Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thou Shalt Not...

I know I heard "The Rules" plenty of times, and I'm sure you, my fellow writers, did too.
You know the drill. Rules like "Thou shalt not begin a sentence with 'and' or 'but'". And what's the problem with that? But they never gave me a good reason not to.

Or, "Thou shalt not use fragment sentences". What? Never? C'mon.

But when you (meaning me or us or pretty much anyone infected by a grade school, junior high, or high school English class, unless you happened to have one of the cool teachers) don't even know all the rules and all you want to do is tell your story but you're too busy keeping up with all the rules such as don't use run-on sentences, in a Dave Barry-style rant, then all those words that want to come out and play just stop.



And, there are plenty of rules, aren't there? One thing they tell us, though (and I still don't know who 'they' are), is that you have to know the rules before you can break them.

I didn't care a blue fig for writing until I had a college professor who walked in to our composition class wearing faded jeans, long hair, and packing a well-worn copy of "Sirens of Titan" by Kurt Vonnegut. I still remember his words: "You've had twelve years of spelling, diagramming sentences, and grammar. I'm not here to teach you that. I'm here to teach you to write." So, he put on a Beatles album (can't remember now which one) and pretty much just said, "Okay, start writing."

That's when my eyes and my mind opened to the possibility of words and what they could do.

And the rules? Yeah, I've been smashing them ever since.

See, here's what I've learned along this writing road I'm traveling. Our job is to deliver a message to our readers, whoever they are. And sometimes we're speaking as ourselves, sometimes as our characters; and if, to speak to our readers, we need to misspell certain words, begin sentences with '-ing' words, end with prepositions, or Frankenstein the words to fit our nefarious writerly purposes, then that's what we need to do.

But there is one rule that I've broken many times, only to pay the price of my words forming clots in my brain to the point that I can't even get the words out. And that rule is a simple one. Here it is:

Keep writing, friends.

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