Rules for Writing, PhDs included

Colson Whitehead’s Rules for Writing – “The art of writing can be reduced to a few simple rules. I share them with you now.”

Colson Whitehead wrote this story for the NYT last month and when reading it I was thinking if these rules can be applied to another kinds of writing, mainly to my PhD dissertation, as it is growing slowly as a snail.

I really enjoyed a couple of rules (SPOILER ALERT, go read the original story first and then come back)

Rule No. 3: Write what you know.

Rule No. 5: Keep a dream diary. (don’t have one since I was a teen…)

Rule No. 10: Revise, revise, revise. (this is dull work, but for any kind of writing I can’t stress this enough. Someone has to do it and better it is you.). Emingway once told a Newsweek interviewer (about his upcoming book Across the River and into the Trees): “But I have read it 206 times to try and make it better and to cut out any mistakes or injustices and on the last reading I loved it very much and it broke my fucking heart for the 206th time”.

Well can those rule be applied to PhD writing? Sure they can! Go read the rules and take what you feel appropriate. Writing science stuff is a pain in the ass. If anyone tells you otherwise then that person his a very dull person and you should just run away. Notice that writing science is different from writing about science. The latter can be fun if well done. The former is like a doctor enjoying writing prescriptions. It’s the Zen of dullness.