“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


no rules or red pens, not even a thesaurus

it's morning and i've been up a bit, reading here and there all the rules about writing, and they are a lot like the rules about exercise.  do it in the morning and then get on with your day.  apparently one size fits all in the world of rules.  back when i used to work out, i tried that morning thing, tripping over my own toes, dropping weights, sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.  morning writing is a lot less dangerous, at least physically, and i appreciate the stumbles across the page more than those stumbles across a cold floor.

i think the truth lives in those stumbles, in those shaky sentences.

but rules?  get it done and get on with my day? 
get it done? 

i gather phrases and words throughout my day, seeds that often must be planted under a full moon, or 3 breaths past the new moon, or sometimes as the evening sun sinks below a horizon line i can't see for all the trees.  i jot sentences across the backs of bank deposit slips or type them into my phone while in line at mcdonald's.  i leave myself voice memos and laugh at how texan i sound when later i listen to the ideas i had or the descriptions of thieves i have known.

and later i write.  i begin at night or mid afternoon and then comes the morning and the stumbling of truths and lies.  i am distracted by catfights and the songs of birds, and i need food only after i've begun to type.  i watch the weather and burn the toast and open windows and my toes go from cold to hot, and i am up and down and interrupted, and sunshine like we have this morning calls my name in a loud loud voice, but i keep typing.  i make mistakes but i keep typing.

but sometimes i don't.  sometimes i write late at night across a blue legal pad, propped up in bed with the cat nestled next to me so close a breath wouldn't fit between us.  sometimes the truth lives there, in the words i know no one else will see, in the anger of the day spilled across those late pages.

i pretend to myself that some day, when someone else is paying my bills, and there's no business overhead to worry about, that i will have rules.  i will suddenly become a morning person, and i will sit at a desk, not cross legged on the couch with a laptop propped against my thighs, and i will drink tea instead of a coke, and i will begin to type as the sun begins to rise, and i won't stop until i have reached a predetermined word count.  i will get it done and get on with my day.  only then will i notice the sparrow tucked inside the tangle of wisteria branches, only then will i notice that the wind is up and leaves are flying.

i will have missed so much.


i have a thousand first lines saved, and,
because someone talked about the dangling star leaves,
i will tell you my secret.
i always always think of those first lines as buds on a tree of many stories.
they will grow.
and because it's a tree of many stories,
they will all grow at different times and speeds.
some require rainy days,
but some need drought.



  1. well, I always have loved trees. and your no rules are the best rules i've ever read. you live it every day, and it show in your words. it's not an equation, it's a life, this being a writer thing. or it's not even that. it's words. and words and words and words.

    my son had a children's book once that said "the sky contains every word that has ever been spoken" ... those are the seeds, growing all of those trees...


  2. I couldn't love this more. Perfection.

  3. So beautifully said...and so very true. No rules are the best rules. Follow the feelings and random thoughts as they come. Like seeds that grow into trees!

  4. ...i don't care when you write, morning, late at night, barefooted, with no breakfast, with cat breath on your skin....just keep writing!

  5. Yes. Yes. Yes, and a holy Amen to boot.

    And also, exquisite.

    And too: don't ever stop doing what you do.

    And: thank you for sharing this.

    I've kept snippets of writing - in big notebooks and little ones and on index cards and post-it-notes since forever. I took a writing class a few years ago thinking it would help me do something with all of that, would give my writing some structure. Instead it was agents and publishing and oh yeah, writing too, and I participated as I was supposed to, but my heart kind of sagged. I always feel the writing and ideas come first and the other stuff is so far out there that it almost doesn't relate to what I think of as writing. I try to follow rules, but it never feels right (and geez, again, just wrote "write" instead of "right").

    This post is so much goodness for my heart. I wrote about mermaids recently and after reading this, I know I'm not the only one.


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