There are plenty of rules on writing. You can find some here and here and in every feature series that finds an author examining their own habits. They are all relevant. They are all wonderful. And we should be paying attention to them.
However, some of the masters’ habits and rules may work for you, and some of them won’t. Those you’ll have to figure out on your own.
In the meantime, there are two truths that will hold up regardless of who you are and what your practice is. This will be short and sweet. It may be simple. But it’s the truth.
Rule #1: READ
You are a student of the craft. In order to become the master, you must first study the masters. Read short stories, read novels, read craft essays, read writing, and read people talking about writing.
You must consume and consume and consume. You are the sponge! Your need to absorb information must be a thirst that cannot be quenched. You will never know everything, but you can know a lot.
Don’t forget your place as humble, modest student. In order to feed your writing, you must be challenging yourself by reading good writing. (If you're looking to get started, dive into your Real+Good Reading plan right here!).
Rule #2: WRITE
You will never have a story if you don’t write the story. You will never have a novel if you don’t write the novel. You will never be a writer if you don’t write.
Consumption is necessary, but so is production. When you’re sick of consuming, or when you’ve consumed enough, you’ll have the need to get things out of you. You’ll be sick with the need to purge your body of the words that are exploding from you. (Read something good for an hour and I can nearly guarantee you’ll have sentences flowing out of you).
And if you’re not feeling the urge to release the words yet, you have two options: You can put words on the page anyway, or you can stare at the blank page forever until something magical happens.
(Newsflash: If you choose the latter, you'll likely be waiting a very very long time).
You have to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and take the words in your head and put them onto the page. That's it.
What won’t get you writing? Watching TV. Or doing the dishes. Or showering. While you may find inspiration from many of these places, you have to actually sit down with butt in chair and make the words happen.
You actually have to write. You have to focus on the act of doing. And you must DO IT! Sit down and WRITE!
THIS IS NOT NEW INFORMATION.
You’ve heard this before. You’ve heard this everywhere. If you came here looking for revolutionary information, you came for the wrong reasons.
I’ve too gotten stuck in the cycle of going from website to website, book to book, looking or some magical impossible truth that, in theory, will catapult me to where I want to be. There must be some sentence somewhere that revolutionizes my writing and my writing practice and if I just find it I would have the golden ticket that would let me write. (Maybe it’s even so great that it writes my novel for me).
But this magical, fairy tale, catapulting truth doesn’t exist. And we have to quit looking. All that must be done is read, write, and repeat. (I mean, you have to edit too but that also counts as writing in my book). Read and write. Read and write. The end.
Action is what’s necessary. If all you do is these two things, you’ll be much closer to reaching your dreams than everyone out there who’s still struggling with the how. So do it. Just do it. Quit talking about it. Quit thinking about it and quit reading other people thinking about it. You must do.
you already know this.
But will this be the time that you finally listen?
I know me saying this isn’t the first time you’ve heard it. You know that this is what you should be doing.
But will this be the time that you finally do it? Will you finally shut up, close the internet, and read a book and write your dreams?
Or will you keep reading websites, hunting down that one impossible truth that you want to believe exists, but you know in your heart it doesn’t exist, the one that will catapult you to where you want to be?
Quit chasing rainbows and make your dream a reality through concrete action.
You know what you need to do.