Everywhere I look, there seems to be a new rule for "what writers do" and "how to be a writer." Don't believe me? Click here. To be clear, I don't mean grammar or technical guidelines. I do follow those, or break them conscientiously.
What have I learned from countless tweets and articles? Apparently I'm not a writer; I really don't follow any of the rules.
- I don't write every day.
- I do go back and edit before I finish a draft.
- I don't write whatever comes out and then worry about whether it makes sense only when working on the second draft.
- I don't outline beforehand to know where I'm going, but I also don't write hundreds of pages of nonsense that need to be rewritten or deleted.
- I don't post on this blog based on a preset schedule.
- Would you rather I did?
- I don't read books every day either.
- I'm sure there are more . . .
To be honest, most of these rules I learned after I had finished my completed manuscript, and long after I had first been published, so it's not like I purposefully attempted to break them. Still, I'm not about to change what works for me because someone else says it's wrong. I'd rather skip a day of writing than throw away the resulting pages, and I'd rather skip a day (or week) of reading if what I really want to do is spend hours writing the scenes in my mind. (Of course, reading some kind of text is inevitable, but I mean honest-to-goodness books, digital or otherwise.)
Does not following the rules actually make me less of a writer? I certainly don't think so, though I could be deluded. But I stand behind my belief that everyone writes differently. Not following arbitrary rules touted as a requirement for "being a writer" by my peers, or even successful predecessors, doesn't affect my status as much as the results.
I have written and polished an entire manuscript (whose value is yet to be determined, but I'm not claiming for the sake of this post to be a good writer), published a poetry collection, and am in the middle of writing a second manuscript. I write in a way that works for me, which in my case doesn't require shutting off the internet or setting a timer, though if that's what you need to do, I'm all for it.
I do understand the desire to share our personal tips and tricks with the community, or even to adopt others' tricks for the sake of feeling like a part of that community, but I do not understand the need for a prescriptive approach, except as a lingering grasp on elitism couched in falsely welcoming posturing. I can tell you what works for me, but I cannot tell you what works for you. If you want to write standing on your head in a pool with some nifty underwater technology for only as long as you can hold your breath and that allows you to create your story effectively, then by all means, find yourself that nifty technology (and send me photos!). If following the "rules" works for you, then that's great too.
Though it might require some experimentation, the right way to write is to find what works for you, helping you create that final product. One thing that definitely doesn't translate into being a writer? Telling other people how to write.