Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Creative Process

With every creative process, whether you are talking about writing, painting, cooking or parenting, there are three general phases: (1) learning the rules of their craft (2) practicing the rules and (3) breaking the rules. When it comes to writing, there are a lot of rules and techniques to learn about. There are many authors who skip through this apprenticeship too quickly in their eagerness to produce a story. As a result, they never develop an ear for the beat of words as they hit the page. Their inner critic loses its bearings. Think of all those painful grammar rules your English teacher tried to pound into your head or the techniques your creative writing professor tried to teach you. If you were paying attention, you learned those rules and at some point in time you lost track of the actual rules because they became instinct. And with the development of instinct comes the ability to know when to break the rules for the purpose of achieving the goals of your creative endeavor. 

In my debut novel, DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK, I spent a lot of time trying to learn the rules, but I also broke a few rules. I give you this example.

Rule: Avoid the overuse of adjectives and adverbs. Ordinarily, cutting them strengthens the prose.

The Broken Rule: A paragraph taken from DREAMING OF LAUGHING HAWK which is strewn with adjectives and verbs because they have a sound and a beat that conveys a particular feeling.

“Weeds and the low-hanging branches of unpruned trees swooshed and thumped against the car while gravel popped loudly under the car’s tires. As the car bumped along, a flock of startled blackbirds exploded out of the brush. For a moment they fluttered and swirled about like pieces of charred paper in the draft of a flame and then they were gone. Elizabeth blinked. The mind could play such tricks.”

Baking a cake? Read the recipe and follow it the first time. Then experiment. Break the recipe if you can make a better cake.

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