by Kate M. Colby
In this new series, I want to explore some of the classic writing advice given to authors and provide my opinions on any experiences with them. I don’t do this because I think I’m some brilliant writing authority – far from it. Rather, I’ve learned the most valuable writing lesson of all, one that you’ve probably heard, but that takes a long time to sink in:
There is no magic secret to writing. You just do it, and every writer does it differently.
BUT, even if you (logically) know this to be true, chances are you’ve Googled anyway (don’t be embarrassed – I still do it, too!). In those well-meaning search results, you’ve likely seen the golden nugget of writing advice: write every day.
A literal interpretation demands that you type/hand write/dictate new words every single day.
In theory, this is great advice. After all, even if you just write 250 words a day, over the course of a year that’s 91,250 words (about the length of my first novel).
If you are a beginning writer – without a finished manuscript – then I 100% agree with this advice. Your No. 1 priority should be practicing your craft and generating content. In fact, why don’t you go bang out your 250 words right now? It’ll be more useful to you than reading this post.
Now, what about us non-beginners? Those of us who have a completed book (or several)? Here’s where I start to disagree with “Write every day.”
I don’t know about you, but as a human, I have a demanding day job, a husband and cat, an active social life, and an apartment to upkeep. Finding time to type out those words can be really damn difficult. In any given day, I have between 45 minutes and 2.5 hours free to work on my author business.
And as an independent author, I mean B–capital IZ–ness. There’s a lot to do. I’m currently editing my second novel, plus writing and publishing a series of nonfiction booklets. Add in this blog, my author newsletter, social media, organizing promotional opportunities, emailing my cover designer … you get the point. There’s a lot of shit to do (I say “shit” lovingly – being an author really is the best job in the world to me).
So, can I find time to write every day? Yes. And you can, too. If you really simplify your schedule and overcome your laziness, you can write every single day. And we absolutely should. Every word we write makes us better.
But do you HAVE to write every single day to be a successful author? I don’t think so. As long as you are editing, revising, writing your book description, or in some way putting art into the world and moving your project forward, then I say that’s A-O-K.
It all depends on your definition of success. When I defined success as writing new words every day, I considered myself a failure. Even while I was revising my first novel for publication, I kept saying, “Damn it, Kate! We have to start writing a new book! We suck!” I was blind to the fact that I WAS succeeding, because my end goal is publishing the fiction I write.
If your goal is to write for betterment or to finish that first manuscript, then please write every day. No exceptions. No excuses.
But if you have a finished book sitting on your hard drive, your goal is to publish said book, and you have very limited free time, for the love of Hemingway give yourself a break and do this instead: Move forward every day.
Editing counts. Revising counts. Outlining counts. Writing that dreaded book description counts.
The only thing that doesn’t count? Ignoring your book and denying the world your art.
There you have them, your marching orders. Now go move forward today.
Guest post contributed by Kate M. Colby. Kate is a writer of multi-genre fiction and creative nonfiction as well as a writing-craft blogger. Kate graduated summa cum laude from Baker University with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology.