The 7 Rules of Writing I Keep Forgetting

UntitledI am a professional writer. As of this year, my workday is spent writing business news stories.

I get to write for a living. I work with thoughtful, smart, emotionally sound people who I respect. It is a dream come true.

But now, I have a new dream.

I want to earn a living writing stories about life.

I want to write the stories my uncle tells while we sit outside on hot August days, eating lemon meringue pie and swatting away the flies. I want to write about sneaking my dad’s Merit menthols when I was 15, blowing the cigarette smoke out my bedroom window and watching for falling stars.

I want to write about the year I spent not talking to my mom, or the final weeks of my sister’s pregnancy when she lived with us.

There is so much I want to write. But how? I need structure. I need discipline. I need a writing practice.

To start, I’m listing the seven rules about writing that I always forget. Maybe if I list them here, I will read them, at least, once a day, until they’re locked in my head like a Hail Mary.

The 7 Rules of Writing I Keep Forgetting

  1. The most important thing you can do as a writer is show up. You have to show up every day and write something. Anything. Just write.
  2. You must write badly. It’s imperative that you write crap before you write anything worth reading. It’s how the creative process works. At least, it is how my process works.
  3. Joseph Campbell was right, when you follow your passions, you find your bliss. If your passion is writing, follow it and wonderful things will happen.
  4. This one is from Franzen, it’s a favorite. You’d think I would have it memorized as often as I quote it:

    What turns out to matter most is that you write as truthfully as possible. If you really love the person whose material you’re writing about, the writing has to reflect that love. There’s still always a risk that the person won’t be able to see the love, and that your relationship may suffer, but you’ve done what all writers finally reach the point of having to do, which is to be loyal to themselves.

  5. Writing for the sake of writing is its own reward. Writing for the sake of writing is its own reward. Writing for the sake of writing is its own reward. Writing for the sake of writing is its own reward.
  6. The scarier something is to write, the greater the odds it’s worth writing about.
  7. It is absolutely, 100 percent possible to maintain a daily writing practice while keeping a regular exercise routine. I don’t know how to do it, and have yet to accomplish it myself for any length of time, but I refuse to believe it’s impossible.

Now…what did I forget? What rules of writing do you live by?

16 thoughts on “The 7 Rules of Writing I Keep Forgetting

    • i just ate half of a moose tracks scoop from our favorite local ice cream stop. when i fall off the wagon, i fall hard and, apparently, right into the footsteps of a moose.

  1. 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, and lots and lots of 2. The rest of the rules follow, especially number 6, but 1 and 2 are the only ones I follow consciously.

  2. 11111111 for sure. But my 1.5 is: write and edit like no one you know is going to read it. It’s the only thing that keeps me from freezing up.

  3. A string of #1s, of course, but number 5 is so important right now for me. And 6, too.

    #7 is tricky and I’m really going to have to figure that one out . . .

    • that is why I had to keep repeating #5. i keep wanting things to happen before i’ve even written the first world…which triggers a reaction to put on the breaks. it’s a catch 22, before i even begin i’ve created too lofty of goals that make the whole damn process feel impossible.

  4. Hi Josey, thanks for this – I really love writing to and it is something I want to pursue more seriously, but at the moment I feel like I must take baby steps! Starting my blog was one of those little steps! Thanks for your helpful post!

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