Writer Wednesday welcomes Jack Wallen!
I was going to write this sentimental “Jack is great” intro, but, honestly…I’ll just let Jack do the talking.
Stand back, folks! You’re about to get Jack’d!
Break rules. Break ground.
William Shakespeare (often considered the greatest writer to ever live) invented thousands of words and broke tradition and rules with every play he wrote. E.E. Cummings happily gave the backhand to grammar by writing the traditional sonnet with no capitalization and no punctuation. Artists, true artists, live their lives in search of something greater than themselves, something time and tide can never touch, never tear down. With a sound grasp of everything around them, the artist tears down the walls of conformity and sheds a newer, brighter light on a spot of the stage heretofore gone unseen.
Either that or they kick the shit out of that same old down stage center spot until it conforms to their will and reforms into something wholly different.
Rules. What are they really good for besides forcing everyone into the same six sided, brown box that smells like kindergarten and warehouses. From the cradle to the grave we are taught to connect the same dots as the cubicle worker next to us and paint within the lines drawn by middle management.
When I was in graduate school (Purdue University Professional Actor Training Program) I was trained to do one thing – follow my instincts. Although those instincts would some times lead me astray, it was better to be truthful to my heart and gut and follow it with every ounce of passion I had, than to become yet another “yes man”, regurgitating the same damn thing the actor before me had belched forth.
Lemmings. Mediocrity. The artist well knows the state of the world is that no one is comfortable with anything outside of mediocrity. Why? True brilliance, genius, and beauty frightens the average human being. Few are comfortable with being made to feel inadequate. Most want “reality TV” to parade around a cast of people so incapable, so adept at stupidity it makes the viewer feel superior. We want to watch train wrecks worse than our own. We don’t want to watch TV about great humans (unless they are superheroes – in which case they must be larger than life).
All of this culminates into an almost unstoppable force that causes artists to crumble to their creative knees and follow the rules laid out in front of them. This is apparent in nearly every artistic pursuit. And because of it – rules aren’t being broken. New words and worlds aren’t being invented. It’s the same ol’ paranormal happily ever nowhere thriller that everyone else has written.
To that I say “nay nay”. I happily thumb my nose at thee, rules. I bare my bodkin and bid thee be gone! That’s right – I break rules. I make up words, flip off the grammar police, kill off main characters, refuse happily ever afters, make you uncomfortable, make you wonder “where is this hayride heading?” Why? Because that is what my gut says I am to do. Because rehashing normal isn’t my cup a gravy. Because nothing about me embraces rules because that’s what I’m told to do. In my world, rules were made for those without creativity enough to invent their own way of doing things.
One of the things I love most about writing horror is that, by nature, the genre isn’t afraid of spitting on the grave of rules and those that make them. Take, for instance, my idol Clive Barker. He first found his fame with horror the likes no one had read before. Hellbound Heart smacked the face of horror with such force, it quite possibly could never have recovered. But – Mr. Barker wasn’t happy with the chains that bound him to genre. So, he invented his own niche (he calls the Dark Fantastique) and began writing some of the most elegant, graceful, and twisted stories ever penned.
He made his own rules. He broke his own rules. He made himself into an icon.
My life as a rule breaker has been a challenging one: I’ve had editors quit on me. I’ve had to fight the urge to give in and follow the trends (in the hope of Achtung Baby’ing my work – U2 fans will get the reference) and finally gaining some footing. At one point, I almost gave up the writing ghost. In the end, I forged on with the understanding that barriers created by rules and genres could be jumped, broken, bypassed, and flipped off.
If I have learned anything from the roller coaster I’ve been on for the last few years, it’s that I would rather forge my own path and break the very ground I stand upon rather than arrive at the finish on someone else’s coattails. It’s my ride and my rules – I’ll break every one of them if it gets me where I need to go.
Jack Wallen is the author of the I Zombie series, the Shero stories, the Fringe Killer series, and many other works. He also does a podcast called Zombie Radio, rides bikes, designs book covers and blogs about all of the above here. Get to know him, won’t you?
Lemmings need not apply.
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- #rattle and hum is the sound of a broken guitar if you ask me
- 1 year ago