I’m in line at a book signing with my writing pal, Mary. When it’s our turn, Mary asks the author a question he must have answered a million times. “Do you write every day?”
He doesn’t hesitate, “Yes.”
What were we expecting? The general consensus on the subject seems to be that writers should write every day. I think we were looking for a way out of it.
In her book, Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brand suggests giving yourself an absolute, non-negotiable 15 minutes a day to start. She then states, in unequivocal terms,”If you fail repeatedly at this exercise, give up writing.” Ouch. She goes on to explain that, for those people, their resistance is actually greater than their desire to write.
I know I would pass the test. I know I would. My desire to write is definitely greater than my resistance. Look, I churn out this blog every week — no excuses. So why is committing to a daily practice such a struggle?
Well for starters, Dorothea Brand is not in my living room. Sure, I get up way before the sun every day with the intention of writing. And most days I do. But some mornings I just return emails. So no, I’m sure I’m not writing every single day.
See, there’s no one hanging over me, waiting for my daily allotment of words to be produced. It does help greatly to be held accountable. Hence, the successful regularity of this blog.
Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. Anthony Trollope, one of the most prolific English novelists of the Victorian era, wrote three hours a day, every day. Jack London wrote 16-18 hours a day and produced 50 books in 16 years. He also killed himself at the age of forty.
I prefer to hear about Judith Viorst who writes for children and adults by setting a goal of a page a day. She can get ahead, but never fall behind. So when she’s cranking out pages, she can take a few days off. I’m spending all day Friday writing this so I can take the rest of the weekend off for a visiting friend. I think this kind of on again, off again affair with writing worked for Hemingway. You hear about his writing for three to four hours every day, but in his letters he mentions easing off those months when the fishing was good.
And if you’re a writer not writing, prepare to pay in guilt. Gloria Steinem said, “Writing is the only thing that … when I’m doing it, I don’t feel that I should be doing something else instead.”
My writing coach encourages us to write every day. She gave us a nice quote by somebody I can’t remember and whose words I’m paraphrasing, but it went something like this. If someone told you that inspiration (spirit, muse, an angel) was going to show up near your house on a rock at ten o’clock, wouldn’t you go to that rock every day and wait?
I would. And so, I’ll keep heading to my desk long before I hear the first seagull outside. I’ll continue to set my alarm even though sometimes, I confess, I go back to sleep. Keep striving for the solution that works for you. Remember, if your desire outweighs your resistance, you’re a writer. You’ll find a way. Just don’t give up.