The Guardian published White Teeth author Zadie Smith’s 10 rules for writing in 2010, and they’re pretty awesome.
- When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.
- When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.
- Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.
- Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.
- Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.
- Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.
- Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.
- Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.
- Don’t confuse honours with achievement.
- Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never being satisfied.
After a decade or so of doing this writing thing, I’ve decided that writers are a unique lot. We’re kind of weird, wouldn’t you agree?
Recently I noticed some of my own quirks and thought I’d write them down.
But, certainly, these can’t just be truths about me, right? Certainly, you guys who write deal with the same stuff, right? I’m not the only one, am I?
You tell me if you’ve noticed the same things: Read more
A few weeks ago, my writing team at work was talking about inspiration—the whole idea of how we get inspired and what inspires us to write.
During that discussion, I came to realize (along with others on our team), that I don’t have a lot of the traditional, come to Jesus, “inspirational” moments. Don’t get me wrong, I get refreshed and maybe lightly inspired when I go running or sit by an ocean shore at sunset. I’m sure those moments fuel my writing in some way.
But I can’t say that I’m inspired by a lot of books, or movies, or images of sunsets with inspirational quotes. Maybe I am in small ways. I guess you could say a passage from a book might inspire one of my blog posts. But I don’t really have some sort of go-to source of inspiration.
If you’ve ever worked with an editor, you know that receiving a colorful track-changes-filled document back isn’t uncommon.
Some editors are straight to the point. Others can be a little too friendly and encouraging when tough love might work better.
In both cases, editors have their own little language with accompanying symbols. So it helps if you can interpret what they’re ACTUALLY saying and read between the lines. Having been brutally edited more times than I’d like to admit, I’m well-versed in editor speak.
So here’s my little guide to interpret what your editor actually means: Read more
Make no mistake—no matter what you think about V.S. Naipaul as a person, the man is an incredible writer.
With that, his advice on writing goes a long way. Here are his 7 tips for beginning writers (via Boing Boing), but I believe these rules are applicable for writers of any experience level. Read more
Today’s Monday Question is simple.
Let’s follow up Friday’s post by letting you chime in on your favorite punctuation mark.
You already know mine—the question mark. Question marks make the world go round. They are the gateway to all knowledge.
But what about you?
You a fan of the period, the semicolon, the dreaded ellipses? Do tell!