Deb: 4.9 things writing teaches

Inspired by the Guardian’s  “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction,”  we posted last month on our own writing rules . Some of my writing friends, though, objected to the very idea of using the words writers and rules in the same sentence. True, these are writers of young adult fiction – a rebellious bunch by nature.  But maybe the notion of rules does sound too rigid, as if what makes for good writing could be boxed up and stuck on a shelf.

So we decided at 49 Writers to tamp down the concept and make it a regular feature: not rules so much as what writing teaches. Branded with 49, we could hardly settle for ten – but then, compiling a list of just under 50 sounded like too big a chore. So we settled on 4.9, figuring the “point nine” would allow for the wiggle room most writers covet.

Debuting here: 4.9 things writing teaches, a recurring feature, with an invitation to all writers, both new and established, to publish your thoughts. I’ll lead off with 4.9 thoughts of my own:

1. Embrace the tension between satisfaction and longing. Somewhere between complacency and hair-pulling frustration lies the sweet spot for doing your best work. Be kind enough to give yourself credit for every good word, yet brutal enough to keep pushing for better.

2. Probe deeper; seek truth. Don’t stop at bedrock. Fire up the jackhammer and hang on for dear life. Truth hurts. When your character’s clenching her teeth and breaking out in a sweat – or when you are – you’re probably close.

3. Cultivate unexpected opportunities. Dwelling on all the ways writers get booted around is neither productive nor satisfying. Instead, grab chances to meet up with readers, interact with other writers, and publish in unexpected places. Write the poem you didn’t think you had in you, the story that stretches your thinking.

4. Diligence and discipline complement creativity. There really is something about that three-legged stool. Open yourself to spells of wild abandon tempered by periods of dogged determination.

4.9 Keep learning. You’re never “there.” But once in awhile, let yourself look back on how far you’ve come.  That’s what makes learning fun.

Ready to share the 4.9 things writing has taught you?  Email your list to me at, along with a photo and link to your website if you like. It’s a great way to open a dialogue with other writers – and pick up a web pubbing credit while you’re at it.

1 thought on “Deb: 4.9 things writing teaches”

  1. The 4.9 things I’ve learned from writing

    1. Sometimes in life, you are the only one who can make a particular thing happen (your book for instance).

    2. People will say and assume weird/wrong things about you and your writing, but it’s OK.

    3. I am a hermit and I love it. I like epistolary relationships better than relationships that involve daily phone chats. I make up for this in other ways, which is perfectly OK with me but not others. Oh well, at my midpoint in life I’m voting my way this time.

    The .9 part is the one I’m not sure about but think is probably true: I don’t have this compelling desire to write for no reason. Something in me knows that writing is a key to my right life.

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