04 August 2009

Caught Up: Finding the Balance

Sadly, the title of this post in no way refers to me being 'caught up' on any of the things I need have already done in life, like yesterday's blog post (O:)), or the prep work for my assignment - due next week. (Though I am, at last, basically uptodate with my readings, huzzah).

No. Today I wanted to have a look at the things we get caught up with.

Glam recently - or not so, perhaps; been away for so long I've no idea - posted an article about being caught up in following the rules (http://theinnocentflower.blogspot.com/2009/07/lost-or-found.html). And I realised, once again, that sometimes the things I find self-evident really aren't so at all.

I'm a rule follower, usually. Always have been. I was a straight-A student all throughout highschool; I won all sorts of awards right throughout, and graduated second in my year, in the 99th percentile for the state.

Rule follower. Through and through.

And yet.

It always seems strange to me when people allow Rules to take over their lives. Rules are made by humans; human are fallible, ergo rules are too. I studied law for two years at university, and for me it was always, always the spirit of the law that was more important than the letter. Sometimes, it's just plain not logical to follow the rules.

In writing, there are a lot of 'rules'. Show, don't tell. Full stops at ends of sentences. No fragments. (:P) And so on. It's always seemed pretty self-evident to me, both by applying logic and by paying attention to what I read that is actually published that following these kinds of rules is pretty optional, if you know what you're doing. It's like English lit as a whole, really: You can hold any opinion that you like, so long as you can substantiate why :D (Yes, there are no right or wrong answers in English; that terrifies some people, but that's why I love it ;) Especially because if you really want to, you can prove almost anything from almost any text O:))

Distracted, oops. Sorry, I still have the lingering after-coughs of bronchitis, and my brain's a little spacey :)

So, rules are, to a large extent, optional in writing. There's really no sense getting caught up with them, and stressing yourself out over it. After all, if we all wrote precisely according to the rules, we'd no doubt all end up sounding exactly the same.

Like anything, however, there's a 'but'. And I think it's a pretty big one.

Being able to substantiate what you've done and why is an often-overlooked but essential part of any writer's toolkit. Sure, you can claim that you're doing it just because 'it works'; and often, that can be true. No problemo.

But what happens when it's time to edit, and you know that something's wrong, but you can't figure out what? It's then that knowing the rules really helps. Being able to sit down and go methodically through the 'rules' to see which ones you've broken, and to think about what effect that might be having on the story, can be tedious - but it's a heck of a lot LESS tedious and frustrating than staring at the eightieth broken draft of your story.

Know why you're doing what you're doing; it'll save you a lot of heartache when it comes to knowing what's working in your story, and what's not.

Something for me to keep in mind I as FINALLY dive into edits of Jesscapades. Huzzah! *waves editing flag*

So tell me - are you a rule follower in writing? How about life? And how are you placed when someone challenges what you're doing - can you give a reason?

7 comments:

Yunaleska said...

I can usually give a reason why I do something. Whether people see it as valid is a different matter!

I like following rules (in life) - in writing, I'm vaguely aware of rules, although I tend to write by instinct.

Lady Glamis said...

Oh, GREAT thoughts, Inky!

We really do have to know why we're breaking the rules, which means we need to know the "rules" or guidelines, I like to call them now. I don't fight grammar rules, of course, but I do follow a lot of guidelines these days. With the ice-cream cone thing - I like how it shows the roles, but gives me room to break the strict guidelines that usually exist in certain genres.

Hope you get caught up on other things soon, too! So glad you liked that post. I was really frustrated when I wrote that. :)

ElanaJ said...

I follow rules in life (except for the speed limit). In writing? Not so much. I break the rules for stylistic effect.

Yunaleska said...

Stylistic effect? I'll have to remember that one :)

Merc said...

I try to know what I'm doing, but it doesn't always work so well. O:)

Something I'm learning is to think more about the WHY when doing things. Yes, there are still "just because it's shiny", and I refuse to let go of that. But on other things, I'm trying to figure out the "why" and have an explanation for what the heck I'm doing. ;)

As for following the rules--in life, yes. Usually. In writing--hah! What are these rules of which you speak? O:) (Yes, I KNOW a lot of them. Depending on what I'm doing, I have no problem breaking them if I have a good reason and know what I'm doing.)

~Merc

Wulf said...

Since I've studied so many martial arts in my life, I tend to be very big on analyzing the "function" of things.

In fact, I'd say I err on the opposite end, being one who examines everything to such detail that my friends often just want a break from it.

After all, not everything they do needs to be well thought and based on good analysis of the rules and whether or not they should be bent.

I'm definitely one that struggles with finding the balance. :(

Inkblot said...

Yuna - Yes, validity is all a matter of perspective O:) :D As for instinct, I think there's definitely a place for it - but see my comment to Merc below ;)

Glam - You sounded frustrated ;) Yes, the key to any rule-breaking is to know what rules you're breaking and why. That's my entire point :)

Elana - Ah, but you have a reason, so all is well :D Hehe.

Merc - The trying is what counts, I've heard ;) I think it's important to hold on to some things 'just because'; it's all a balance. But it's great to understand why you're doing things as well - because if you understand why you're doing them, you can connect that to the results you're acheiving (or not acheiving!) and figure out how to improve much easier.

Wulf - Martial arts fascinate me, perhaps because I'm a person who likes structure, order, logic, self-discipline, self-control and all that. I know what you mean about having to let go of it sometimes though; that's why I loathe first drafts so much. They're so freeing, because I have to just write - but they're terrifying, because I have to just write. There are no rules or boundaries that can help me, and analysis at that stage is going to kill my draft faster than a bullet to the head. Writing teaches us a lot about life, I guess :)

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