I know, I know: this goes against everything you’ve read online.
If there’s one thing we writers are good at, it’s beating ourselves up. Here are some of the clubs we use on ourselves (and each other):
- Don’t edit until the first draft is done (but we all do it anyway).
- Don’t use clichés (even though effective clichés exist for a good reason).
- Don’t use adverbs (even though our favorite writers all do).
- Don’t use anything other than “said,” or your writing will be distracting (they said).
- Don’t use “said,” or your writing will be boring (they warned).
- Write every day (or you’ll never be serious enough about this).
There are plenty more, but these are a few of the biggies. I confess I’ve wielded these like Aragorn whaling on orcs: desperately and without discrimination.
This year, however, has taught me an important fact: you do NOT have to write every day to be a writer.
The ideal reality would be writing every day.
It would involve the delicious beverage of your choice, a quiet morning with sunshine and birdsong (or rain, if that’s your thing), and a thousand words or so before the toast is even warm.
Reality tends to be sloppier. We’re rushed, and our jobs/families/health brook no time for playing. When we do sit down to write, we have nothing left; the day has sapped our strength.
And there are interruptions (how do they always know to when to call, just as the words start flowing?), fears rising from the swamp like zombies, weird computers crashes and other technical issues, and the inconvenience/gigantic terrifying mountain of learning to write well in the first place.
Writing ain’t easy, folks. It’s a true statement (which I heard most recently from Victoria Schwab) that if you can do anything other than writing and find your joy, do that instead.
Or, as Thomas Mann put it, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
The Good News
For those of us who need to write, there’s good news: you can still be a writer even if you can’t write every day.
Yes, it will take you longer. I already had to delay my next book because of real-life stuff, but that doesn’t mean I’ve quit.
Yes, you will face more opposition from people around you whose concept of writers only includes the idealized version. (“You never finish anything,” my well-meaning parental unit said. They were wrong, but it still hurts.)
Yes, you will have to fight the extra-nasty demons of fear, doubt, and worry. (“You can’t do it,” “You’ll never do it,” “It’s too late and you’ll never finish.”)
Yes, it means you’re going to need powerful self-discipline to use your time and energy wisely. (Six brain cells functioning at the end of the day? Maybe don’t catch up on The Blacklist. Write a paragraph instead.)
None of those challenges mean you won’t succeed.
You can do this.
When you can, write. Spend time reading, too. Fill your creative well.
And when you can, write.
The world will hit you with enough clubs without your invitation. Don’t add to the bruising.
When you can, write. Your writing life will never be ideal, and that’s okay. It won’t be for your characters, either. After all, dealing with the mess is what makes a great story.
So put the club down.
And when you can, write.