111 Comments

This rule was first proposed by Zsa Zsa Gabor, except instead of writing she applied it to marriage.

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Reminds me of a thing I used to say to colleagues who came to me for writing help, usually pressing a hopelessly confused first draft under my nose.

“Forget what’s on the page,” I would tell them. “Tell me, in your own words, what it is you want to say.”

If they could, I would say, “That’s it! Write down exactly what you just said.”

If they couldn’t, it meant they didn’t have anything to say in the first place.

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I need to apply this rule to my comments...

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I finally read this. As as one who has written through my long life for the sole purpose of writing rather than publishing or gaining fame, I've come to believe writing is an attempt to capture in 100% precision, the thought in my mind. Sometimes it happens and it's like finding true love for the first time. I guess that makes my writing more like Don Quixote searching for the next windmill.

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I tried to compose a brilliant comment but after 5 tries I gave up

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Thank you, Matt!

I have decided that I want to write my first book. I have saved all the letters from my British pen pal since we were randomly put together in a Teen Magazine application. I think it would be great to expose how a random selection created a lifelong close friendship from two people who live halfway round the world from each other.

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I can not write until I am clear about who I am writing for. The problem is that most of my desired audience has passed away, making feedback a bitch

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Here is an analogous rule: If you’re suffering from writer’s block, lower your standards.

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Please always call this the "Sisyphus 5 Rule"! A funny, snappy little snippet and an excellent rule. I'm sharing it to my editorial networks.

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Matt! I’m a writer and 100% love and appreciate that you are sharing your tips! Knowing even YOU struggle sometimes is helpful. 🙏

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I remember seeing "Sisyphus 5" before they were popular.

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Hahah it takes me at least three hours lately to write a three Pp email. Some of that of course is adding commas

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Huh. So THAT's what that nasty smell is...

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The encouraging news, from your point of view, is that the lack of conceptual clarity at the root of an inability to express oneself clearly in print announces itself only to thinkers astute enough to receive this message. They're the ones who sense something is wrong--the necessary preliminary to possibly realizing, sooner or later, just what it is. Those who know intellectual clarity only by hearsay remain blithely unaware of how incoherent and unreadable their writing is (you don't have to look far for examples).

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I feel like I'm always a contrarian on these. This may be mostly true, but some concepts are worth struggling with. I think if you're trying to write something truly new, talking about something in a way people don't usually talk about it, it's hard. I've struggled with things and ended up tabling them, but I save them in a separate file in case I ever figure it out.

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in way, we all write the same essay over and over again.

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