Once you decide to dabble a toe into the pool of writing, you’ll learn that the waters are full of guidelines, many disguised as hard and fast rules. This important distinction was one of the first, and hardest, things that I had to learn. Some rules are irrefutable such as, every story must have a beginning, middle, and an end. Others, not so much. One of the “rules” I was taught in my very first writing class was that all chapters must be at least 5000 words in length. That’s simply not true. It may, or may not, be a good guideline, but a “rule?” Definitely not.
One of the “rules” that you’ll encounter most often is that in order to be a good writer, you must write every day – or night, as the case may be. True, writing every night is a good habit. The more you write, the better you get. But, will you automatically be a hack if you don‘t write every night? Absolutely not! This particular “rule” has the potential to do a lot of harm in my opinion.
Instead of letting this “rule” riddle you with guilt, accept it as the guideline it really is and do what works best for you. Early on, I felt guilty because writing every night just didn’t work for me. Seriously? I have a full-time job and my husband and I take care of our elderly parents. I am a busy woman! Some days, I am so mentally exhausted when I get home from work that I can’t think. On those days, I don’t want to write. Instead, I just want to read or play video games and immerse myself in the stories that someone else has written. Why should I feel guilty about that? After all, reading is also an important part of writing.
However, the most important reason that I give myself the freedom to not write every night is this: I love to write. Writing is my passion. It makes me happy. As soon as I force myself to write every night because some nebulous “someone” somewhere said that I should, I risk turning writing into something that I “have” to do, instead of something that I “want” to do. I have enough “have to’s” in my life, I don’t need another one. Once writing becomes a “have to,” I risk it becoming something that I resent and I’m not willing to take that chance with something I love so much.
What writing “rules” are you most willing to flaunt?