To be a writer you need to hone your skill. This is indisputable. Regular writing habits will go further to helping you become better at your craft then any number of books, workshops, or silly exercises. To learn to write you must sit down and write. Writing every day is an extremely good habit to get into. Even if it’s not a lot; just a sentence or two. You don’t even have to stick to the same project. Can’t get anywhere in your novel? Write a silly poem about writer’s block.
But what about the exceptions? What about vacations, writer’s block, or just sheer lack of desire to string words together on a page?
Hang the rules! They’re more like guidelines, anyway.
Real writers write every day is possibly something you’ve heard before. Therefore, when you don’t write every day you think: “I’m not a real writer.” Or your think you’re lazy, or some other self-deprecating thought. You feel guilt over not living up to your craft. None of this is good, or productive.
Writing advice is available everywhere. It’s not hard to find out how to be a writer, according to a dozen different people. Often these methods or “rules” are contradictory to each other, sometimes even to themselves! So how do you decide what to do? How do you find your groove? Do you really have to sit down in front of a keyboard every single day?
The first rule of writing is that there are no rules. The minute you let someone tell you that you absolutely have to do something to be a “real” writer, you’re limiting yourself and your potential. The minute you let yourself believe that if you don’t write every day you’re a failure at what you do, then you are letting false expectations creep in and ruin your life. Writing every day is a very good habit to have. Most people probably have it. Plenty of people don’t. Most of the time you need to sit down in front of your keyboard and force words to come out. Sometimes what you need is to curl up in a miserable ball and binge-watch The Big Bang Theory for a week.
My sister is a classical violinist who despairs that she will never be as good as her idols. Her violin teacher has a very good come-back every time she declares that she’s giving up violin forever. He says: “Every violinist quits at least once a week.” She practices religiously; about four hours a day, seven days a week. Until the week she can’t take any more and decides to be a master chef instead. This resolution never lasts more than two days. She doesn’t own the violin–the violin owns her.
I am a “write every day” kind of person myself. But I haven’t written anything in about a week. Mostly it was because I was working and exhausted. And I’m kind of stuck and been lazy. But then I read Watchmen, and reread Watchmen, and spent a great deal of time weeping because I can never create a character like Rorschach so what’s the point of even trying any more?
And it’s okay to feel that way sometimes. It’s okay to read something so amazing that you just want to throw in the towel because you can never improve on it. The important thing is that eventually you recover from it. You realize that, okay, so you’ll never write that character. But that’s okay, because nobody else will ever be able to write your character. Your style and your experiences are unique, and there will always be one thing you’re better at than anyone else in the world–being you.
Are you a real writer? Only you can answer that question. If you have ever penned words on paper (or typed them on keyboard), if you have ever told stories in your head, if you have ever dreamed of making those stories known to the world then yes, you are a writer. It doesn’t matter if you write ever day or once a year. It doesn’t matter if you have twenty finished manuscripts or none. It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional or a hobbyist. If you love the art of putting black marks into a set sequence that has the power to make people think, or feel, or hope then yes, you are a writer, and no one has the power to take that away from you.
So go on reading how-to books and articles. Follow inspirational twitter accounts, and listen to the advice of professionals. But don’t be afraid to disagree with them. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. Don’t be afraid of great authors, or of your own potential for greatness.
Now it’s your turn
Do you write every day? Why or why not?
What “rules” from other writers have you struggled with recently?
What is the one thing you wish people would stop telling aspiring authors?