Michelle’s Word

February 9, 2007

Writers have rights too!

Filed under: Writing — Michelle Reid @ 4:30 pm

The main advice given to writers is to write. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, WRITE and keep WRITING.

Both Neil Gaiman and Stephen King give very good advice. They are supportive and encouraging, but there is always the steely backbone glinting through; finish what you write.

I like Neil Gaiman’s statement, “On the whole, anything that gets you writing and keeps you writing is a good thing. Anything that stops you writing is a bad thing.” This is both a comforting permission and a deceptively simple piece of advice. How do we know what stops us writing until it does, and what then?

In On Writing, Stephen King cuts through the bullshit and cuts back to the bones of exciting plot. That visceral excitement of writing. He says, “But if you don’t want to work your ass off, you have no business trying to write well – settle back into competency and be grateful you have even that much to fall back on.” (p.163)

Thanks Stephen! This kick up the backside works on some days, but what about the days when it doesn’t – ignore it. Walk away and trust yourself.

People are quick to criticise writers for not writing, not finishing, for dreaming about getting published, and for not being good enough. What about the credit for taking the risk in the first place.

To write is to be courageous and to put a piece of yourself out there on the page. Once it is there, the power lies with the reader to do with it what they will. What about the writer who made that bridge of words? They deserve respect for that act of reaching out to the reader.

This was inspired by Daniel Pennac’s wonderfully liberating book The Rights of the Reader. Thank you Daniel for telling me that it is alright to read in the ways I always have, but never knew I was allowed to. I will never feel guilty for not finishing a book anymore.

Writers should know that they have the same freedom:

The Rights of the Writer

1. The right not to write

2. The right to write about anything and everything

3. The right not to finish what you write

4. The right to break grammatical rules (including the right to use clichés if they work!)

5. The right to prefer what you write to “real life”

6. The right to experiment in writing

7. The right to write it down in any form

8. The right to show your writing to no one

9. The right to show your writing to everyone

10. The right to stuff the word count

11. The right to take only the advice you want to take

12. The right to dream

And one warning – don’t advise writers to just write…they know this, and it is never about just writing.


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