Rules, and how not to follow them
Perhaps because of the inordinate amount of publishing people I follow on Twitter, I hear a lot about rules. Rules for writing, rules for submitting to agents, rules for following the above rules. There are a lot of people out there who want to tell you that if you follow this rule, then this one, then this one, you have a good chance of getting your novel published.
I want to tackle the “rules for writing” bit (I always suggest following the agent’s rules if you want to submit to them — that’s just common sense). Writing is one of those things I don’t believe you can really put a set of rules on. Sure, you can tell people that waking up at 8 a.m. and writing until 5 p.m. (the “treat writing like a full-time job” rule) works for you, but you can’t say “this is how you should do it.” I’m a firm believer in letting each person find his or her own creative process and going with that.
The problem there is you can’t really tell anyone how to do that. You can’t tell them to get a Masters in Creative Writing first, or tell them to outline their stories, or to keep track of their word counts each day on a big whiteboard. The process is something you have to figure out for yourself.
With me, I write after my wife goes to bed. I put on some music or TV in the background, open up Notepad (because I’m old-school, yo), and write for four or five hours. That’s what I do — it might work for you, it might not. But if you’re a writer or other creative type (musician, visual artist, photographer, street performer [I would love to pick a street performer's brain sometime]), you’ve probably already figured out what works for you. So don’t let anyone tell you any different, unless your current process isn’t working. Then, feel free to try on other processes for size until you hit on one that does what you want it to do.
So, you’re a creative bunch. What’s your process? What rules have you heard that you break when you sit down to make your art?