Rule Bait

It just occurred to me how obstinately opinionated I can be about writing. There are things that work for me, things that I’ve come to realize about the writing I do and the writing I most enjoy reading, and it has formed a hard lacquer over my writing mind.

These rules for me are hard and fast, and I won’t give them up because I know this is how I will succeed.

Too much?

It’s like this–I’m a mush. I’ve been a quitting quitter for more than half my life. Worse yet, I don’t even try. I’ve given up writing more times and for more years than I want to let on. But here, you see? I’m not giving it up again.

I’ve quit quitting.

I didn’t even wait for the turkey to get cold.

But writing needs rules and I’ve been letting my rules jiggle around up there so long they’ve become belligerent. I pick fights, even though I’m a mush, because these are rules I believe in.

1. If you want to write, you can write. The only person who ever has to give you permission to write is yourself.

2. You absolutely must write what is true to you. Genre schmanre, loose yourself in what feels right and show the rest your derriere.

3. When all hell breaks loose, write harder. I write daily on whatever comes rolling from my gutters. Sometimes it turns into a story, most of it should be burned. All of it needs to come out.

4. The hardest thing to learn is not to care. We have to start somewhere, then it gets better. I’m still working on that.

5. Writers are some of the greatest people there are. There are so many incredible people that are and have been and will be, but the writers I have met in the last few years have turned me inside-out. I am so, so grateful.

6. Know why You write and let it take off from there. Kind of like an artist statement, kind of like a burning need, if you write, you have a reason. Chance it.

7. Give yourself some credit. It’s incredible to hear from so many people things like–I have no imagination or I don’t have anything to write about or I could never do that. Yeah. Okay. Did you ever learn to walk? How long did that take?

8. Be nice, but don’t let anyone take your voice away. I find life and it’s accoutrements more enjoyable on the friendly side, but I have no time for bullies–professional or otherwise.

9. Read and be alert. The only way to learn anything is by being a part of it. Every inch of life can turn into a story.

10. Take chances. No regrets.

There’s more, I’m sure there’s more. Tell me your rules, what makes you tick, how you write, where you write, why you write. Tell me why I’m wrong. Tell me what I forgot. Tell me to grow up. Just tell me in the comments below.

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About E. Victoria Flynn

E. Victoria Flynn is a mother and a writer living in Southern Wisconsin. Published in a variety of venues, Victoria is currently writing the first in a series of three fantasy novels based on Cornish folklore. When not taking part in a shrieking dance party or engrossed in her own little fictions, Victoria is keen on art, the natural world and people unafraid to explore their own brilliance.
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21 Responses to Rule Bait

  1. paulmdonovan says:

    I like the thoughts you have expressed here. Writing is a continual process of evolution, change and exploration. We can only explore our thoughts in writing by continually working at our craft.

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    My response to this post.
    I have one word to say.
    Only one.
    It’s big and fat and juicy.

    YES!

  3. Julie Jeffs says:

    One of the best rules I have for myself, and mind you I don’t follow even my own rules very well most of the time, is to find good writer friends who support you even when you feel the writing is crap, kick you in the ass when you need it, and are such good writers they make you want to be a better writer. I got lucky found those friends myself in the “sisterhood of ink”. Keep writing. Thanks friend.

  4. I wrote about rules this week too. The best one it to always “just write.” Happy writing.

  5. Jenn Thorson says:

    Mine is “it’s the first draft, fer Pete’s sake, turn off the critical voice and just WRITE… WRITE. There’s time to evaluate once the words are out of the brain.” It makes an enormous difference in both my productivity and my creativity.

    • pennyjars says:

      Yes, oh yes, get the words out, they’re clogging up the writing channels. There’s so much time for editing, but the ideas like to hightail it out of there if they’re not taken advantage of, at least, in my case they do.

  6. kario says:

    I don’t have rules. I’m afraid of rules because I like them too much. My mantra is “just write.” Nothing else.

    And one trick I heard about a while ago (but am too chicken to try) is that you should try journaling (longhand) with your non-dominant hand. My friend Holly swears by it – says the most amazing things come out when she’s not looking.

    • pennyjars says:

      Kari, I don’t know if I’m brave enough to try that either. I expect it would be a good mediation, but yikes. Sometimes I close my eyes and type. Have you tried that?

  7. I love all of these rules, but the ones I need most are numbers 4 and 7. Oh, and what Julie said.

    (PS. You know I read this when I was deep in the thick of “I can’t” the other night. I didn’t finish the story, but I didn’t quit writing either. So thanks, friend.)

  8. pennyjars says:

    Christi, Oh yes, you most certainly can and will. πŸ™‚

  9. Beth Lowe says:

    Victoria, I’m printing these, so I can pull them out and re-read them whenever I need to, which will probably be every day. Maybe even more than once a day. ‘Cause illness sucks. But I’m not quitting. I. am. not. quitting. Thanks, my friend. And, yes, what Julie said. The sisterhood of the ink rocks.

  10. Lisa says:

    Victoria, what a terrific Manifesto! I think I’ll steal it for myself on “those days.” πŸ™‚

    One alternative way to view your past attempts at quitting (#7)–you are someone who never truly gives up.

  11. I didn’t dare to call myself Writer with a capital W until I was 57. Now I’m 60 and I ain’t givin’ it up. Just warming up, in fact. Don’t know where it’s going. Don’t much care. It makes me happy; makes me feel like me.

    But that writing with your non-dominant hand thingee, man, I can barely read my own writing done in my dominant hand. Of course, the fact that I scribble upside down in the dark sometimes may have something to do with that.

    Your manifesto is great. I’m printing it out to and putting it beside my Dylan Landis (author of Normal People Don’t Live Like This) quote: “To write well, you must be willing to hold your finger in the flame.” Yowza.

    • pennyjars says:

      Elizabeth, I’m learning how to play the piano. Never in my life have I been able to read music or sing a note that wasn’t flat, but we have a piano now and a bench full to the brim with beginner books. I’m 36 and I’m not giving up because it makes me happy, like writing, like having writing friends that aren’t giving up right along side me. Candle lit, finger over flame.

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