One time I wrote a piece inspired by David Foster Wallace. It was unconventional, not really a narrative, hard to classify. I didn’t think it was genius or anything, but I enjoyed it. I got some scathing criticism from an individual who focused very much on the rules it was breaking. When I mentioned that I was learning from DFW’s example, the critiquer said, “Yeah, well, you’re not DFW.”
Eugh… “Rules.” Just the word makes me think of similarly off-putting things, like peas or gym class or t-shirt armpits yellowed by old sweat stains. I prefer the more pleasing word “guidelines.” Ahh, that’s better – like a cheerful garden path leading you towards better writing. Or that wise old word “advice,” with its wizard beard and smell of vintage paper. And let’s not forget that perky lil word, “tips!”
Rules are smart, but no rule/guideline/advice/tip is an ironclad absolute.
Two weeks ago I discussed writing slow, a process often touted against but which I believe has merit. I decided to continue that theme with a post about other rules you can safely ignore.
There are important rules in writing, of course. Lots of rules are well-founded and should definitely be followed. What I don’t support is the attitude some authors have about these Rules with Capital R’s, the ones they shout from their desk with a zealously pointed index finger. “YOU. BAD AUTHOR. YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.”
Let’s start with the one I see pushed most aggressively: Write every day.