Sunday, March 07, 2010


doorway, originally uploaded by patryfrancis.

If you're a writer and you haven't read the 10 Rules for Writing Fiction series on the Guardian, then get yourself over there and suck up a powerful dose of inspiration, practical advice and writerly wisdom.

Since the masters covered that subject quite thoroughly, I decided to post my ten rules for life:

1. Develop a healthy respect for everything you don't know. It's a lot.

2. Don't allow yourself to be bored. It's an insult to life, and rumor has it, life doesn't tolerate insults. As Elmore Leonard's famously advised writers, "Leave out the part that people skip."

3. Don't sit down too much. That could increase your mortality, too. If you're not moving, mentally, spiritually, or physically, your body just might think you're already dead.

4. Who was the guy who limited his rules to 3: KINDNESS, KINDNESS, KINDNESS? Whoever he was, he was right. And the guy who said, "Be kind because everyone you meet is fighting a great battle?" He was pretty smart, too.

5. Do the work that's in front of you every day as if it mattered--whether it's painting a picture or washing the floor, or caring for a difficult elderly person. It does.

6. If you were lazy or unkind, dishonest or impatient--don't languish in guilt, but don't accept it as the best you can do either. Find creative ways to make amends to whomever endured your lesser self (even if it's yourself.)

7. Remind the people around you and the trees and your own cells that life is good: sing, dance, praise, and laugh as often as you can. And when you can't, be silent.

8. This is something my grandfather's generation knew well: get some fresh air every day. Open windows, breathe deep, and stand up straight while you're at it.

9. Mind your own business. It's more profound than you think.

10. Follow your own rules. Ah, now that's the hard one, isn't it?


Anonymous said...

I'm inspired! #9 got me thinking about minding my own business in a fresh way. #5 is up for me -- I've just been journaling about it. #4 reminds me of you. #7 is still conspiratorial, a challenge for me at work. I could say that it's the system I work under, but then I notice that I'm one of the most intense people there. So I'm glad I heard this.

Thanks for posting these.

Patry Francis said...

Peter: Just realized that 5 and 8 say essentially the same thing. It's something I've been thinking about for a while--not resisting or judging the tasks before me, just doing them--perhaps even "with great love" as Mother Theresa said. Interesting to hear that you've been journaling about the same subject. Your comment about #4 is the greatest compliment ever. I only hope I can grow into it. But as I say, following one's own rules or principles is the greatest challenge of all.

Lorna said...

I don't have 10 rules, but I do have 3 wishes, taken from a long-ago post:

An awesome amber spyglass that will allow me to look back on my life and truly SEE all of the amazing things that have gone on in my life. I want to see the way Chris looked when we brought him home for the first time; see again my first glimpse of Sarah and Emily, what Dave was wearing when I first realized he was more than a friend. Let me get clear in my head the faces attached to the many acts of kindness I’ve been the recipient of over the last however many years. I want to remember the actual words my dad used to say goodbye to me as I casually got in the car to go home the day he had his stroke, the first words each of my kids said, the good wishes friends and family gave me when Dave and I got married. You get the idea.

The ability to dance like I could at 30—I was an awesome and joyful dancer, loved music, loved the feeling of abandon that went with it, the semi-dangerous flirting with other dancers or the guys in the band. I danced with my children, I danced at bus-stops, in supermarkets, anywhere I could feel the music either in my head or blasting out of someone’s car window. It was an ability that was gone before I realized how much joy it brought me.

A big party, to be held at a wonderful restaurant in the New Orleans-that-was, to which you’ll bring all my friends, whether they’re my coffee-buddies, my close and far-flung family, my blogging friends or my long-lost ones, and their significant or relatively-significant others, plus all the other people I haven’t met yet but yearn to include in my circle. That would include but not be limited to certain winners of the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Mann Book Awards, Emmies, Grammies, Oscars, Tonies, MTV Awards, Olympic Medals, and so on, as well as people who are not winners but should have been, and Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz who don’t fit those categories but are dear to me and Dave. It will last long enough for everyone to meet and spend time with everyone else that they want to, and will include cards with e-mail addresses for people to exchange with each other. Much beer, wine, sushi, ice cream and other goodies will be consumed to a background of ever-changing, sometimes danceable live music of my choice.

Patry Francis said...

Lorna: No fairy tale ever contained 3 wishes half as good as yours. They brought up so much for me. The things I remember, and those that have grown fuzzy edges-even though they were the essence of my life. I , too was a compulsive and joyful dancer. My mother still recalls me dancing out of my room every morning as a teenager. Strangely, I was going to include dancing every day in my rules for life, but then I realize I don't do it so much any more either. I think we both need to change that!

Patti said...

Thank you Patry, I love these rules for life and I really need them right now. I hope it's not too late!!

I love to sing and dance too, it helps me to express the joy inside of me.

I love your grandfather and his common sense, so here is a ((hug)) for him (whether he's still with us, or not).

Do I have any rules for life?

Be Grateful, for everything!

Practice Grace whenever you can (very hard for me though :) working on it, always!)

Love is a Verb - so go do it, show it, feel it!

And last of all, I love this poetry by John Squadra:

'Forget Everything'

If someone says,
“To be enlightened you must fast and pray all night,”
Have dinner and go to bed.
If you see a sign, “This way to salvation,”
run the other way.
If someone says, “This book is the truth, you can buy it from me,”
Take your money and buy grapes and roses.
If someone says, “He’s talking tonight, thousands will be saved.”
Go for a walk...listen to the birds and watch the clouds,
and leave your backpack, your Bible and your Buddha under a tree
and hope they will be gone when you return.
Where we are going you can’t carry anything, not even your name.
If there is logic in the above, be afraid, it’s a lie.
But if you feel something in your chest as beautiful as the grass beneath your feet,
be your arms
and forget everything you ever thought you knew.

- John Squadra - This Ecstasy

Annie said...

Oh, I forgot an important one. Be GRATEFUL!

Allie said...

I love this! What a wonderful list!

And, I have recently learned the importance of good posture, so the stand up straight reminder was a good one.

Patry Francis said...

Patti: Thanks for adding your thoughts--all wonderful, and for sharing that little poem. I'm not sure I completely understand it, but that's good! A poem should ask you to come back for a second visit.

Annie: Amen, sister! Gratitude is a big one!

Allie: My grandfather's good posture and fresh air regimen paid off. He lived to be ninety-nine and never lost his regal bearing.

Dawn Anon said...

wow..i needed this. The timing for this today is perfect. Not only had i forgotten that everyone is struggling... and kindness, kindness, kindess.... i was about to stick my nose so far into somoething that i was surely going to suffocate!

Now i have time to rethink it before i go back to work tomorrow. Thanks! :)

Patry Francis said...

Dawn: I broke the kindness rule today myself--sneakily, through harmful speech. I forgot how much I don't know, and that my designated "enemy"" has her own struggles.

Therapeutic venting," I called it when I launched into my spiel, but in the end it only made me feel worse.
Fortunately, screwing up is allowed--and expected. That's where rule #6 comes in.

bibliophiliac said...

I've been thinking about kindness. As a high school English teacher, I'm sometimes guilty of using "zingers." They can be funny, but I have to remember to be kind. When 160 adolescents cross your threshold over the course of a day, it can be difficult to remember kindness. But if I were to choose just one quality for which I'd like to be remembered, I think kindness would do just fine.

Brenda Clews said...

I prefer your rules over the ones for writing fiction! Those are begging to be broken; yours are for living. :)

colleen said...

Okay, I'm going outside now, I promise, but before I do I want to say hello and let you know how much I enjoyed this, especially the lines about boredom and minding your own business.

Tinker said...

Kindness - yes, yes, yes...
So much wisdom and insight here, Patry. Number 5, I need to get on that - while taking a dose of number 6....
And though I did get outside earlier today, number 3 has me squirming in my seat...I used to laugh at Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch about the 'comfy chair' - who knew it really could be so dangerous?
Gotta get off this computer and out of this chair now! Thanks for a much-needed kick in the - seat!

Patry Francis said...

Brenda: Thank you! Mine get broken, too, but the striving keeps me honest. Good to see you here.

Biblio: If 160 adolescents cross your threshold, and you're only guilty of the occasional zinger, then you've already mastered kindness!

colleen: I can't imagine you being bored for a single second. And your photos--whether of Hull or Floyd--always make me want to go outside and find some green or take a walk on the beach.

Tinker: The study about getting lost in the comfy chair was so fascinating to me. Though my work still keeps me at my seat most of the day, I've been making it a point to get up and sweep a floor or do a little raking every couple of hours--just to remind my body I'm still alive. Even if it doesn't extend my life, the yard looks more tidy! P.S. Congrats on the expected grandchild!

robin andrea said...

I feel guilty. I have no rules. And one that I break most often is "mind your own business." I can't.

Patry Francis said...

Robin: You might not call them rules, but The R.A. I know is one of the principled individuals I've ever met--virtually or otherwise.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Patry,
It is always so cool to come here and view fresh words and thoughts. Rule number 3 resonates strongly right now as I am sitting far too much with this bad hip wating for my replacement in 4 weeks time. Then the mountains,hopefully, will await. Patry, I hope you are well and moving! Rave on. Kia kaha!

Tinker said...

Thanks for the congrats, Patry - and the impetus to get up out of my comfy chair!

Patry Francis said...

Ruahines: Good luck with the hip. The wilderness needs you, and I know you need the wilderness!

Tinker: Nothing like a new grandchild to make the comfy chair obsolete!

Taradharma said...

great rules! I can believe that boredom can kill's one big reason I retired early from the university. And that fresh air thing? Yup. When my daughter was a baby I followed the British habit of sticking her out in the sun in her pram for the fresh air.

Patry Francis said...

taradharma: Glad you're retired and enjoying the fresh air of an exciting new life.

Patry Francis said...
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gary said...

Hi Patry...It's a joy to have your inspiring muse.

While they all ring true I think it's 8 and 10 that speak to me. #8 because of all the times I honor it in spirit if not in practice.

But #10, that is the most important one of all...If you can't honor your own rules, whose rules will you honor? Societies rules may make it easier to live with each other...But, it's your personal rules that let you live with yourself.

Thanks for the list...and the thought provoking introspection.

Becca said...

Well, I think that's some of the best advice I've heard in a very long time. It's practical, it's common sense, it's do-able, and it's KIND.

I like it.

Anonymous said...

Great set of rules. I wish I could do the not sitting so much one more faithfully!

Patry Francis said...

Gary: Which is probably why I enjoy complaining about the external rules and the hypocrisy of those who break them so much. It's much easier than looking within. Thanks for an astute comment.

rdl said...

wow, i almost missed this little gem of a post. going to get the duct tape.- #7!

rdl said...

omg! just noticed that i already commented before my last comment! now i have to add alzheimer's to my list of ailments too?!! hopefully it was just 1 too many glassed of wine that nite! but then it gave me a chance to come back read the comments and see lovely lorna's. I can just picture the 3 of us at rachid's. :D maybe we can have a dance out(competition) on my deck this summer!