My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The 17 Rules Of Writing

1. Great writing involves great risk–the risk of terrible writing. Writing that involves no risk is merely forgettable–utterly.

2. When you fail–and you will totally fucking fail–don’t fail to learn. Then you can't really fail at all. That's the best way to approach writing...and life.

3. Follow the three Rs: 1. Read 2. Revise 3. Routine.

4. Remember that being unknown is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.

5. Learn grammar rules so you know how to break them properly. This also goes for rules of craft and process. Actually, this goes for the rules of life too.

6. Don’t let a little problem like having to rewrite an entire story from scratch destroy your motivation. (Seriously, you were pretty much going to have to do it anyway.)

7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, don't panic. You can go back and fix it in the next draft. Would that life were like writing in this way.

8. Spend some time completely alone every day. Turn off Facebook. Put down your phone. Your quiet thoughts are your most powerful creative wellspring. Hear them.

9. Open your arms to criticism, but don’t let go of your confidence in the process. This may mean having to fashion your confidence into a cloak or capri pants.

10. Remember that it is only in your silence that others will tell you their stories. Listen. You'll be surprised what others will tell you about their lives when you stop telling them about their lives.

11. Write with all your heart. Every time. 

12. In disagreements with the page, deal only with the sentence in front of you. Don’t fret about the huge changes you'll have to make to the next draft and how much work is yet to come and how the task is huge and overwhelming. Just the one sentence. Just the next right thing.

13. Share your knowledge. Teaching others to write is the single best way to learn. And it's good for the soul and shit.

14. Be gentle. Be kind. (Unless you have a safe word.)

15. It's okay to keep a few irons in the fire–you don't have to work on one thing at a time–but never abandon something you're working on to do another project. It will become habit faster than you realize. You'll never get anything finished that way. Finish your shit.

16. Remember that the best relationship with writing is as an activity you love. Money, fame, fans will never fulfill you the way the writing itself will. Ever.

17. Judge your success only against yourself from yesterday. Any other yardstick will only harm your soul.

In the interest of full disclosure this is heavily influenced by the 18 Rules of Living found in The Art of Happiness by the Dali Lama. I've changed all of them (most of them substantially), but if they strike you as familiar, that might be why.

If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more articles like this one, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $12 a year will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.


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  2. In checking your "writing rules" I find I'm golden on #11—writing with heart, yet I'm currently stuck on #6 letting the idea of a (possible) total rewrite zap my motivation. A smart writing consultant has pointed out flaws and now that's what I see in my 330 page manuscript. Perhaps I could use a change of scenery...

  3. Ah, ok. After I asked you about, basically, why one might want to read (and follow) your rules here, I found your other article titled "Who Is This Pretentious N00b?" http://www.chrisbrecheen.com/p/who-is-this-clown.html.
    Thank you, again, for putting yourself out there and letting us in there. I hope you continue to enjoy your journey and I might join you for another article or two.