A list of general ethical principles given to humankind by God, which can easily be twisted to apply to anything you like – even writing.
Here’s helpful list of things you can do to successfully navigate the writing process:
- Worship no gods but God. If you want to create something worthwhile, something that will set the world on fire, then you’ll need to focus. Whilst in the throes of writing your masterpiece try to avoid doing things like falling in l0ve (again), moving to a house in Belgravia, climbing Everest, ballooning around the world in 80 days, training to be an astronaut or learning how to cook lasagne. The exception is, obviously, if your book happens to be about any of these things.
- Do not worship idols. Read a variety of good books before you start to write, and make a list of all the books you’d like to read after you finish, but do not read whilst you are writing. If you do, it will tend to confuse you (for we are bears of very little brain) and you need to maintain focus on keeping your plot, structure, characters, dialogue and message straight in your head as you do this. It is possible to read other books as you write, but that will inevitably detract from the purity of your message.
- Do not blaspheme God’s name. Whilst writing, you need to be kind to yourself and your nascent book. Try to avoid telling people that your tome is utter rubbish. You need to have loads of self-belief, and talk like this can utterly destroy it. What you write is the best that you can write at the time and it will be improved later, during the editing process. If you can’t keep this straight in your head then your manuscript is destined to play with the socks, in the very back of the drawer.
- Remember the Sabbath. All writing and no eating pizza and chocolate can make Jane a very dull girl. Give yourself a break every now and again so that you can pull your creative juices together and then roar back into it with renewed vigour. What are we at now? Number four? Okay – time for me to take a break. Back in a sec. (soft music plays whilst you wait patiently for my return and you start to feel refreshed yourself too as you mind idles thro …) Okay, I’m back, and raring to go – what’s next?
- Honour your parents. Remember when I said to read books before you start writing? Well, specifically you should read books that will help you with your own writing project. There are several categories to focus on: books similar to yours in terms of genre, books giving extra information about your subject of choice, books that are exemplars of the kind of kind of writing you want to do and general books about creative writing. People have done some good work before you came along. Use it.
- Do not murder. Never, ever throw anything away, for those are your darlings of the future. If you write something that is good but does not quite fit into the context of your current project then save it because it just might form the basis of a new book. If you write something mediocre, then save it because you will be able to make it shine in the editing process. If you write something that you think is rubbish, then save it because you can always insert it in as a bonus feature – the bloopers reel.
- Do not commit adultery. Sneaking into another person’s library, under cover of darkness. Silently lighting a lamp to reveal the spines of books that are not yours. Taking those books from the shelf and lovingly caressing them. Opening them to reveal the tender delights of those words. Moving your eyes back and forth across the page over and over again. Turning the page, and again your motion begins. Faster and faster you read until you reach the climax of the story and … Creepy – right? Desist.
- Do not steal. Plagiarism is acne on the face of creative writing. Make sure that you own every single word of your writing and do not be tempted to cut and paste the work of others. Even if you edit it until it is unrecognisable – it is still not yours. You have your own beautiful style (and grace) and so have no need of the words of others. And, at the end of the day, it feels much better in your heart to know that everything you did, you did by yourself – without any help. Make something you can be proud of.
- Do not bear false witness. Irony is incredibly funny when used by skilled practitioners of the art, but when abused, it can be rather damaging. If you gain a reputation for being knowledgeable and then write something that sounds learned, but is, in fact, the opposite of truth, then it will still be believed and acted upon by those who are gullible. Be very careful about what you write. This principle can also be seen in interpersonal communication where sarcasm can damage relationships.
- Don’t covet. What you have created is beautiful. What you will create in the future will shine like the stars in heaven. You have no need to look at the works of others and wish to be different. You are tremendous just the way you are. When any doubt enters your mind, don’t let your eyes stray outwards, let them go within to find the splendours of your own heart where God has made a home. Take courage that God is with you at all times, whether you feel it or not. Let God inspire your writing, always.
I didn’t imagine that these ten commandments would be as useful as this when applied to writing, but I’m amazed at how timeless and beautiful this guidelines are. Just by writing these tips and, in the process, thinking about the meaning and implications of these rules has helped me to grow immeasurably.
I hope that these words contribute to your development too. Happy writing!