Happy March! How was your Leap Day? Mine was actually pretty productive. It was the first day in a long time that I met my “this is acceptable” word count (1000+ words). I broke one of my golden rules to do it, but the writing is what’s important, right? Rules are made to be broken and all that. Or maybe I’m just nuts. Or trying to rationalize things that don’t really matter. I mean, it’s not like anyone’s going to punish me for breaking my own rule, right? It’s just the voices in my head that complain about it. They’ll deal eventually. Do you have rules you stick to when writing? Or is that just something crazy people do?
I suppose the whole “rules” thing started during my first semester at Stonecoast. Up until then, I had no rules, no discipline, and all I was writing was short stories. I wrote when I felt like it or when something was due. Deadline induced panic was an essential part of my process. Then Stonecoast happened.
I was actually pretty terrified at the prospect of writing a novel, but I wanted to do it. My mentor at the time was Nancy Holder, and she’s a super supportive type, so she encouraged me to do it. There was no “try,” there was just “do it.” Of course, I asked “how?” Her response was “keep writing!” Yeah, it wasn’t helpful at the time, but she was right (as mentors tend to be). So I wrote, got past twenty pages (my usual stopping point), and kept writing. Around page fifty, I wanted to stop and work on something else. Nancy said no.
She explained that starting a new project was a form of procrastination that all writers are tempted by. If you’re constantly stopping one thing to start something else, you’ll never finish anything. It made a lot of sense, especially for something as large as a novel. And thus, my first rule (the one I broke) was born. I’d never start a new novel while one was sitting half-finished and waiting on me (aka one I haven’t given up on). I’d wait until I at least had a first draft. It only applied to novels, so I admit to writing flash fiction, short stories, poetry, etc. Basically anything to give me a break here and there, but that could be finished in a few days was acceptable procrastination.
But, since I’ve been in a slump, I finally decided to say “screw it!” and started a new WIP. It doesn’t mean that I love the old one any less, it just means I can’t get into that world right now. Same goes for the screenplay. I love it, but my heart just isn’t in it. Hopefully that will change as I get back to a normal rhythm, but for now, I needed something new that no one has seen or heard about. Something strictly mine. Something that doesn’t have any expectations to live up to. It can fail completely, I can trash it, and no one will ever be able to ask “what happened to that novel about that thing?” Does that even make sense?
I still have a bunch of other rules that I haven’t broken, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s okay to break a rule once in a while if nothing else is working for you. So, what are your rules? Have you ever broken them? Did it help? Or am I just crazy?