Writing Rules

Designs nudge behaviors and rules are one kind of design.

Drew Carey wanted to be a comedian but didn't know any good jokes. That was a problem. He figured that someone, somewhere, knew good jokes, he just had to find them. He started at the library, found some books, and started writing. He took his meager few to a comedy clubs, got some laughs, and kept writing. ‘Maybe I can do this,’ he thought.

He just needed more jokes, so he made up some rules. 

Carey did the math. If he wrote ten jokes a day, one might be good. That good joke lasted about half a minute. Telling the numbers, if he wrote every day, over the course of a year he’d have forty-five minutes of material. That was an act. He told Marc Maron the rules, "The kicker was, it didn't need to be ten good jokes. It needed to be one good joke and nine thoughts. The rules were, they couldn't be dirty. I could write dirty jokes but they couldn't count towards the ten. I had to write stuff clean enough to do on The Tonight Show. They couldn't be topical, I could write topical jokes but they didn't count towards the ten."

That was it. Rules are big with writers. Neil Gaiman told Tim Ferriss that his best rule is to sit there. Gaiman said he can do nothing or he can write. No puzzles, no apps, no doodles. Just writing. The same thing that makes meditation challenging is what makes Gaiman a great writer.

For Stephen King there has to be a desk, a room, a door - and it has to be locked. 

Rules should be unique and designed around values. Investors write in journals to check their thought processes. Where were they wrong? Were they right for the right reasons?

Artists like Brian Koppelman swear by Julia Cameron's Morning Pages. I write a quick 400 words each morning that look much like these emails. Sometimes those ideas become a thread to pull and discover more and sometimes they're like a cloud that's part of life and then gone. 

Work backwards, ask yourself (or reply and ask me), What are your values, what designs and rules lead there, and what writing might help?