The Two Rules of Writing

According to science fiction writer, Ursula K. LeGuin, there are only two rules of writing: You Learn to Type and You Write. LeGuin compares learning writing to learning to play the tuba.

If you want to be a tuba player you get a tuba, and some tuba music. And you ask the neighbors to move away or put cotton in their ears. And probably you get a tuba teacher, because there are quite a lot of objective rules and techniques both to written music and to tuba performance. And then you sit down and you play the tuba, every day, every week, every month, year after year, until you are good at playing the tuba; until you can – if you desire – play the truth on the tuba.

It is exactly the same with writing. You sit down and you do it, and you do it, and you do it, until you have learned how to do it.

The rules are only guidelines. If you feel you need rules and want rules, and you find a rule that appeals to you, or that works for you, then follow it. Use it. But if it doesn’t appeal to you or doesn’t work for you, then, ignore it.

See, the thing is, as a writer you are free. You are about the freest person that ever was – and absolute freedom is absolute responsibility.

So — never forget…The Way to Learn How to Write is…to Write.

Do you agree with Ms. LeGuin? That the way to learn how to write … is to write? Is that your belief?

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7 responses to “The Two Rules of Writing

  1. I agree with Ms. LeGuin’s comment in the sense that if you want to get good at something you practice it as much as possible.
    Even reading the works of others helps you define good writing, and I mean in were to put a comma, how to make a sentence fit, what not to do, etc. because you see it constantly in what you read.
    Even little bits of repetition help. I was always a lousy speller. Thank goodness for Spellcheck, but I have noticed lately that my work is underlined in red less. Because I have had to correct my mistakes so often I have actually learned to spell better. Go figure.

  2. Guidance, yes. Advice even. But those who lay down rules must expect to be disobeyed. There are those who say you Have to outline, for instance, while others tell you to “win it.” It’s whatever works for you that counts.

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