Advice for Industry from Colm Tóibín

The Guardian online edition recently published a two-part article called “Ten Rules for Writing Fiction”, which polled a number of well-known writers for their ten, or three, or one, rules that they apply while plying their trade. Colm Tóibín’s ten I particularly liked, and they apply well to personal industry in general:

  1. Finish everything you start.
  2. Get on with it.
  3. Stay in your mental pyjamas all day.
  4. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
  5. No alcohol, sex or drugs while you are working.
  6. Work in the morning, a short break for lunch, work in the afternoon and then watch the six o’clock news and then go back to work until bed-time. Before bed, listen to Schubert, preferably some songs.
  7. If you have to read, to cheer yourself up read biographies of writers who went insane.
  8. On Saturdays, you can watch an old Bergman film, preferably Persona or Autumn Sonata.
  9. No going to London.
  10. No going anywhere else either.

Of course, rules are not for everyone. For some, a simple dictum is all that is necessary to provide guidance. I think Helen Simpson summarizes it best with

The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying “Faire et se taire” (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as “Shut up and get on with it.”
To which it might be useful to add, for balance, one from A. L. Kennedy
Defend your work. Organisations, institutions and individuals will often think they know best about your work – especially if they are paying you. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away. Run away. The money doesn’t matter that much.