Jamaica Kincaid: On Writing

All of these declarations of what writing ought to be, which I had myself — though, thank god I had never committed them to paper — I think are nonsense. You write what you write, and then either it holds up or it doesn’t hold up. There are no rules or particular sensibilities. I don’t believe in that at all anymore.

— Jamaica Kincaid

This is probably the most basic of my principles in teaching. I even add it to the syllabus as an epigraph sometimes. No rules, never say never; just write, maybe using creative spurs, and then see what holds up, what works*, which often involves (when we’re ready) trying the writing out on good readers. And perhaps we can see if greater and deeper understanding of usage and convention (no rules!) will help us write even better, will help us grow our writing instinct.

* Yes, it’s about doing the work. See Ray Bradbury’s first mantra in ‘Zen in the Art of Writing’.