Eleven rules for writers (whether you think you are or not)

  1. Keep your hand moving, said writing guru/wise woman Natalie Goldberg. Don’t stop. Don’t edit. Just keep your hand moving.
  2. I add: Or keep your fingers typing if you have them poised over the keyboard. Don’t stop. Don’t edit. This is difficult for those of us who edit in our sleep, who have spent years penciling others’ boo-boos because we are teachers or editors or bosses or people who think we know better.
  3. This applies to our own writing, which we feel it necessary to criticize and apologize for because it’s never as good as we’d like it to be. Never as good as it was when it flitted across our minds like a fast-flying bird—so fast we can’t identify it by name.
  4. Your job—my job, every writer’s job—is to catch the words as they fly by, snatch them out of the air like a frog grabs a low-buzzing bug, swallow them, let them flow out of our fingers onto the page/screen/envelope/napkin—whatever means is handy to capture them.
  5. This is not to say that the words are caged, that they belong only to you. They are wisps of thought, after all, free to blow off the page, if they wish. You are free to discard them later, if you wish. But not now.
  6. Now your job is just to grab those words, slap ’em down with great force or set them gently on the page like small white feathers floating from the sky—the words will tell you what is needed in that moment of their aborning.
  7. Because then you remember—I remember—that there are no rules here except to be gentle with yourself—myself—as the words fly by, as they are snagged and recorded.
  8. Because every one of them is a gift, to be treated kindly, to be held gently in your cupped hands, never criticized or apologized for. Because they came to you—to me—just now, for a purpose we may not know. But they came. They came.
  9. We love them. We thank them for coming.
  10. We have faith that they will always arrive, that there is an endless supply of them, that they are just the right words, the right feathers, always and always.
  11. Amene.


About janishaag

Writer, writing coach, editor
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