I’m excited to welcome a guest post by Barb Tarn – writer of adult fantasy and artist. I enjoy her Monday “Happiness Is…” posts as well as her insights from many years of experimenting with writing. I hope you do, too 🙂 Don’t forget to check out my post on Barb’s Creative Barbwire blog today. (We’ve both written a post on the same subject.)
Everybody And Their Mother Say So
by Barbara G.Tarn
Veronica Sawyer: If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you?
Heather McNamara: Probably.
Veronica Sawyer: If you’re happy every day of your life, you wouldn’t be a human being, you’d be a game show host.
(from the movie “Heathers”, written by Daniel Waters)
How many times did that happen to you? Saying “But everyone else is doing it” or “But everybody and their mother say so” as an excuse for doing something?
It happens to everybody, writer or not, right? But who set those damn rules “everybody” follows anyway? I believe we shouldn’t allow others to tell us what we can/can’t/should/shouldn’t do. I don’t think somebody exists who doesn’t have his/her own dreams/ideas. But we’re social people and we tend to influence each other – or better, strong-willed individuals dictate the rules to the “weaker” beings.
I’m probably strong-willed (rebel? Proud to be different?), but I wasn’t always like this. I’ve told lies to myself for years, trying to “fit in”. This brought depression and ruined my life and nobody cared except me, until I said “Enough!” and started following my (crazy) mind. And now I don’t like hearing “but everybody and their mother say so” as an excuse. Veronica’s line immediately comes to my mind – and yeah, I do get some “Probably” answers. Please, don’t. God gave you a beautiful mind and even more beautiful heart. Use them, listen to them, they know better than anybody else what you really need. You don’t have to follow fashion, create your own. You don’t have to follow the market, shape it.
About writing, it was the same. By trying to listening to every comment and every suggestion, I got writer burn-out. So I said enough. I mean, we all know the rules. Read aloud what you have written (not even if you pay me, pal, doesn’t work for me!), kill whatever (your babies, adverbs, adjectives, the list is endless), follow this, do that, and so on, and so forth. Of course you should check your grammar, be careful with head-hopping and all the other rather obvious things (plot holes or character inconsistencies), but then again, rules are made to be broken – with knowledge of what’s behind them, of course.
Otherwise your own personal voice, your themes, your stories will never shine and look like dozens others that stick to that very same rule. Those bestsellers and blockbusters? They became that because they dared to be different. They sounded different. They told the same old story in a different way. Of course now everybody is looking for clones of those, but it’s not really going to work, or at least not for everybody.
Remember, all the stories have already been told over and over again. It’s the new execution, the personal view of an old “myth” that makes you stand out from the crowd. And don’t let readers and critics lead you astray, it’s YOUR story, not theirs. It’s YOUR view on whatever topic you’re writing about (fictionalized or not). You can’t please everybody and their mother. Even those bestsellers up there have their detractors.
Don’t follow the trend. Set it.
Barbara G. Tarn is a writer, artist and world-creator. She hopes to reveal the might of her world, Silvery Earth, as soon as technology allows her. Or maybe she’ll turn into an historical writer, who knows. In the meantime she writes, draws, ignores her day job and blogs at http://creativebarbwire.wordpress.com