Yesterday I got stuck in traffic. I started yelling at everyone in sight even though they couldn't hear me. Sometimes I think I have a sign on top of my car that says "CUT ME OFF AND MAKE ME SLAM ON MY BRAKES SO I CAN HONK MY HORN AT YOU AND CONSIDER FLIPPING YOU OFF BECAUSE YOU ALMOST GOT ME AND MY FOUR YEAR OLD IN A SERIOUS CRASH!!!!"
Okay, that's a bit dramatic, but still, every time I get in the car people cut me off or pass me on the shoulder or something ridiculous of the sort. Is it my driving? Is it that my car is silver and irritates people?
I honestly think it's because as soon as we get behind the wheel of a car we think we've got some sort of power that actually doesn't exist. Most of us don't feel as fragile as we do without a ton of steel surrounding us.
You know, a lot of times in writing I think we do the same thing. Some of us have written books and lots of other stuff. Some of us are published. Some of us are zooming around the road cutting people off because we think we aren't as fragile or we think we have more of a right to get somewhere faster. Not that there are RULES in writing, but there are rules of courtesy, I think. This applies more to myself than I ever thought it did. I've found myself getting quite the ego lately because I have a book deal with a publisher and because I've self-published a book and because I can edit things and write good stuff. This does not, however, give me any right to go around thinking I have the privilege to tell others how to write well or what to change in their writing or judge whether or not their writing is good according to my standards, etc.
Lately Mr. Bailey has helped me realize (probably without his knowledge) that writing is a 100% personal journey and no writing book or conference or class is ever going independently make us a better writer No beta reader or editor is going to improve us. Nobody but ourselves and our own pounding away every day is going to make us better, and even more importantly, knowing what's better is also completely personal. There is no measuring stick or touchstone to put our work against that will automatically determine its greatness.
It's an interesting task to get behind the wheel of my well-driven writing mind and zoom around determining what passes my little tests of greatness, but I hope I'm not cutting anyone off. I'd hate to get in the way of where others are trying to go. I do think it's important to share our writing knowledge, but it's also just as important for those of us reading the knowledge to remember it's another person's way of writing. We should glean from it anything we think is of value, but never take it as rules laid in stone unless it has to do with grammar (and even then some things are negotiable)...
I suppose this is all just another way to say there are no rules in writing. So as you write - especially those of you doing NaNo at the moment - remember you're on your own path. If you want to use the passive tense, use it. There is nothing wrong with the word "was" no matter what anyone has told you. Maybe it was wrong for their writing, but you can pull it off with gusto. There is nothing wrong with a flashback unless it's wrong for you and your work. Go forward. Experiment. Write. And if someone cuts you off don't let it end in a crash.