4 In Writer's Life

Yoda Is a Genius

I’ve had Star Wars on the brain today.  Probably because of the, “Ah-ha” moment that whacked me between the eyes this weekend…coupled with the brilliant observations of Kristen Lamb’s blog this morning.  No matter the trigger, some classic Yoda gems have been revving through my mental archives.

Let’s start with the one Kristen’s blog brought to mind….

Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm, LTD.

Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.

Kristen’s blog talked about her obsessive tendencies and how she gets a bit punchy when life tries to interfere with her pursuit of structure.  While such behavior might result in some amount of interpersonal conflict if left unchecked, it’s also made her a better writer—pushed her to finish where other people might have opted for working a deeper dent in their sofa cushion.

I get that mentality.  There’s not a lot of gray in finishing what you set out to accomplish.  You either do or you don’t.  Trying isn’t what gets you across the finish line.

The other shining Yoda-ism bouncing around in my noggin?

Photo Courtesy of Lucasfilm, LTD.

Photo Courtesy of Lucasfilm, LTD.

You must unlearn what you have learned.

Yeah, I just had to laugh when this one hit me.  You see, I’ve spent the last year sucking down every bit of knowledge anyone would share with me on how to be a better writer.

Picture me standing defenseless while someone unloads a fully loaded Uzi in my torso, every bullet jolting my body.  That’s what it’s felt like…and I’ve loved it.  Every painful, nasty bit of it.

I’ve stacked up all manner of what I call, “the thou shalts.”  Pearls of wisdom that should be adhered to if I ever want to publish:

  • Thou Shalt avoid the use of words ending in ing.
  • Thou Shalt ensure visceral reactions are included in your manuscript to better draw the reader in.
  • Thou Shalt not end in a preposition.  (Oops.  Did that all in the last, “Thou Shalt.”)
  • Thou Shalt show the reader, not tell.
  • Thou Shalt avoid the use of internalization.

Seriously, the list could go on forever.  And no, if you’re not a writer and don’t get all that—you don’t need to.  It’s just writer “stuff”.

What I’m taking too long in getting around to saying is, I’ve filled my head up with so many dos and don’ts I’ve crippled my writing.  What used to be enjoyable has turned into merciless hours of staring at a blank screen.

And then JR Ward’s new book, Lover at Last, came out.  <Please hold.  I must bow in reverence.>

It’s been a year since the last Black Dagger Brotherhood book was released, so I whipped out Lover Revealed for a quick run-through to remind myself of everything that had happened when we’d last left off.

OMG!  She broke rules.  LOTS OF THEM.

And I loved every word.

Loved them like I always have, not giving one whit about the damned rules.  And I thought to myself, “Hmmm.  Maybe I could do that too?”

You bet your butt, I did.  I sat down Saturday night and all of a sudden it was fun again.  The words sounded RIGHT.

I don’t think Yoda meant I needed to dump everything I’ve learned.  He meant I didn’t need to be caged by it.  They’re tools, not laws.  At the end of the day, anything artistic is subjective.  What one person loves, another will abhor.  So, why bother trying to write in a voice that’s not me?

So, there’s my Monday rant.  My obsessive, routine-driven behavior (rules) is a good thing, so long as I don’t let it cage who I am (unlearn what I’ve learned).  The phrase, “Balance Young Padawan,” comes to mind.

What about you?  Do you struggle keeping the balance between what you’ve learned and creativity in check?  If so, please share.  It’ll be good to know I’m not the only bowling ball rebounding off the gutter guards of life.

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  • Reply
    Kristen Lamb
    April 2, 2013 at 8:14 am

    Rules are supposed to be guideposts not anchors, LOL. But it takes time to realize this and get back to the childlike way we used to tell stories. Great post!

    • Reply
      April 2, 2013 at 8:22 am

      Anchors is a great way to put it. Cutting the cord on those weights felt GREAT!

  • Reply
    Lynette M Burrows
    April 2, 2013 at 8:43 am

    Welcome to the good side of the force, Rhenna! The other thing about rules? They don’t apply to first drafts! First draft is where you spill everything on the pages. In revision you get to look at what you’ve written and say- yes, I need to follow that rule here, but not here. And that’s a different kind of fun! So glad you were able to cut free of the weights Rhenna!

  • Reply
    Coleen Burright
    April 2, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Great post, Rhenna! Wise, wise Yoda is never wrong. But you forgot the first rule: Thou shalt be true to thyself and thy writing and thy voice. Guidelines thou mayest screw at your behoovement. Okay, maybe that’s more than one rule…

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