Posted in Writing

Shake it Off

shake it off

You waited all day to show Bobby your short story. Bobby doesn’t know it, but you’ve been editing the piece for weeks. You’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into every single word, and your stomach is fluttering with excitement at the thought of his reaction.

Finally, the fated moment comes when you slip your 10-page story over to him, fighting not to bite your nails or jump up and down as he…. glances at it, says, “I’ll read it later,” and goes back to scrolling through Facebook on his phone.

I’m sure you’ve all dealt with a similar situation – there you are, completely and totally thrilled about something you’ve created, and there someone is, not really caring about it.

It’s not that they’re trying to hurt you or downplay what you’ve done (unless they have some weird vendetta against you for stealing their Cheetos), it’s that they don’t get that you essentially just handed them your baby.

It’s easy to end up feeling hurt in these situations – like they don’t care about what you’ve done, or they don’t respect the work you’ve put into it.

The thing is, if they don’t write, if they don’t do whatever creative thing that you’re passionate about, they can’t possibly get where you’re coming from.

Here’s the truth: Just because someone may not be as excited as you are about a piece of your work does not make it:

  • Bad
  • Useless
  • Terrible
  • Lame

In the end, one opinion matters: yours.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize if you’re writing for an audience or an editor, things get trickier, but if you end up stressed because you’re trying to please everyone else, you lose sight of why you started writing in the first place. You lose sight of writing because it’s a passion, because it makes you happy. Don’t let writing become a chore because you’re jumping through everyone’s carefully placed hoops.

Write for you.

Edit for others (if need be).

And when it comes to showing off your work, find a critique partner. Find someone who will be as excited about your work as you are, or at least who is willing to give you constructive criticism. Someone you trust.

In the meantime, shake it off.

Hold your head high.

Walk on.

Write on.

If your writing is important to you, that’s what matters.

If that short story is important to you, that’s all that matters.

You matter.

Your writing matters.

Your dream matters.

And don’t let anyone ever convince you otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing

Break the Rules, Politely

guidelines

Many moons ago, when I first started getting serious about writing, I was completely and totally consumed with the idea of doing everything according to the rules. I rushed to the library at every free moment, to pore over guide-books and how-to books and stuff my straining book bag with style guides and any book I could find that mentioned writing.

I don’t regret the hours that I spent reading and re-reading these books. I don’t regret the hours I sat in front of my computer looking up articles about writing (between hopping off the internet so my mom could use the phone — I don’t miss dial up). I don’t regret learning the rules, the structure. The thing was, the more I studied the rules, the more stagnant and dry my writing became. I got so concerned about structure, that I forgot about art, I forgot about flow.

I realize now that the very structure I was trying to commit to was the same sort of structure that pissed me off so badly when I took art in college. My instructor would constantly nit-pick at little details in my work, and while I appreciated her eye, I never fully agreed with her. I don’t think you can ever truly grade art, just like I feel like you can never truly grade writing (I’m not talking to you, kids in school! Listen to your teachers)! Art and writing are about freedom. Why would I want mine to look like everyone else’s?

There are important things to be mindful of when you write. You know, like, grammar for one (although even GRAMMAR is sometimes a stylistic choice). But really, truly, we as writers should strive to politely break the rules. Why politely? So that we can remain friends with the rules… eh, maybe distant acquaintances. Besides, you just can’t go around breaking things like a bull in a china shop. No, you at least say hi to the owners first, THEN go on your rampage.

Isn’t it funny that the the more you write, the more “experts” you run into? People who tell you things can only be done one way, who rant and yell if you go against their sovereign wishes?

To help you along the way to writerly freedom, I’ve prepared some practice answers to common disdainful comments:

Disdainful person: “That’s an overused trope!”

You: “Your face is an overused trope!”

Disdainful person: “Don’t use that many adverbs!”

You: “I am quietly and happily ignoring you.”

Disdainful person: “This sentence is way too descriptive.”

You: “I apologize for disturbing your sensitive and unique sense of elaborated descriptors. How ever will I go about making this up to you, my genius and all-knowing counterpart?”

Disclaimer: I cannot be held responsible for injuries received after use of the above comments. Please learn to run fast or laugh like you didn’t mean it before slinking away and hiding under you desk until the coast is clear.

There are rules that I do agree with. I’m not a huge fan of adverbs. That doesn’t make them wrong. That also doesn’t make them right.

Learn the rules, yes. Rules are important. Befriend the rules. Good. Now, keep the rules at a distance. Bend them. Learn how to dance around them. Laugh at them. Give them chocolate once in awhile to keep them quiet.

The wise Pablo Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

And the wise Captain Barbosa from Pirates of the Caribbean said, in regards to the pirate code, “They’re more like guidelines than actual rules.”

Cheers and high-fives to you, Pablo and Barbosa. You guys got this figured out.

Here’s my point:

Misbehave.

Know the rules.

Then break the rules.

I won’t tell mom.

Pssst. Your writing will thank you for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing

Write What You Don’t Know

calvin-and-hobbes-write-what-you-know

Every time someone tells me, “write what you know,” I have the inappropriate urge to slap them.

Don’t follow my example. Write what you know is good advice. Actually, it’s great advice. Also, you probably shouldn’t go around slapping people and telling them I encouraged you to do it.

Write what you know = write what you’ve experienced. Fear, jealousy, trauma, loss. Write what you know. Write what you feel.

The reason the term irks me is because people tend to use it incorrectly. Someone asked me a few months back what my current novel was about. I mumbled a broken explanation (or something like one, I’m terrible at explaining my plots verbally), but I’m pretty sure she got the gist of it – that it’s about a post-apocalyptic circus. She blinked at me and said, “Ooooh, but you’ve never worked in the circus!” Yeah, and I’ve never experienced an apocalypse, either.

Now that I think back on it, I should have spun some grandiose story about my former circus days, but in the moment I wasn’t so clever. I confirmed her suspicions, and then she shrugged, told me I should “write what I know,” and sauntered off.

I was honestly quite stunned for a moment, but then I shrugged it off and moved on with my day (okay, maybe there was a little more rage, but I kept it to myself).

It did get me thinking, though. With the sometimes blatant misuse of the term, why not coin a NEW term?

Write what you DON’T know!

Besides, what fun is it to stay stagnant in your writing?

Why not write about a political diplomat who gets involved in extreme origami competitions? Even if you know nothing about politics or (extreme) origami! Research is the spice of life.

I know so many random things that I never would have cared about before I had the need to research them for a story. This also leads to me having an extremely interesting Google search history… which we just won’t talk about.

Writing is about discovery. Writing is about freedom. Writing is reaching. Writing is creating something bigger than yourself, so why should you think small?

Discover. Dream. REACH!

Write what you know AND what you don’t know!

The sky’s the limit.