“Write every day”, they said.
“Butt in chair”, they proclaimed.
Write, write, and write some more.
“If you want to be a better writer you must create a daily ritual.”
“Make writing your job.”
I’m not exactly sure how many different ways I’ve heard the same advice – which boils down to, “If you want to be a writer, you must write every day.”
I didn’t believe it.
I Call BS!
Writing is a creative process, I said. You can’t force creativity.
I write when the story is in me.
Those writers don’t have a life, I thought. It’s impossible to write every day.
I proclaimed my contrary advice proudly and I wrote very little. I wrote when I had time and was feeling creative. And guess what…
I didn’t write very often because seriously, how often do the stars align and allow you to spend hours bowing to your creative muse? If you’re a parent with a job and a life then the answer is once a month if you’re lucky.
So after reading the same old advice for the billionth time, I believe it was Stephen King this time, I decided that the only way to learn is to try a new approache because there was one thing I knew for sure, not much was happening for me. I just wasn’t as far along with my book as I thought I would be or should be.
My Not So Original Brainchild
I decided to launch a 500 words a day campaign. 500 words seemed doable and it would add up quickly enough that I would feel productive. Each day after my first pot of coffee, I really need to cut back on the stuff, I’d sit down with a notebook and a pencil. I’d write 500 words. Some days it was easy and I’d go over the word count. Other days I struggled to write 200 but I forged on. The words, and the notebooks, stacked up.
My “Oh Yeah” Moment
The productivity was lovely, but I learned something valuable – or perhaps I simply remembered it – skill comes with regular and consistent practice.
Duh. I knew that.
I tell that to my children when they’re struggling with a new skill or subject. If you want to get better at something, including writing, you have to work at it and you have to work at it every day. They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill and while I’m not sure anyone can “master” creative writing, you can master the process, but it takes commitment and dedication.
Writing every day helps you master the process. I have to admit that it also makes it much easier to tell a good story. The characters and their challenges are constantly fresh in your mind. They stay with you during the day and visit your dreams at night.
I was wrong.
There is tremendous power and wisdom in that advice – you certainly don’t HAVE to write every day. You can follow your muse and write when it feels good to write. However, if you’re serious about writing and storytelling is your passion then by all means give that passion the attention that it deserves.
And if you don’t believe me, because I wouldn’t have believed me six months ago, then conduct your own personal writing challenge. Set a daily writing goal that you know you can achieve and evaluate the process. You may be surprised with the results.