I think I’ve been banned from a certain blog. Lately, whenever I try to leave a comment there it never takes. I get an error message every time. I’ve been able to comment on this blog in the past, and certainly other people are leaving comments there every day, so I think I’m being actively shut out. If so, the reason is probably because I am a grumpy iconoclast. It’s not much of a problem since it’s not much of a blog. A collection of genre writers from a small imprint take turns writing posts as a way to boost their sales and their confidence. What they have to say, however, is so obvious and elementary that I can’t help pointing out counter examples to all of the “truths” they think they are revealing about the craft.
On a couple of other writing blogs I visit, my comment always seems to shut down the conversation. A lively half dozen comments may be discussing the subject of the post, yet when I chime in, no one leaves a comment after that. I don’t want to suggest that my comment is so profound or definitive that nothing more needs to be said (or that nothing contradictory can be said). Rather, I sometimes think that my iconoclastic comment — for that seems to be the only kind I can leave — just spoils the fun for everyone and they move on. (This is not always the case of course. Yet if the conversation does continue past my comment, often it either completely ignores whatever point I have made or everyone leaps in to say how vehemently they disagree with me.)
Yes, I am an iconoclast about writing (and most other things in the world that are based on received wisdom). For example, you don’t have to go back very far in my posts here to see that I consider the so-called “rules” of grammar to be nothing more than guidelines that creative writers are completely at liberty to ignore as they wish. (I’m not the only one who believes this. Have a look at this insightful post by Emma Darwin. Her point is a bit different, but I think the same spirit is behind it.) I was recently involved in a dust-up on one of the forums over at Poets and Writers about the supposed need for creative writers to know the rules of grammar before they dare to break them. (My point was that a thoughtful writer will “absorb” all of the grammar knowledge needed simply from reading good writing. I’ll go further to say that knowing the “rules” can stifle good writing. I know it can stifle the enjoyment of good writing. In a different discussion thread on that forum several commenters noted that they feel thrown out of the fictional world whenever they come across a split infinitive or other usage error. I guess they can’t suspend their allegiance to the rules long enough to indulge. I hope I’m never that way.)
Sure, I can see the allure of received wisdom and appeal to authority. I’ve noted here before that creative writing is terrifyingly subjective. But this is precisely why I have become such an iconoclast about these things. If we want to be any good at what we are trying to do, if we want to be true to the stories we have to tell, then we must have the ability to transcend convention. We are supposed to be the creators, after all, not the repeaters.
So I guess it’s time for me to end this rant. I’m sure there will be more later.
Update April 29, 2011 – Apologies to all. I had vowed some time ago to stop writing reactive posts on this humble blog. The post above is one of those rants about all that is “wrong” in the world. I’ll try to do better.