Something happened today. Something amazing. It doesn't necessarily guarantee that my 3rd novel, IRKADURA, will somehow be touched by a stroke of genius, though, funny enough, in the moment when this epiphany struck me, it felt like it. To me. Hahaha. Right. Secret reprehensible hopes. Like that will ever happen. Maybe. I don't know. In the meantime. Let me keep being decorous and continue with our conversation.
Something struck me today. Wait. I'm lying. It struck me yesterday. Well, a bit today, too. Like an aftershock. Two things happened. One, I read this article about Irish writer Eimear McBride (beautiful name, right?) whose first novel, A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, won Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 10 years after she finished it, published after 10 years of rejections. (10 years!) In this article Eimear said that after reading Ulysses she thought, "...everything I have written before is rubbish, and today is the beginning of something else." Naturally, I went to Amazon and started reading the preview of the book, you know, the opening, the first pages. And that. Was. It.
I've been struck by lightning. Or maybe by a colander full of human bones. Or something.
I thought, shit! What the fuck is wrong with me? I'm so afraid to deviate from the norm that I stick to it, but I don't feel it! Well, breathe here. Then the second thing happened.
I finished reading 2nd draft of IRKADURA today, and I could clearly see how in the last 100 pages I stopped giving a fuck. Sentences became choppy, crisp, short. Just how I like them. So today, before I even finished reading, I couldn't hold myself back any longer and jumped the gun. I opened up a new doc. I named it Draft 3, and I started typing. Fast. I changed the story from 3rd person to 1st. Past tense to present. I'll post the excerpt in the next blog post, you'll see. But before we get there, I want you to read the opening to McBride's novel. Take a deep breath.
"For you. You'll soon. You'll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she'll wear your say. Mammy me? Yes you. Bounce the bed, I'd say. I'd say that's what you did. Then lay you down. They cut you round. Wait and hour and day.
Walking up corridors up the stairs. Are you alright? Will you sit, he says. No. I want she says. I want to see my son. Smell from dettol through her skin. Mops diamond floor tiles all as strong. All the burn your eyes out if you had some. Her heart going pat. Going dum dum dum. Don't mind me she's going to your room. See the. Jesus. What have they done? Jesus. Bile for. Tidals burn. Ssssh. All over. Mother. She cries. Oh no. Oh no no no."
Blast me. What was I so afraid of before? Hiding behind rules? Afraid to write the way I want to write? Do you see what I mean? Do you see? You have permission to strangle me. Or pummel me. To pulp. Hard. I deserve it.
This, you see?
WRITING RULES DON'T MATTER.
Nothing matters, really, except your story. The way you want to tell it. The way you feel it. I bet you had that moment, when you felt carried away, when you forgot to be afraid and you weren't afraid and you wrote and it felt fantastic and true and then, BAM. You remembered that you suck, or somehow fear crept back under your skin. And you were back in the trenches. Proper grammar. Proper sentence structure. Proper plot. Proper everything. Because. Who are you to reinvent the rules of the game? What do you know? Nothing. You try to learn from others. They do it, you do it. They don't do it, you don't do it. In this example too. See how this writer, Eimear, how she had to read something else first, to believe? Hey, that's why you have to read a lot, you hear me? A LOT. Everything. All kinds. All different. Books. Fiction. Non-fiction. Read, read, read. You will see it come. It will strike you too, like me. Or maybe it already did.
Think about it.
Why do we create rules? Rules are a product of fear. We want to predict the future. We want it smooth. Want it to flow. We love to learn from experience, we don't want to repeat mistakes. Mistakes hurt. Hey, generations before us already broke all kinds of stuff, from immemorial times. Why bother? Why not learn from them? There you go. Rules. We stick to them. We seek them out. Before starting something new, we try to find out all the rules about it. Before starting to write a book, we read about how to write a book. As if there is a formula. If there was, every single person on this planet would be able to write an instant classic. Somehow it's not happening, right? You know why? I think I know why. I think. I guess. This is my best guess.
We're full of fucking fear.
That's it. If there was no fear, I'm sure there would be so many more brilliant novels. Maybe that's why it takes years of writing to write something good. Yeah, you study the craft. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get this happy horseshit. But really. Really, I think, it takes this many years to be comfortable with who you are as an artist, to learn not to care about what people think, and to create, your own way. Nothing is simpler. And nothing is harder.
I say this.
Forget about rules. At least for a day. Do an exercise. Write something, or, if you're already in the middle of writing something, change your tactic for a day. Write something with absolutely no care in the world about rules. Wake up the next day. Read it. Compare. Even if you will think it's total rubbish, I bet you'll learn something amazing about yourself as a writer. Like me. You will see something you haven't seen before. Do it. Meanwhile. Onward.