor and publisher of an annual poetry anthology for nearly 15 years, I rejected quite a few poems to the sometimes vociferous dismay of their authors. Constructive criticism seldom worked. Suggestions to rewrite and resubmit were rarely taken. “I was inspired to write this beautiful poem,” one person wrote, “and I will not change one single word!”

Writers who dream of attaining success must add substance to that dream by studying an English handbook so what they put down on paper in a final draft is worthy of publication. They need to learn all they can about poetry or fiction or nonfiction by reading the works of successful authors as well as delving into how-to books about the writing craft.

Once aspiring writers decide to make the effort towards becoming masterful in language, their imaginations can easily be harnessed and shaped into admirable writings. Then, by writing every day, the cart now before the horse, they can take that second bit of good advice and persevere for all it’s worth!

Salvatore Buttaci was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award. His poems, stories, articles, and letters have appeared widely in national publications. Flashing My Shorts and 200 Shorts are available here and his new book, If Roosters Don’t Crow, It Is Still Morning: Haiku and Other Poems is available here.


  1. Thank you, Dixon, for posting my essay here at your fine site!

  2. Salvatore Buttaci!
    I fully agree with your statement 'Once aspiring writers decide to make effort towards becoming masterful in language,their imagination can easily be harnessed and shaped into admirable writings'.

  3. Learning to write is truly like any other skill. However, it is perhaps made more difficult by the fact that we start talking so naturally that we have to remember to practice our craft. Thanks for the reminder, Sal.