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8 Rules Every Writer Should Live By

David Lynch in Los Angeles, December 2011

“We think we understand the rules when we become adults but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.” — David Lynch

1. Learn how to defend your work. Great writers are courageous in the face of a hostile audience–whether they are editors or readers.

2. Write everyday. The routine and purposeful practice embeds the mechanics of good writing into your memory.

3. Read everyday. A loaded idea reservoir will enrich what you write and conquer creative block.

4. Edit ruthlessly. There is no such thing as a perfect draft. Abandon when you are sick and tired of it.

5. Ignore bad criticism. Get a mentor. Join a critique group. Identify good and bad advice. Accept one, reject the other.

6. Be eccentric. Differentiate from other writers or get swallowed up.

7. Work anywhere. Resist the temptation to look for perfect conditions to write. You’ll never find them.

8. Get physical. Build a coffee table. Run six miles. Dig a ditch. Let your mind rest. It will reward you.

Do you have any rules that writers should live by? Original post on Google+.

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Comments

  1. Great, simple words of advice, thanks! Personally, having an easy way to record those fleeting thoughts is key for me. Evernote is great. A simple notepad that fits in your pocket is a good backup tool. Those nuggets of insight seem to zoom away as fast as they zoom in.

  2. Thanks for these practical thoughts. I’m not sure about digging a ditch or running 6 miles, its too bloody hot over here at the moment!

    I like no. 7 Be eccentric. Not too hard for me!

    cheers

  3. Sweet! Back to basics right there. All solid points. Write everyday, ready everyday. Those never get old. Also, you cannot ignore the amazingness of David Lynch’s hair. It is a phenomenon.

  4. Hey Demian,
    Well, I just put two and two together and realized you ARE Demian from CopyBlogger. Guess it takes some people forever to realize simple things…but I had enjoyed CopyBot even before that.
    Hope you’re having a good holiday,
    Greg aka The Blogger

  5. This is something to print out and put on my wall…or on my fridge since I eat everyday. Thank you!

  6. Hello, I would like to add two “rules” so that the list will become the “10 commandments” (I dare to say, if I may) to follow for all writers on this planet. I would like to suggest:

    Be collaborative – take turns to say a few sentences, to create a story. Chances are that this will inspire your own writing and theirs.

    Be creative – draw up, snap shot, sketch, so you’re not facing that blank piece of paper.

    Just a thought…Thank you. Lu Russ

  7. Top stuff, Demian. Particularly like 7+8 – both a tremendous source of inspiration for me.

    Can you say a little more about ‘Abandon when you are sick and tired of it….’ (point 4) in your words – is this regards to the editing or drafting process? Would like to learn – particularly any tips on achieving completion. How do you know when to finish editing?

    • Great question. I am referring to the editing process, but it can apply to the draft stage, too. With the draft the goal is to get everything down on paper. Do tons of research, take notes (on paper and in Evernote), consolidate all those notes on a white board and then let it sit for a day. When it’s time to write your rough draft sit down in front of that white board and start writing. Use the notes on the white board to jog your memory and make sure you are covering all of your bases. Keep your bottom in the seat until you’re done.

      When it comes to editing, go through the document dozens of time. Naturally you start at the top and rewrite. And work your way down. If you get stuck on a particular part, jump to another section and edit from there. Eventually you’ll connect all the sections and have heavily edited the document so you come to a point where you are reading through the entire document with out substantial changes being made. You might move a paragraph, but for the most part you are making changes that benefit the flow of the document. When you can read through the document without any major flags popping up, then read it a few more times. Then proof it for spelling and grammar mistakes.

      Do you have an editing process?

      • I do now ;)

        Thanks for the advice, Demian, I have been using this approach all of today and it has helped – albeit using A3 paper and a marker pen in absence of access to a large white board.

        Previously I have relied upon re-writing, as you suggest from the top, and also a sometimes laborious and manual method of printing stuff out, chopping it up and arranging it to create flow or a story.

        Evernote. Must try that.

  8. Short, precise, and insightful rules, thanks Demian.
    On 2-8 those are more to discipline and self control, I found the first rule is relatively tougher. It takes thoughtful experience and reasonable amount of self-knowing (no cheating, what am i doing, really?), self expression (how to convey the best to different type of people), and so on. Though the writer isn’t trying to convince but defend. Demian, any thought on that?
    I’m on my way. The only rule I insist, is just one – Writer writes. They will learn the other rules as they write and grow later. No matter what, keep writing. It’ll lead us to the other gems. Don’t wait for the perfect condition, or “I’ll start writing when I found my voice/ learn the perfect grammar/ the muse comes/ n so on”. Just write, and the gems will start to show themselves from the ground.
    Just found your blog today (through your tweet), *subscribe*. Thanks for the post Demian, your first rule really made me ponder.
    Take care there, talk soon.
    Yusof Ihsan

    • Yosof, thanks for the subscribe. Yeah, it took me a while to learn how to stand up for my work. It’s just a matter of time of feeling comfortable in what you do–and actually knowing what you do. Because if you know what you are doing then it’s easier to explain to those who might challenge.

      Yeah, and relentless practice is essential. Doesn’t matter what you do. Email, blog posts, letters, tweets, Google+, notes, journal. Write.

      Take care, and thanks for writing.

      • I agree. Thanks Demian!
        btw, what you mentioned to Rob (the writing and editing process) – thanks for sharing! It’s always exciting and benefiting to learn how a prolific writer like you work.
        *back to writing now*
        Yusof Ihsan

  9. Love these 8 commandments. They should be carved in stone.

    I have not followed #8 AT ALL for the last few months, and have reaped a spare tire. My wife and I are both committed to returning to exercise this year.

    I know from experience this will help my writing.

    Thank you, Moses Farnworth, for delivering such an important message to the people.

  10. Ah, damn… you’ve pierced my heart!!! Just found you on Twitter, and now I may become a stalker. :)

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