I love to read rules and tips about writing because it makes me feel hopeful that improvement lies just around the corner. So, I thoroughly enjoyed opening up yesterday's The New York Times Book Review to the essay, How to Write.
The author, Colson Whitehead includes 11 rules, really 10, since Rule No. 8: "Is secret." A few of them I have heard before from fiction-writing workshops way back when, such as Rule No. 3: "Write what you know"; Rule No. 4: "Never use three words when one will do; Rule No. 10: "Revise, revise, revise". Rule No. 1 twists the most familiar "show don't tell," to "Show and Tell".
I particularly like this one because as a blogger I feel just like that shy, eager little kid having brought my favorite stuffy or in the case of first grade, my beloved Bambi record to class, half-worried other kids would make fun of it (yes, the boys did) to half-hoping my classmates would love it as much as I did (really I only recall the boys snickering).
Posting an entry often feels like "Look What I've Brought Into Class Today, My Favorite New Bread Recipe!" And then I hope I don't hear any whispering to the effect of "Oh, how boring, what a terrible photo, what could she have been thinking?, 60,000 food bloggers have already been all over that recipe!"
New to me and sparking my interest, the author lists Rules No. 2 and 9: "Don't go searching for a subject, let your subject find you" and "Have adventures"--for the purpose of writing material, I expect. I find No. 2 works well by giving myself a broad prompt of some sort (what's inspiring me) and then being open to an idea that presents itself. No. 9, I need to work on. I could seriously use some more adventure, regardless of it's future story potential.
The last rule, Rule No. 11: "There are no rules", brings me back to Rule No. 1: Show and Tell. "...There are no rules except the ones you learned during your Show and Tell days. Have fun. If they don't want to be friends with you, they're not worth being friends with. Most of all, just be yourself."