Rules and Regulations

6 Feb

I’ve been checking out all these nifty annual writing contests lately.Usually I’ll mull on a posting and nod internally agreeing with my creative self that I could enter and possibly have a shot at winning. Yet I usually fail to submit anything. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

I heard about Our Story Aboriginal Youth Writing Challenge last year and wanted to conjure something up for submission. Our Story is directed at various aged (14-29) youth of Aboriginal ancestry. The rules of submission are that the piece, which can include poetry, must have some tie to a moment or time in Aboriginal history. Last year I read over the guidelines and when I hit the Aboriginal history theme I tossed the possibilities of creating a submission out the window. How could I possibly be expected to create a short story under (shudder) guidelines when I had a hard time creating a short story as it was?

I seen the posting for the challenge again this year and this time I have risen to the challenge! I finally created a story with…drumroll please… an ending. I don’t know what it is about my past history with short stories but I have always been unable to end them. I have notebooks with several stories feverishly scrawled out in impressive blue ink and each of them lacking closure. I like to revisit the characters and concoct different endings but never pen anything. It feels so final to end something.Nonetheless I finished my story and overcame my tendency to leave loose ends and submitted it for workshopping in my creative writing class. This piece follows guidelines and, I kid you not, they were not even hard to adhere to.

 All this time I’ve been sticking to my rebellious teenage roots, refusing to write by anyones restrictions. If you give me ruled paper, I will write sideways. Did I mention I went through a serious punk stage and rocked a mohawk? So anything that smelled of authority or restriction was not on my recreation list, even if the connection was weak, imagined, or didn’t make sense. For the longest time I refused to write any poetry that wasn’t free verse. “You just can’t set rules down for the soul man”.I figure that is why I am so in love with spoken word poetry, because it lacks structure, has no limits and the poems can be dastardly long yet tasteful.

When I was a teenager I wanted to be a journalist. I’d always be strapped with a number 2 pencil and loaded with a pad in my hand, ready for what news may come. I envisioned people coming up to me and asking, “What’s the scoop?” and I’d be able to tell them alright. I’d say some groundbreaking news nonchalantly while I emitted mysteriousness kicked back against a wall in my khaki coloured  trench coat.

 I was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of an editor who wanted me to be his protegé and to tell a particular journalism program to stick it. “Pretentious bastards,” he’d say in regards to their elitist webpage. His distaste for ostentatious journalism, my distaste for everything  and our love for cigarretes and coffee made it so we got along well. The ol chap taught me quite a bit and part way through our learning adventure I realised how lucky I was. Lucky in the sense that I discovered that I hated journalism. I hated by lines, headlines, being objective, formatting and the whole nine yards. Our training was cut short but he helped me dodge a structural bullet.

Now that I’ve “grown up” I realize that “the man” isn’t trying to hold me down or supress my creativity by enforcing writing guidelines like the unbelievably ridiculous rules to writing a haiku. I accept that I will have to conform to some rules and write according to certain guidelines. Alas, I am not the rebel without a cause that I once was. I want to write with cause and sometimes that includes writing in a specific manner or style in order to get that cause across.


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