Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Helen Ellis: A Writer's Ten Commandments

In the 11th in a series of posts on 2016 books entered for The Story Prize, Helen Ellis, author of American Housewife (Doubleday), lays down the law, old school style.

After many years of writing and failing to publish, I quit writing. And then I started writing with a story about a writer who quits writing. The story is "How to Be A Patron of the Arts" which appears in my collection, American Housewife. In the story, I give the heroine (and who are we kidding? ME) this list of ten writerly commandments:
I. Thou shalt not put your writing before your health.
II. Thou shalt not compare your writing schedule to Stephen King's.
III. Thou shalt not curse those published in Tin House.
IV. Thou shalt remember that you wrote one page of one story and that is more than most people do.
V. Thou shalt write a monthly check to Sallie Mae to pay off your student loan and not make a fuss about it.
VI. Thou shalt kill your darlings.
VII. Thou shalt not beat yourself up for not writing any darlings.
VIII. Thou shalt not plagiarize just to get the ball rolling.
IX. Thou shalt not lie that you are "working on something."
X. Thou shalt not envy those who really are.