I’m really bummed that I’m missing the Olympics this year. A couple of years ago, my husband I decided to cut the cable bill because we spent more time channel surfing that watching any shows. This is the first time I’ve really missed it. I’m not big into sports in general, but I have a couple of favorites. Namely, gymnastics and diving. In the winter, I go crazy for ice skating.
My favorite thing about all of these sports is that there is an art to them, room to be unique.
In the Olympics, as in writing, there are a lot of rules. Keep the balls within the boundary lines, create a character arc. Stick your landing, cut unnecessary words. Don’t double bounce on the springboard, watch your adverbs. We need rules to know how to judge and label things, but what we really want is someone who is willing to push the boundaries. We want to be wowed.
Isn’t that why we continue to watch the Olympics every four years, and why we continue to read? We’re waiting for the chance to witness something amazing and beautiful.
In life, I’m a “follow the rules” kind of girl. “Rules help control the fun!” (If you get this reference, you are awesome.) But in art, the rules are asking to be stretched to the limits and sometimes, even broken. That’s what makes great stories great. That’s why some books that are technically not well written become overnight bestsellers, and why some books that are flawless get read by only a few. Writing is more than the rules. It’s about touching peoples hearts, exploring the depths of our souls and being unique.
In the Olympics, the rules can’t be broken but the athletes that wow us are those who use those rules to better themselves and then make their routines their own. In writing, any rule can be broken as long as it’s done well. Extra points for creativity make up for any deductions.
So don’t fear the rules, and don’t live by them. Know them, keep them in mind, and then write. If you focus on your story, you might just be surprised at how many points your earn–and how many fans–without even trying. It’s time to go for the gold.