7 Rules for Writing
To my amazement (and delight), Malcolm Gladwell has selected Drive as the March pick for the New Yorker Online Book Club. And as a way to gear up readers for the discussion, the magazine asked me a few questions — including whether I had any “rules” for writing.
I’d actually never thought about that. But it turned out that I did — in a kinda, sorta way — have some rules for hacking out sentences in the hopes that they grow into paragraphs and eventually coalesce into pages and books.
I’m listing them below. But my real purpose is to hear what rules you follow to help get work done — and done well. If you’d like to share your own rule(s) in the comments section, I’ll repost a selection next week.
1. Show up. Get to work even when you don’t feel like writing—especially when you don’t feel like writing.
2. Write every day. Regaining momentum takes three times as much energy as sustaining momentum. (Look it up: It’s a law of literary physics.)
3. Don’t do anything else until you’ve written five hundred words. I mean it.
4. Move. Some of my best ideas come when I’m climbing the stairs of my house or running in my neighborhood.
5. Once you’ve produced a semi-credible draft of a section or chapter, have someone read it to you aloud. Hearing your words will make you rethink—and sometimes regret—them.
6. Remember that writing, though solitary, is also social. You’re making a promise to readers. Honor that promise.
7. These rules work for me. Your mileage may vary.