From writer Erica Orloff’s blog (7 Feb 2011): Simple. Not Easy.
Rules for living. All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten. Simple little book and rules … here are a few:
• Play fair.
• Don’t hit people.
• Put things back where you found them.
• Clean up your own mess.
• Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
• Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Frankly, that sounds an awful lot like Be Kind. Simple enough rules for living. When you mess up, say you’re sorry. Does it mean it will be EASY or FUN to say sorry? Nope, but no one asked you about that. That’s not the rule. The rule is you simply CLEAN UP YOUR MESS and EASE THE HURT. I tell my kids this. Oldest Son pointed out something about a place he visited on Sunday, and I responded, “When people don’t live by simple rules, they pay the price. It’s not rocket science. You screw up, you fix it.” But people don’t.
Life isn’t complicated. People make it that way. Life is HARD. It’s not easy. But it is not complicated. Be Kind. Simple. Right?
So I was thinking . . . what are the simple rules for being a writer? Here are a few of mine.
• Read. A lot.
• Be open. To reading. To intellectual curiosity. To reading something in a genre you never tried. To criticism. (Not easy. But simple!)
• Share. Your wisdom. If asked. Not before. Look, writers are kind of like a big club. Social networking has made it more so. You’ve worked your craft for 10 years, 20 years, share what you’ve learned if someone asks. Help each other be better writers.
• Shut up. If you’re not asked. Simple. No one likes a blowhard.
• Be kind. Yeah. Sort of sounds like my rules for life, but really, pointing out again about social networking, the world is a much smaller place in many ways. There are a few writers who have burned bridges, and maybe that’s fine for them, but really? Do you HAVE to be such an ass? Is it that HARD to just be decent about things? Criticize if you must. Debate fiercely even. But at the end of the day, can you just not pick a fight about every. Little. Thing. Be nice to your fellow writers, editors, agents. Most aren’t the enemy as people.
• Work hard. Don’t sell your work short. Self-pubbing is fine, but NOT (in my own opinion) without spending the time really working your craft. Come on. Dig deep. Learning this craft takes humility and hard work and really, really working it to get to a reasonable level of professionalism. Set your sights high. I don’t mean in terms of a million-dollar advance. I mean in terms of sitting back and exhaling and saying, “Wow … you know, this is really pretty good!”
• Don’t forget to peek your head out of your cave once in a while. Take care of yourself. I’m working on this one this year.
• There has to be a rule about coffee. There’s some corollary or axiom there, but I’m on cup #2 today and still not sure what it is.
• Remember, writing is SIMPLE. I mean most everyone can do it. But to be good, it’s not EASY.