And lo, there is another writer on a fairly well-trafficked site who has chosen to pull down their trousers and show the internet their ass in an effort to give new writers a complex about if they’re doing it “right.” Because if you don’t write every day, you’re not a real writer, apparently.
Well, as someone who is a real writer by this arbitrary standard of egoist nonsense, I say bullshit.
There’s a lot of discussion about why this advice isn’t feasible for a lot of people, which includes points about working, mental health, energy, disability, etc. There’s also the very valid reason that it just doesn’t work for me. And that’s also okay.
I think in the past, I might have handed this shitgem out myself. And for that, I am deeply sorry. I’ve grown up a lot since then and made friends with a lot of other writers, which has taught me the much more useful fact that there is no one correct way to do this. There’s only the way that you figure out how to best squeeze your brain for word juice, and then dribble the word juice on the page in the right squiggles to make it a story that you feel sufficiently okay for having written.
I know I used to hand that out as gospel because that’s how it was handed down to me, and it’s something that’s actually worked for me. And when you’re a newbie trying desperately to pretend you’re a Real Writer(TM) (because you haven’t realized that you are already a Real Writer and there is no Pope of Writing who canonizes you) you want to pretend like you know what you’re doing–or worse, you assume that you do know what you’re doing, and you’ve found the mystical Right Way, and that will show you’ve got it all figured out. And you may have figured it out for yourself, but lack the self awareness to realize that this is only for yourself.
There isn’t a One True Way of writing. It would be a lot easier to be a writer if there was, and you could just learn it from listening to other writers pontificate. But the fact of the matter is, the only One True Way is whatever works for you to get words from your brain meat onto the page, and you’re going to spend a lot of time figuring that out. It takes a lot of try/fail cycles to build a unique process. And the process will probably evolve over time as you evolve as a person and as a writer, and as your life and circumstances change. I know from many a pantser versus plotter discussion that the line between the two is actually a very thin, permeable membrane. Because people will do what works for them at the time.
Writing advice is best when offered as “this works for me” so it can be taken with a sufficient grain of salt. And it’s not at all bad to ask other people about how they write. It’s a way to get ideas on how to work that you can try for yourself, and you might end up with a new gear to slot into your writing machine that will make things run more smoothly. Or you find your writing machine now makes a horrible grinding noise and just shits out rotten world salad, and you better take that gear back out and toss it.
So I mentioned that I’m someone who writes every day. It is a thing that has worked for me. And I want to explain the what and why, in case there’s anything useful to be taken from it.
The reason I write every day is out of fear. I went a really long time in my early twenties when I stopped writing entirely. And when I got started again, it was in fits and starts and had long gaps. And it wasn’t because I didn’t have the ideas, but because it was easy to have other things to do. I had a lot of mental inertia working against me. I started writing again in earnest because of NaNoWriMo (which isn’t the greatest how-to model, but if you can gain useful ideas from it, then it’s worth it) and I learned that I could write long things again if I just fucking wrote them and didn’t stop. If I got inertia working in the other direction, got myself in motion, and stayed in motion.
So that’s why I write every day. It’s not work ethic, it’s fear. I’m absolutely terrified that if I stop, I won’t get started again. If you do not have this problem, I am very glad for you.
The other thing about writing every day is that it’s all in how you define the writing. And it’s not cheating, thank you, because this isn’t a contest and you make your own rules for this mental game you play against yourself. I don’t write new words on a rough draft every day. Sometimes I write non-fiction stuff I owe. Sometimes I just write blog posts about shit I want to write about, like movies. Sometimes I edit. Sometimes, drunk on alcohol or lack of sleep, I put down 300 words of utter, random shit that I will delete in the morning, and then crawl off to bed.
At least for me, writing every day isn’t some kind of holy charge, it’s a bunch of smoke and mirrors I employ to trick myself into writing.
If you can pull anything useful out of that, great. If not, also great. Do what works for you, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not a Real Writer. All they’re proving is that they’re a Real Asshole.