Whew! Writing, right? Yikes. Someone posted a list of things not to do, yesterday, in the writing group I’m a part of and one of the rules was to never use alliteration. And I was like, what? Why? Anyway, I like alliteration and I will NEVER stop using it.
Rules about writing aren’t real rules, anyway. There are no rules to art. There are guidelines, structures, formats, but there are no rules. If something isn’t working, you can go through the list of “don’ts” and see if one of the “don’ts” is messing with your flow, but if your writing is working, you don’t need to fix it.
I just finished a 6-month editing internship at a publishing company. My entire job was to read full manuscripts and write a summary and notes for each chapter. At the end of the day, it wasn’t “rules” that people broke that made certain passages, pages, or chapters unreadable, it was any time that the author tried rush or be too clever — and yes, during those times, some of the rules were broken.
I read 10 full manuscripts ranging from 80k to over 100k. Every author broke rules but did it without disrupting the overall flow of the story. Every author broke rules and it did interrupt the flow. Every author broke rules and made the story better. Writing is an evolutionary artform. We’re constantly changing it, improving it. Why do we try to adhere to rigid, immediately dated rules that only serve to make us judge our writing, rather than enjoy it?
I don’t get high very often, mostly because coming down off of marijuana really bums me out. It numbs my pleasure center for several days (or, I guess, more accurately, it stops triggering my pleasure center and I go back to my normal levels, which feels like so much less). But on Saturday, I came home, and I just could not face being sober for another second. So I ate part of an edible that my friend gave me. And then I tried to write. I’ve never written high because I’ve always been afraid that it would make me more creative and a better writer and then I would get to the point where I couldn’t write UNLESS I was high.
Fortunately, I had the exact opposite experience. I re-read something I had written the day before and recognized how purple-ish the writing was. I was too high to be embarrassed but I did think it was funny that I hadn’t realized how not “good” the writing was until I was high. And, maybe I would have, eventually. I always like what I write when I write it and then later get to the point where I can see the flaws and try to fix it.
But, after I sobered up, I thought, so what? Maybe the writing is a little purple-y. Maybe it’s bad. Maybe my story is dumb and I shouldn’t bother writing it. But then I remembered all the dumb stories that I’ve ever read that could be torn to shreds for their bad writing but that still managed to transport me to different worlds, allowed me to live in different bodies, and learn something new about what it means to be human. So, in the end, it doesn’t matter what rules we follow, break, or destroy completely. In the end, if the writing serves the story, that’s all that matters.
Also, I like my dumb story, so there, high me.