You did too, I bet. Maybe you refused to eat your vegetables. Maybe you skipped classes, rolled up the waistband of your kilt, or told your mom you were going to a sleep-over when you were really hitchhiking to Hamilton for a concert. Maybe you experimented with mind-altering substances, got a tattoo, ran with a rough crowd, or stole a car. Don’t worry—I won’t judge.
My parents had their hands full. They tried talking to me, yelling at me, bribing me, grounding me, and locking me out of the house. When my surly inner rebel didn’t vacate the premises, they gave up and shipped me off to boarding school.
It must have worked. I attended—and excelled at—all my classes. I made friends and contributed to the school newspaper. At the right time, I applied to some prestigious universities and got into my top pick. After graduation, I merged into the workforce, where I continue to toil happily with hardly a peep. I grew up. To the casual observer, my inner rebel was successfully squashed.
But when it comes to my writing—the part of my life that’s all mine and where I have full reign—that teenager with the Doc Martens and bad attitude gets to have some fun. She gets to swear, take risks, make mistakes, rail against routine, and explore the back-alley world that normally stays so well hidden.
Here are some of the things my inner teenage rebel likes to say that I can apply to my writing life.
“You can’t tell me what to do!”*
There are some things you can’t escape (the basics of grammar, spelling and punctuation being among them). But creativity is about breaking the rules. Go ahead and write in the 2nd person if it amuses you—it might end up looking just as terrible as when I dyed my hair black, but the exercise might bring you some great new ideas. Take risks. Don’t be afraid to try something new.
*Note: This does not apply to situations with your boss, accountant, or gynecologist.
“I’m going to run away from home!”
We Restless Writers famously write away from home. If I didn’t have the Great Canadian Outdoors or the local pub to escape to, my writing would never happen. So pack yourself up with the basics—feel free to use a bindle—and retreat to your favourite off-site writing spot. Different surroundings and unfamiliar faces may be what you need to get the words flowing.
“Just leave me alone!”
This is a variation on the running away from home idea. But this is more about “a room of one’s own” than slamming the door of your house and never looking back. Writers need time, space and solitude to listen to those voices in their heads. You have every right to sneak up to your study, lock the door, and listen to depressing music while you write.
“I’m getting a tattoo!”
Or a mohawk. Or heavy black eyeliner. Or rainbow-patterned roller skates. Or whatever it was that signified you were going against the grain and trying to express yourself. The same holds true in your writing life. Be exceptional. Writing is about standing out, about telling the story that only you can tell. Try out new styles and genres, until you discover your authentic voice.
Do you have an inner teenage rebel? Don’t ground her—you should pay her more attention.