My first rule of writing

I work and teach in the practice school of writing. This means that rather than studying technique and trying to apply it, as we mostly learn to do in mainstream education, we start from just doing it and allowing our own unique style to develop through practice.

Obviously, this approach depends upon doing lots of writing and, as no-one keeps going for long with things they don’t enjoy, the first rule of writing is enjoyment.

If you can’t enjoy it, it’s better to take a step back and wait until the mood or the ideas or the psychological space for writing comes back.

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy ~ Khalil Gibran, ‘The Prophet’

The paradoxical effect of this approach is that being prepared to wait means you never have to. When the impulse is pleasure, work is alligned with instinct, and you are flowing with life.

This is not to say you don’t have to work at your writing, but only that as long as you’re writing things which fully engage you, it’s work you want to do and therefore, however hard it may sometimes be, it never feels like a chore.

And what is it to work with love? It is to weave a cloth with threads drawn from your heart, even as if your beloved were to wear that cloth ~ Khalil Gibran, ‘The Prophet’

You may have noticed that although I normally blog every Wednesday, I’ve skipped a few weeks since Christmas. This is because I’ve been immersed in my work-in-progress and would have resented spending time on other writing.

I didn’t want to short-change myself, or you, or the spirit of writing by publishing something which felt like homework. So I took a break last week and the usual thing happened – lots of new ideas came into my head which are engaging enough for me to want to set aside other writing for an hour or so and explore them in the House of Dreams.

Here’s an interesting post from the Stroppy Author (great blog) about not publishing any old thing

And here’s another one from Abi Burlingham, on her decision to let go of having a regular blogging day

And here is a beautiful contemplation on the important things, in life and in writing, from my very good friend, Liz Kessler

Blogging is writing-work I thoroughly enjoy because, unlike most of what I do, it finds its readers straight away, and they can give instant feedback.

So, dear reader, thank you for visiting, following and commenting 🙂

14 thoughts on “My first rule of writing”

  1. Aw, a lovely post, Jenny and you are so right. Thanks for linking my blog in too – very kind of you, and glad that you’re wee blog break has allowed more ideas to rush in.

  2. I loved your post Abi – it made me think about why, when nothing else in my life these days is time-tabled, it felt OK to me to have a regular blog-posting day. I came to the conclusion that the answer is scheduling! I write my posts in clusters when I feel like it, and they seem to average out to about one post a week.

  3. Terrific post, Jenny! You (and Anne and Abi) are very wise. Even when deadlines mean that we have to push on, I think it can still be helpful to give ourselves what space we can. Sometimes even asking myself “Why am I not loving this chapter?” (or scene, or book) is a helpful way forward, since it encourages me to tackle things from a different direction. (Usually one I’m more excited about!)

  4. Oh yes indeed, quite right, Amy! That question – ‘Why am I not loving this chapter/scene/book?’ does need to be asked, because that’s how we find our way back to working with love.

  5. This is such a timely read for me Jenny. I started posting on a Tuesday and after looking at visiting numbers aimed for a day I thought would be better. But then other commitments totally scuppered that idea! Quality is so much more important than quality at the end of the day.

    1. I’m glad it was timely for you Carolyn – it turns out it was timely for me too because I’ve been rethinking some of my work choices and deciding I should stop doing certain promotional activities I don’t enjoy and leave them to others who do!

  6. A very helpful post for me today Jenny. I am taking a break from “work” at the moment and it is a great opportunity to sit and contemplate what it’s all about any way, so your comments and quotes are very relevant. Thank you. Cilla

  7. I’m delighted to have caught the moment with you, Cilla. Enjoy your break – it’s all part of the creative process. I think Julia Cameron calls it ‘going to the well’ or some such metaphor, and quite right 🙂

  8. I am not sure how I found you – but it has something to do with doing the A-Z challenge this year, which I took it up for the exact reason you mention, telling stories I am passionate about and trying to find a voice also learn to write better… I am glad I found you and I look forward to reading more of your wisdom

    1. Hi Ida, thank you for your kind words. Passion, finding your voice and learning to write better, those are the guiding principles for me at every stage of a writer’s life…

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