A Lesson for Writing and Life: Do What Works for You

courtesy of Ella's Dad

By Jennifer Blanchard

I had a revelation a few years ago that I need to share with you all…You have to do what works for you.

Growing up I usually got flack for doing things “incorrectly,” like when my third grade teacher would take the pencil out of my hand and fix my fingers so I was holding it “the right way.”

Because of people like this, I forced myself to conform to how I was “supposed to do things.” I spent most of my life doing things “the right way.” The way I thought I was “supposed to.”

Graduated from high school, went to college, had a long-term boyfriend in college, was planning to get married after college, buy a house, have kids…wait, wait, back up a second…because I didn’t want all those things.

And I think it was right after I moved to California from Rochester, N.Y., to accept a job as a magazine editor that I realized I didn’t want the path that was laid out in front of me: The perfect boyfriend-soon-to-be-husband, the perfect job, the perfect suburban house with a dog and 2.5 kids. I wanted something else.

But because I was made to conform so early in my life, I thought it was wrong to do things differently or to want something different for my life.

Since that moment in California, I have done my best not to conform. I try not to be what people expect me to be, but what I want to be. I have five tattoos (4 of which are very visible), have had several body piercings and blue hair…none of which anyone really agreed with.

Even my family—the people I love and who love me—doesn’t really agree with my choices most of the time.

People still tell me I do things incorrectly (“That’s not how you wrap a present!” “Ew, what ingredients are you mixing? You don’t cook like that!”), but now I realize that sometimes, you gotta do things your way. Even if no one understands.

Writers, I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to do what works for you!

It’s important to follow the basics rules of writing, but don’t allow the rules to confine you. Think outside the box. Do what works for you and your story.

Your only limitations are the ones you impose on yourself.

It’s important to get constructive criticism on your writing. But don’t let the critiques tear you down, make you feel like less of a writer or ruin your story.

Yes, criticism of your writing is very necessary in order to make your story better. Yes, sometimes the people critiquing your writing know what they’re talking about or see something that you don’t see.

But that doesn’t mean you always (or ever) have to listen to them.

At the end of the day, it’s your story. It’s your hard work. It’s your dedication. Which means it’s your decision.

Don’t let the pressures of the publishing world or the world of editors and agents or even society as a whole stop you from being who you are and writing what you want to write.

Do what works for you. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

Repeat that to yourself over and over again.

Let it be your reason, your navigation down the crazy path we call life.

Do not let others change you (and by others I mean: publishers, agents, editors, your friends, your family, your significant other, etc).

There are people who are non-conformists and live like this every single day. And their lives are magical, because their lives belong to them and no one else.

And to make my point, here are links to some of my favorite non-conformist’s blogs:

  • Illuminated Mind—Jonathan Mead is a total genius and a non-conformist’s inspiration.
  • Remarkable Communication—Sonia Simone is also a big inspiration to me. This is a link to my favorite blog post of hers: Pink Hair Blogging. A non-conformist at her best.
  • The Art of Non-Conformity—Chris Guillebeau travels the world and writes. His goal is to visit every country on this planet.

I’ll leave you with brilliant words from probably one of the most brilliant writers in history:

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind,” –Dr. Seuss

Ed. Note: I apologize for getting up on my soapbox on this one, but this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Every single day of my life, I fight to make the choices that are right for me, regardless of what others think.

Learning to conform at such a young age makes it so much more difficult to swim against the current and be who you want to be. But I did it, and I do it every day of my life. Which means you can too. Thanks for reading–jb

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