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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The scarier something is to write, the greater the odds it’s worth writing about.
- 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?