November 25, 2009
One of my favorite "Rands in Repose" posts contains his ten rules for writing. I do want to warn you that the language is adult before you click the link. I’m happy if I walk away from a post like this with one rule that I really like—he has six that I like. I’ll focus on my top two.
It could be that rule 5 caught my eye. After all, he is sucking up to people who do what I do for a living. Rule 5 is "Find an editor. Find an editor. Find an editor."
Coming in at number 10 is my second favorite. "Steal. A lot. Passing a stolen thought through your fingers makes it yours."
I assume that you know what he means. You know he isn’t telling you to plagiarize. Read, think, discuss, and then play with what you’ve learned. As a "what if" or "how does that apply to this other situation" and the thought is no longer what it was when you first picked it up and looked at it.
Credit where your ideas come from. Linking to your sources helps your readers — and they knew the idea probably wasn’t yours in the first place.
My very favorite piece of advice in the article is number 6. "Delete liberally, Anything important that is accidentally deleted will come back." When you first write, every idea seems to be sacred. You guard them as if you will never have a good thought again. You will.
You will be tempted to keep these discarded ideas somewhere. You can. I wouldn’t. Get rid of them. Every once in a while a good one will be gone forever. Mostly, you’re clearing your mind and your desk for the next good idea.
This post originally appeared in the Pragmatic Life blog.