‘Rules’ for Writers: Anne Rice’s Quote and My Take on it.

If you couldn’t tell. I love writing and writers. I love everything to do with the creative process.

It’s an addiction to me. I love watching it happen and I love it when I’m part of that process.

So whenever I see something about writing, I tend to glom onto it. I save it, read it, and let it feed the fire. So to speak.

Gonna get to a point here soon?

Yeah, yeah. By the way here’s your Coke.

Well, that only took a week! Glad I didn’t ask for a pizza!

Anyways, in my file I have a quote by Anne Rice:

“MOST HARMFUL ADVICE I was ever given by others. 1) Write what you know. 2)You’ll have to polish every sentence you write three or four times. 3)Genius is one tenth talent and nine tenths hard work and 4) You’re not a real writer if you don’t write every day. — ALL OF THAT WAS HARMFUL TO ME. ALL OF IT. IT HURT AND IT SET ME BACK. —– So I say again, there are no rules. It’s amazing how willing people are to tell you that you aren’t a real writer unless you conform to their cliches and their rules. My advice? Reject rules and critics out of hand. Define yourself. Do it your way. Make yourself the writer of your dreams. Protect your voice, your vision, your characters, your story, your imagination, your dreams.”

I love this. It’s brilliant!

I’d like to take you through the four points she made and let you know what they mean to me, as a writer.

  1. Write what you know. If I’d stuck to what I’d known, I’d have written about a geeky Mormon kid in a small town in Northeastern Arizona. Who’d want to read that? Apart from my mom. Writer’s have two tools that we use frequently. We research and imagine. We need both the possible and impossible to power our stories.
  2. You’ll have to polish every sentence you write three or four times. So picture this: You write chapter one of your book. Go back and rework. Every. Single. Sentence. You take an hour off and do it all again. Three days later, chapter one is shining and perfect. A credit to your genius, a triumph of your will. However, you are a slobbering and insane wreck of a human being. Defiantly in no condition to continue to chapter two. Even if you were sane at this point, you wouldn’t want to go on. We’ll touch on burning out a little later in this post.
  3. Genius is one-tenth talent and nine-tenths hard work. A saying attributed to Einstein goes something like this. “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” There is no one metric by which you can measure genius. Especially in how you develop it. It could be that you are 1/10 genius 9/10 hard work, or perhaps it’s 9/10 genius to 1/10 hard work. If that’s the case. You are one lucky devil. To quote James A. Owen. “Everyone’s mileage varies.”
  4. You’re not a real writer if you don’t write everyday. Yes, discipline is great. So is not coming to hate what you love. I’ve said this about breaking from writer’s block. If you’ve hit a wall, and no writing exercise can get you unstuck, get up and get out. Get some fresh air and some sunlight. Do some house work or something. Just step away and let your brain rest. Let the story distill through the layers of your mind. It helps. Writing everyday, if you’re under a deadline, has its place. If you aren’t under a deadline, please don’t kill your story, or yourself by writing everyday.

Anne Rice says there are no rules. To that I agree. There aren’t rules to writing so much as there are guidelines. Guidelines are there to help, they aren’t there to restrict.

I’d go so far as to say everything I’ve written about in this and every other blog post are guidelines. If they help, perfect. If you think I’m full of it and find another way that’s helpful, so much the better!

At the end of the day, all I want to do is help your writing be great. That is all.


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