The Journal: Always Be Learning

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: Always Be Learning
* Of Interest

Quote of the Day

“There is nothing like the death of a moneyed member of the family to show persons as they really are, virtuous or conniving, generous or grasping.” Jesse Dukeminier and Stanley M. Johanson, estate planning attorneys. (Possible story idea?)

Topic: Always Be Learning

The old salesman’s mantra, the ABC of selling, is Always Be Closing. For the serious fiction writer, the mantra is Always Be Learning.

Over at Kill Zone today, Garry Rodgers discussed Dieter Rams’ ten design principles and theorized about how they apply to writing (see “Of Interest”). Then he asked, “What about you Kill Zone writers and publishers? … Can you add other principles that help us to be better at writing and publishing?”

Of course, my first thought was Heinlein’s Rules, and so many don’t even know they exist that I decided to leave that as a comment.

But then I remembered an old beat-up scrap of paper I had on the wall of my home office probably 25 years ago above my Smith-Corona word processor with its little 4-line screen.

I had retired from the Marine Corps and was living in Roswell New Mexico at the time. I was attending one college, serving as an adjunct instructor in another, and writing a little on the side.

On the scrap of paper were the typewritten “Seven Rules of Writing” by Roberta Jean Bryant.

The scrap of paper is long-since gone to dust, so I looked up the Seven Rules on the internet, then added them to my comment over at Kill Zone. Like Heinlein’s Rules, Bryant’s Laws are succinct. Unlike Heinlein’s Rules, they’re as easy to follow as they appear. Well, if you want to be a writer. Anyway, here they are:

Heinlein’s Rules

1. You must write.

2. You must finish what you write.

3. You must not rewrite except to editorial order. (Harlan Ellison’s corollary: And then only if you agree.)

4. You must put it on the market.

5. You must keep it on the market until it sells.

Note: For a PDF copy of my annotated Heinlein’s Rules, click

Roberta Jean Bryant’s “7 Laws of Writing” from her book Anybody Can Write:

1. “To write” is an active verb. Thinking is not writing. Writing is putting words on paper.

2. Write passionately. Everybody has loves and hates; even quiet people lead passionate lives. Creativity follows passion.

3. Write honestly. Risk nakedness. Originality equals vulnerability.

4. Write for fun, for personal value. If you don’t enjoy the process, why should anyone enjoy the product? Pleasure precedes profit.

5. Write anyway. Ignore discouraging words, internal and external. Persistence always pays off.

6. Write a lot. Use everything. Learning comes from your own struggles with words on paper.

7. Write out of commitment to your ideas, commitment to yourself as a writer. Trust yourself.

It isn’t a bad idea to combine both sets of rules. Heinlein’s can be reduced to only three rules, really:

1. Write (and finish).

2. Don’t allow your (or anyone else’s) conscious mind to second-guess what your creative mind has created.

3. Publish. The world is your oyster.

And all seven of Bryant’s Laws could be shoehorned-in as Heinlein’s Rule 1a. Or you could hold back Law 5 and 7 from that insertion and insert them as Heinlein’s Rule 2a. Works well either way.

But it’s easy enough to read motivational bits and advisory posts and lists of rules and laws and guidelines. Actually applying them is much harder. Which brings us back to Bryant’s First Law of Writing: To write is an active verb. Thinking is not writing. Writing is putting words on paper.

To quote Aunt Meg from Twister (grin), “It’s what you do. Go. Do it.”

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Dieter Rams — 10 Principles of Good Design” at Just in case you get something from it.

See “Books about Estate Planning and Authors” at

See “A Primer on Estate Planning as a Writer” at

See “Estate Planning for Authors” at

Also see the comments on “When a Writer Dies…” at

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

5 thoughts on “The Journal: Always Be Learning”

  1. Re: the quote from Twister’s Aunt Meg

    Or, as Jedi Master Yoda said to young Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back: “Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no ‘try’.”

  2. Bryant’s laws do fit nicely with Heinlein’s. And they emphasize the joy and honesty that should be foundational in writing. That to me supports writing into the dark as well.

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