Normally, I have a healthy respect for rules and laws. They are what keeps our society together. I also have a fear of being arrested and/ or accidentally hurting someone else, so that keeps me in check, too.
This particular trait of mine has gotten me into trouble in the past, though-- when I wouldn't break the rules, not even a little. Trouble socially, you understand, not legally. In the end, I didn't really care what those people thought of me because they shouldn't have tried to pressure me into something I wasn't comfortable with in the first place.
But the thing is, those are real-life rules that I stick to. There's a place where I go to escape from real life and all its rules, and that's my writing.
But writing is full of "rules," too. Except that with language, it's a choice to follow the rules (just like in real life, except that no one is going to be hurt by breaking the writing laws unless you use your words as a weapon of hate).
We all know the rules of writing by heart. Don't use adverbs. Show, don't tell. Be snappy. Be grammatically correct. Don't write passively. And the list goes on.
But you know what? Hang the rules. Hang them all, because language is a free-flowing, ever-changing beast, and for every rule out there, there is an example of a writer who broke it and STILL managed to get published.
This is why I don't talk about writing rules in my blog posts (anymore). I have come to see them as snake oil-- if only you could weed out every adverb from your manuscript, you would be published. If only you showed every little detail instead of telling about it, you would be published. There is no magic cure, folks-- and that includes these rules. I see them as more of suggestions (or guidelines, for those Pirates of the Caribbean fans out there) anyway.
I am guilty of using copious adverbs and adjectives, writing in first person present tense (gasp!), and pretty much anything else you can think of. But I still like my writing, and frankly? That's all that matters to me. Someone else will like it, too, it's inevitable. But if I strangle myself with the rules, suddenly I don't like my writing or the act of writing it very much anymore.
I see it kind of like music composition. There are some composers who write music almost (and occasionally literally) mathematically. Music to them is an equation. And the results are technically perfect-- but something is just missing.
Then there are the composers who write with passion-- letting their fingers pick the notes and connect with their heart instead of their brain-- and their music may be looser, more sloppy, but it moves people.
Which writer do you want to be?
So hang the rules-- hang them right up, string them high for all to see-- and then cut yourself free of them. Write like you are free from them, because you are. No one, least of all me, is going to string YOU up for using adverbs, and they might even thank you for it.
What rules do you break?