February 24, 2014
Ten Commandments from Richard Bausch
I recently started a Writer’s Workshop with Richard Bausch. I–and ten other future-great-authors–get to spend about two hours a week with this master of short stories, pithy novels, and literary fiction. Over the fourteen weeks this will take, I intend to share his wisdom and my epiphanies with you. So far, I find him wise, entertaining, human, approachable, humorous, interested and interesting. He has an identical twin brother, so I must be careful not to confuse the two (though Richard provided a clue to differentiating). More on this later.
I’ll start with this I found on his website, what he considers the Ten Commandments for writers. I must admit–I haven’t read most of these anywhere else. And having read them, I wonder why:
- Read: “You must try to know everything that has ever been written that is worth remembering, and you must keep up with what your contemporaries are doing.”
- Imitate: “While you are doing this reading, you spend time trying to sound like the various authors — just as a painter, learning to paint, sets up his easel in the museum and copies the work of the masters.”
- “Be regular and ordinary in your habits, like a Petit Bourgeois, so you may be violent and original in your work.” — borrowed from Flaubert
- Train yourself to be able to work anywhere.
- Be Patient. “You will write many more failures than successes. Say to yourself, I accept failure as the condition of this life, this work. I freely accept it as my destiny. Then go on and do the work. You never ask yourself anything beyond Did I work today?”
- Be Willing. “Accepting failure as a part of your destiny, learn to be willing to fail, to take the chances that often lead to failure in the hope that one of them might lead to something good.”
- Eschew politics. “You are in the business of portraying the personal life, the personal cost of events, so even if history is part of your story, it should only serve as a backdrop.”
- Do not think, dream.
- Don’t compare yourself to anyone, and learn to keep from building expectations.
- Be wary of all general advice.
I love #1. I admire him for #7. Which do you like best?
More articles on writer tips:
Writers Tip #61: Advice From Elmore Leonard
Writer’s Tip #31: 10 Great Ones from Roddy Doyle
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.