Thursday, 3 April 2014

Writerly 'Rules' and writers' block...

Once upon a time, my night-time scribblings were my 'dirty little secret', something to be kept hidden; something I did because I just couldn't help myself. Sound familiar?

My writerly 'coming out' has been a gradual process. The first step was joining Critique Circle--a closed, online writing group. Hand on heart, I never made a better decision. 

Suddenly, I was surrounded by writers, hundreds of them, from all over the globe. Wonderful, talented people who welcomed me in, then helped illuminate my appalling self delusion. I wasn't a member of CC for long before I had an epiphany. 

My writing sucked. Like a Dyson. Yes, it was that bad. 

By critiquing and being critiqued, I learned about grammar, PoV's, dangling participles, comma splices and the like. Well meaning people introduced me to 'The Rules'--a massive list of 'Thou Shalt's, and 'Thou Shalt Not's. It was utterly mind-boggling. 

At first, like every good newbie, I religiously applied each piece of contradictory advice to my own writing until I was bogged down with the stuff, constipated by knowledge, terrified of a thrashing by 'The Rules' police, afraid to move in case I put a foot wrong.

And then?

Then I started listening to myself again. Armed with what I knew, I began to disregard the rules. To play around and have fun again. To be me. 

In my quest for perfection, my 'voice' had got lost in a sea of a thousand other writers. For me, writer's block was a lifeline that saved me from drowning. It made me question what I was doing. 

So was the point of this post to dismiss 'The Rules'--and before I'm even published? Not at all. What I am saying is this: 'The Rules' are like 'The Pirates' Code'. Guidelines. Be familiar with them, but don't treat them as gospel. They shift and change like sand dunes. 

Secondly, keep in mind that writer's block isn't always the enemy. In my experience, it's my sub-conscious trying to tell me something. All I have to do is stop fighting it and listen.

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