Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Monday, March 28, 2011

Writer Rules According to Jean

Some say writing is hard. I disagree. I think writing is incredibly easy. It's the easiest, most joyful thing I've ever done.

Now, selling—a different matter, entirely. That's hard. I find that rules help with hard things.

Before anyone gets the idea that I think I know more than I do or that I am preaching, these are rules I have for myself.

1. Do not wait for the muse. It's not coming because there is no such thing.

2. Do not blame writers' block. There is no such thing.

3. There is only putting your bottom in the chair and your hands on the keyboard. Do it.

4. Don't whine, if you ask someone for an opinion and they don't tell you what you want to hear.

5. Don't whine when you get a rejection, even if it is the one that wasn't fair, the one that hurt your feelings, the one that reminded you that you aren't as thick skinned as you think you are. If you must say, "Well, too bad for you. You could have had me!" say it to your animal or an empty room. It's not going to do you any good for the rest of the world to know how arrogant you really are.

6. Don't whine if you enter a contest and a judge gives you a three on grammar, even if you have never had so much as a point deducted for grammar in any other contest, even if she misspelled words in her comments. Just say, (to that same animal or empty room), "Bless her heart." Don't enter that contest again. They are not responsible and they just want your entry fee.

7. I'm going to stop and say here, just don't whine period. Dear God, I hate whining. If I hate whining, I have absolutely no tolerance for whiners unless they are under the age of three and are running a high temperature.

8. Don't sit around pondering your state of mind. It's a waste of time. Ponder your characters' states of mind. That's productive.

9. Don't roll your eyes when people start talking about story boards and collages. Some of your best friends story board and collage. It's their way. Remember they might want to roll their eyes because you think you must have 47 maps and floor plans, which you make Stephanie draw.

10 In fact, don't roll your eyes at all. People don't like it, even if it does feel good.

11. Don't write what you don't love. Even if you can do it, even if you can sell it, even if the public loves it and wants more—and those are big ifs—, you have gotten yourself a job you hate.

Everyone needs their own rules. What are some of yours?


  1. Great Advice. I should have read this yesterday.

  2. Amen, Jean! This was advice well worth sharing. I have one other piece of advice to give to writers -- always act like a professional. I’m a high maintenance kind of gal. Just ask my husband. But when it comes to my career, I keep the diva aspects of my personality under control at all times.

  3. Patricia--Thanks. It wasn't up yesterday. I always get my blogs up by the skin of my teeth. Maybe I should add a rule: Meet you deadlines in a timely manner.

    Beverly--If I have learned anything, it's from from paying attention to you and a few other very special women. Early on, Stephanie and I looked around and made of list of who we want to be like when we succeed. And a true diva knows when to call it out and when to put it away!

  4. I particularly like number 11 - don't write what you don't love. Too many times I have listened to others talk about trying to capture the market but you can tell that they are just not that into what they are writing. I know we all have to eat but like you said, don't give yourself a job you hate.

    The rule I would add to this is don't give up your writing time to do something else. People ask a lot of us and we tend to push aside our time to help others. I have learned a hard lesson - be selfish!! Your time is important. You can always help them later.

  5. Completely agree with Cheryl. Write what you love, not what's selling at the moment. Writing is hard enough as it is, without turning it into something you actively dislike. Besides, if you write what's selling at the moment, by the time you get it finished, there's a possibility that moment has passed.

    What sells books is the storytelling, the passion.

  6. Great advice, and I can translate it to my love - painting

  7. Great rules, but I'll challenge you on #1 and #2. There might be no muse or writer's block, but an acrimonious divorce can leave you so unable to focus you can't write a grocery list much less a book. One of my published friends had two years of "creative silence" as she calls it after her husband's unexpected death. Some days I can think of something I need from the other bedroom, and if I don't write it down, I'll forget it by the time I walk across the apartment.

    But the rest, oh yes!

  8. P.S. I hope that didn't sound too much like whining.

  9. Cheryl--I absolutely agree about the being selfish. Luckily, I am married to someone who is on board with that. I think he believes if I'm doing what I want, his life goes better.

    Maven Linda--You are wise, as always.

    Michelle--Do not put your bottom in the chair and your hands on the keyboard. Put yourself in front of the easel and your hand on the brush! And remember, people really do give you money for your art.

    PM--I do believe that devastating things can paralyze all facets of one's life. That is very different from being distracted by the bird outside the window. Oddly, enough when I experienced a devastating death a few years ago, all I wanted to do was write, but it could have easily gone the other way. I know this because I have no memory of anything I got for Christmas and my bathroom was dirty. Whining only occurs about something trivial.

  10. Well said Jean! I agree with PM. Sometimes a disruption in our lives occurs that is of such a proportion we cannot think, let alone write. I understand this completely. Just remember, though, we ladies all understand and I have had the fortune of receiving some of that understanding. As writers we can and will support each other. It's great to have that!!!

  11. This list is fantastic, Jean! I'm exceptionally fond of #9, where you make Stephanie draw maps. I can see it now. Stephanie really loves to draw maps, doesn't she?

    Sadly, I have only myself to blame when I have to draw my own maps. ;)

  12. Sorry that I didn't comment yesterday...I read the blog in the morning then my day went south and I fell asleep without revisiting it to see what fun y'all had during the day. :-)

    Rule #7 is probably my favorite. I hate to hear people whine! Although eye rolling is a close second and don't even getting me started about rolling your neck!

  13. I'm just now catching up on blogs. I love this one, Jean! Very true. I probably needed a dose of the No Whining admonition last week LOL.