I love writing. Along with making tea, twirling broomsticks and obliterating all competition in Mario Kart, writing is pretty much my only significant skill.
There are innumerable bits and pieces of advice for writers. However, three all-important rules demand attention. Three golden rules. Not just golden rules, but platinum rules. Diamond-studded platinum rules.
I believe these platinum rules are the most important things for a writer to know.
It’s impossible to become a good writer without reading. Impossible. How-to guides, classes and seminars can be useful, but nothing helps a writer as much as reading books.
Let me give an example.
One day I resolve to learn to play tennis. In order to master the sport, I spend hours listening to a professional tennis player give advice. That advice might be helpful, but I won’t be able to pick up a tennis racket immediately and win every match. It will take practice—a lot of practice—for me to learn to play well. Advice can take me only so far. At some point I must actually step onto the court and play.
It’s exactly the same with reading and writing.
Most of what I know about writing comes from reading. By reading fiction, I learned the mechanics of storytelling: plot development, characterization, settings, symbolism, style and the rest. By reading both fiction and nonfiction, I learned proper spelling and grammar.
Best of all, I learned these things intuitively. I didn’t try to learn anything—as I read, I simply developed a feel for writing.
However, a vague feel for writing isn’t enough. It must be refined. That’s where the second platinum rule comes in.
Most people can’t sit down to a piano and play the third movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata without a lot of practice. In the same way, most people can’t sit down to a computer, typewriter or notebook and write a masterpiece without a lot of practice.
Don’t be discouraged if your writing isn’t perfect. I’ve never been completely satisfied with any of my own writing, and my early attempts at fiction were unspeakably horrible.
Reading and writing are essential for any writer, but there is one more platinum rule.
Writing should be fun! There’s satisfaction, joy and exhilaration in putting ideas, reflections and stories into a form that can be read and appreciated by other people.
If writing becomes a dull chore or heavy commitment, remember you’re under no pressure to write. Not everyone is gifted to be a writer.
When I was growing up, I desperately wanted to be a good artist. I sketched and took art classes and read how-to books, but nothing worked. To this day I have the artistic skill of a five-year-old—and that’s okay.
I’m not gifted to be an artist, but I am gifted to be a writer of fiction, brewer of tea, twirler of broomsticks and wicked good Mario Kart player. If you’re gifted to write, awesome. If you’re not gifted to write, learn what your gifts are.
If your gift is writing, read and write and have fun!