6 Rules for Writing

6 Rules for Writing

It’s never easy trying to get some writing done. (Whenever I hear people describe how much they *love* sitting down to write or how easily writing comes to them, I always assume they’re lying or delusional.) But in times of struggle, it’s worth returning to first principles. Awhile back, The New Yorker’s digital edition asked me if I had any “rules” for writing. I do. I went back to look at them last week, and I’m sharing them below on the chance they’ll be helpful to all you non-lying, non-delusional types:

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 can help, even if it hurts.

6. Remember that writing, though solitary, is also social. You’re making a promise to readers. Honor that promise.


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