The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing

Seven Dadly Sins, Albi, FranceAs a Europhile and an admirer of medieval churches, I’m always drawn to the fire and brimstone depictions of the seven deadly sins.

I’ve been dragging my kids around with me since they were old enough to toddle across ancient floors, pointing out these fascinating frescoes that would explain to the poor parishioners of old – many of them illiterate, hence the instructive illustrations- the horrors that awaited them if they did not follow the path of the virtuous.

I see some of my (odd?) fascination has rubbed off on them. My sixth grader is studying Dante in his Italian literature class and he regales us with enthusiastic dinnertime stories of those poor souls doomed to the circles of hell. (Despite the gruesome dinnertime conversation, it’s still a welcome, literary alternative to dinnertime discussion of football/soccer matches).

Signorelli's Last Judgement, Orvieto

Okay, okay… I promise to write a more original book next time!

Did you know there are seven deadly sins for writers, too?

This list is brought to us by the fantastic Writer’s Digest  – so watch your step if you want to avoid crossing through the gates of hell with the famous inscription ‘Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate’ (Abandon all hope, ye who enter here)…

Among the list  is failure to read enough. We writers are so often caught up in our own projects that we forsake plenty of other activities – like films or television or even social occasions. But reading should never be on the list of what we cut back on to provide ourselves with enough writing time. Reading widely and frequently is how we can improve our craft.

Another of the so-called sins is writing the same book again and again. Okay, this may not really land you in the fiery cauldrons of hell, but I’ve found myself frustrated with authors I’ve enjoyed when I pick up a new book and realize it’s almost a carbon copy of an earlier work I’ve read by the same author.

And panstsers are bound to be thrilled – sticking too rigidly to an outline also makes the list…

So writers – beware! And happy (heavenly) writing.


  1. Catherine on May 30, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Failure to read enough is one of the cardinal sins I agree! I have abandoned TV and cinema (lightning helped with that) and have been reading much much more over the last year. It is so enriching and just makes you hungrier. It’s so good that your son is studying Dante!

    • kimberlysullivan on June 3, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Ooh, agree with you that getting rid of TV (by natural means or thanks to a thunderbolt : ) ) does wonders for increasing writing time. : ) Yes, fun for me to see the side-by-side text of the old and modern Italian in my son’s text. I’m a disaster at the Dante version of Italian… : )

  2. evelyneholingue on June 1, 2014 at 2:28 am

    I love making lists so I was naturally curious (not a deadly sin, right?) and I find this list funny (in some ways) and pretty accurate too. Must focus on more reading and less lazy days spent reading good blog posts!

    • kimberlysullivan on June 3, 2014 at 8:30 am

      I agree with you, Evelyne, and I, too, hope list-making isn’t one of them. But yes, reading widely is a good tip, sometimes we forget when we’re busy writing…

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