Like any set of rules, the rules of writing can be flexible. A few that you may be familiar with are “write what you know,” “never end a sentence with a preposition,” and “always use an outline.” These rules work great for some, but aren’t as effective for others. Sometimes I follow them, and sometimes I don’t.
In an argument about rules, I have some friends who believe that rules should not be broken. One of their rules is “don’t steal from your own writing.” That means I should not take a piece of writing that didn’t work in one place, recycle it and use it somewhere else. My friends believe that this writing can be stale, and forcing it into another piece won’t work.
What they call stale, I call recycling. I’m all about making it easy on the writer. When I’m in the zone, I write. If the writing doesn’t work for my current piece, I may use it somewhere else. I believe my subconscious brain knows more about true writing/connections than my conscious brain, because it’s about emotion or thought or language that cuts through barriers and gets right to the heart of the matter. Some words or ideas may not have anything to do with the topic, and making a connection later on is so much fun that I will never stop doing it. It’s like making a discovery twice!
Another rule breaker is Francis Scott Key, who may or may not have been aware of this rule when he wrote the Star Spangled Banner* on Sept. 14, 1814, borrowing parts from a poem he had written nine years earlier. Many people have many opinions about the Star Spangled Banner, but I’ve never heard “stale” as one of them.
So, find a piece of writing that doesn’t work in its current spot, and put it somewhere else. Maybe it’s a scene, a character trait, or the most beautiful sentence you’ve ever written. Finding the right place for your work is like discovering a piece of a puzzle that your conscious brain had lost, but your subconscious brain knew was great enough to wait for the right place to put it.
*The Star Spangled Banner was set to the tune of an English drinking song “To Anacreon in Heaven.”