So you just write, right? Follow your instincts. You're an artist, after all.
I don't think so.
Ray's a smart guy and you all should be reading his excellent blog, but I'm sticking by what I wrote. One need only practice an art to call herself an artist. There's no requirement for her to produce "good" work. Don't we all know people who continue to paint with oils and watercolors even though they believe they'll never sell any of their work? Why is it not okay for writers to satisfy their creative urges without regard to whether the world sees their contribution as important? Why do we believe that writing must always be justified by publication?
I don't doubt that Ray sees quite a lot of awful writing. Listen to his frustration:
Why, I ask myself again and again, do these dedicated, hard-working people fail to learn what they desperately need to know about the craft of storytelling before they spend all those hours writing?
If a writer's primary goal is publication (and there's certainly nothing wrong with that), then zeroing in on craft makes perfect sense. But if a writer's main aim is to express herself in a creative way, then cramming a lot of "writing rules" down her throat can suck the joy right out of her writing process. And then she'll give up.
Sure, we all want to be published. But if you knew you'd never be published, would you keep writing? Don't worry--there's no wrong answer to that question. But if your answer is that you'd keep writing, then it's you I'm hoping to encourage when I say don't get bogged down in studying the rules. They will not ensure publication. In fact, if you allow them to leech the joy from your writing, I believe you'll find the rules will effectively prevent publication.
My advice, like Ray's, is colored by my own beliefs and experiences. I write for the fun of it. Publication has always been a secondary goal. So when I advise people to "just write", I'm encouraging them to revel in the process. If a writer loves writing, surely she's more apt to stick with it. If she loves what she's doing, she'll be eager--not feel constrained--to assimilate knowledge of the craft, which will both increase her joy and improve her writing, nudging her closer to publication.
To approach writing with a strong focus on mechanics requires a tremendous amount of intelligence and discipline. After months of reading Ray's blog, I believe he has both. But I don't. And that's why I'm going to party on, rasing my glass every few minutes to shout, "No rules! Just write!"