Why I Don’t Write Every Day

Calendar

 

by Phoebe Quinn

My Twitter timeline is awash with urging. Write every day. Even if it’s for ten minutes. Just write. Write well and often. And so on.

But, should you really be writing every day?

Getting the balance right between craft, routine, and chore is hard. We all struggle. As much as I dream of being a full-time writer, it’s more likely I will have to continue juggling it round work, socialising, and other (neglected) hobbies.

But I suck at committing to something once a day. I limped part way through one of those one-line-a-day journals–two, actually, because clearly I enjoy seeing myself fail–and tried, really tried to think of something each day to put. I would always have a day where I forgot or was too tired or was out, and once I missed a day it felt like–well, what’s the point now? May as well give up. My bullet journal has lain neglected for several weeks now, because it required my attention every day. Sometimes I pass out from exhaustion before I’ve even brushed my teeth, so I can’t even keep that up.

And, no, I don’t open up my Google Drive every night without fail, with that expectant marker blink-blink-blinking away where I last left off.

I probably should. The most common analogy is that writing is a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets. I’ve no doubt that’s true. But some of my best work has been done after days, maybe weeks, of drought or absence. Some of my worst was when I set myself a daily 1000 word-count goal (2000 at weekends); don’t even get me started on my abysmal NaNoWriMo efforts.

An everyday habit is overwhelming, and until I move and get a better job I just don’t have the time or energy to spare some evenings. I tried getting up earlier in the mornings, but all that’s done is highlight that I am a classic night owl while Boyfriend happens to be a lark. He springs out of bed at 6am and gets to work almost straight away. I starfish, face down on the pillows, until the last possible moment. It’s not that I won’t drag myself up, it’s that I physically can’t. (I’ve tried just about everything but if you have any tips I’m all ears.)

However…

When I’m not writing, I am thinking about it. Plotting out new stories, thinking of changes to my current draft, listening out for tidbits I can use later on. Maybe I’m planning a blog post or listening to a storytelling podcast. (Does buying new notebooks count?)

Which means I approach the keyboard with a little more purpose, a smidgen more excitement. The balance between craft, routine, and chore for me, personally, leans heavily in favour of craft. There’s not much structure to it, and I don’t feel downtrodden when I open up my work in progress. But when I am able to sit down to it–when the stars align and the world hasn’t been as soul-suckingly horrendous as before–it’s a pleasure. I don’t get to do it as often as I would maybe like or certainly should, but when I do it’s a treat.

Perhaps my ego is a wildly huge yet fragile thing, but sometimes it can be demoralising when I know other writers are able to go at it more often than I can. Not because I begrudge them any time, success, or drive they may have, but because it means I am lacking. I know I am capable of writing – not only that, but writing well – and the impotent rage from trying and failing to squeeze it in is beyond frustrating.

Now, though, I am thinking of it as more like a theatre production. The behind-the-scenes work takes up the most time: set design, learning the lines, blocking the scenes, testing the lighting. The rehearsals–gradually structuring your story and joining the dots, the terrible first drafts and edits we all loathe–are bitty, frequent things, repetitive but necessary components. The final production–finished drafts, the final edits–is a singular, spectacular goal, a culmination of everything else involved.

It’s a month today that I move, trading the city I have called home for five years for financial stability and being closer to my family. So at the moment, I’m doing a lot of work behind the curtain. Rehearsals have been placed on hold recently but are due to start again in earnest. All I need now is Freddie Mercury bursting into the room and singing The Show Must Go On. What could be more motivating than that?

If you are struggling to write every day, know that you’re not alone. It’s definitely worth aspiring to. But when things get in the way or you just can’t face it–that’s fine too, and you’re not any less of a writer for it. When you stop writing altogether, that’s when you stop being a writer.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Phoebe Quinn. Phoebe is a writer of fiction with a collection of short stories to be released in 2016.


226373498_dacf4f263f_bNeed help with your book or novel? Check out the Writer’s Toolbox, a list of free, discounted, and overall helpful links to tools and benefits to help you with what you do best: writing.


 

 

 

Advertisements

34 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Write Every Day”

  1. I agree entirely. It’s more productive to plan your writing, think about your writing, go to sleep with you WIP on your mind than sit and write nonsense just to be writing. As I writing teacher I used to tell students to write “I can’t think of anything to write.” until they could. DUMB! The mental background work makes the actual writing easier.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Although my goal is to write every week day, I mess up badly at it. I really like this article. Writers are diverse people. Some religiously follow routine and others are very sporadic and spontaneous. I think whatever works for you and moves you closer to your goals, whatever those goals may be.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have never been good with routine and writing is no exception. There are days I do nothing else and days I don’t go near my laptop. Stressing yourself out over someone else’s rules takes all the fun out of writing. Be good to yourself. Write when you feel like it :0

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I rather enjoyed this article.

    I’d like to write every day, but looking after my child and working a 50hr a week (min) job makes that a pipedream. I also have a twitter feed awash with tweets telling me to write every day; I don’t think that tweet counts.

    I started writing frequently at the beginning of 2014 (had some misfires before that), and I think that finishing a 230,000 word story and a 30,000 word short story is fairly good going given the free time I’ve had (and I’ve several other stories in note form waiting for some time to come my way). The good thing about not being able to write every day is that it psyches me up for the days I do get time. I don’t think I would feel quite the same if I could write every day and time was not an factor.

    Like

  5. I used to buy into the “you must write every single day” notion until I hit a severe bought of burnout. I was so wiped out that I could barely talk straight for a week. It took me a full month before I could come up with anything creative.

    Once I gave myself permission to take days off from writing, I increased my word count and got a lot more creative. I am now a firm believer in the importance of taking days off to recharge.

    By the way, I’m so glad I’m not the only person who’s fallen asleep before I brushed my teeth at night! Sometimes the day takes too much of a toll on me, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Extremely pertinent article coming at a key point in my writing journey. I think it is important to write regularly but it should never turn into a chore as that is when creativity suffers. Every author has to work on developing their own routine in order to be productive. That is precisely what I’m experimenting with now. My starting point will be to commit one hour each workday and collect data to analyze which time block is most productive for me. I have targeted a mid-morning block to start with and will track each day’s progress. Then I will try a mid-afternoon block and an evening block. Once, I have all of this data and analyze it, I can then structure my day accordingly to maximize my time and effort. I also recognize, and you captured this in this article, that there is more to being a writer than just writing. There is the prep work which is very critical toward capturing the essence of each story. As writers, we should never de-value that step.

    Like

    1. Yeah I do this too. I used to aim for 1k per day but ended up obsessing over watching the word count go up until I hit my goal. Now I just allocate an hour block per day on weekdays and take the weekend off. Some days I hit 3k, others just one line! All I know is I get that relief I’ve done something, and I’m X words nearer my WIP being done.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m with this as well, even as I take part in Story A Day. I’ve been especially busy recently and I usually only get to sit down on the laptop around 6-7pm, even though I’m still exhausted. I even forgot to write today’s short story. Seems I don’t have the stamina I did when I took part in May 2015, as I’m already running low on ideas for this month. I guess it wasn’t such a good idea to put myself into the deep end after months and months of not really writing…

    Like

  8. So much of this post resonated with me. Whenever someone asks me if I write every day, I say “No, but I think about what I’m working on every day.” Every part of it — thinking through the next scenes, listening to/watching writing/book-related things, READING — ALL of it is an equally important part of the process to me. But I’ve struggled with the “sometimes not feeling like a ‘real’ writer b/c everyone says ‘Write every single day!'” thing. Your last paragraph was super encouraging. In fact, the whole post was. Thank you! ^___^

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve always thought that “write every day” includes all that prep work that goes into writing. It’s not necessarily the physical act of writing/typing that is important. It’s to always be creating. To always be working on the craft, whether that be planning or writing itself.

    One of the reasons I carry several small notebooks everywhere that I go. Although I have been mostly successful over the past two and a half months of writing my dream blog every day. That has to mean something, right?

    Probably means I’m crazy, but anyway…

    Like

  10. Writing is really a personal exercise and so it is only natural to expect people to approach it differently. Similar to how we all learn differently, some are visual learners, while others are tactile, etc. So, too, some writers prefer to write daily while some are more spontaneous. I wrote a lot of stuff for a certain period and then I took 6+ year pause. I simply stopped writing because I enjoyed reading more. There was always a struggle abd when i told myself to relax and juat enjoy reading, i felt pressure leave me and i didn’t feel like i had to write at all so i read. But ideas continue popping in my head and i wrote them down. Then one day I felt inspired to write a small book so I wrote ferociously every day because I was inspired to finish and it just flowed because the idea had been brewing in my head and it was ready to be poured out.

    Like

  11. Here’s the thing about that “writing is a muscle and should be exercised everyday” analogy: Muscles don’t always work that way. Sports people are advised to rest for a day or two before a big event to make sure that their muscles are in the best condition to do the best job. They don’t just exercise, they also have to manage their diet, they also have massage therapists and countless other things. Writing is just as diverse. To me, it’s not about writing every single day, it’s about knowing when to rest and when to massage my writing skills without actually using them (read ‘daydreaming’; ‘plotting’; ‘reading’ etc.).

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Story is a resource. You can’t write every day if you don’t have enough resources. I tell myself I should write every day, but I know that I’d much rather save up – let the story form in my mind, so that when I do start writing, it’s all there. So I tend to at least write notes every day, but the writing of the story is more of a big release after a while of build-up.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. “The most common analogy is that writing is a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets.”

    I hear this analogy all the time, too. I also hear it literally, in terms of physical fitness. The thing is, some people CANNOT exercise every single day. I’m one of them. I have fibromylagia, a neurological condition that causes spasms in the blood vessels of the extremities, resulting in the body being unable to remove fatigue toxins properly. If I try to exercise every single day, I’ll be okay for a while — maybe a couple of weeks — before the pain in my muscles becomes so severe that I can barely walk or hold a book in my hands. If I continue to push past that point, I could cripple myself. (When I was in my late 20s/early 30s, I walked with a cane. I don’t anymore, but ONLY because I’ve learned not to push my body to do things it can’t do, and because I have stopped listening to people who insist that lots and lots of exercise, every day, without fail, will cure me. It’s easy for someone to give “advice” when they don’t have to live with the consequences, should that advice prove to be bad.)

    So, folding the analogy back on itself… The creative part of the brain needs to rest. It needs a chance to take in interesting ideas and images, and to process/integrate them, in order to use them for creating new ideas. Did you know that some studies have shown just THINKING about physical exercise can have a positive effect on the body? Likewise, serious thinking about a story is a legitimate part of the writing process — planning need not be in the form of a literal outline, etc.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Thank you for this! Nearly every creative endeavor has its “you must do this every day!” scolds on the internet these days. It can be demoralizing to read them. It’s good to know there are others for whom that advice doesn’t reaonate, who still do creative work.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for the post. I think there is far too much ‘you should’ stuff going on to make us writers feel inadequate when we can’t manage it all – that we’re not doing our utmost. And all this advice makes me angry. I agree there is work going on when we’re not writing that takes you to the laptop more prepared to take our work in progress further. If wiritng stops being enjoyable because of all these ‘shoulds’, then what’s the point?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s