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Rules for Writing (and Life) by Zadie Smith

March 19, 2013, 2 Comments

Writing is an odd endeavor. It combines skills of creativity and grammar. It requires of you to meditate on a subject and forces you into bursts of frenetic activity. Whenever I can receive some help in understanding how to view the work of it all, I take it. Recently, I came across this list of ten rules from Zadie Smith. She is an award-winning novelist from London who now serves as a fellow at Harvard University. Her book “White Teeth” was included in Time magazine’s TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list. Whether or not you are a writer, I think you’ll find some wisdom here that will help no matter your vocation.

From The Guardian, here are Zadie Smith’s Rules for Writers:

1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.

2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

3. Don’t romanticise your “vocation.” You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle.” All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4. Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.

5. Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

6. Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

7. Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

8. Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

9. Don’t confuse honours with achievement.

10. Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Worth a Look 3.20.13 – Trevin Wax March 20, 2013 at 2:34 am

    […] Speaking of writing, here are Zadie Smith’s Rules for Writing (and Life): […]

  • Reply Top 10 ed.6 | The Everlasting Fallout May 3, 2013 at 8:52 am

    […] Rules for writing and life […]

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