All my life I have been a rule follower. I never got in trouble in school, never got called to the principal’s office or got detention or got so much as a single conduct check. Oh, I did plenty of things as a teenager that would have given my parents a heart attack if they knew about them, but they never did. Thank God.
But, in a socialized setting like school or work, I generally follow the rules. Not to say I wouldn’t break a few rules in a life or death situation, but in day to day life I am a rule follower.
Once, several years ago while painting my daughter’s room, I sliced open my thumb and had to get stitches. The doctor sewed me up and the nurse put a tight bandage on my thumb and told me to come back to the office on Monday. (This happened on a Friday.) I spent Friday and Saturday in massive pain from this simple injury.
I’m not usually a weenie when it comes to such things. I’ve broken bones, been severely sunburned, burned my arm on the stove, had several surgeries and had two children, so I was surprised by the pain in my thumb. I couldn’t sleep. Pain pills didn’t touch it. It throbbed without mercy.
Finally, unable to stand it any longer, I went back to Pri Med on Sunday, the day before I was scheduled to return, and told the male nurse of my misery. Could I have severed a nerve? I asked. He seemed puzzled. “No, you shouldn’t be in this kind of discomfort,” he said. “Let’s remove the bandage and see what’s going on.” He took the bandage off and the relief was immediate. The deep, throbbing pain simply vanished as if by magic. The nurse went pale. My thumb was a dark ugly purple, almost black. He had put the bandage on too tight, cutting off the blood flow to my thumb.
Yep, you guessed it. My poor thumb was dying from lack of circulation, and that is why it hurt like the very devil. It was SCREAMING for help and, being a rule follower and following the nurse’s instructions not to remove the bandage, I had ignored the message my body was sending me. HEY, DUMMY, TAKE OFF THE STUPID BANDAGE. HELLO! HELLO? STUPID COW, I’M DYING HERE!
I admit that the cow remark hurt my feelings, but my thumb taught me a lesson. I resolved right then and there to be less of a rule follower . . . and to pay more attention to my thumb.
Interestingly enough, my husband is not a rule follower. Opposites attract, or so they say.
Okay, here’s the point of all of this. What rules do you follow in your own writing, and which ones do you disregard? I admit to the judicious use of the occasional adverb, even though they are frowned upon and considered a sign of lazy writing. And I don’t do a lot of plotting and organization on paper before I begin a story, although I think about it a lot and plot it in my head. Actually, I think about it pretty much ALL the time. I don’t follow any kind of formula or guideline, which may or may not be a good thing. I am, after all, unpublished and only time will tell if I’m on the right path.
So, do you follow the rules or break ‘em when you write?