One of the driving forces behind my writing is the desire to express myself in any way I choose. So I'm not going to limit my words and imagery because it might be, to some, a little too unreal or or unconventional and break accepted writing conventions or go against current publishing fashions.

I think that to be a writer, in fact to be any kind of artist, you have to be breaking rules on a daily basis. If you're not, you're not really trying; you're staying within the boundaries set by other people and your/our own limitations.

Art is not about following rules.

Or is it? 

It's easy enough to say that I will break the rules and not give a damn - but at the same time I also want enough commercial success to retire from being an employee and regain control of my life.

Can I do that and break the rules? Surely staying within the rules is the fast path to success? I suppose it can be, but that's about the best I can say.

What about breaking the rules to succeed? Loads of poeple have done it this way. Many have stayed true to themselves and their art and won. Given that there is no garantee of success either way, why should we bother to stay safe?

One of the problems we face nowadays is that the marketing depts of publishers are very focussed on what sells, so they like genres, something that is easy to sell, something that slots straight into the current template - fast and easy, bang, bang, bang and it's done.

You can't blame them for that. But it's not all they do. There are reams of books out there that break the rules or aren't a safe read - and the first that leaps to mind is The Road by Cormac McCarthy

It's not exactly a comfortable read is it? It's grey and dirty and depressing from start to finish, but I still think it's great, as are all his other books.

So, given that publishers are willing to stick their necks out, why do we as writers/artists stay within the rules, within our own comfort zones?

This is a question I ask myself again and again as I dream of writing the sort of story that I really want to write, whilst doing my best to ignore the demons that crawl around inside my head urging me into pastel green pastures with paths, easily accessed and well worn, with no surprises and no food for the soul.

So my advice, assuming I'm qualified to give any, is to follow what you think is right; write what you want and write it for you. Bring poetry into your work and dare to find your own images and way. You should also gather a few supporting friends, friends who will speak the truth and want you to achieve the best you can.

I'm still struggling with this, and I expect that struggle to go on for a long time. My thanks and love go to those who help me to realise better things, it's because of you that it will happen.

Don't Believe a Word
As mentioned in earlier blogs, I'm not impressed with poor standards in writing. Although I'm happy to see most writers being succesful, I don't see why we should try and play by the rules and work our arses off crafting something good, when some publishers and writers are happy to publish sub-standard work.

Not that I'm encouraging you to follow suit, or willing to write poorly myself. But if the publishing industry wants to write the rules (not an unfair idea) then they should follow them too.

I'm basing my opinion on a book I spent a good month trying to read (I say trying because it was like sandpapering my soul) which flouts almost every rule and guideline from agents and publishers I've read. That said, in the past I've tried to read several books that could, at best, be called second rate. So this particular one isn't the only cause of my irritation.

I've already banged on about this in earlier blogs, so today I'll just concentrate on a more personal issue about feeding my brain and reading as a learning and motivational experience.

Get Your Motor Running
One of the things we're all told to do as writers is read, and quite rightly so. I find reading is a great way to learn and is also inspirational. There is nothing like reading a good story that is beautifully crafted to fire up the imagination and make one pick up the pen.

Conversley, the opposite is true when you are reading rubbish. I found that over the course of the last month or so I was barely able to write anything, not even short poems, so dessicated was my imagination.

And then I read a great quote that said, in a paraphased stylee:
"There are so many great books out there you should read those first: don't waste good reading time on anything less."

It's a lesson that has been learned the hard way. In future I will stick to my 12 page rule, and that is if I haven't started to like or enjoy the story within 12 pages, then I'll stop reading it because it isn't going to get any better.

What Do You Do?
Does anyone else have such a rule and what is your experience and attitude towards second rate writing?