Rules For Responding


Things get fucked up a lot and you forget why you first started writing. I taught a class at Confetti in how to tell stories in Twine recently, and ended with a Q&A. They often asked about ‘games journalism’ and I was incredibly grumpy until I remembered: it’s great to be able to write and be paid for it in any capacity.

But further than that, I just love to write.

As if to remind me, a friend who I started writing long-form ‘letters’ to last year when he moved across the world sent me this wonderful thing, which I asked permission to give you in full (he remains anonymous, but suffice to say, I think he’s a top notch writer, extremely talented, with the same sort of confidence problems I had, or have). He reminded me of why I like to write, and why his writing to me in the profound way he did was good for the soul. He also reminded me to take time over what I write, particularly when it is personal. I hope one day we will find the guts to publish our private letters. But for now they stay in our mailboxes, fermenting.

Anyway, I hope you find his ‘rules for responding’ as profound as I did. I try to use them to make me consider how important words are.


Subject: I found this, on my iPad text editor.

I wrote it nine months ago and never sent it. Your emails were… important, I guess? I was far from home and though we were never close you gave me some human contact when I had very little. So thanks for that.


1. Check emails whenever possible as a matter of course, a habit built over two years of working alone at home; less possible currently as no internet in house.

2. Receive email, generally in the morning, generally around half past six when the sun pushes through the blinds and wakes me. Read the first two paragraphs, quickly, scan the rest, lock my phone and push it under my pillow and fall asleep.

3. Get out of bed. Drink coffee. Sit down at a table and turn on the iPad. Read the email again properly, this time, savouring the words. It is rare to have someone who corrals words for a living craft private ones for me, even though we are both clearly writing with the faint idea that once we are both great and terrible and famous we will publish the anthology for gin money.

4. Do something else. Anything. Gather steam. Work. If ideas are generated for a response, write them down in scrappy Notes document on phone. Update and refine notes each time one is added. This is a sort of performance diary, an act where we rub words against each other to try and generate sparks. I can’t go at it half cocked.

5. Play a game. Any game. The rule is that you must write about at least one game or as else this is all just confessional, all just a travel update, and we have met each other a full total of maybe four times that would seem inappropriate; so it is about gaming, of course. Sometimes it is hard to relate games to life in as neat and dovetaily as way as possible, but try when you can.

6. Write, in full, in one go. Tidy it up a bit if needs be but don’t stress over the wording too much. Aim for length because long emails, when written by someone with half a clue what they’re doing, are wonderful things.