The Rules of Writing

Robert Heinlein wrote down some rules for writing that are frequently referenced these days. Those rules go something like this: write, publish, write some more.

Great rules, but obvious and redundant. It’s like telling a dancer to dance, a musician to play or sing, a painter…

Heinlein’s rules pre-suppose you’ve decided to make a career of writing, but it is not the only way to be a writer. Keep a journal, for example, or write letters, invent fairy tales for your children: you’re a writer.

Writer's Stop
Writer’s Stop (Photo credit: Stephh922)

It’s a decision you make for yourself to write privately or publicly. Either way, you are still a writer, a wordsmith, a scrivener.

If you are a writer (public or private), here are my rules:

  • read, read passionately, read everything, read continuously, day and night;
  • listen, hear syntax, hear rhythm, hear voice, listen and hear vocabulary, meaning, context, words, the meaning of life — your meaning of life;
  • use your senses — what does it look like, taste, feel, smell or sound like?;
  • wonder;
  • remember.
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