Recently I was watching a calligraphy tutorial, and the individual was doing a beautiful job. His lettering was deliberate and purposeful by design as he verbally walked the viewer through each curve and flourish. He was patiently going at a speed slower than what he was used to.
He explained that while not all letters look alike (for example, one person’s Old English letters may differ slightly from another artist’s), there are rules to help guide you toward creating beautiful calligraphy.
“However,” he said, “sometimes the rules can be broken.” This is where our individual take on something – whether calligraphy or otherwise – can shine through.
This is so important to hear.
There’s a TV commercial for Delta that has one of the best lines. “Never let the rules overrule common sense,” it says.
Now, regardless of whether they adhere to the beautiful words of a talented copywriter as often as they can, they’re good words to live by, yes?
I’m really, really good at getting into “analysis paralysis,” meaning – in the case of my endeavors of late – that unfortunately the more I know about something I want to try my hand at, the more I’ll stall and overthink all the rules that are there to help guide me.
And that’s the key word: guide.
If you were to ask me whether every screenplay that’s been produced in Hollywood has had perfect formatting, exact margins and not contained any wording that infringes on the director’s territory, I would of course tell you that I’m sure there are many which have broken these rules. Granted, I’m sure many of those rule-breakers are people with connections who will overlook the errors, unlike the rest of us who are told repeatedly that having a flawlessly formatted script is one of the best ways to get someone to read beyond the first few pages.
Same thing with plays: every person in the playwriting group I hope to someday be part of is there to provide feedback and constructive criticism to the one who wrote it. You name it, they’ll comment on it: dialogue, scene pacing – anything. Which goes to prove that everything is a work in progress. Even when it’s in production and on-stage I’ve heard the writer say that they would’ve done something differently now that they see it acted out.
Guides. To help us get the first draft down, after which point you can go back and make sure the formatting is correct.
My problem is remembering that the first step doesn’t have to be perfect. In anything.
Over the weekend, something came to mind that a relative told me a few months back: “There will always be people who are happy to criticize you. Don’t be one of them.”
Today I am thankful for all of these little reminders and whispers that banded together, reminding me that they’re just guides and that it’s perfectly fine to color outside the lines, to sometimes break the rules and to just do it. There can only be beauty in the flourish surrounding a calligraphy letter if we first have the courage to make it.