Have you ever noticed the similarity between playing music and writing?

I recently gave my grandmother's 1913 Heller Upright piano a tune-up. It's the first time since my parents restored it back in the 1980s, though I have been happily playing it for years. 

The tuning has had a surprising result. Once those strings were in tune, it was like a spotlight on my terrible piano skills! All of my creative finger positions, my sloppy tempos, and my misplayed notes were suddenly front and center. Blaming an out-of-tune piano for my 'creative' piano technique isn't gonna cut it anymore. 

I can't help but relate this to writing. Just as I tinkered away on my piano with little regard to proper technique, so many writers dive into their stories without making sure what they are saying is in tune, or that their writing technique is sound. And then are surprised by their lack of traction, blaming readers or an industry that just 'doesn't get them'. 


You can be creative within that framework, but you have to abide by the rules. 

I recently found this great interview from Aaron Sorkin's Screenwriting Masterclass:

"There’s a tendency to think that … art is finally the place where there are no rules where you have complete freedom, that I’m just gonna sit down at the keyboard and it's just gonna flow out of me on paper and it's gonna be pure art. 

No, what you are describing is finger painting. Rules are what makes art beautiful. It's the rules that make art not finger painting.

Think about music. All the rules that music has. Anyone who studied music in elementary school, who picked up a flute or a trumpet, knows that at the beginning of every piece of music, there is a key signature. There is a time signature. If you're in 4/4 time there are four beats in a measure, and a quarter note gets one beat. Can't be five beats in a measure. There can't be three beats in a measure. If you're in the key of C it means there are no sharps and no flats. There can't be a sharp. There can't be a flat. 
These rules also apply to writing. "

Are you jamming out within the writing rules, or are you playing sloppy and out-of-tune? 

Embracing those rules might just be the key to unlocking your story. Remember, creativity thrives with constraint

Looking for a fast and easy way to craft a broad story structure?

Love this content? 
Subscribe to The Story Guide Dispatch for more!

Find Story Guide 
on Instagram


Leave a Comment