Write without fear, edit without mercy

In 2013, I came up with the line ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’.

I made it into a simple graphic and slapped it on Pinterest just to get a backlink.

Original 'Write without fear, Edit without mercy' graphic on Pinterest

And that, I naïvely imagined, was that. But, as I recently discovered, it so wasn’t!

I wasn’t yet an author when I wrote the line, so it never occurred to me to attribute this ‘quote’ to myself (although I did put a copyright notice on it). It was just a throwaway internet thing.

In fact, so far from seeking credit, I was probably hoping that people would think it was by a ‘real’ writer (Anne Lamott, say, or Stephen King) and hence share it more widely. So adding my own name could actually have been counterproductive.

Lacking any attribution, the line was free to proliferate across Pinterest, and thence flutter across the entire internet. So come with me now and trace its nine-year flight!

At the time, I never wrote a post with this title. In retrospect, I probably should have, because several other people have. Like this… and this… and this. Well, I guess this post – belated as it is – will have to do.

Ceramic paperweight reading 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'

Ceramic paperweight reading ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’

So, do you like the rather lovely ceramic paperweight depicted in that last post (and many others)? Well, very flatteringly, it seems to have been created by cult ceramics artist Rae Dunn.

Rae Dunn paperweight reading 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'

Rae Dunn paperweight reading ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’

I can’t find the paperweight for sale (or I’d buy it like a shot). But never fear, because there’s tons of other WWF/EWM merch out there, as you can see…

Range of 'Ceramic paperweight reading 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'' merchandise

Range of ”Write without fear, edit without mercy’ merchandise on sale at Redbubble

For example, there’s this delightful floral mug. (Although I’m not sure those dainty salmon-pink roses really vibe with the ‘no mercy’ sentiment.)

Mug saying 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'

Mug saying ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’

Or do you fancy a ‘write without fear, edit without mercy’ tote bag? Apparently it’s ‘totes deluxe’!

Tote bag saying 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'

Tote bag saying ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’

Or how about this rather butch T-shirt? (The graphic reminds me of the old Run-DMC logo, if anyone remembers that.)

T-shirt saying 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'

T-shirt saying ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’

And if you want to drill my writing wisdom into your Year 10s, you can get a print-at-home classroom poster.

Classroom poster saying 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'

Classroom poster saying ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’

There’s even a face mask, for when you want to inspire all those other writers you meet in the queue at Costa.

Face mask saying 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'

Face mask saying ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’

The quote also floats around the tinterweb as one of those (potentially irritating) ‘quotes about writing’. For example, it gets posted on Twitter fairly regularly (by a surprising range of people!):

The quote turns up here as one of someone’s ‘little mantras about writing’, while this writing tutor apparently tells it to all the students on her course, which takes the phrase as its title. And according to this post, ‘There is a saying, “write without fear, edit without mercy”’. Hey mum, I did a saying!

Writing course entitled 'Write without fear, edit without mercy'

Writing course entitled ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’

Since I didn’t claim it myself, the quote sometimes gloms on to other people. For example, if you ask Google who said ‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’, it will reply that it was Rogena Mitchell-Jones, creator of this (blank) journal. (To be clear, I know this isn’t Rogena’s fault and I do not mind.)

'Write without fear, edit without mercy' misattributed

‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’ misattributed by Google

'Write without fear, edit without mercy' journal on Amazon

‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’ journal on Amazon

And here it is presented in a lovely poster design and attributed to Samantha Estoesta, who presumably saw it online and used it on a slide. (To reiterate: I fully understand how this happened and don’t mind.)

Finally, here’s Sandra Jeffs very courteously ascribing the quote to ‘unknown’ – as does Tom Wright in his Twitter bio. Now, at last, I unmask myself and declare: I am that unknown!

I could go on, but you get the idea. I’m deeply gratified that something I wrote has travelled so far, been quoted so many times and (apparently) inspired so many. I just wish a few more of them knew that it came from me…

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