I have simple writing rules. It’s a complicated world, so why burden myself with greater complications?
- Write every day. Writing every day helps me maintain story continuity, and making progress is tangibly reassuring. I also like the practice and discipline, but as an amendment to this rule, I stay flexible and adapt. I don’t sweat it if I can’t write every day. Okay, I confess, I sweat it, but I endure with the promise to myself, “I will write again.”
- Write like crazy. Yep, put it down, one word after another, and let it flow like lava escaping an erupting volcano. Then, edit, polish, edit, polish, revise, re-write, and edit and polish. It’s a rare sentence that is not changed in some manner between first thought and final edit. After grudgingly accepting that re-writing, polishing, and editing are necessary, I now enjoy this process. Writing like crazy is a fast and intense process, but the polishing, etc., is loving, and let me feel the novel and see how it breathes.
- Don’t overthink it and don’t write for anyone else. Man, I get angst about what I’m writing. I worry that it’s crap, and I suffer the imposter syndrome. Even as I write and enjoy what I write, I worry that others won’t like it, that it won’t measure up as professional, meaningful, entertaining, or original. I fear the moment when someone stands up, points a finger at me, and shouts, “J’accuse! You are not a writer.” However, I’m also ready to respond, “Fuck you, jack.” Of course, that won’t prevent me from brooding about it.
- Create and maintain a support structure. Like anything that you consider imperative, such as eating properly, exercising, or family time, it was critical for me to let others know that it’s writing time is important. In return, I set a schedule for it, and adhere to it, so that they know when I’ll be writing. Telling others – coming out of the writing closet, if you will – was a huge step. People respect the effort. Telling my wife, and her support of my writing efforts, were tremendous boosts to my ability to go off and write every day. Writing is already a solitary and lonely business, but her support reduces the struggle by an immeasurable chunk.
- Don’t talk to others about the novel(s) in progress. People will ask, and I do want to share. But it’s so easy to let that writing excitement overpower the moment. I end up going on and on, regaling them about the characters, concept, plot and complications, even as I understand that it’s in beta, or first draft, or whatever, and subject to change. Just answer politely in vaguely sensible terms, change the subject, and let them escape for being a good friend and inquiring.
Any rules that work for you that you want to suggest? No pressure.
Time to write like crazy, at least one more time.