Suggestions seem to naturally follow rules. Helpful comments from complete strangers, or even worse, from close friends, telling you, "This is what you need to do."
Who says? That's my invariable response when I've had it up to the proverbial "here" with the rules and helpful suggestions. Have you ever noticed, by the way, that those "helpful" suggestions quite often turn out to be ridiculously obvious methods that, hey, little old you thought of years ago? OR they're so absurdly not-helpful that you feel yourself on the verge of turning into the Tasmanian Devil and drilling a hole in the floor?
Meet my stubborn side - happy to know you. If you're a close friend, you're quite aware of this side of my nature. Okay, I will admit that there are certain moments where I'm a big fan of having everything fit into a nice, neat little box formed by Tab A and Slot B. Those moments tend to be more of a personal nature for me, and fall into the category of feeling that I've educated myself thoroughly on a given subject. That's when I adore neat little boxes because it gives me the sense that I have accomplished what I set out to do with my latest exciting venture.
I also admit to being a big planner in other areas, such as writing down on the calendar when I'll be meeting someone for lunch, or a business meeting. A girlfriend has been known to good-naturedly point out that, "If I let you, you'll schedule dinner plans for us a good six months down the road, week by week!" (Just so you know, she doesn't let me, but she's right, I would probably try.) Well, that's a different area of life we're discussing, and yes, I'm very enthusiastic about that particular type of thing. It's because I'm your closet-bound, overly responsible, dependable-as-the-rising-sun type of person. I suppose it could be argued that planning and rules are two separate categories. I wouldn't disagree. Beyond these described sets of circumstances, and particularly when it comes to my writing, I'm not a big fan of rules.
As a writer, I'm probably right out there on some subversive fringe when it comes to following writerly rules. I do not....brace yourself, and picture me whispering the following....write from an outline. I know, it's very scandalous. If "they" knew, "they" would probably find a way to revoke my invisible membership and bar me from being able to claim writerly status. Most certainly, they'd take my secret decoder ring.
Yes, that is the among the first set of rules for creative writing that we are taught in school, to write from an outline, and those rules grow longer in college writing courses. Outlines, footnotes, bibliographies...rules, rules, rules. I bowed down to those rules in school, but my writer's soul would shudder in distaste, dreaming of the day that I could be shed of those restrictions and burst free in a riotous splash of color, style and verve. My heady swan dive off the high platform formed a beautiful, classic arc in mid-air and I plummeted straight into the deep pool of....technical writing. There perished any chance of winning a writerly Olympic medal for color, style and verve. I think that at the very least, I could have been a contender for that Gold medal.
You guessed it...tech writing is the Mecca of rules. RIGID, unswerving, unbending...rules.
For me, the pure, heady pleasure of writing is that when I sit down to write anything, be it a formal technical document, a blog for myself, an article for a client, a journal entry, or a manuscript for a book idea, I only know the beginning and ending. What I don't know, in exacting detail, until I write it is what happens to get from the beginning to the ending - that's why I write! I'm on the same ride, the same fascinating journey, as my readers.
Therefore, when I hear the helpful comments of, "You should do it this way." Or, "You need to think about adopting this method." Or, "I think that this works best and you should do it this way from now on." ....my instant reaction, at least mentally, is, "Who says?" I'm being honest here! I am not being so bold or churlish as to say that every snippet of advice offered to me is summarily rejected or ignored. I certainly do not think I know everything about anything, and I am the first to admit that I learn new techniques about writing on a regular basis. I'm being overly facetious, peppering here and there with tongue in cheek comments, I admit that freely. I rarely give voice to this side of my writing nature, and tonight I just felt like doing it. There's a time and a place for the lighthearted approach to life....and blogging.
Here's my main point...what I DO know a lot about is myself. I know my own writing style. I know how my mind works in the creative process that is unique to me. None of my clients need to know, nor would they care most likely, that I don't use an outline when I write their documents, manuals, etc. All they care about is that the end product meets their criteria. When advice is offered, I do what most people do - I listen, and if I find the content worthwhile, I'll incorporate it into my life. If I find it to not be worth adopting, I discard it. The sky doesn't fall if I don't embrace every suggestion that is helpfully offered to me about how I decide to structure my business day.
When it comes to creative writing, such as this blog or a manuscript, I embrace the open-ended style even more. I usually have an inspiration that gives me my starting point, but I rarely know how the finished blog or manuscript will end. In fact, when I started to write this very post, I had a completely different idea of where the content would go, and it was nothing like this finished version. The beauty there is that I will be able to pull that original thought back out for a future blog. I rarely sweat small details such as an article turning out differently from my original expectation. Indeed, I'm usually delighted when that happens, because the unexpected result generally turns out to be superior to my original concept.
So, those pesky rules....who says that we have to listen to them? With technical writing, yes, I do follow rules. Certain writing methods do demand that you follow rules. When it comes to creative writing, however, I say find what works best for you. Embrace your unique style and create a routine, or lack thereof, that works best for you. That would be the advice I would offer, if asked. Then, those who listen to my advice have their own opportunity to smile kindly at me, while mentally rolling their eyes and sighing out their own, "Who says?" And now that I'm thinking about it, I still think my swan dive off the high platform was a thing of beauty, because it was uniquely mine.