Ten Rules of the Road for Writing from the Heart
- Writing is its own reward. Publishing is a separate—and secondary—goal.
- Good writing is about telling the truth.
- Bad writing precedes good writing. This is a nearly infallible rule, so don’t waste time trying to avoid bad writing. (That just slows down the process.) Anything committed to paper can be changed. The idea is to start, and then go from there.
- Don’t try to be clever or brilliant. Just try to be honest.
- Don’t worry about being too sentimental. Say what you really want to say, what you really believe is true.
- Listen to (and observe) carefully everything that is going on around you. This includes the all-important art of eavesdropping. Cultivate it! (You will hear priceless pieces of dialogue, and observe amazing revelations of character, that are impossible to think up!)
- Don’t listen to anyone who is trying to discourage you from writing, or is making you feel in any way or for any reason that what you’re doing isn’t any good, or isn’t worthwhile. (This is an exception to rule 6.) You can nod and say “uh-huh” if that seems the best way to protect yourself from further attack, but whatever you do, do not take negative and discouraging comments to heart!
- When you get stuck with a piece of writing, put it aside and do something else for a while. Walks, showers, and “sleeping on it” all offer good ways to step away from a problem in your writing. Working on a different project, free-writing, or engaging in a totally unrelated activity can also help. The point is that when you can clearly feel that you’re getting nowhere, you should back off and do something else for a while. Your subconscious will continue to work on the problem and may offer surprising new insights when you return to the work at hand.
- Read. Read aloud. And don’t worry too much about it if you find yourself imitating the style of writers you admire. As you continue to write from the heart, your own style will emerge quite naturally.
- Don’t try to be a writer; don’t wonder if you ever can “really” be a writer. Just write. Writers are people who write. Period.
Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and literature who divides her time between France and the U.S. She teaches literature courses in Paris, Hawaii and Cuba for the Education Abroad program at Queens College, CUNY, and offers Writing from the Heart workshops in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France.