Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rules are over-rated (mostly)

Anytime you try a new recipe or pattern or piece of music, the rule is the same: stick to the words on the page. The general wisdom is that you may want to change things the next time through, but on your maiden voyage, you DO NOT DEVIATE unless you want DISASTEROUS THINGS TO HAPPEN.

I’m really bad with rules.

Not the big ones. I’m good with stoplights and airport security. But when it comes to creative endeavors, I always, always deviate from the plan. I have an inability to trust that the person who put the pattern or recipe together, or who made interpretive changes to the sheet of music I’m about to try knew what they were doing. Or, maybe they knew what they were doing, but they didn’t know me. So, instead of following these things to a T, I look them over a few times, hold the idea of the thing in my head, and trundle forth into some state of semi-disaster or moderate success.

I make changes to and substitutions in recipes. I only refer to a pattern if I can no longer see through my tears. And I don’t have time to worry about crescendos and perfect trills in music.

Of course, it’s never perfect the first time through, because that’s when I’m learning. Perfection only gets in the way.

Turns out, I write the same way I do all of these other things. The difference in writing is that I have to make up the pattern I intend to deviate from. You might think that this means I’m more likely to stick to it, but that’s just not true. Apparently, I don’t trust myself to know the ins and outs of a story any more than I trust the folks at Vogue to know what I need in a jacket pattern (my shoulders are not Vogue shoulders).

At one point, I was afraid that writing multiple drafts of the same story meant I was doing it wrong. Friends shudder every time I tell them I’ve started over or that I’ve tossed another 20k into the “bits and bobs” file. But I think I’m going to start using different words for this process. I think it might be better to say that I’ve started again and that drafts are rehearsals for the real thing.

It’s good to have a plan or a guide or an outline. I like having the shape of the thing in mind before I begin, but I also like taking off into the unknown. It’s in the telling of it that the story is born. At least, that’s true for me.

So! It’s the New Year and that sounds like a fine time to pick up a new project. I’ve got two vying for dominance, both with very loud voices. I don’t know which to dive into first. So, if I were to tell you that one of these ideas looked like this….

And that the other looked like this...

Which would you vote for? Tryptic 1 or 2?

All photos found via Flickr Creative Commons.

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