5 Rules For Creative Writing (And Life)

5 Rules For Creative Writing (And Life)

Most of who we are and how we view the world was shaped during our years in high school. In most cases, a person is able to pinpoint singular experiences, classes, and teachers that helped mold who they are today.

For me, that class was creative writing and that teacher was Mr. Carboni. Not only was I taught how to write, but I was taught how to live, how to be.

Every year, Mr. Carboni introduces the "5 Rules for Creative Writing." Of course I would silently argue that there shouldn't be any rules because writing is an inherently personal craft, but they were taught for a reason: to make you better, to make your writing stronger, to make your critiques more focused, and to make you more aware of the kinds of things that will affect your readers. And so I came to embrace the rules, utilizing them in my writing during high school and now in college, as well as editing and grading with them echoing in the back of my mind.

Not only did these rules serve to show me the basic foundations of writing, but they became a framework for how I live my life.

1. Great First Sentence

In Writing: If your work doesn't have a great first sentence, the reader isn't going to want to continue. There are exceptions to this rule, obviously. Sometimes a "great" work doesn't have a great first sentence, and sometimes really bad books lure you in with nice ones. And of course, there is debate surrounding what constitutes "great" but it's a "I know it when I see it" kind of thing. The point of this rule is to, essentially, save your work from being put down. You want the reader to feel invested from the very first word, and not like their time is being wasted.

In Life: I've always been an opinionated (and one could say "confrontational") person. My problem is that I either blurt out my opinion because my anger has bubbled up inside of me, or I take a while to actually get to my point. I'm learning the art of being direct, concise, and calm, and I believe this starts with how you open in your discussion/conversation/debate/etc. Make it known that you are confident, educated, and passionate. The "great first sentence" is meant to keep people engaged, to make them want to continue. No one is going to want to continue a conversation if you're either brash or bashful right off the bat.

2. Write with Style

In Writing: Again, this goes back to keeping your reader invested and engaged. You have to make what you write matter. And you have to say it in a way that nobody else has before. No one wants to read the same old generic "Mary Sue fell in love with a vampire" crap anymore. But if that's what you want to write, find a way to separate your story from every one that has come before it.

In Life: It's hard to be original and unique in this world, and everything we do is influenced by something, however minute. But we can still have a distinct style, a distinct way of making people feel. You could have been the push someone needed to pursue an education, you could have been the difference between life and death for a friend on the edge, you could have been the catalyst for bringing two people together, you could have done and influenced a million and three different things because of the distinct way you've chosen to live your life, and that's what living with style means.

3. Tell the Truth

In Writing: This rule doesn't mean that everything has to be realistic fiction and boring, but it does mean that it should be believable. When you place the reader in the middle of a story, in the middle of a world they don't belong in, you have to make it real and whole and abide by the logic dictated by that fictional world. Sometimes this doesn't fit the idea you had when you started out, but stories truly do take on a life of their own, and it is your duty to tell it and to tell it truthfully.

In Life: There's a difference between fact and opinion, but just because something isn't a fact doesn't mean that it isn't true. Everybody has their own "truth," their own set of beliefs that define their perspective on the world. Tell your truth, commit to your convictions, live your life. Live in your truth every single day and don't attempt to imitate a truth that isn't yours. Your truth can change and evolve, but make sure it's still yours, and keep yourself rooted in whatever you choose.

4 The Bigger the Issue, the Smaller You Write

In Writing: The example used to teach this rule is typically death. You don't want to spiral into some philosophical mania about the meaning of life and death and what our purpose is and how to leave a mark on this world. The purpose of writing is to connect with people, to make them feel something. Write about the first time you experienced death, whether it was a grandparent or a pet or a squirrel in the middle of the street that your mom ran over. The goal is to make the writing relatable, even for someone who has never experienced what you're writing about. Writing in circular, superfluous prose does nothing for your reader. Keep the writing grounded; write small.

In Life: Don't try to be an expert in everything just because you took one philosophy class. Solving the world's problems isn't as easy as you might think. Keep things in perspective. Start with yourself. Then your family and friends. Your school, your community. Keep expanding outwards but don't neglect your inner circle and especially don't neglect yourself. Root yourself in your reality and instead of talking a big game, do something within your power and then you'll be able to expand your power. You can't affect change on a large scale until you start with the small scale stuff.

5. Show Don't Tell

In Writing: This is perhaps the hardest rule to learn, and the hardest to teach. To me, showing has always been a facet of inserting the reader more wholly into the story. It's about making the world and the people and the experiences real for them, to take a piece of your soul and nestle it between the pages for the reader to find, and for the reader to in turn leave a piece of their soul next to yours, because they went on an adventure with the characters you conjured up from the depths of your brain that didn't exist until you made them real. Telling is boring; telling is when you list actions and reactions, where each sentence could be given its own line because it's not a story, it's a to-do list, a how to. We're told things all day long, how to dress, how to act, what to eat, when to show up. We want to be shown a world of magic, a world of adventure. Sell me on your writing, on the reality that's only real because you made it so. Don't tell me, "He swung his sword." Show me how the sword glints in the sunlight as he wields it in an arc above his head. Don't tell me "She loved him." Show me how her stomach was in knots but her head was finally clear when he spoke to her. Telling is a summary; showing is an experience.

In Life: This one distills into an "actions speak louder than words" lesson. Don't tell me you're kind and loving and caring, show me. Live your life as an example. It does no good to preach to me if you don't take your own words to heart and live your life by them. I don't want empty promises and half-baked proposals; I want to be shown what you and the world have to offer. And I will show the world what kind of person I am by living up to what I claim to be, instead of begging you to take my word for it. Take me on an adventure, don't just tell me that they exist.

I've written and lived by these rules for six years, since I was a tiny, quiet freshman in high school, unsure about her talent or what she stood for. Now, I know I'm not the best but I know I'm good, and I'm talking about myself both as a writer and a person. Through these rules, my writing became stronger, as did my heart. I grew into a leader, a teacher, and was no longer the shy freshman but eventually the knowledgeable senior, and now a sophomore in college bent on learning and teaching as much as I can. And when I teach my students the Five Rules, I hope they take as much away from them as I did.

Cover Image Credit: Right Nerve

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How "The Office" And "Parks and Recreation" Taught Me How To Adult

This is how I learned how to correctly adult.

LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLEEEEEE! Nah, let's just talk about all the ways that "The Office" and "Parks and Rec" got me through my roughest semesters of college.

I started watching "The Office" as a favor to my wonderful boyfriend, who claims that I don't have enough culture. I would rather watch a movie than dedicate my time to a show, but immediately, I loved this and fell in love with the character development.

Both of the hilarious sitcoms, although more dramatized than what actually goes on in a workplace setting, teach you a lot about life in general and frankly, give me hope that I will make it through actual adulthood. There are a couple of different ways that I am going to break this down, in that it will partly be a character/show analysis and comparison, and partly a debrief on the takeaway life lessons of both shows.


There are so many things that are heartfelt and compassionate in both of these shows, and personally, I truly appreciate the way that they present awesome life lessons in ridiculously, (sometimes, scarily accurate), funny ways that hit you right in the feels. To begin with, my first lesson that I learned, is that it is totally okay to mess up again, and again, and again until you get it right. In "The Office," you constantly see Pam and Jim falling for other people when it is clear that they should ultimately end up together to right the universe. Time and time again, within "Parks and Recreation," Leslie comes up with schemes to try and help the city of Pawnee yet instead, cause more problems than she began with. All this is just to say that even though the shenanigans that are caused become problematic to the original goal, the characters find ways to make it work. I think this is why I love these two shows so much; at the end of every episode, there is a sense that everything will be okay and we all will survive.

The most beneficial lesson to come out of these shows is that it is okay to have no idea what you are doing right now and it's okay to have no idea what the future has in store. Cause let's face it, there has never been any given "correct" way on how to go about stumbling through life, (and if there was, we would be living in sci-fi novel). I say that as long as you are happy and you fight hard for what you believe in, that is all anyone can ask for. And gosh darn it, I feel pretty accomplished getting out of bed and going to classes every day and if I remember to eat, it's been a stellar day!

A theme that is emphasized within "Parks and Recreation" is that there are always two paths to take and the path that you choose may be harder and more winding, but will ultimately pay off. While Tommy represents the ultimate "get rich quick scheme" character (seemingly the easiest route), it is proved that when he actually puts his mind to it, he develops thoughtful and ingenious ideas for both his benefit and his friends. This lesson is also represented in both shows through their relationships that have us grabbing the edge of our seats in anticipation. Ann Perkins and Chris Traeger end up happily together, but only after years of halting their relationship as both friends or lovers. Also, the great love story of Michael and Holly in "The Office" leave you so heartbroken and happy at the same time that we don't know how to feel.

All in all, I think that as someone who has often had to encounter things that others haven't, as well as had to grow up faster than most of my peers, the one lesson that I consider the takeaway from both quirky comedies, is to always be true to yourself and you will find who you are along the way. Now I know that that sounds extremely cheesy emotional, but it's true. don't ever let someone turn you into something you are not. Obviously, in relationships and friendships and any other kind of 'ships', there is some give and take that occurs. And that is totally normal and good to have happen, but when it comes to the people who you truly care about and who care about you, let them see your flaws and your quirks and ridiculous obsessions that you won't show anyone else. Here's why... it is exhausting keeping up a charade (or multiple), forever. And you will eventually slip up. So that's why Leslie is ambitious and pushy, April is the forever moody teenager and Michael is the ridiculous boss; because it works for them and you accept them for who they are.

Although there are many other lessons to be learned from these shows, I wanted to touch on the ones that meant the most to me. The major themes of character development and brilliantly thought-out directing, creates a light-hearted way to speak to all kinds of people; from the Leslie's and Michael's, all the way to the Garry's and Angela's.

Cover Image Credit: Instagram

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A 5 Step Guide To Making Your Awkwardness Awesome

Embrace The Awkward Within

If you have had more than twelve years on this earth chances are you have experienced an awkward moment. The more you live life the more your chances of awkwardness increase, but some of us have had more than others. You may self-identify as an awkward person. (I myself do completely wear the "I-AM-AWKWARD" tophat everywhere I go.) I counted the number of awkward situations I found myself in just today and in four hours I had experienced four awkward moments. That is an awkward moment every hour!

So I have decided to write a short guide on "How-to" embrace the awesome Awkwardness that lies within because believe it or not, being awkward can be one of your best qualities! We often look at ourselves and criticize every "wrong choice" or moment that creates an awkward vibe but hopefully after reading my guide you'll be able to tap into yourself and become "Majestically Awkward"!

1. Lean Into The Jokes!

If you're anything like me and suffer from "foot-in-mouth" syndrome many things you say can cause people to make fun or joke about your behavior. Don't let your face turn red or your skin start to sweat, embrace the joke and laugh along with them. I embarrass myself at least three to four times a day it makes everyone feel better when you roll with the punches. (This does not mean stuff down pain if you are truly hurt!) My advice is to think of a joke to add to the moment and learn to not take yourself so seriously. Being awkward can throw off the moment, but with some jokes and laughter, each moment can seem endearing.

2. Forget Being Graceful, Just Finesse!

The gif says it all! Being awkward can get physical! I once fell down three flights of spiral stairs and still went to class afterward. You have to own the moment and then continue on. I know the feeling of heat in your face and stomach that makes you think "Oh my gosh everyone saw that!" but quiet that voice and replace it with one that says "yeah, I did that!" I have a friend that any time she knocks into something she says she was checking for it. She can bump into the door and then say "I was just checking the door." If spills are involved don't waste your time with tons of sorries just find the nearest cleaning supplies. In short finesse the situation.

3. When All Else Fails, Dance Away

I am a fan of this one because I am always caught dancing to some new song in public because I just can't help myself. So if I am ever feeling overwhelmed by the awkwardness I have most likely caused, I dance away. People are always confused by the movement but they normally respect it and chuckle. It is a fun way of acknowledging that the moment was a little too much for you and you just need a dance break.

4. Feel Your Feelings

Awkward situations can sometimes stem from pent-up feelings. This is why I am an advocate of feeling your feelings. Deal with what you can and move on. Don't bring awkward "I-can't-deal-with-my-feelings-syndrome" from one situation to the next. Take a moment to journal, pray or confide in a friend. Feel the moment and move on, it will shorten your awkward encounters by at least 1/2!

5. Remember To Be Fierce

This one is simple, but I will admit that it may be the hardest. Love yourself! Look at that awkward bumbling person within and encourage them to try hard at everything you want. Do it. Fierce. Power! Be the most awkward Beyonce you can be because you're amazing.

I hope after considering my mini-guide you feel encouraged and have some tips and tricks for maneuvering within this awkward situation inducing world. Stay Awkward Y'all!

Cover Image Credit: Elfster

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