Rules direct and guide us. Rules keep us organized. Rules foster efficiency and productivity. I have nothing against rules. But rules can be a stumbling block to our creative spirits, tripping us up and throwing us down as we fight to free our selves and cast our hearts and our words on the uncertain waters of the writing sea. Rules can be tall, thick walls that keep us out of the success arena, until we have paid dues and done time. Rules can be a real pain in a writer’s behind.
So how do we deal with the rules of the writing game without throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water?
Know the rules. Heed the ones that fit our personality, our lifestyle and how, when and where we work. Adopt those that encourage and enhance our writing styles and our writing process. Work with the rules that motivate us to stick our toes out the door of our comfortable place. We focus on those that have a positive effect on our writing - teaching us discipline, keeping us motivated and inching us along the path to our writing dreams.
Bend the rules. Some of the existing rules don’t support our efforts, our inspiration or our need for adventure but with a little tweaking, they just might work. We could bend them a little at first. Throw in a loop and a couple of turns to see if we get a better fit. We could play with them one way and then try another and another. Before we decide certain rules are not for us, we should give them a chance to prove themselves - to see if they could help us become the kind of writers we want to be.
Example 1: Write what you know. Maybe what you know is the very thing that’s driving you to write outside the box and full throttle into something far removed from your experience. You’re an adventurous soul and what you don’t know tugs at your heart. If that’s you, this rule is not for you.
Example 2: Write as soon as you wake in the morning. Writers who hold down 9 – 5 jobs, have toddlers to care for and other commitments may barely get to breathe in the morning. As soon as they open their eyes they are on the go. Writing during their lunch hour at work or while sitting on the toilet at home while the children do homework, play or get ready for bed, might be more their style. If that describes your life, then do that, be content with that, own it, embrace it. It is your time. Bend the write-in-the-morning rule; write at a time that suits your lifestyle.
Break the rules. Some rules are just way over the top for some of us. We have a saying here in Trinidad, "Pick sense out of nonsence," and that's what we have to do with writing rules. From the moment we read or hear certain rules, we know they won’t work for us. We have to break them outright. SNAP! Forget them ZAP!
Example 3: A writer writes everyday. Yeah right, with 3 kids (ages 8 months, 3 years and 7 years), a husband in Iraq, a fulltime job, night classes, PTA and church responsibilities, in which lifetime? Maybe that is your response or something close to it. You decide when you will write. Maybe your mother, sister or friend can only take the children on weekends, maybe only on Saturday evenings for two hours. Is that your only time, your best time, your free time to spend by yourself and writing? Claim it. It is your sacred time. Forget the write-everyday rule. Once a week is perfect for you. It is a better and more productive time because you can give writing your undivided attention and your full heart.
Write our own rules. The world is replete with people who are living and succeeding by their own rules. Writers can do the same. Some have and many do.
Some of the rules we write by today were coined by people who probably dared to do things differently, to follow their own hearts, sing their own songs and dance to the beat of their own drums. We have the same right.
When it comes to writing (like other forms of creativity) we should use the rules that work, bend some to fit our lives, our writing style and process, break those that don't work and write our own. After all it is our writing isn’t it? Even if we're writing for someone, we’re the ones doing the writing and in order to write better and smarter, only the best rules, the most appropriate rules will do.
I’ve only shared three of the more common rules. Do you know the ones that work for you? Which rules can you bend to fit the shape of your life or break out right? Come on in the comments section and share some of the rules you’ve written and used to help you achieve your writing goals?