The Writer’s Desk: Should we ignore the rules for writing?

Recently I bought a book by Chuck Wendig of Writer’s Digest called Gentle Writing Advice: How To Be A Writer Without Destroying Yourself. Wendig uses lots of profanity, so if swearing offends you, this is not your book. Since I am not easily offended, I forged ahead with it.

An important idea he tackles is, “When your process fails, change your process.” I subconsciously knew this, but had never had a problem with writer’s block. My process worked just fine, but then the pandemic thrust a new process upon me. I was no longer able to venture out and write in coffee shops, and I had to create a new home office and learn to adapt to writing at home. Now that I can write in coffee shops, I rarely do because the price of gas, food and coffee has skyrocketed. Instead I use coffee shop to meet informally with other writer friends for conversation and socialization.

Wendig also advocates for self-care, which can mean many things: a healthy diet and exercise program, kicking back with a good book and a cup of tea, playing with the dog or cat. (My cat interrupted my writing this to play.)

Ultimately, his advice is about being aware of your needs and finding your groove. We all want to write the best story we can, build an audience for those tales, and make little money while we are at it. The key is in finding a process that works without feeling wrung out and left to dry, only to get blown off the line by a raging thunderstorm.

Another piece of advice is to ignore advice. Rules such as “never use an adverb” or “don’t use prologues” place a wall between a writer and his work. When you are drafting, ignore all rules and just write. You can fix it later. And you may find the best rules to keep and the ones you can ignore.

The most important piece of advice is Back Up Your Writing. When I was working on my MFA, I learned this lesson from an unfortunate event one of my classmates suffered. Her computer crashed before she finished her thesis and she had no backup copy. She had to postpone graduation a semester and recreate the thesis using handwritten notes. I saved multiple copies of my own thesis. This was in the Dark Ages when we used floppies to save files. I kept a set in my desk at work, my father had a set and I also had a printed copy. Plus, I emailed the final copy to myself. I still print pages of everything I work on because, while technology is great, it is not infallible.

Sometimes we are unable to write. The two times I was blocked were when my father and one of my brothers died in a house fire, and later when the pandemic hit. In his chapter ,“You Can’t Run on a Broken Leg,” he emphasizes how sometimes we are not OK, and that is OK.

I love how Wendig emphasizes that other writers are not your competition; they are your community. We are human beings who need a community of like-minded people to stoke our creative fires.

— By Laura Moe

 Laura Moe is the author of three novels and is currently board president of Edmonds based EPIC Group Writers. Her fourth novel, The Blue Whale of Summer, will be released in 2023.

  1. “… writers are not your competition; they are your community. We are human beings who need a community of like-minded people to stoke our creative fires.“

    This outlook has been a core value since I entered the writing arena. How refreshing to have this approach highlighted.

    Laura, I ached for you as I read about the horrific deaths of your father and brother. Such loss.

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