the rules


Random quote of the day:

“Writers often give advice they don’t follow to the letter themselves.”

—Tobias Wolff, The Paris Review, Issue 171, Fall 2004

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”

—Katharine Hepburn, quoted in Katharine Hepburn Once Said by Susan Crimp

 katharine4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Selling out is usually more a matter of buying in. Sell out, and you’re really buying into someone’s else’s system of values, rules and rewards.”

—Bill Watterson, “Some Thoughts On the Real World By One Who Glimpsed It and Fled,” Kenyon College Commencement, May 20, 1990

sellout4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Do not pay any attention to the rules other people make… They make them for their own protection, and to hell with them.”

—William Saroyan, preface, 1931 edition, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze

 protection4WP@@@

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

27 Dec
The guy in the Cadillac Escalade whose license plate included “ASAP” driving at least 10 mph under the speed limit.

30 Dec
I have strep throat. The doc said “I worked in the ER and nothing phases me but THAT’S impressive.” God knows how long I’ve had it.

31 Dec
I’ve been sick as a dog for days but tonight I feel like I may have regained my humanity. Happy new year everyone.

1 Jan
No fever this morning for the first time since Friday. I think I may survive. 

 May you all enjoy a happy and fever free 2013.

1 Jan
Having watched all the Rose Parade I can stand (10 minutes), I will turn my attention elsewhere.

2 Jan
People are the foulest species. I don’t usually watch Animal Cops because I can’t stand the cruelty, stupidity and culpability of some people, but it happened to be on when I turned the TV on and I became transfixed by a story of three horses. Happy endings for two of them, no word on what kind of ending the third experienced. I want to believe the number of good people balances out the bad, but there are days I have my doubts.

2 Jan
In other news, I still feel like crud.

2 Jan
Watching a Dr. Oz diet show while eating KFC: another fine irony.

3 Jan
Profound: doing an oracle reading re: Mom and having her interrupt it with a phone call. If I was a writer I might make something of that.

4 Jan
I felt mostly human today but still tire way too easily.

6 Jan
Who likes mimes except other mimes?

7 Jan
I think “don’t describe eye color” is one of the more bogus writing rules. Someone with a personality disorder must have made that one up. I always notice eye color in Real Life. It’s pertinent in description; eyes are the windows to the soul, etc. Having said all this, I do believe amateurs way the hell overuse eye color as a descriptor, as if it’s the only thing important about a face. It’s one more piece of the puzzle, that’s all, and perhaps that rule was generated by someone’s frustration over too many “he had brown hair and blue eyes” 
flat and lifeless descriptions. More important perhaps to note the pitted quality of his nose, how light never touches those blue eyes.

7 Jan
They’re talking about springing Ma soon from the Big House. She’s been walking real good.

9 Jan
Boycotting Olive Garden, Red Lobster and now Wendy’s: http://bit.ly/ZyYiY5 

10 Jan
Hope seems to be my Rasputin emotion. No matter how many times and ways it is assassinated, it refuses to die.

10 Jan
Mom got cocky, thinking she was going home, and decided to go to the bathroom without help. She lost her balance and “fell.” Although she insists she just “slid down the wall.” No breaks/fractures, thank God. But they want to monitor her another week or so before releasing her. She’s doing well. They took her outside and walked her up and down the block yesterday (assisted). They’re just being cautious.

11 Jan
I’m so old that when I hear the word “butter” I have to fight the urge to say, “Parkay.”

14 Jan
Dear Man on the Cycle: your clownish bicycle clothes just got stupider with the addition of the unitard.

14 Jan
The water in the birdbath froze overnight, a very rare occurrence here near the beach.

14 Jan
It doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t 

mean anything.

Don’t read anything into it, don’t read anything into it, don’t read anything into it, don’t read anything into it, don’t read anything into it.

Remember: hope is the thing without feathers.

14 Jan
Funny the things that stick in your mind: I can’t read/hear “papier maché” without hearing Rowan Atkinson’s voice (from Blackadder Goes Forth) saying, “Pap-ee-yay MASH-ay willie.” (He was mocking the artistic strivings of Hugh Laurie’s upperclass twit character.) That phrase has been rattling around in my brain for years. Sad, really.

15 Jan
Wow. I just forgot my boss’s last name. I had to get up and look at his name plate. That’s rather terrifying.

15 Jan
Stop being a writer and just write.

15 Jan
Conspiracy theory and gun nuts—a terrifying, sick combination: http://yhoo.it/106HIPr 

So, here I am reading a book I’m enjoying immensely. I come upon a chapter in which the writer does something that I know, positively, I have told some young writers in my capacity as a critiquer to never do—switching POV late in a book to one not encountered before. Hey, I’ve been told not to do that myself. The thing is, it works perfectly in this book. As a reader coming upon that shift, I could give a hairy pontiff’s left ear whether the writer has changed POV. I want the information it can give me, I want to know what happens next. And in that moment of realization a great crap paper tide of old critiques fluttered behind me and a voice called across the abyss as it filled with the perfidy of my Writing Thoughts, It doesn’t really matter what you’re supposed to do. The only thing that matters is if you can make what you do work.

Not the first time I’ve had that thought, but it came home especially strong to me today. It may have something to do with rereading one of my older novels—a shuddering experience if ever there is one.

Experience. That’s the key word. The perfidy mentioned above is all about the difference between critiques based on experience (and maybe instinct) and those based on regurgitation. “The Rules” only matter if the story doesn’t work. And here’s the other thing, even if a beta reader or critquer or critic says the story doesn’t work, it still might not matter. That “doesn’t work” can be a question of individual taste, or prejudice, or the sour feeling left in the reader’s stomach by the cafeteria food. If your own gut—not the one turning sour—tells you that something is right, you need to stick by it.

I’m not saying we writers have a magic I’m A Genius Don’t Bother Me With Your Tiny Opinions card. No. If enough people tell you that something isn’t working, you should probably pay attention to that. Be very sure that your gut is talking, telling you a thing is right, and not some fractured corner of your ego.

And even as I’m typing that last paragraph, I’m thinking “Regurgitated Wisdom.” (Because, really, haven’t you heard the one about “if enough people” ad nauseam?) In this case, it happens to be regurgitated with a side of experience, so maybe it’s not total bullshit. Maybe I do sort of know what I’m talking about in this particular instance, as opposed to some of the half-assed critiques I have offered up over the years.

But you never know. Reading my old stuff and realizing how deluded I was about the quality of that work has me stumbling through a funhouse of fractured and distorted opinion. What do I really know?

This is an existential question and has no real answer. The question is the black matter holding the universe together like invisible glue. It is self-contained and complete and needs no critique to make it whole. Sufficient unto the day is the question thereof.