Breaking the Rules Revisited

Breaking the Rules Revisited

My mother and niece, Avery, at Chautauqua

I had a great week at the Chautauqua Institution, taking in speakers and events, jogging the grounds, and conducting a writing workshop with five fantastic women writers. But the event that seemed to draw the most attention was the brown bag lunch I gave on my very last day as writer in residence there, a talk entitled “Great Writing Advice You Might Want to Ignore.” The audience had an abundance of terrific questions and comments.

As noted in one of my previous posts here, I’ve been circling around this topic for some time. Writing is intuitive and rules can oftentimes challenge the intuition. Rules, in and of themselves, are not bad. But they need to match the person and the individual circumstances. The wrong rules or advice at the wrong time, and all hell breaks loose.

Here is just a short list of writing “rules” I determined I needed to break, in order to reinvigorate my creative process:

1) Write what you know. I’ve found it better to write about things I know nothing about so that my imagine can run wild.
2) Write every day. Sometimes, our brains and hearts need a break. Writing isn’t just about producing words; it’s also about living.
3) Don’t take breaks. This is a lot like the above, but is more often applied to that time when you are about to conclude one project. Many of us need space and time to fill the well; launching off onto another, new project, may be premature.
4) Find an artistic community. Community can be a terrific thing, a great source of support. It can also foment envy and anxiety, as we measure ourselves against the accomplishments of others. Envy and anxiety can be paralyzing.
5) Write through the pain. We’re told artistic pursuits are hard, sometimes even painful. But they shouldn’t make you miserable. If they are, consider why you are doing what you’re doing; chances are, your motives are wrong.

There are many more, but I’ll stop there for now.

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