Rules for composers

An old friend of AEJ’s family is a writer named Richard Ford.  The Guardian (UK) recently asked a bunch of writers for their “rules” for writing fiction.  The rules below are Mr. Ford’s, and I think if you substitute “composer” for “writer,” the rules are just as sound.  (This is quoted completely without permission, but hopefully AEJ can prevent Mr. Ford from suing me.)

1 Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea.

2 Don’t have children.

3 Don’t read your reviews.

4 Don’t write reviews. (Your judgment’s always tainted.)

5 Don’t have arguments with your wife in the morning, or late at night.

6 Don’t drink and write at the same time.

7 Don’t write letters to the editor. (No one cares.)

8 Don’t wish ill on your colleagues.

9 Try to think of others’ good luck as encouragement to yourself.

10 Don’t take any shit if you can possibly help it.

Lots of great writers gave their lists, and there were so many excellent (and, not surprisingly, wordy on occasion) responses that they split the results into two stories. Here is part one (which includes rule #8 from Jonathan Franzen : “It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.”), and here is part two (which includes the gem from Hilary Mantel, “Are you serious about this?  Then get an accountant.”).  It’s a great read, whether or not you substitute “composer” for “writer” (but you should).


Eric Rath says

Well, I've broken #'s 2, 5 and 6. That explains some things...

From the article you linked to, I liked these as well:

Jeanette Winterson

1 Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.

2 Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether.

3 Love what you do.

4 Be honest with yourself. If you are no good, accept it. If the work you are doing is no good, accept it.

5 Don't hold on to poor work. If it was bad when it went in the drawer it will be just as bad when it comes out.

6 Take no notice of anyone you don't respect.

7 Take no notice of anyone with a gender agenda. A lot of men still think that women lack imagination of the fiery kind.

8 Be ambitious for the work and not for the reward.

9 Trust your creativity.

10 Enjoy this work!

Michael says

I'd be interested in hearing your list of rules for composers, John.

Daniel says

Good thing I'm seeing these young. Although my current girlfriend won't be happy about thee kids rule lol

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