I grabbed this list of Joss Whedon’s writing tips from another place–someone’s twitter or Facebook page–a day or three ago, and thought it was great (of course). Then I followed the link at its bottom to these tips from Neil Gaiman, which are equally full of tremendous, but even more so.
The reason I say more so is that Gaiman adds what I consider to be his most important commentary on the act of writing–his advice in item number eight: The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
I love the use of the words assurance and confidence in that advice. For me, they are what set this piece apart–that and the fact that Gaiman is aware enough to lift his commentary up out of the morass of writing advice to suggest it might be applied to all areas of life. Think about that as you sit down to write today–or as you sit down to do anything. What does it take for you to be confident and assured? How does your voice change when you take on that feeling? How does your work feel? How do the people who are affected by your work (whatever it is) feel?
For what it’s worth, the item on Whedon’s list that strikes me most right now is his number three: Have Something to Say. I’ve been reading a lot of unpublished material the past month from a lot of different writers, and I find routinely that these two pieces of advice go together in some form of synchronicity that is hard to define other than to say that pieces with something to say tend to be ones wherein the author grabs you confidently with something that’s interesting early in the piece and then never lets you go.