She must learn again to speak
starting with I
starting with We
starting as the infant does
with her own true hunger
and pleasure
and rage.

-- Marge Piercy

How To Be A Writer: An Unfinished Poem In Ten Point Five Rules

How To Be A Writer: An Unfinished Poem In Ten Point Five Rules

Rule number one:
Call yourself a writer, then
WRITE.  Every day.
Even when you don't feel like it,
even when you're tired,
and especially when you're uninspired.

Rule number two:
Break rule number one,
consciously and intentionally
giving yourself fully to your day in other ways,
without guilt
without judgment
without feelings of failure.

Rule number three:
Break rule number two
by breaking rule number one
unconsciously and unintentionally.
Waste time, accomplish nothing, let the day slip away.
Use the inevitable guilt, judgment, and feelings of failure
as fuel for your writing the next day.

Rule number four: Read.  A lot.
Read the kind of writing you strive to create
Admire it, savor it, but avoid the trap of comparison.
Don't spend time wishing you had
written it or telling yourself that you
could never say it so well.
Trust in your own unique voice.

Rule number five:
Break rule number four.
Of course you are going to compare
(it can't be helped, that's just what humans do).
So imagine that writer as you, however long ago,
the perseverance it has taken her to get here.
And do that.  Persevere.
All it takes is everything you've got,
so give it.

Rule number five point five:
Embrace contradiction.

Rule number six:
Gather witticisms, words and phrases
that enchant and delight and surprise you.
Remember that making up words is good
for the soul, and that it's not stealing if you
write someone else's words out of your own life,
your own context, your own perspective.
Chances are, the writers you're reading
ant you to make their words your own.

Rule number seven:
Live your grandest and realest life
because that's where God is, and
living gives you things to write about.
Participate and pay attention to the infinite day-to-day
ways that God shows up.
Marvel at how when you notice,
there's suddenly so much more to notice.

Rule number eight:
Give yourself credit and count everything,
because everything counts:
the birthday cards, the work memos,
the well-crafted status updates and tweets,
the e-mail that made a friend's day.
The two minutes stolen to jot down an idea,
the ten minutes spent wrestling with a single sentence,
the running dialogue in your head that
may or may not make it onto the page.
Thinking like a writer is essential.

Rule number nine:
Write scared.
Write for God first.
Write because you can,
because it's your prayer to pray
and your gift to give.
Write because your words
have the power to heal.
Write for the one person who
needs to hear them (that one person may be you).
Write to get better at writing,
to wake yourself up,
to get more skillful at living your life,
to make sense of it all and to find
beauty in the senselessness.

Rule number ten:
Learn to love deadlines.
Create your own if you need to.
Accept the truth that it will never be finished
and just decide to be done with it.
And then - right now - begin again.

About the Spring Collection

About the Spring Collection