(Please note! This is a fictional list! Heinlein didn’t write five rules of business–see explanation below. You can find Heinlein’s actual five rules of writing here: www.sfwriter.com/ow05.htm.)

Robert A. Heinlein is one of my science fiction “mentors,” a writer I never met but whose works influenced me greatly as a reader and budding writer.

I didn’t always agree with the opinions in his books, and I wouldn’t say that he’s the only writer who influenced me this way, but he has taken a kind of position in my inner landscape, the role of calling out bullshit.

I’m a recovering Catholic, so I tend to think of those folks as saints, so sometimes he gets called “Saint Heinlein” when I’m writing smartassed journal entries, as in: “I’m facing a difficult situation with a client today and could use some perspective about all the drama. Saint Heinlein, pray for us.”

Recently, I did a journaling assignment where I’m supposed to be writing to one of the (dead) people I look up to, and write a letter where they give me their good advice. This was in no way a supernatural experience; I didn’t cough up ectoplasm or anything. It was just me, channeling my inner Heinlein.

Well, I hadn’t let my inner Heinlein out for a while, so instead of writing a letter of advice to myself, he proceeded to yell at me for trying to take it easy on the client (“What has he done for you lately? If a man’s acting like a wet blanket, he ought to be hung out to dry. Just because a man’s exchanged the coin of the land for your services doesn’t mean he deserves an ounce of your pity…not once he’s stopped paying you”), then decided to take over the rest of the journal entry to come up with the following (fictional!) list:

Heinlein’s Five Rules of Business

There are three types in business–four.

The first type is the fellow who owns the cow.

The second type is the cow.

The third type is worse off than the other two, and spends all day cleaning up manure without taking home the cream.

And the fourth type?

Is an “expert” who knows just what you “must” do with your cow…and will charge you an arm and a leg to tell you all about it.

If you happen to find yourself in a postition where you have a cow or two to milk, remember these rules:

  1. Don’t give the milk away for free.
  2. Milk the cow, don’t slaughter it–or sell it!
  3. Make sure the cat only gets the cream if it kills mice–no matter how nice it purrs.
  4. Every cow needs her fun if she’s going to produce. But watch the bull!
  5. Clean, contented cows always–always!–give the best milk.

Those people who call themselves writers are in a funny position, being both cow and farmer. Watch out for “experts” who just want to “help” your career–but never themselves made any milk!


Notes: I seem to remember Heinlein writing something about milking the cow rather than killing it at some point, but I can’t track it down anywhere.

Also, Heinlein was a bit of a sexist, and tended to think that most people were suckers who deserved what they got.

And finally, I tried to post this without trying to sell you something, but my inner Heinlein yelled at me again. So why not check out my new website, Writing-Craft.com? I’m studying marketing, SEO, and business currently, and that’s where most of my business posts are going to go, if you’re interested in that kind of thing. There’s not much there yet, but you can sign up for the newsletter to get notified when there is.