Why I Don’t Write Right Yet I Write On
Was that the cheesiest headline ever? It sounds like something a TV news anchor might say before doing a story about it.I have to be honest with myself and because of that, I feel compelled to call myself out on that headline.
I know better than to write a headline like that. One of the first rules I ever learned from my good friend and former co-worker, Scott Lewis, "Never try to be funny in a headline. It never works." Great advice, actually, but I have a long, long record as one who doesn't always take good advice.
Back in school, when they were trying to teach me to write, I always lost points for breaking some of the rules. I only recently realized that I broke those rules because I wanted to write the way I talk and I just don't think all the rules should apply in that case. Needless to say; that theory never worked with any teacher I ever had anywhere.Now that a big part of what I do is writing, I wish I'd paid more attention. I always figured that the rules didn't apply to me. So many of the authors I liked didn't follow the rules.
I constantly pointed out great examples of writers who didn't follow the correct form. "Look at Jack Kerouac", I told them. 'For goodness sake, how about ee cummings?" I knew I had them there.
The instructors all had the exact same reaction. "You are neither of those men," they would tell me in a matter that had the very air of finality in it. I mean, no one finished that sentence with the words, "And you never will be", but they may as well have. I guess the message got through because I have now been taught the rules. Now, I've worked out a little arrangement when it comes to writing; I can break the rules as long as I know which rules I'm breaking.