The Rules Of Writing And Why I Break Them
Today’s Brew: Cherry Chip Swirl. It’s every bit as good as it sounds. ‘Cuse me while I go make my third cup. OK, I’m back.
“You were always my late adapter. I couldn’t tell you what to do, so I just let you do your own thing. And you always got everything done, it looked great, and you’d sell a ton of stuff.”
—Dora, my old boss at Piercing Pagoda and one of my very best friends
“Wow, you both work so differently from each other.”
—Julie, when I had her assist me on a job that another makeup artist worked as well
It’s no surprise I march to the beat of my own drummer. I read magazines from back to front. When I did the art portion of my makeup classes, my brain wouldn’t let me do things the way the teacher showed us. I had to do it differently. That’s when I realized it was art, and there were no rules to creativity.
YOU MUST WRITE EVERYDAY! LET’S SPRINT! TWEET OUT LINES! WRITE CRAP! JUST GET WORDS DOWN!
I won’t lie, I tried to do all these things. But they gave me anxiety attacks. It just isn’t how I work.
Some days, life just gets in the way. Sure, I know, I should be treating writing like a job. And I couldn’t call in to my paying job and say, “Oh, sorry. I can’t come today because the house is dirty.” But I will clean my house before I write, because the mess will distract me to the point I won’t write anyway. And speaking of that day job thing, sometimes I put it super long hours and all my brain can do is take a shower and go to bed at the end of the day. Other times, I need to do other creative things to inspire me to write. As I’ve mentioned before, I love decorating my house. I just glittered all my switch plates. They make me smile. I need to get out of the house and experience things. All of this helps my writing.
Julie loves sprinting. It helps motivate her. Sometimes I participate, but I don’t kill myself if I’m not feeling it in that half hour time slot. Even before we were the Twitter side show we’ve become, Julie would just tell me to “Go!” And I’d panic. I can’t write like that. I have to think about it, know where I am going. Because The Night had a solid plan. I even wrote some of it out of order. Night Moves is being sort of pantsed. Way out of character for me. I need to think about what happens next, then write it. I have to have some control.
My writing is more conversational. I write like I talk, as if I was telling a story. Julie comes up with these great word combinations and works with those. They work great as tweets. Mine, not so much. It doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it’s just a different way of getting to the same place. I love Julie, and she’s an amazing writer, but I don’t want to write like her. I want Julie to write like Julie and Kristen to write like Kristen.
When I start each of my writing sessions, I read over what I wrote last time. I tweak as I go, I know, another big writing no no. But it helps me get geared up for the flow of the next piece. I can’t write for the sake of writing, words that might not make sense. Sure, sometimes I don’t exactly know where I’m going and my characters surprise me. For as much of a control freak as I am, I do let them take control. It is their story. But I like to have some hints about what will happen next. Editing as I go helps me have a more complete piece even at the end of the first draft. I know that this first draft won’t be perfect, but it’s not going to be a steaming pile of cow patty, either. I fix plot holes as I go and add and subtract as I work. When I do go back and read for consistency and to reconnect with the earlier parts of the book, I feel pretty good about it. And that keeps me writing.
All of that being said, I do write most days. But I don’t beat myself up when I can’t. I keep notebooks everywhere and voice text myself ideas while I drive. When I do write, I can write fairly quickly and get a lot of words down in a sitting. Yesterday I clocked in at about 2500 in two small sessions. I do my best to treat it like a job. With every job, there comes a time of the day you put it down and live the other parts of your life.
Once I became active on Twitter, I saw how different my process was than a lot of other people’s processes. At first it made me feel like I was doing it wrong. But it’s art, a creative process, and whatever way is best for you is the way you should be creative. I can’t be the only one who has a different way of doing things. Creatives don’t like to follow rules. So if you are doing your own thing, keep doing it. Just keep getting the words down.