Today, a friend of mine said that she was afraid she was "losing her mastery over words," and that got me thinking. As with a lot of things, our language suffers when we don't work with it. If you don't exercise your arms, they get weak. If you don't do activities that challenge your brain, your thinking gets stale. And if you don't practice using your words, then your sentence structure gets sloppy, or your enunciation starts to slip, or you forget how to spell difficult words, like "archetypal."
But in any of those cases, are you really losing mastery, or more succinctly, losing the skill that you built up before that point?
I would suggest that you're losing your skill. You still have the techniques and knowledge you worked to gain before. You've just begun to let things happen "by accident" rather than on purpose.
Instead of getting up and going to the gym, you stay at home. Instead of challenging your brain, you watch a comfortable and well-known movie or read a book by a familiar author. Instead of enunciating clearly, you let your consonants start to disappear from the ends of unimportant words.
Like any other muscle, your writing skills must be exercised if they're to stay in shape. If I find myself using words I don't like, or misspelling words I used to know, I have to be intentional about correcting that. Skill doesn't happen by accident!
How much effort I'm willing to put into the act of correcting anything has a lot more to do with how determined I am than how much time or money I have to spare. If I'm really eager to make it happen, I'll make the time. I'll save the money. I'll make it happen, even if it hurts to do it.
There are certain days on which pushing myself isn't going to help anyone - but if I continue saying "I should" and never get around to "I did," then I'm losing out.
Because if nothing changes, then nothing will change.
Onward and forward, Inklings! What things have you been slipping on that you'd like to get back on top of?