Autumn Christian's Rules For Writing
We’re all going to die. There’s your motivation.
Years ago I wrote a list of my “rules for writing” and I figured it was about time to update. The obvious caveat, of course, is that these are my rules for myself and not for anyone else, and they’re subject to change at any time depending on my whim.
Autumn Christian’s Rules for Writing
Wake up and search for the pulse.
Remember that writing serves life and not the other way around. Being an artist does not make you a little god. You are another one of nature’s servants.
Writing is not a young person’s game. There are no writing prodigies. The only true deadline is death itself.
You are not a factory worker or a blue collar employee. You are an artist. Stop trying to legitimize your profession or humble yourself by comparing it to a regular 9-5 job. Part of an artist’s job is creation, not just production, and to many people that can look like you’re doing nothing. That’s fine. Keep doing nothing. Even when you’re not working the subconscious is.
Writer’s block is real. Stop trying to be clever and say it isn’t.
Bukowski was right. Don’t try.
Don’t “push through” when you don’t feel like writing. You’ll probably just end up deleting it later. Wait until you hear the rhythm of the words in your throat.
Exclamation marks are the devil’s punctuation.
Just because your favorite writer can turn a great sentence doesn’t mean they understand a goddamn thing about how to live properly.
You are the brand. You are the aesthetic. You become replicable by becoming the original. Don’t be like thousands of other writers in their blazers with elbow patches and their ironic cigarettes. They will die like ghosts of copies.
Ignore advice from people who have never produced anything.
Whenever the words on the page feel wrong, heavy, scratchy, it’s usually because you’re writing something you don’t understand yet. The words will flow when you understand.
Every sentence you write is just the corpse of a better, stronger sentence.
Realism is overrated, but everything in a story needs to feel true.
Move around a little when you’re struggling to come up with a word or an image. The body stores memories in different places. Hands. Fingers. Legs. Movement can release them.
Stop trying to make yourself acceptable to everyone. The more you constrain yourself the more creativity you’ll lose.
Nobody ever said life was supposed to be easy. Stop pretending like it’s not supposed to hurt.
You are not a pet. You are not supposed to fall in line. Nobody’s going to remember the writers who followed all the rules that were followed before them.
Metaphor is more real than the literal. It’s the interstitial tissue of all existence. When you understand this, you’ll better understand how to write metaphor.
Ray Bradbury says that “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” Fuck that, honestly. Reality destroys you whether you’re drunk or not. It does it a lot faster if you don’t accept that as the truth.
Don’t feel sad when you press your hands to the keyboards and the trapped bird rises up in your throat and you realize you’ll never write quite as well as you want to. That just means the journey can continue until you die.
Most people are all talk. Don’t be one of those people. Nobody wants to hear about your literary projects that’ll never come to fruition.
Never agree to edit an anthology. It’s a trap.
Never assume a great writer actually knows what they’re talking about. Nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing.
It doesn’t matter how many books you read. It matters what you learn and retain from them.
Remember who you do it for.
Most people have one glaring fatal flaw that keeps them from being great, even if they possess all the ability and talent. Have your psyche remain unexplored at your own peril.
There’s something humiliating about exposing yourself in writing that’s true. Good writing usually makes you blush.
Caffeine is crucial, just don’t be cringe about your love for it. It’s like the least edgy drug in existence.
The proper calibration of chaos vs. order is important. Too much chaos and you’ll lose yourself, become like the raving lunatics that wander the streets because they gave in to their worst impulses. Too much order and you’ll stifle the creative impulse and lose the will to write.
It’s okay to want recognition. You’re not above desire. Maybe you should even learn how to enjoy the praise.
The only real reason to be a writer is for the sex. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sex is a virtuous goal.
Get a grip and stop worrying about the future. The future is always uncertain and unpredictable.
It’s important to have a very loud mechanical keyboard so you can feel like when you’re really in the groove you’re manning a machine gun.
Stop worrying about daily word count, page count, number of hours written. They’re useless numbers. Focus on writing something important instead. Otherwise you’ll just end up deleting your work and it’ll be a waste anyway.
Find your voice. Anyone can write a story, but no one can write a story like you. You’ll know when you find a sentence that’s true because it’ll ring in your throat and hurt in your chest.
It’s not an Autumn Christian story until you cry and laugh while writing it.
You don’t have to be in pain to write about pain. Negative emotions give you focus, but positive ones give you clarity.
If you don’t enjoy it then do something else. Writing is too difficult to waste time doing if you don’t actually like it, and you’ll probably make more money doing literally anything else.
Failure is always an option.
Don’t forget that writing is about experience, not an escape from it. Continue to leave yourself open to experiences no matter how tired and hurt you are from them. Otherwise the writing may suffer.
Take care of the things that love you, or you’ll lose everything that makes writing matter.
Repeat often to yourself like a mantra, “Don’t worry. If you fail, you only have everything to lose.” If you get lackadaisical you’ll lose your focus.
Don’t drink and write. You’re sapping oxygen off the page.
Always have a good pair of headphones.
We’re all going to die. There’s your motivation.
It’s a beautiful day today. You’re an artist, remember? You decided to forego a normal job to walk this path of uncertainty and torment, so maybe relax and enjoy a fucking sunset once in a while.