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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Break the Rules and Break Your Resistance!

Break the rules and break your writing free!

By Rosanne Bane

I’ve had a particularly good writing week. I made a commitment to focus at least 4 of my 5 daily writing sessions on a project that I had been a wee bit resistant to, and that commitment kept me focused and in motion. The other source of this week’s writing satisfaction came from breaking the rules.

There is a special freedom to be gained in breaking the rules.

The backstory: I asked the students in my Writing Our Way Through Shadow class to write a dreck draft. I’ve posted about the dreck draft before (in the September archives) but in case you don’t recall, writing a dreck draft is intentionally writing as badly as you can. I told my students to write the worst stuff they could, to write something truly awful, clichéd, awkward, stupid, incomplete, unbelievable, sappy, sentimental, boring, grandiose, or any other adjective they would hate to have ascribed to their writing.

I’ve written dreck drafts before and I figured I’d write another to be a good role model, but I never expected to get so much energy, passion and freedom from the exercise.

I wrote a dreck version of a query letter that broke all the rules about being professional and polite. I started with “Listen up, Mr. or Ms. So-Called Editor: I know what the @#%*! I’m talking about.” I wrote the actual word in the draft – I just don’t want to offend anyone here. That’s one of the keys about the dreck draft – don’t let anyone read it unless s/he knows and appreciates the purpose of writing dreck and promises not to judge you.

I went on to say that I understood the potential readers of the book I’m proposing better than the editor audience of the query ever would. I wrote about my conviction that my readers could and would use the information in my book to transform their writing careers. I pretty much accused the editor of not caring about readers, writers, books, literature or anything else other than the bottom line. I even stooped to name-calling. I concluded by writing that I might be willing to let the editor look at my proposal, but only if the terms suited me.

It’s the ‘screw you’ letter so many of us want to write from time to time. It’s the kind of letter we know we can never send. Until I wrote this dreck letter, I’ve always been professional, writing the kind of proposal and query that follows the rules about proving your worthiness to write the book and currying favor to get permission to approach the publishing throne. Logically, I know that not all editors are evil lackeys of a degenerate publishing industry. And I know I can’t do anything with this dreck draft. So why waste time on it?

Because the dreck draft energized me. Outrage is a very revitalizing emotion. Writing the dreck draft reminded me how passionate I am about my book and the information I have to share with my readers. It brought me back to the deep reason I’m writing. Not only can I go back writing a professional query, I can write it with energy and passion because I remember why I’m doing it.

To paraphrase Victor Frankl ‘A writer can endure any what, as long as we have a compelling why.’

What’s your compelling why? What are you passionate about in your writing? What rules are dampening your enthusiasm and energy? And how can you break those rules in a dreck draft?

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4 Comments on “Break the Rules and Break Your Resistance!”

  1. Laura Sommers November 24, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    Nice. I’ve written a few of those letters to clients before… of course, didn’t sent them! It not only puts you in touch with your passion, but also with your courage. It always helps me deal from a position of strength—keeps the relationship from feeling too one-sided. To me.

    Anger is a highly underrated emotion. It’s probably my #1 motivating emotion, the one that finally gets me to take strong, decisive action.

    Thanks for sharing your writing experiences.


    • rosannebane November 24, 2009 at 10:44 am #

      Thanks Laura. You’re absolutely right about the importance of dealing from a position of strength. When we’re sending out proposals and queries and collecting letters of declination (a term I prefer to ‘rejections’), we often forget what our strengths are. Editors need copy and agents need writers. It helps to remember that.



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