break the rules

Join us on the first Monday of every month for a free Fostering Creativity exercise. Then head over to the #JustWrite forums to submit your response to the challenge—enter as many times as you’d like! Each month, I’ll select one winner. The winning entry will be highlighted on my blog and showcased at the Winner’s Circle, you’ll receive the #JustWrite Fostering Creativity Award to display on your blog or web site, and you’ll receive a mystery prize as well. Scroll to the end of the post to read about last month’s winner.

For this month’s #JustWrite exercise, let’s try something a little different. Let’s break some rules. That’s what they’re meant for anyway, right?

The Problem with Rules

Everybody’s got them: rules. Books and essays have been written about them. You probably know more of them than you think you do.  There’s a problem with them though.

We can get so caught up in the rules that we lose touch with our creativity. We’re so worried about breaking the rules and turning out perfect prose, that we get caught up in dotting our Is and crossing our Ts, and forget all about what really matters: Just writing.

Our Inner Critic likes to stand at our shoulder, ruler in hand, ready to snap it over our knuckles when we step out of line. Her critical eye is alert to every shortcoming, failure, and broken rule. What if we flaunted her outright? What would happen if you broke the rules? If you wrote deliberately bad prose? 

Cover of "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions...

Cover via Amazon

Anne Lamott talks about this in her book, Bird by Bird:

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.

We forget this though. Often, as we write our terrible first efforts, our Inner Critic starts chattering, telling us how awful it is, and we believe her. We let her win when we put our pencils down or close our laptops, discouraged by how awful our first draft is.

Lamotta tells us about her own struggles with this:

So I’d start writing without reining myself in. It was almost just typing, just making my fingers move. And the writing would be terrible. . . . The critics would be sitting on my shoulders, commenting like cartoon characters. They’d be pretending to snore, or rolling their eyes at my overwrought descriptions . . . What I’ve learned to do . . . is to quiet the voices in my head. . . . Quieting these voices is at least half the battle I fight daily.

As writers, we are often encouraged to give ourselves permission to write terrible first drafts. What if we took that a step further though? What if we didn’t merely give ourselves permission, but instead wrote an intentionally bad first draft? What if we tried to break all the rules?

Intentionally writing a terribly keeps our Inner Critic so busy she can’t keep up. Before long, she’ll be stammering incoherently—maybe she’ll even give up altogether and shut up for a while. Go beyond giving yourself permission to write terribly. Tell your Inner Critic to cram it.

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#JustWrite Challenge: Break the rules

This month’s challenge is to write an intentionally terrible first paragraph.  See how many rules you can break. Write run-on sentences, purple up your prose, dangle your modifiers. Flood your Inner Critic until she gives up trying to stifle your creativity. 

Click here to submit your entry to the challenge. (You many need to login or register first.) Enter as many times as you’d like. The challenge will remain open until the first of next month, when I select the winning entry. Now #JustWrite!


Last Month’s Winner

The #JustWrite Fostering Creativity Award for last month’s challenge to write with wondersense goes, once again, to Caine Dorr from Vancouver, WA. Here’s a snippet from his winning entry:

“Forced to pick it up, the cold steel of the pistol felt all wrong in Bradly’s hand. It was like picking up a block of ice and caused his whole body to shake as the wicked sensation of his innocent possession of it began chilling him to the bone. ”

Read the rest of his entry here: Chilled to the Bone.


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