Critical Precepts for the Writer in 2013 (Note: Okay, it’s not THAT late yet)


(Original post)

Write only about what you love. We need more celebrations, not righteousness, in this world.

Let the object tell you how to read it. Find its grammar, and use it.

Reading the object is the goal because anything you should write should be written to expand the argument of the object, not reduce nor dissect nor even replicate it. And no reading has an end.

Pay attention to your moods — and remember that they do not believe in each other.

Trust your gut and respect your pleasure. If something works, reject the idea that it may be “cheap” or “sentimental” or, egads, “manipulative.” Rather, attempt to think about why it might have worked on you, or worked you over, as you experienced it. Remember that you were open to it.

That is, check your experience of the object instead of prescribing your tastes upon the object. Keep the object, and your experience of it, alive.

Furthermore, if you’ve set yourself to writing about something (anything!), please do experience the object at least twice.

Pay attention to the differences that make a difference.

Do not read about the object before you’ve completed your work. Let the link vultures quote you, not the other way around.

However, do not be afraid of the associations the object brings forth for you, especially from other art forms than the one at hand. And do your best to find the best in these affinities, these links, no matter how fanciful.

Resist easy analysis. Find a flip side for everything. And then flip it again. As much as you want to inhabit the experience of the object, and relay that to your readers, you want to surround the object from every angle. (Allow yourself to fail this aim.)

Think of yourself in a relationship with the object as you would a friend: Refuse the temptation to “master” it and be open to its suggestions, its passions, its pains, its questions. Be the helpmeet. Return, dialog.

Understand that understanding is, like most things, constantly shifting.

But make an argument. As noted earlier: perform a reading for your audience (and yourself).

Allow that argument to change and rewrite accordingly.

Rewrite often.

As much as you want to invite the reader to share your experience of the object, resist the first person except when necessary. Navigating the first person is the trickiest thing for us to do with anything like grace.

Remember who is speaking, and for whom. More often than not, you are simply speaking for yourself, so the plural “we” is forever suspect, though quite a handy rhetorical move in the apposite and charitable constructions.

Think of your readers as reasonably intelligent, but do not assume they’ve read what you’ve read (or seen, listened to, danced with, smelled, tasted, felt, etc). Give them what they need to be participatory interlocutors.

Activate your senses. All of them.

Rewrite it again.

Trust your editor, presuming you’re getting paid, and take their notes to heart. It will only make the work better.

You can make typos and incomplete arguments on your blogs/tumblrs/twitters/facebooks, but don’t think you’ve covered any ground therein if all you did was type and spell check before “publishing” your ideas. That is, know that you are left naked in those arenas and that you deserve any hate the haters will toss on you, no matter how inane, for the simple fact that you, in all likelihood, did not think about your argument, nor your words, as thoroughly as you might have had you pitched the story and accepted the true responsibility and vulnerability that words published for the public take on when met by strangers.

This isn’t to stymie fun, nor simply to reiterate CYA (Cover Your Ass) but to know that as inadequate as language is in its everyday use, its doubly inadequate when you’re performing one half of a conversation with a stranger and cannot be present to continue the conversation but in the “comments” section — and even then, on average, to no good.

Get paid for your work. It may not be dollars and cents, but that’s okay. Some kind of token.

[An aside: Emotional capital matters, and breaking bread is, on the whole, more rewarding than the pittance we’re so often given for our work. The truth is there is hardly a career to be had in criticism of any kind, which points again at the first precept. You want to use your energy to contribute to the world, not categorize it. Enough things are broken into bits and pieces, including humans. Therefore, do not ignore the value of being physically present with another human being that you respect, and enjoy.]

The point is: treat it like your job. Show up for it. Make a schedule for it. Be there for it. Be honest with it and you’ll be honest with yourself — and, one hopes, with your world.

Remember this should be fun.

Rewrite it again, and enjoy it.

Think of your work as a gift. To yourself, to your lover, to your mom or dad, to whomever it pleases you to think you’re addressing. Hell, maybe it’s God.

Don’t promote it until you’re done with it. Just do it. Then blab about it all you want, within reason.

Don’t stop.


And while you’re at it, listen to Modulogeek’s Pipes and Palindromes EP.

Or Snow Fox Apprentice’s newest album, どこかに・会いましょうか?

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