The Five Laws of Effective Writing

Why is it so hard to write at home? Yes, I can knock off some emails and short articles at my desk. But why is it so hard to do my best focused writing at home?

If you are like me, you have found that your best writing happens somewhere else – a hotel room on vacation, a cozy chair in the café, or in a class with other writers. Why?

Based on extensive research and self-observation, as well as facilitating ten Writing Staycations, I am pleased to announce the discovery of the Five Laws of Effective Writing.

1. Writing Law of Inverse Distance. The quality of your writing has an inverse proportion to your proximity to your laundry and kitchen.

2. Writing Law of Healthy Habits. A schedule that includes regular walks, healthy food, and balanced caffeination will promote better writing than sugar crazed temporary writing highs.

3. Writing Law of Parallelism. Your efficiency of writing increases when someone nearby is also writing, creating a “Parallel Writing Efficiency Zone” in the region.

4. Writing Law of Finite Time. Writers have more success when they write with deadlines and time limits than when they write with unlimited time.

5. Writing Law of Structure. A well structured day of writing will increase productivity compared to an unstructured blob of writing time, which can easily morph into a blob of Facebook checking and irrelevant research projects.

Applying the Laws 

I mostly apply the law with writing dates with friends and taking classes. The Extreme Novelist has been my favorite class so far, at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, taught by the fabulous Kathryn Johnson.

I have also designed the Writing Staycation, a weeklong nonresidential writing retreat at the Writer’s Center, to apply all these laws in a week of intensive writing. Participants bring a writing project — anything from an idea to a manuscript to polish. I supply a room far from your laundry, with other dedicated writers, plenty of caffeine and health snacks, inspiring lunch speakers, and a writing schedule aimed at maximum efficiency. (Next Staycation is November 1-14, 2014.) I’ve seen amazing results from participants, from a chapbook created to a memooir started to a book ms completed.

What are your laws of writing? How do you apply them?


About Zahara Heckscher

Writer, educator, social justice advocate. Co-author of How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas (Penguin, 2002) and forthcoming Volunteer Travel Reimagined: The Learning Service Guide. Instructor at The Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD and co-inventor of The Poetry Game. Mom, wife, cancer thriver, advocate for a world of justice.
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3 Responses to The Five Laws of Effective Writing

  1. D Todd says:

    Proximity to gardening, car repair, or a phone screen also can really help keep the words from reaching the page, no? Also walking the dog, or, in a pinch, the cat.

  2. Maybe it’s because I’m so busy and I’m an introvert, but I write best alone at home. Of course, it’s a very strict, scheduled time, so some of your laws are also my laws. But I find other writers (and noise) distracting.

    • bookzahara says:

      Love your comment. I have starting asking writers if they are introverts or extroverts — have found that there are big differences in our work styles. Maybe will write a blog post about that! Zahara

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