Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Following The Rules

If you're following all the rules, you're missing all the fun. -- seen embroidered on a towel at a gift shop today.

I love that, and it got me thinking. I'm pretty good at deciding which "rules" of writing I want to flout. As a teacher, I like rules . . . although I use them more as "guidelines for behavior." My students call me a comfortist, and I'm sure they're right. I don't like conflict, and following the rules can help one avoid that.

After browsing the gift shop with my best friend, we went to the new local coffee shop, run by the parents of a former student of mine. It's in a historic building, and the proprietors did most of the renovation work themselves. Renovating took months, but the shop is absolutely gorgeous. It gives me hope for my own house. (BTW, I've been taking photos of the in-progress renovations this week, and I'll be posting those soon.)

The funny thing was, the combination of that "rules vs. fun" towel and seeing Joe and Patty at the coffee shop helped made a recent nebulous realization concrete. For months, no visitors except my mom and dad have been allowed into our home. I freaked out last week because I cut the corner of the kitchen to find my DH's best friend in the living room, borrowing a tool. He'd actually allowed Mike into our house, the way it looked!

Later on in that same week, Monster #1's best friend invited him over to play. He went, with me assuring friend's mom that we'd reciprocate with an around-town activity and apologizing at the same time for the ever-growing evidence of renovating at our house. Renee laughed -- she and Mark just spent three years doing what we're doing now. She understands how I feel, but she also said that even though they're not completely finished (they're down to finish trim and some electrical stuff), she'd told her son that Monster #1 could come over for a sleepover soon, with the realization that kids didn't care what the inside of their friends' homes looked like.

And you know, she's right. Both of my Monsters have newly renovated, decorated rooms. Their bathroom is also newly madeover. Their end of the house is clean and attractive. The living room is full of boxes and furniture from rooms we're working on, and we pulled the carpet up months ago and are walking on plywood, but who cares? Would their friends look at the plywood, the plastic-and-duct-taped hole in the ceiling where we ripped out the fireplace, and judge us?

Lots of people would, but my kids' friends? Surely not.

Then I thought about my best friend, who loves me dearly. About my sisters, with their lovely homes, who've been banned from my home because I was ashamed to let anyone see the chaos.

Did Mike think less of the DH because there were tools and pieces of paneling scattered across the living area the day he came to borrow a hammer? Probably not.

So what am I so worried about?

A rule, that's what. An old ingrained, Southern rule that anything less than a perfect house isn't fit for company (a high school friend's mom used to say it wasn't convenient for anyone to die when the house was a mess . . .). And believe me, my house was and continues to be a mess . . . probably will be for at least six more months.

If you're following all the rules, you're missing all the fun.

So for the next six months, until the house is finished, here's the deal: the house is relatively clean, despite the chaos. It isn't the prettiest thing ever (in fact, right now, it's pretty darn ugly still.), but I love my sisters and my friends more than having a perfect house. I want my children to have their friends over. I want the DH to be able to have his friends come in without my having a duck fit afterwards.

I'm thinking I may break that "a less-than-perfect house" rule. I'm tired of missing out on the fun. And if anyone wants to think less of me for walking on plywood right now, well, who needs him/her, right?

What rule are you ready to flout? C'mon, you know you have one. Share.


Sherri said...

I'm going to stick up for one rule, Linda... use manuscript format when submitting. Always.

Kristi said...

Not me..I'm going to submit a full manuscript, unrequested and unagented to a big publisher in NY. It won't be standard manuscript formatting, instead, since this is a book about a trucker and his last long-haul with his best buddy Flash, the pages will be cut in the form of a big rig. Instead of chapters, I'll include extra carriers that can be attached or detached at random but none will be numbered and I won't send them in in order either. That way when the novel is published it can be read in any order...a kind of Choose Your Own Adventure for Truckers. :-)

Kristi said...

Okay, seriously...the one rule I never follow is that I don't put books on my shelves in alphabetical order. They're sort of in 'as read' order, but not really. Mostly they're just shoved in there wherever they fit...and that's just the keepers!

Amie Stuart said...

Kristi you made me HOWL!!!!!!!!! Esp cuz my brother is a trucker.

I'm finishing a novella that's in first person from the hero's POV. Other than stuff like the formatting rule Sherri mentioned, I kick most of em out the door.....

Except for that one about no company. My kid's friends have co. but if the house is dirty, hopefully no one will bother me and I can get that much more writing done--evil yes.

Linda Winfree said...

Hey, Sherri! (And since you were the first to introduce me to proper MS formatting . . . I promise I always submit properly!).

Kristi, too funny! The DH is a driver, too, and I keep playing with this idea about a 24-esque novel involving a big truck as the vehicle of choice . . . maybe if I subbed it in the shape of a Peterbilt!

You're supposed to shelve books alphabetically? Who knew?

Hmmm, Amie, you've got an idea there . . . I could send them to the friends' houses and have time for me . . .

Sherri said...

Hey Kristi, you sure you're not a member of Idaho Writers League??? :) I've been fighting with these people since I came back to double-frickin'-space their manuscripts.... God save me from wanna bees!

Shelve the books ALPHABETICALLY??? Way too anal. Mine are just thrown on the shelves. I can remember where most of them are. Except sometimes I buy a book and find out that I already have it!