On Monday in one of my writing classes, our instructor gave us an exercise: write a run-on sentence. As long as you can. No rules; just write. Then we had to write a seven word sentence, a six word sentence, a five word sentence, and so on until we finished with a one-word sentence. When we’d finished that exercise, we turned it around and started with a one-word sentence, finishing with a run-on sentence.
It was an interesting exercise to contrast the difference between writing with no restrictions and writing with tight restrictions (or rules). Both were, in their own way, challenging. I’m an editor; writing a run-on sentence was hard. There were so many places where I just wanted to put in a period and start another sentence, but I was supposed to keep going. Yet that was when the writing flowed easily. When I had to write the shorter sentences, and count each word in the sentence, my writing began to sound silly, chopped, forced.
Here’s what I came up with in class:
My favourite music is country music, but it wasn’t always and I should clarify that I don’t like any and all country music — I like country music because so many country songs tell a story, like the old joke goes: “Play a country song backwards and you’ll get back your wife, your kids, your job, your house” — that’s stories, although I like the positive stories better, the ones with a “feel-good” note or a lasting value, the ones that make you think for a while or just hit you “right there” and make you ache or cry or want to write such a story yourself. My brother gave me this music appreciation. He played country radio all day. I learned the tunes, chords. The music behind the words. It sang within. I felt. Learned.
It was interesting to me to play with the differences in writing, when there were rules or no rules. There was a time when I wrote for fun, just to play with the words and tell the stories. Now, before I even start writing, I’m aware of word count, whether or not I can use first or second person, grammar and spelling and so many other considerations. These are, of course, part of a writer’s life; as an editor, I understand the necessity of articles of a certain length and type. As a writer, I just want to write. Thus I strive for balance between the two and in it all, to keep that joy of just playing with words and sentences.