If you want to be a writer, a real writer, then you must write every day. You must meet a daily minimum word count. A true writer has read the classics. Before you may call yourself a writer, you must -- must! -- know proper grammar; this is non-negotiable. Writers never read within the genre they're writing while they're writing; we might fall prey to osmosis plagiarism. If you are to be published, then you will never be at a loss for ideas for the next scene, the next chapter, the next book. True writers don't write in first-person, present tense; everyone knows how much agents and editors detest this. Don't edit your work until you've written that $hi!!y first draft. If you're a short story writer, then you've heard a thousand times over the dictum of a certain editor that a short story must take place within the time-frame of a single day. You must write what you know. You must, you must, you must...
These are a few of the rules of writing I've heard over the years. I reject them all.
Writing is a personal journey. It's something that happens within each of us and is then poured out, massaged, and refined before being shared with the world. It's an explosion of passion, an obsessively controlled expression.
There are no rules for writing, though there are guidelines. I believe in certain truths: reading enriches my writing; grammar is fun; write not what I know, but what I want to know; become one with the protagonist. But these are my truths. I know if I were to write every day, the words would soon become stale, perfunctory. They would appear on the page only because they had to, not because I felt them. Perhaps you must write each day. Good on you! You know your strengths and weaknesses best. Feel confident with your choices.
My advice (not that you asked)? Know the rules, become intimate with them, and then throw them all away. When you're ready, pick and choose that which resonates with your own literary life. Trust your gut more than those books on writing you picked up at the library or bookstore. Read them, definitely do, but again, choose what is right for you.
This is your journey, navigate your own path. You may find yourself crossing trails with others along the way; enjoy the commiseration. But know that ultimately you'll find your way, on your terms. You must.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007