This is the Right Way to Write

  • The right way to write.
  • The correct way to scribe.
  • The archetypal modality of authorship.

A workable answer for the right way to write is illustrated by Gary Snyder’s poem “Riprap.”

I’ll share the poem at the end of this post.

The right way to write is freely.

Freewriting, writing without stopping, is a swell way to put words on the page.

Sort of like the right way to walk: one foot in front of the other.

Write without stopping. Because… why stop?

Seriously, why do we stop?

One reason: We pause maybe to think of a better way of saying something. Just as when talking to someone you might pause for a moment. Totally acceptable as long as we remain in the flow.

Writing means communicating. If you’re speaking with someone, you just say what’s there. It’s OK if you don’t say things perfectly. You can correct yourself as you go.

Writers benefit from getting out of their own way and saying things directly and plainly.

We start out saying a sentence and though we have the general idea for what we mean to say, we don’t actually know the words we’ll eventually use until we actually use them.

Try it and see. Start saying something and see if your attention is on the exact wording of the way the sentence concludes.

Not really. Not until it gets close enough to count.

Just like headlights on a car. They shine forwards in the direction you want to go. But they don’t shine to infinity. Only a few dozen or hundred feet or whatever. That’s all you need.

Same with words.

You only need what you have with you.


Gary Snyder

Lay down these words

Before your mind like rocks.

placed solid, by hands

In choice of place, set

Before the body of the mind

in space and time:

Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall

riprap of things:

Cobble of milky way,

straying planets,

These poems, people,

lost ponies with

Dragging saddles —

and rocky sure-foot trails.

The worlds like an endless


Game of Go.

ants and pebbles

In the thin loam, each rock a word

a creek-washed stone

Granite: ingrained

with torment of fire and weight

Crystal and sediment linked hot

all change, in thoughts,

As well as things.

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