You Must Write. I know what you’re thinking. “No shit, Sherlock.”
Heinlein’s Business Rules for Writing are simple, effective, and difficult to follow. What could be simpler than a writer must write, though?
Well, let’s start with what’s not writing:
- Jotting down ideas in your notebook
- Character sketches
I can almost hear the protests. Couple of things:
- If your writing is completely a hobby. Heinlein’s rules do not apply. There is nothing wrong with this, and I hope your writing brings you a lifetime of enjoyment. I mean that. (And that goes for myself. There’s nothing wrong with saying “screw this,” I’m going to write only for myself.)
- If you hope to sell your fiction writing, then NONE of the above bullet items are salable (until you sell like Stephen King, and even then, the market will be weak). Story sells. Nothing about Heinlein’s rules limits you from doing any of the above things (except the last bullet), but if you are doing any of them at the exclusion of writing new fiction. Then, you are not writing.
To be a commercial fiction writer You Must Write. Do all those items above (even that gnarly last one), if you must, but do them in addition to writing new fiction, not in lieu of. It is far too easy to let that laundry list of writerly (yes, I made up that word) things consume your writing time, such that you look back at your week, month, or year and you realize that you have very little actual story to show for your efforts.
This is a mindset change. It is more difficult than it seems. Many would-be writers will never make it past Rule One, simply because they talk about writing but never actually get around to sitting the butt in the chair. If you manage butt in chair, then you must fight the fairy tale that all that other stuff I’ve listed above is writing. If writing new story isn’t at least 50% of your process (I shiver to think of a process where writing is even that low), then ask yourself why, and remember…
You Must Write.
*The above are simply my thoughts on this “rule.” If it isn’t clear, the “you” is as much me, as anyone else. I have struggled with motivation since October 19th. This rule keeps me leaning forward.