Ten Rules of the Road for Writing from the Heart

September 19, 2010 at 2:47 am 3 comments

  1. Writing is its own reward. Publishing is a separate—and secondary—goal.
  2. Good writing is about telling the truth.
  3. Bad writing precedes good writing. This is a nearly infallible rule, so don’t waste time trying to avoid bad writing. (That just slows down the process.) Anything committed to paper can be changed. The idea is to start, and then go from there.
  4. Don’t try to be clever or brilliant. Just try to be honest.
  5. Don’t worry about being too sentimental. Say what you really want to say, what you really believe is true.
  6. Listen to (and observe) carefully everything that is going on around you. This includes the all-important art of eavesdropping. Cultivate it! (You will hear priceless pieces of dialogue, and observe amazing revelations of character, that are impossible to think up!)
  7. Don’t listen to anyone who is trying to discourage you from writing, or is making you feel in any way or for any reason that what you’re doing isn’t any good, or isn’t worthwhile. (This is an exception to rule 6.) You can nod and say “uh-huh” if that seems the best way to protect yourself from further attack, but whatever you do, do not take negative and discouraging comments to heart!
  8. When you get stuck with a piece of writing, put it aside and do something else for a while. Walks, showers, and “sleeping on it” all offer good ways to step away from a problem in your writing. Working on a different project, free-writing, or engaging in a totally unrelated activity can also help. The point is that when you can clearly feel that you’re getting nowhere, you should back off and do something else for a while. Your subconscious will continue to work on the problem and may offer surprising new insights when you return to the work at hand.
  9. Read. Read aloud. And don’t worry too much about it if you find yourself imitating the style of writers you admire. As you continue to write from the heart, your own style will emerge quite naturally.
  10. Don’t try to be a writer; don’t wonder if you ever can “really” be a writer. Just write. Writers are people who write. Period.

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor and teacher of writing and literature who divides her time between France and the U.S.  She teaches literature courses in Paris, Hawaii and Cuba for the Education Abroad program at Queens College, CUNY, and offers Writing from the Heart workshops in Essoyes, a beautiful little village in the Champagne region of France.

Entry filed under: About Writers and their Work, About Writing from the Heart. Tags: , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Wanda Porter  |  February 3, 2011 at 2:59 am

    I noticed your article about Essoyes on the Bonjour Paris website, and followed up reading about you and the Essoyes School on your website.
    I’m a retired English teacher (25 years at Kamehameha High School in Honolulu), and I was fascinated to learn that you teach here in Hawaii in the winter – I wish I had known earlier this year!
    Do you know the book “Shark Dialogues” by Kiana Davenport? Story of a Hawaiian family from the distant past to the present. You might enjoy it.
    I have a question – my husband and I will be in Paris for two weeks in May, and we would like to plan a day trip to Essoyes. How to get there from Paris? Would appreciate that information if you have time.

    • 2. Janet Hulstrand  |  February 3, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Aloha, Wanda! Maybe you and I can meet when I am in Hawaii next time, I am sure we would have a lot to talk about. I did not know about Shark Dialogues, it sounds interesting and I will definitely look it up. Thank you so much for the suggestion!

      I’m not sure if you saw only my article about Essoyes on Bonjour Paris, or if you also saw the one that posted this week that was written by one of my students. In any case, this spring is going to be an exciting time in Essoyes, with the reopening and expansion of the Renoir atelier, so it’s a great time to plan a trip there.

      To get to Essoyes you have to either rent a car or take a train to Troyes or Vendeuvre-sur-Barse, and then you can take a taxi from either of those places (but both are still pretty far away, so the most practical and probably the most cost-effective thing to do is rent a car). This also gives you more flexibility, and the chance to tour the surrounding area, which is very beautiful, if you like.

      Essoyes is only about 2 1/2 hours by car from Paris, so you definitely can do it as a day trip. But it is SO WONDERFUL that I can almost guarantee that you will wish you had planned on staying overnight…there is a wonderful hotel in town (Hotel des Canotiers), and if you do decide to stay there please tell your hosts hello from me. There are also several very nice bed and breakfast places in town. Troyes also is a fascinating city with plenty of places to stay, so you might want to plan to spend a little bit of time there while you are in that part of the country. (I have written about Troyes also on Bonjour Paris.)

      I’d love to hear about your trip to Essoyes if you do go there…and wish you a wonderful stay in Paris! Did you see my Paris Bookshelf post on this blog? If you’re looking for Paris-related reading, you might find something there.

      • 3. Wanda Porter  |  February 4, 2011 at 1:35 am

        Thank you so much for your response. After reading more about the area around Essoyes, we now think that we will spend the last two days of our trip there. Will do as you suggest – rent a car and drive from Paris.
        Thank you for your suggestions!
        I would very much look forward to meeting you next time you are in Hawaii.

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