There are many rules promulgated for writers, in articles on developing one’s writing, in books on writing, and in writing classes and workshops. One of the most repeated is the idea that in order to make progress on a piece of writing, one must “write every day”. Some go so far as to recommend a minimum number of words to produce daily, and then go on to cite the number of words that this or that famous writer demanded of himself (interesting, one doesn’t hear about many women writers demanding minimum daily word counts).
I don’t know about you but I do not write every day. I do work–daily–on my writing, and rarely deviate from that habit. But “working on my writing” encompasses much more than the production of new material.
I revisit what I have already written, and I review, revise, and edit–typically endlessly–earlier work. I research markets to which to submit my work, and work through the time-consuming, despite its near universal digitalization, process of submitting manuscripts. I read, critically and with care, and seek out authors who not only intrigue and entertain me, but who move me to keep writing, whom I wish to emulate, or at least, learn from. I attend workshops, lectures, and discussion groups that stimulate my writing and advance my knowledge of our profession, and I cultivate relationships with other writers.
And I blog, and blogging, as those who blog come to know, done well chews up a good deal of time.
So no, I do not write daily, at least not on new material. Is this bad? Am I slowing my progress by not doing so?
I don’t think so.
In the first place, on a practical level, I find that if I push myself to write new material daily, I soon neglect other aspects of our craft that are integral to it, such as thoughtful revision, intelligent marketing, and connecting with others. I simply cannot do everything everyday, and must allot some days to one activity, and other days to others.
More important, I’ve found that if I push myself to produce new writing daily–that is, produce not what I call journal writing intended for my eyes only, but new fiction or poetry–I seem to dry up, to sputter to a stop, to wash ashore like a dulled shell on an empty beach.
I need to refresh and refill, it seems, at regular intervals. I need, as Julia Cameron states in The Artist’s Way, to replenish the well. This is, of course, if I am writing from my depths, working in concert with my unconscious mind, and not forcing, planning, or directing my stories. I need to allow time and experience to act on what is developing within, soon to surface onto the floor of the story.
And yet, there is sense in the adage to write daily. To push oneself to move forward, to work with the end in mind, to get the story out, on the page, before it becomes muddled or, worse, lost in the tasks of everyday life.
So how do we balance this?
For me, only by trial and error.
I have discovered that, despite my best efforts, I cannot allocate my writing tasks to set hours in the day, or one to a day or days, or to blocks of time. I can only form the intent to work on my writing daily, usually in the afternoon, without fail, and to move from one activity to the next, dictated by my energy, needs, and interest. And to trust that this process is right for me.
So far, it’s worked. Not perfectly, not like clockwork and, no, I don’t churn out draft after draft like widgets off a conveyer belt. But it’s worked.
(Photo mine; please do not use without permission)