Gaiman’s rules of writing are the topic of our blog post today!
Writing isn’t just about putting words on paper; it’s a complex form of communication that requires deliberate practice and ongoing refinement. As someone deeply embedded in the world of educational research, I find the parallels between teaching and writing to be striking. Both necessitate a level of skill, rigor, and engagement that doesn’t come overnight.
So if you’re struggling with your writing endeavors, don’t fret. Neil Gaiman, a writer known for his nuanced and imaginative works, has some tried-and-true advice for you. For students, check out this collection of best essay writing books.
Gaiman’s Rules of Writing
Here are Gaiman’s eight rules of writing, as quoted in The Marginalian:
Straightforward yet vital. The first step is always to get something down. Much like teaching a new lesson plan, you won’t know its effectiveness until you try it out. The key is to start somewhere.
2. “Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.”
This is akin to the deliberate choice of teaching methods we use in a classroom. Each word carries weight, and its selection should be as thoughtful as choosing the best pedagogical approach for a particular set of students.
3. “Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.”
This speaks to the tenacity needed in any form of work, including research. Projects will encounter roadblocks. Whether you’re writing or attempting to develop a new curriculum, grit and persistence are key.
4. “Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.”
Peer review is a cornerstone of academia for a reason. It gives us an opportunity to view our work from a new perspective, spot gaps in logic, and generally refine our product—much like revising a lesson plan based on student feedback.
5. “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”
In education, feedback is crucial, but it’s the teacher or researcher who knows the full scope and goal of the lesson or project. Take constructive criticism seriously but apply your own expertise when considering solutions.
6. “Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.”
The push for perfection can stall progress. I’ve seen many educators get caught in the trap of perfecting a single lesson plan while neglecting other important tasks. Sometimes good enough is good enough.
7. “Laugh at your own jokes.”
Maintaining a sense of humor, whether in writing or teaching, can be a lifeline. It brings joy to what you’re doing and can make the whole process feel less arduous.
8. “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like.”
This is, perhaps, my favorite of Gaiman’s rules. It resonates with the belief that confidence in your own abilities can take you a long way. The room to innovate, whether in writing or education, expands significantly when you back yourself.
So whether you’re an aspiring writer, a seasoned educator, or somewhere in between, these rules hold universal truths that can guide you toward bettering your craft. And hey, if you’ve got other authors or educators whose advice you swear by, I’d love to hear about it. Let’s keep this conversation going.
So there you have it, Neil Gaiman’s eight rules for writing, each one a nugget of wisdom worth its weight in gold. Over the years, both in the classroom and in my educational research, I’ve found that good writing isn’t just about following rules; it’s about understanding them well enough to make them work for you. Gaiman’s rules encapsulate this balance between discipline and freedom, structure and creativity.
Honestly, his advice isn’t revolutionary, but it’s enduring, much like the mechanics of a well-oiled machine. From the gritty starting phase of putting one word after another to the liberating end where you give yourself permission to break the mold, these guidelines are versatile enough to apply to any writing project. They’re worth revisiting, whether you’re a seasoned writer or a student just learning the ropes.