You see a lot of advice around about mistakes you must avoid, rules for writing not to break or rules to follow. My personal favorite is Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing because it is not so much a list of commandments as a declaration of independence. I read 10 Rules of Writing in the Public Library of Wexford, Ireland on 29 April 2011, waiting for my turn at the public access computer to update a blog post.
If Elmore had been around, I’d have kissed him. Especially for Rule #2: Avoid Prologues. But I’m not writing about rules. I’m writing about dumb things, things that I knew I shouldn’t do but did ’em anyway. All this comes about because of a recent dumb thing that I’m still kicking myself about – hopefully I’ve learned… but you can never be sure of that.
I made a list. But, you know, when I got around to making the list, I’d already forgotten one of the dumbest. More on that later. Here they are, in the order I wrote them, but not in the order of importance, because every one of us has degrees of dumb, sins of neglect, moments of doubt.
- I repeatedly told myself I had nothing to say of any importance.
- I considered destroying all my manuscripts.
- I convinced myself that my work wasn’t good enough.
- Despite some publishing success, I made no effort to continue publishing: see above.
- I worried what people would think.
- I didn’t finish manuscripts.
- I wasted time on social media, pretending that was writing too.
- I thought what I was writing was rubbish.
- I waited for inspiration to write something important, see above.
- I considered writing what was popular instead of what interested me.
- I restricted my thoughts and words.
- I was afraid to be honest.
- I didn’t write ideas down as soon as they came to me.
- I didn’t write in the middle of the night when ideas flooded through my sleepy brain.
- I forgot to keep a notebook with me at all times.
- I passed on an opportunity to be mentored by a successful author.
- I believed the bias of academics that genre was unworthy of effort.
That’s a goodly number of dumb things for any author. Just the beginning for me, I’m sure. If I have any rule at all, it is simple: Write, write regardless.