You Cannot Applaud Your Own Story: And Other Rules I Ignore

At one point in my career, I was publishing on Medium. I’m not sure why, I still don’t really know what I’m doing but I figured, hey, the more places I have my writing, the better. Right? It didn’t last long but this is a lesson I learned on that journey. 

Poking around in my first post, I noticed a clapping button and when I hovered over it, it gave me a message, “You Cannot Applaud Your Own Story.” My first thought?

Eff that.

You can’t tell me what to do.

Which led me down a rabbit hole of a bunch of other things people tell writers they should and shouldn’t do. And ya know what? We probably became writers because we don’t really like doing things the “normal” way.

So, here’s some writing advice that I do not like.

Don’t open with.

A dream sequence…someone driving..someone doing this or that or the other thing.

I think that’s bad advice. My advice? if you’re going to do it, do it well. Do it differently. Do it in a way that will make people say, whoa. Some of these things are cheesy and cliche but only if you do it the same way everyone has always done it. So do them, but do them your way.

Write What You Know

I HATE this rule. Absolutely hate it. If it pops into my head while I am writing, I literally freeze up with self-doubt.

If you really think about it, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know a whole lot. And if I let myself realize this, I just can’t write. So, I have to forget it.

Now, maybe what I hate is that this rule implies, “Write ONLY what you know.” Because I obviously do write what I know. But I also write about things I don’t know because if I only stuck to what I know, I would run out of stuff to write pretty quickly.

This is what Google is for. And Wikipedia. And research. If you want to write about something you don’t know much about, write about it AND research it.

Don’t Edit While You Write

This one is tricky. Since I work best under a tight deadline, sometimes I HAVE to edit while I write. I don’t have time to go back later and polish something. If, like me, this is how you work best, just do it. Ignore the haters. Read the last sentence you wrote and change that pesky work before you move on. Reread your last paragraph before you move to the next.

But here’s the thing; I still do shitty first drafts, I just do them FAST. If editing while you write is going to keep you from getting anything done, don’t do it. But for me, this is not a hard and fast rule.


Write every day

I do not write every day. But I do give myself goals. Right now I am trying to write a story a week. This does not mean that I sit down and work on this story every day. It might mean that on Monday I brainstorm an idea. On Wednesday I jot down notes and on Sunday I feverishly write the whole thing in order to meet the deadline (when is how I do my best writing).

Writing during the week is hard for me. But, I can sit down in my PJs on Saturday or in a coffee shop on Sunday and crank out some words. And it works for me. You do what works for you.

You Cannot Applaud Your Own Story

And, finally…thanks, Medium. While this isn’t really advice I’ve received, that little error message really triggered me.

You cannot applaud your own story.

Bull. Shit.

Writers are notoriously self-conscious and we typically hate our work even when we have people telling us they love it. This sucks because, according to the Dalai Lama, “90% of negative energy is mental.” So, I say we try something different.

Applaud your own story. Be your biggest fan. Love your work. Love your shitty first drafts for the same reason you love your children…because eventually, they will be functioning people that can wipe their own butts. Eventually, your shitty work will be better work. So love it now. Nurture it. Help it grow. Share its milestones. Cheer every time you finish you something. Applaud your own goddamn story.

What writing rules do you choose to ignore?

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