...only principles. Fred Lebron, the director of my creative writing MFA program at Queens University told us this as we watched from our computer screens. Our residency program went virtual this year in light of COVID. I could feel those words in particular being absorbed by everyone in our program. We were little writer sponges, just soaking them up. But I've realized more and more this year, that people really need to hear them.
Too often before we even write, we get caught up in the mechanics of the writing. Not only that, but the "should I do this" mentality pervades our thinking and hinders us from telling the story that needs to be told. (I use the term "story" lightly here, because no matter what kind of writing we're doing, we're weaving some kind of narrative or sticking to a theme).
I often tell my writers to "just write" but they have a hard time getting rid of the chattering. societal monkey that tells them what's acceptable and unacceptable to put in print. First drafts should say whatever you want to say. That's why drafting, self-editing, and editors exist. We can tell you what to cut back on, but if you're working on the early stages of your manuscript, don't be afraid to say what you need to say. If rules had been the forethought of every author, we wouldn't have some of the most incredible books of our time (Sula by Toni Morrison and poems by e. e. cummings immediately spring to mind).
Don't be afraid to experiment in your writing, to push the bounds of what makes you comfortable. That's often where the best writing comes from and as an added bonus, you might even surprise yourself.