I went rogue and writ the unwritten rules.
Unwritten Rule #1
Writers Have Deadlines
When we are hyper-aware of limited time, we use it more intentionally. Deadlines can be externally or internally imposed, and either short- or long-term. Short term deadlines look like this: “I will be setting a timer for 45 minutes to write continuously with minimal editing and reading through what I’ve already written.” And that’s a deadline too. It could also be, I’m going to write minimum of 750 words a day for 100 days. However you do it is up to you. But set a deadline. It’s how marathons get run and books get written.
Unwritten Rule 2
Writers Get Accountability
As a writer, you will be more successful if you have someone to turn something over to, like an editor or virtual assistant. If you have a set appointment with this person, you increase your odds of getting a goal completed by 95% according to the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD). And maybe if you’re Seth Godin after 20 years and 18 books later, you don’t need to know that someone is waiting on the other side to see what you’ve got to do the work. But then I’m pretty sure as someone who calls himself a teacher first, he will be sure to show up and do the work himself to set an example for his students.
Unwritten Rule #3
Writers Know that They Are Not Alone
They aren’t alone even when they are camping out solo in the woods. In fact, those writers who crave solitude to write often return to humanity feeling more connected to their source energy which allows them to connect on a much deeper and more spiritual level to everyone and everything. The act of writing is a solitary contribution and experience, but that doesn’t mean it is not shared.
Unwritten Rule #4
Writers Acknowledge that They Are Writers
Mary Shoals wanted to write a book, but there was a problem. She wasn’t a writer.
As she says in her interview with Kimberly Rich on the Bold Life Movement podcast, when we think, I’m not a writer, we create a neural pathway that brings it into congruence with our actions. By dropping the “not” from that statement and the action of writing led Mary to write her book, Conscious Communication, which inevitably landed her to become an Amazon bestseller. If you write, you’re a writer. Just own it and see what you create under those pretenses.
Unwritten Rule #5
Is there anything sadder than a writer who isn’t writing? Oh, the melancholy. OHHH the ache of not making your art. OH WHY DON’T I FEEL INSPIRED? Just like that one time when I wrote that amazing thing because I was “struck” by the muse fairy and it felt easy and fun and I shipped it and immediately got no less than 97 likes? What was the magic formula there?
There’s no magic formula - writers mix and drink their own juice on the reg’s--even when they don’t feel like it. As (author of 18 books) Seth Godin says, I don’t get great ideas so I can write. I write so I get great ideas. Or something very similar to that. Writers write to get ideas, paid, inspired, think better and clearer and to make a change. There’s different reasons why they do it, but at the end of the day, or the beginning, writers write.
Unwritten Rule #6
Writers Need Not Be Miserable (Most of the Time)
Yes, we all have known the writer archetype--the brooding tormented writer who can truly be his true self expressed through his words. He who doesn’t allow himself to experience the height of joy because he could lose that “thing” that connects him so deeply to his art. Sometimes it’s not so literal. Sometimes it is your sister or friend who suffers from an anxiety disorder and will not seek help because when she is happy, she stops creating. Why, oh why do we creative-types allow this narrative to be true? We seek solace in the art, channel our hurt into something beautiful, but let’s drop the “starving artist” myth unless the artist is HAPPY being hungry. We are more resourceful than that and we know it. Let’s create a new narrative (that is what we do well anyway) and use all of the emotions, including the happy and high ones.
Unwritten Rule #7
Writers Need to Eat
Speaking of the starving artist, writers need to eat. They need to nourish their ears with Billie Holiday vinyls in their day-to-day, feast their eyes on steamy, freshly sprayed street mural art in neon yellows, blues and reds. They need vitamin D in the sun and sand and feed off the endorphins from running with a furry friend on their favorite dusty trail at dusk. This isn’t optional! As my best friend and human potential powerhouse, Melanie Weinberger says, “Feel good then do good” or make good work in this case.
Unwritten Rule #8
Writers need to *sometimes* know why
Writers are intentional. Always. But being intentional about just writing is enough. We don’t need to know WHY we are writing what we’re writing in the moment because the act of writing will reveal itself. Slowly. Painfully. Often aggravatingly. Sometimes it feels as if the words are being pulled out of us like a an anchor lifting from the mud. Sometimes it feels like a schlep from Kips Bay in east manhattan to midtown west with something sharp in your cross-body bag that keeps poking your hip. That particular route is a public transit deadzone. The most efficient and cost-effective route is walking--i.e. doing the work manually.
Unwritten Rule #9
Writers Need to Get Paid (Somehow)
In the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, writing well, it’s more of a basic bitch need.Shelter, clothing, safety, yes. You gotta cover the basics before your words or face grace the cover of Fast Company. If you’re getting paid to write, you have it a little tougher.
Nothing kills a passion project boner faster than getting paid to write something you don’t care about.
I did a ‘DI-Why’ Card workshop and one lady with beautiful, flowy dark hair was an artist. Her card said “Because I have to.” It made me laugh and I asked if she was being intentionally funny. She said no. She doesn’t put up with the artist’s whines. She said all of the successful, working artists that I know make work. It’s their job.
It reminds me of something from the Prosperous Coach by Rich Litvin and Steve Chandler, one of my favorites. They said the best coaches and in this case, writers, conduct their work like blue collar workers. They punch in. You don’t see a railroad or construction or line worker saying they don’t feel like showing up and punching in. They show up and punch in because it’s a paycheck. Dude. If you’re writing for yourself you’re not necessarily getting a paycheck from it. SO HAVE SOME FUCKING FUN WITH IT. If you get paid to make art, you gotta show up and punch in, and get dirty in the words.
Unwritten Rule #10
I never liked the expression, “kill your darlings,” but I haven’t created a phrase better to coin in the quest to put your best work forward. Yes, B minus work is better than not doing it at all, but chances are if your process is like mine, you write furiously for an hour and a half and then don’t look at it for awhile and you discover that to get to B minus you need to C some D work first. And then cut it down for content and clarity. You might have to cut some of the clever out. But just remember, the clever is always there. There is no shortage of clever and witty, just as there is no shortage of shitty. So keep the wit only where it serves the piece. Your readers deserve no less.
Your readers also deserve to hear from you.
Wanna get back in the habit of writing with others getting back into their creative groove?
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