Writing Rules



And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

William Shakespeare

I try to imagine William Shakespeare reading a book on the rules of writing.  Rules create a comfort zone, even for those magnificent free spirits who feel constrained by their limitations. Grammar and punctuation give structure;  subject and verb agreement  eliminates confusion; omitting redundant words brings the thought into crisp focus.

W. Somerset Maugham once advised, “There are three rules for writing a novel.  Unfortunately, no one knows what there are.” Mason Cooley, professor emeritus of English, speech and world literature at the College of Staten Island said “there are different rules for reading, for thinking and for talking.  Writing blends all three of them.”   He didn’t elaborate on the particulars so I assume that it is an individual exploration into the three activities.  He did say, however that “when you can’t figure out what to do, it’s time for a nap.”

Writing is an inward expedition.  With every idea, word, sentence, paragraph we are constructing our personal rules.  It is our journey, our voice and our message.  When we offer our thoughts to the world, we invite others to join in the conversation. Ernest Hemingway likened it to a well supplied by fresh water.

“I learned never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

Ernest Hemingway