My anti-rules for writing

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There are plenty of rules out there on the internet about how you “should” write.  Well, I say shoulds are just another form of cognitive distortion, so it’s time to kick some of those rules to the curb and replace them with anti-rules for writing.

Write every day

Apparently this is something you’re supposed to do in order to grow as a writer.  That’s fine if a) you’ve got free time on your hands, b) have boundless creativity, and/or c) you don’t have a mental illness.  The reality is that for some people writing every day is not going to be realistic or desirable.  I don’t write every day; I write in spurts, and that works for me, especially since I can use the scheduling feature to keep the reader-facing output consistent.

Have a writing ritual

If a ritual or a certain writing environment helps you, that’s great.  But no matter how wonderful the ritual, it’s not going to help you avoid the occasional writer’s block, creative burnout, or flare-up of illness.  Try to be flexible and allow yourself to go with the flow, even if sometimes that doesn’t seem to be getting you anywhere.

Write consistently within your niche

Your blog is your space to write about whatever you want.  Sure, maybe not all of your readers are going to be interested in reading all the different topics that you cover, but that’s okay.  They’re perfectly capable of picking and choosing what they want to read,.  You do you.  If you choose to branch out into controversial topics, that’s okay too, but be aware that not everyone’s going to agree with you and some people might unfollow you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about those topics; just try not to take it personally if those topics or your viewpoint don’t work for some of your readers.

Write about the topics that generate the most traffic

Some people will say that you should write based on what your readers want to read, and which of your past posts have done the best.  To me, that sounds like a crappy way to approach blogging.  It would be one thing if you had a business-oriented site and the blogging was just a side thing to draw people in, but if you’re actually participating in the blogging community, you’re better off being your genuine self and letting that shine through in your blog.  If you write about what you’re interested in and what you care about, that’s going to show up in what you write.

Make sure your writing is fully SEO optimized

Now that I’ve got the WP business plan, I have access to the Yoast SEO plugin.  While it has some usefulness, mostly it annoys me.  You are “supposed” to have your keywords crammed in particular places, even if that screws up your intro.  And Yoast calculates a readability score.  Most of my posts score very low (as shown by a little red frowning face) on readability.  Too much passive voice, too many long sentences, and too many words that aren’t at a grade 6 reading level.

To that I say bite me, Yoast.  I’m not going to let SEO dictate my writing  I’m going to do me.  And if you keep pissing me off I might have to uninstall you.

Revise until it’s perfect

You can fuss over a post until the cows come home and chances are it still won’t be perfect, because there really is no perfect.  I say just go right ahead and publish it, mistakes and all.  As long as it’s not such a dog’s breakfast that it’s unreadable no one is going to get worked up over it.  And if they do, that’s their problem, not yours.

I recently installed the Grammarly plugin for Google Chrome, because I wasn’t taking enough time to proofread.  It’s helpful, but annoying at the same time.  Grammarly and I disagree on how to use commas most effectively.  It can red-underline things all it wants; I’m going to write my way.

Write what you know

This one was suggested by Dark Victories.  If you want to write about what you know, fabulous.  If you want to explore new ideas and topics, do it!  I have a what is… series that runs every Friday and every single post is researched.  It means that each week I learn something new and so do my readers.  What a great way to keep life interesting!

And as a little side benefit, linking to the sites you’ve used to do your research is good for your SEO.

One single rule to follow: Avoid excessively long paragraphs

Do you ever try to read someone’s post and it’s one monumental paragraph taking up your entire computer screen?  It’s not easy, and chances are high that readers are going to at least consider giving up before reaching the end of the post.  Take pity on your readers, and break paragraphs up into digestible pieces.  Long post = go for it.  Long post all in a single paragraph = unreadable.

Well, there you have it, my anti-rules and one real rule.  Are there any other anti-rules for writing you can think of that I’ve missed?

 

Mental Health @ Home Store: Building a WordPress.com Blog from the Ground Up

 

The Mental Health @ Home Store has a FREE how-to guide on building a WordPress.com blog from the ground up.  It’s got lots of useful tips whether you’re just getting started or wanting to take advantage of more of WordPress’s features.

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92 thoughts on “My anti-rules for writing

  1. Nyxinked says:

    I tend to write how I want to write, about what I want and I certainly don’t write everyday. Some times I may write everyday if the mood takes me, other times I’m just not feeling it. Lately I’ve been lucky in that all of my content is scheduled pretty much with only a few holes that need filling, so if I don’t feel like writing I don’t have to. Blogs don’t and shouldn’t come with a rule book.

  2. Luftmentsch says:

    Ha, I write every day because I have a mental illness, as it’s the only way I can process what’s happening to me. When I feel good, I write less. I know that’s not the case for most people, though.

    I found that writing what I liked didn’t really work. When I started blogging, around 2007, I wrote about my depression, Doctor Who, Judaism, politics, everything. It wasn’t a particularly successful strategy. Mind you, some would say that my strategy on my mental health only site it’s successful either.

  3. Paula Light says:

    Agree about the paragraphs… and the other stuff too. I can’t stand “business” blogs here. And I say that as someone who writes business articles for pay, and is featured on a business blog. That’s a whole different thing imo. This is for fun!

  4. Johnzelle Anderson says:

    Can I just say that I’ve been loving the humor in your writing lately? Our writing is an extension of us and I know you’ve gone through some tough bouts of depression this year. I could be reading too much into it, but it seems the cloud is lifting up on you a little bit. And for that, I’m thrilled!

  5. King Ben's Grandma says:

    When you wrote about uninstalling Yoast I thought “Yoast is toast” 😂 now it’s going to be stuck in my head.

    I love these anti-rules. My blog is like my mind, all over the place.

    I think people should write about what interests them. It comes across in the writing when the person is interested in their subject.

  6. marandarussell says:

    Love this post 🙂 I try to do my best with the paragraphs to not make them long. I am the queen of run-on sentences and paragraphs if I’m not careful lol, so I try to watch it. I find that often I’m more inspired if I break stuff up into lists or something like that anyway if possible. Makes for easier writing. And much of what I post is poetry or art, so that is easy as far as form goes.

  7. Meg says:

    This is great anti-advice. I totally agree. I do a few things differently, though, when I’m writing a novel rather than a blog post. Since my biggest fear is that someone’ll review my novels by saying, “The typos were rampant! Needs more editing!” I definitely over-edit the novels. And I do try to write every day to reach word count goals for novels, but it depends on what my current goals are, because I can go for long stretches without any writing goals going on at all. But for blogging, since I mostly just do it to express myself and connect with a few blogging friends like you, I don’t follow too many rules.

    Woo hoo!! After much procrastination, I’m off to write day 2 of my novel!! Go me!!

  8. mentalhealthfromtheotherside.wordpress.com says:

    This is a brilliant post. I have read the top 10 rules, the best 15 rules etc. etc and I’ve spent so much time reading and trying to perfect them, that I’m unable to follow all the rules! I’m also guilty of wordy sentences, lengthy paragraphs, constant editing and revision together with checking grammar! See what I mean 😉 Thank you for this light and humorous post 🙂

  9. Yolanda Stallings says:

    I enjoyed your post. I am learning to be a freelance writer so I am picking up tips here and there. I joined and unjointed the writer acess platform because they required to write 700 words per day. Ii looked like all my energy drained from my body when I saw that. I want to write but I want to write what is interesting to me

  10. sophienaylor1 says:

    I’ve never understood the ‘Write every-day’ rule. Why would I want to force myself into writing – that would just take the fun out of it? Burning yourself out is never good and everyone writes at their own pace! No-one shows their talents to the best of their abilities every single day. Everyone needs a break.

  11. amoralegria says:

    I agree with your anti-rules and your one rule. I try to break up paragraphs with photos. First I do the writing for the piece. Then I add photos. That way, people may take time to read the whole thing or at least scroll down to look at the photos! Another way I get content in is by using captions for photos. That way I can say what I want about the photo without disturbing the flow of the writing.

    I don’t write every day, by a long shot, but I probably should or could write more often than I do. Sometimes I’m lazy and want to watch TV, draw or play a computer game instead! That’s why I have so many projects going at the same time and none of them very fast! I do love my blog though and spend more time on it than I should because I tend to “overthink” it.

    I tried to focus my blog on the topics that generate the most traffic, but when I look at the number of views and likes, there doesn’t seem to be a consistent pattern. So I just do what I want!

  12. Nik Di Meu says:

    God bless this mess that is me. I can relate to everything you’re saying I right when I feel like it not when I don’t I write about what I like. Due to my 80 HD it changes about 50,000 times a minute with meds. LOL it’s so hard for me to stay on track sometimes. But I am learning to breathe it’s getting better I’m so glad we have this blog blog to share our stories and learn from each other. MentalHealth needs to be acknowledged. Not shamed

  13. Michael A. Kuch says:

    I’ve always thought most rules about writing were unnecessary. Do other creative artists have rules? “Painters don’t paint what you cannot see … never use Burnt Umber on Tuesday’s?”. I’d never write if I had to adhere to any rule. Basically, whatever, whenever, however. Except for a bit of proper grammar, but only when absolutely critical. Great post and comments. Thank you.

  14. Victoria George says:

    If I only wrote when I felt like it, I would write a lot less. So I do try to write or do something for my writing every day. I include reading and giving feedback on other writer’s pages in that goal too. That being said, I went for months without doing anything for my writing, but eventually I had to pick up and start again because doing nothing started feeling bad. Thanks for this post!

  15. Kari Anne Watterson says:

    I love that you say what you feel, without apology or mincing words. I’m not quite at that point yet. Man, I’ve driven myself crazy trying to do things the way they’re “supposed” to be done. I think it depends on what your goal is. That was a sticking point for me for so long. Why are you choosing to write for the public, as opposed to just a private journal? Once I answered that, it helped me let go of some of the “rules.” Thanks as always for a though-provoking post.

    • ashleyleia says:

      Yes purpose definitely matters. On my own blog I worry a lot less about “supposed to” than if I’m writing on other platforms where my purpose is a bit different.

  16. Eleanor Parks says:

    I write what I want, when I want. I don’t write to be popular. I write what takes my fancy and what interests me, as well as what I think I can get my teeth into. The piece of work I am most proud of is a poetry compilation that I wrote with my Dad. It sold, I think, 10 copies at most, but it was the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and it brought my Dad and I so much closer.

  17. Eilidh Horder says:

    I love this! I wish I’d read it as soon as I’d upgraded. I’m afraid when I got Yoast, those little red angry faces bullied me into going through older posts to make them at least orange and half-frowning. I probably decreased the quality of my writing, or at the least, made ‘my voice’ a little less mine. Oh well – lesson learned!
    Now I’m happy enough with lots of passive voice use… If it’s good enough for the quality of your writing, it’s good enough for mine!

  18. David B Gittlin says:

    I agree with all of your points. It only makes sense to write from the heart. Some people have the ability to interest others in what they write. others don’t. It doesn’t matter how many hoops you jump through. It either works or it doesn’t. That’s my experience. As we grow in heart mind and soul, we may become more readable. That’s my hope.

  19. Lilyotron says:

    Love these anti-writing rules. I definitely feel the love/hate relationship with Grammarly. I write about tech. It does not like some words and acronyms! Lol.
    I discovered your blog today. I look forward to reading more posts!

  20. Raven Kai says:

    I like this post. It helps us understand about our writing and our mental illness. they both go hand-in-hand. some of our friends ask have you written today. they think we need to write daily. we not a machine. thanx for writing this and I intend to follow your blog, great and fabulous blog. keep us the good work. Raven.

  21. theberen says:

    A refreshing read – too often I read writing “guidance” that makes me feel more ashamed than inspired.

    You kind of covered it in the third point, but can we also add “Write What You Know” and strike that through? I agree with Kazuo Ishuguro here – I’d much rather write about what I don’t know and go on the same adventure as the reader.

  22. Megan Horton says:

    I like this post. It shows that you make your own rules as an author. I think some times so often, people try to follow other authors rules, but what works for them might not work for you. Great insight.

  23. athousandbitsofpaper says:

    I love this post so much because I love writing on my blog but it is so very eclectic (because my interests are broad) that I do get concerned that people won’t follow me – but in the end I just enjoy the creative process so much and it’s still honing the craft of writing right? Anyway great post

  24. Jessica says:

    100% agree with all of this! Love it. Write what you want, what makes you feel good, what you’re passion is about – and see where it takes you!

  25. Paradox Dreams says:

    Thank you for the wonderful tips! I’ll be sure to keep these don’ts in mind when I’m working on my next post. And it is very true, I couldn’t write day if I wanted to! 👍

  26. Steven Capps says:

    Super late to the party, but this popped up on my feed and it was an awesome read! I struggle with being a compulsive reviser, and it seems to take forever to get anything finished. Btw, your title is freaking killer and hooked me as soon as I saw it.

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