Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Never Say “Always”... or “Never”... Always!

Ok, so I’m getting pretty tired of writer’s rules and so called guidelines that are so often in the extreme. These repeatedly seem to bring up points of contention with other writers and are typically only a standard that worked for the particular writer who came up with the rule, if even. I thought that as writers, we were supposed to strive for diversity in our craft as a whole, we aren’t all painted in the same shade of grey, and experimenting is supposed to be a good thing. What’s good for the goose may not necessarily be good for the mongoose. I was therefore inspired to come up with some pathway markers for writing that are far less superlative than what we keep seeing popping up on writers’ blogs and trade websites:

1. Read a lot. Sounds simple, but not everyone is an avid reader, and if you research literacy statistics, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to put down the TV remote once in a while and read the TV remote instructions... or anything with words in it, like books!

2. Write what you know about. This doesn’t mean to ignore subjects you don’t know, but rather to strive to know more about the things you don’t. Research is very important, and if the Schoolhouse Rock gang taught me anything, it’s that it’s great to learn ‘cause knowledge is power!

3. Avoid distractions that distract you, and I make the distinction because being alone in a “writing cave” doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes we need that music in the background or the TV on or the spouse trying to kick butt on Call of Duty. It can be pretty inspirational to jot down notes while riding the bus to work, as long as you can avoid the motion sickness!

4. Don’t use your exclamation points like I’ve been doing so far. I swear it’s like syrup at the IHOP; it has to go on everything no matter how wrong it is. (!)

5. Observe, people in particular. Even Shake-a-speare spent hours looking out his window (he was such a stalker!) just watching folks carrying on with their daily lives. You may hear (or read) me going on about how much I like listening to conversations on the bus ride or at the bus stop, but you’d be surprised at the level of insight you gain on human nature, especially during these intimate yet totally public moments.

6. Have a pet at some point in your life, especially one like a cat or a dog that really depends on you. I won’t equate this with children because even people who have children generally feel a different level or type of empathy and love with animals than they do with humans. While I’m not saying one type of love is better than the other, the empathy we have for pets is a good lesson for helping us to create empathy within our people (I personally don’t like the term “characters” as it makes them less real to me), and that’s something I’ve seen a lot of writers struggle with. It’s also just good karma to take care of something (someone) out of the kindness of your heart.

7. Start a draft and finish it. Writers are typically very creative to begin with, and all that bubbling inspiration in our brains can sometimes be a hindrance. We like to get our next new idea down and rocketing off into space while ignoring our other red-headed stepchild ideas crying in the corner and begging for a little attention. Take notes on other ideas if you just have to get them down, but writing complete drafts teaches us a very important lesson: we learn to finish our work, avoid procrastination, and to write better endings.

8. I’d like to close up by saying it’s pretty good advice to ignore lists like these that try to tell you how to be a better writer and to just go and write your own list. It worked for me, and I’m an expert at ignoring things!