Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thumbin' My Nose at Writing Advice, Goin' My Own Way


I came across this post of poetry writing advice:

Five Marks of Oft-Rejected Poems by Michael Mlekoday

which got me thinking about my own views regarding all this writing advice you see all the time in the writing world. It got me thinking yet again about what my own experience tells me about these things.

Amazing how I can thumb my nose at much of the poetry writing advice out there and still see my poems published on a fairly regular basis (last count, well over 100 poems published since April 2007). That's why I always take all writing advice out there with a grain of salt. I keep it in mind, but I'm no slave to it. I follow my own artistic instincts before I follow what others say I must do.

Take cliche, for instance. There have been times that certain readers and editors have claimed that I've been guilty of the inexcusable offense of cliche use. However, other editors and other readers have had no problems with the same fatally flawed poems.

One reader claimed that my use of the phrase "as a moth to flame" in my dark poem "Corpse Candles" was an example of dropping a cliche in the middle of a poem. However, that poem worked well enough to be published in the June 2008 issue of Niteblade, as well as the Niteblade anthology Lost Innocence. It was also republished in the October 2010 issue of Deadman's Tome.

If a reader looks long and hard enough, if they really want to find cliche, I'm sure they could find one or more examples of it in my poem "What Greets Me at the End", the poem that was published in the May 2011 issue of Cover of Darkness, the one that made it on Ellen Datlow's full list of 608 Honorable Mentions for 2011. If they tried hard enough, somebody would probably find something or other in that poem that could be considered cliche. After all, a narrator thinking they arrived in Heaven only to find out later they arrived in Hell is something of a cliche.

What am I trying to say with all this? I'm trying to suggest that many of these supposed flaws, such as cliche, are in the eye of the beholder. What doesn't work for one editor or reader may work fine for another. I will continue to follow the course I've already set, based on my own experience. Works for me.

Isn't following one's own course, based on one's own artistic instincts, what art is supposed to be all about?

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