The Guardian, in a transparent effort to promote Elmore Leonard has got some writers to put down their ten rules for writing. Some of them, like Richard Ford (whom I worked for years ago when I was an interpreter) and Geoff Dyer (whom I met at a dinner party back in his Paris writing days) (yes, pointless details writers are supposed to leave out) are marginally funny and well, at least they’re honest and somewhat free of soapy porno-ish self-love. But the rest, especially the ones from the established (read, bore you clean to death) writers, are unbelievable, dripping as they are with pomposity, unabashed self-celebration and the kind of total lack of irony that I thought never got you published with the big guys. Moral of the story, be modest and ironic only when you’re in a classroom, when you’re teaching ambiguity, irony and subtlety to the worshipful gits taking your writer’s workshop. But once you are yourself a published writer, throw these tense, anally retentive, public-school obsessions right out the window and give yourself over to decadent, stupendously onanistic hogtripe that only the most rule-obsessed pre-teens will read and follow.
Still, since no one asked me, I will here list my ten rules for writing:
- Don’t follow any f*cker’s rules for anything, live and write as thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law.
- If anyone does tell you what to do, tell him or her to piss off (unless it’s me telling you to edit your novel).
- You decide what’s best, that way you will be left alone (bliss).
- Fear nothing, least of all obscurity, poverty ah yes, the ‘consequences.’
- Scrap rule number 5 (sorry, stolen from Monty Python).
- Read Bukowski’s The Captain has is out to Lunch etc… I love that guy, even if you don’t.
- Writing is no big deal, nothing is, people are dying because no one gives a sh*t about anything.
- Throw all mainstream trash into the trash, save yourselves.
- The word ‘writing’ as these folks use it is a crock, putting words on paper is a personal quiet sacred mysterious act and always will be.
10. Misanthropy is good, there are too many lies out there for me to give it up yet.
I know, no one will ever ask me to write down my rules. And even if they asked me, I would refuse. Artists who have rules for other people are self-serving and false, I say it here and feel free to remind me of it in future.
Have a good week.