3 Rules for Writing and Life (Denis Johnson)

From The New Yorker ‘s brief, compelling tribute to novelist Denis Johnson, who passed away last week at the age of sixty-seven: his three rules for writing.

Write naked. That means to write what you would never say.

Write in blood. As if ink is so precious you can’t waste it.

Write in exile, as if you are never going to get home again, and you have to call back every detail.


Extrapolated a bit, it is fine wisdom for even non-writers, as a way to honing thinking, memory, awareness. Even if we don’t write what we would never say, we can bring it to awareness. We can cultivate our attention and recall of the insanely-creative details of life. We can engage in work that is as vital to us as our blood.




Here are links to Johnson’s fiction and poetry in the New Yorker.

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