But I hate rules

Was reading this list of rules for writers and here’s a catalogue of my responses.

1.When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.


2.When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

Be brutal with myself about my writing…and everything else; got that covered.

3.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.

True…but it would be nice to spend one Midnight in Paris.

4.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.

Wait, had to read that one again. And wow, we do that don’t we, masking self doubt with contempt as though the thing we hate is the thing we hate and not our own weakness. Lightbulb moment.

5.Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

Try to do this as much as possible; sometimes easier said than done on deadline…but, yeah, good advice.

6.Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

The loneliness of writing being what it is, sometimes it’s a comfort to find like minded souls but I do worry sometimes that this can lead to spending more time talking about writing than actually writing. I don’t know if I’d say avoid connecting altogether but I do try to avoid using the comfort of the crowd such as it is as a substitute for creating.

7.Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

Hmmm, well sometimes I do write long hand…in my journals. Does that count?

8.Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

This is one of the reasons I don’t have a cell phone. But, yeah, interruptions abound and I’m much more easily distracted than I used to be, apparently, and not half as selfish as folks think I am as I’d do a much better job of tuning out their right now, right now demands. It is a pickle…hmm, pickles.

9.Don’t confuse honours with achievement.

Fairly easy to do when you haven’t achieved a lot of honours …still working on the writing.

10.Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand — but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

Another one that gave me pause. I do strive to be true (or as I say authentic) in my writing, always. But the latter part of the statement that this discontent that dogs me is a writer’s lot is a lot to take in. Sigh.


My own rules meanwhile are yet to be written…probably because I don’t quite believe in rules. There’s just no pleasing me, is there. What can I say, I am ever a writer journeying and a person-in-progress.

by me, Joanne from Ottos Antigua, writer of Oh Gad! and other books, on reading Zadie Smith’s Rules of Writing.