Writers and Artists—Burn those “shoulds”
I was having a most rewarding talk with a multi-published and lauded writer, and we found that, from my modest perch and his lofty one, we came to see many of the writerly edicts as, at best, helpful suggestions. Unfortunately some of these suggestions are taught as indispensable commadments in creative writing classes, and repeated in interviews by respected creatives.
Here is a summary of a few of these suggestions, with a suggestion from me that if something is helpful to you, keep and cherish it. But please, PLEASE— don’t parcel it out as a commandment. We already have ten official ones, and many more unofficial ones, taught at our parents’ knees.
1. WRITE EVERY DAY. It is helpful for many, but in no way a measure of dedication or a predictor of good work.
2. READ A LOT OF SIMILAR BOOKS TO THE GENRE YOU ARE WRITING. I do the opposite, especially while working on a first draft. I don’t want “voice seepage” or derivative plotting. But some find that reading a lot of similar books revved their engines. Either is fine.
3. NEVER GIVE UP. You’re welcome to give up. Many times. As often as you need to.
4. NEVER ASSUME YOUR WORK WILL BE THE EXCEPTION THAT ALLOWS YOU TO BREAK “THE RULES.” This is true, and I don’t suggest anyone be presumptive of anything. But if we didn’t have rule-benders we would never break new ground, either.
5. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK. That sounds nice and it is empowering. But I believe in something bigger, and pray that I do the best work I can. Sometimes it isn’t all that, y’know. If you believe in yourself that’s all right also.
6. IGNORE THIS BLOG POST AND OTHER CURMUDGEONLY ONE LIKE IT. This, I’m afraid, I wholeheartedly agree with. Be your own boss.