What to Do When an Onslaught of Rules and Advice Are Stifling You

rules

Do you ever read writing rules and then find your writing process completely stifled when it’s time to start putting words to paper? These rules can come in the form of guidelines or writing advice. When you get stifled by the rules, a piece can be missing your voice, your passion and your unique spark of imagination. But don’t despair — it’s still possible to write well and to let your creativity flow despite a litany of rules.

The Problem

When you’re offering writing services to a client, you often have an extensive list of writing guidelines that the client wants you to follow, plus he mentions that you should use AP Style and look up the voice of the website you’ll be writing for. You have to focus on the format of the piece, on the style and voice, and on including internet marketing concepts like SEO keywords. As you wade through this sea of rules, you find that you’ve lost your voice, your creativity or the message the piece should convey. It can be difficult to just start writing in the first place because you worry whether each line will fit the rules.

Alternatively, maybe you read a bunch of articles or books that offer you writing advice for personal or professional writing. Suddenly, someone out there has convinced you that you’re a hack who has no idea what you’re doing. You’ve been writing all wrong, you should be trying these other techniques, your ideas don’t fit into what people are currently interested in or you have to get a new degree or take fifty courses before you’ll ever be a real writer.

What Can You Do About It?

When you’re providing writing services for a client with a lot of guidelines, one method you could try is to separate the parts of the assignment. Have an idea of the guidelines, but try not to follow them too closely at first. Start by figuring out the message of the piece and by letting your writing flow, remembering that you can edit if you stray too far. Then, find a way to work the message and your creative expression into the guidelines. This will help you have a better piece that isn’t so stifled, but that still follows the rules.

With writing advice, it can help to take it all with a grain of salt. This isn’t a field where there is always a set formula that will provide perfect results. Sometimes, you need to let all of the advice go or choose just a few nuggets of wisdom that you like, and then pave your own course to come up with a fresh and unique idea or technique. Sure, maybe one writer follows a certain technique, but that doesn’t mean you can’t succeed by following your own course. Plenty of writers have “made it” by being the bad boys who didn’t follow the rules.

Of course, this is just more writing advice! Hopefully, you find it helpful. But if this message isn’t really connecting with you, don’t let it cripple your writing. Instead, find your own methods that help you shine!

Sharon T is a freelance writer who has often found herself crippled by writing rules. She’s a free spirit who can follow the rules but loves the new worlds she finds when she strays from the beaten path.


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