Write sharply like a nail driven into a plank.
Write swiftly like wind blowing through a village plague.
Write quietly like coals burning inside the earth.
Write fiercely like a wounded lion on the brink of death.
Write cautiously like a train plowing through a foggy morning.
Write sensitively like a dragonfly before a storm.
Write pleasure all over the sand, then connect the dots.
Write sorrow on the water, let the waves do the carrying.
Write solitude onto a lantern, keeping vigil until the light burns out.
It’s possible to write briefly, but don’t skip verbs,
stagnancy will sink punctuation marks.
Write after dusk but not at dawn—
that’s when the ghosts return
after collecting more spirit money.
Write prolifically when drunk, though once sober, throw it all
into the river,
and try not to brag about your intoxications.
Write for the dead, but don’t invite the funeral band
because synthetic music suffocates the corpse.
It’s fine to write aimlessly, but don’t be careless.
Keep language in its solid state with a high melting point.
Write far below zero, like a winter day in Oymyakon.
Write sweating bullets, like summertime in Dallol.
Write in the style of the New York School or Prairie, both are cool,
but don’t dance around with a stick
thinking no one can see you.
Write hopelessly like waiting for the moon to fall on the roof and
break into pieces.
Write hopefully like when I waited for my wife to give birth
at Tu Du Hospital.
Write unforgettably like in Bangkok six years ago when I saw
a beautiful woman with twelve fingers.
Write mysteriously like all the long nights of my youth
listening to the symphony of the street merchants crying out.
Write handsomely, but pay no attention to symmetry.
Write gorgeously, but avoid cheap face powder.
Write in the middle of a crowd while standing alone,
a “Do Not Disturb” sign around your neck.
When the nameless are executed in the city’s square,
write their faces in blood, and never wash your hands—
not until freedom spreads like soap bubbles
from scrubbing history’s shameful spots.
Excerpted from Paper Bells, an upcoming collection by The Song Cave. Reprinted with permission by the publisher.