One piece of advice directed towards aspiring writers that drives me nuts is; “write every day.” If you’re a writer who follows other writers, you can’t escape Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest without seeing those lovely inspirational quotes and memes that are constantly touting this same sentiment over and over again. I know many people are going to disagree with me on this, but this is why I think “write every day” is bullshit.
I do get why “write every day” is good advice for some. It’s the idea that even if you only write a sentence or two, or even if what you write is terrible, that tiny exercise will help to keep you in the writer’s mindset. If you just keep at, even if it’s the most minimal of effort, eventually it’ll be easier for you to leap into doing much more because you’ll have already set yourself up with a habit of writing anyway. It’s a way to train yourself to make writing a regular routine, and I don’t deny that it can be beneficial for some people. My problem, and why I’m so cynical, is with the oversaturation of this advice, to the point where some are literally saying things like “a REAL writer writes every day.” They convey an attitude that those who adhere to this practice are somehow better, or more legitimate writers, than those who choose not to follow this advice.
Before I delve into my issues with this advice, we should first establish what counts as writing. Some people interpret this advice to mean anything literally; an email, a social media post, a text, a grocery list you stick to your refrigerator with a cheap magnet in the shape of a cowboy boot that you picked up while on vacation in Vegas. Others take this advice as meaning that you should work on your current work in progress or do some short writing exercises to help hone your writing skills. Whether that’s a poem, short story, blog, or a novel, etc., my personal interpretation is the latter. For the sake of my proceeding arguments, let’s assume the advice means to progress in one’s WIP, even if only a small amount.
My first argument, and probably the most obvious one, is that that is simply unrealistic. Now, before you go off on, “Well, so-n-so does it, so everyone can.” Let me take a moment to express that I’m sure there are a small amount of super dedicated people who manage to whip themselves until they put at least a few words on a page every day. But, let’s be real, even among established, dedicated, and published authors, that kind of discipline, is rare.
I know some eat, sleep, and breathe writing, and for many, it’s more than just a vocation or a hobby, it’s a calling, but the reality is that the rest of the world does not wait just because you need to write. People can get bogged down with all kinds of tedious things in life that can come between them and their writing; work, school, family life, lack of resources, unstable living conditions, physical health, mental health, and even severe writer’s block. Looking down on someone and saying, “you’re not a real writer,” because they had to take a break from their writing to deal with other things going on in their lives is unfair. Don’t writers struggle with enough problems in life without us criticizing each other for our writing habits?
Now, don’t get me wrong. If you come home tired after a long day of work, or maybe your home life isn’t so great, and you still manage to force yourself to write at least a little bit before the day is through, that is something to be admired. If that is your level of dedication, then you have my respect. Some people try to squirrel away a little writing time on their work breaks or while riding public transportation. Hell, I’m sure people even try to write while on the can. That’s great if that works for you, but some people can’t write in little snippets, they need to sit down and be fully immersed to produce work that meets their personal standards, and that’s okay too. You are no more or less of a writer than anyone else for being able to flourish better under one environment than the other creatively.
My next argument brings me to the realities of what it takes to be a writer in the modern world. Haven’t started yet? Maybe you’re still in the researching or plot outlining phase. Maybe you brainstorm best by taking long walks. Maybe you’re trying to be published. You might spend a significant amount of your day researching agents, writing query letters, or editing. Maybe you’re a published author (self-published or traditionally). You might spend your day marketing, going to book signings, or working on promotions and giveaways. You might do things to help get your name out as a writer, such as using social media, managing a blog, or doing reviews. Here’s a shocker – all that takes time! Lots of it! But all that work is meant to further yourself as a writer; it’s not time wasted. And, yeah, sometimes you get so busy or caught up with those things, the actual part where you just get to sit down and write can often get put on the backburner. Many writers have to be editors, marketers, promoters, social-media managers, vloggers/bloggers, cover designers, publishers, and more. It’d be nice if most of us could just afford to sit back and write and do nothing else, but the thing about writing is a WHOLE lot more goes into being a writer than just the writing part. So don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day of actual writing, but you’ve used that time, instead, to work on things that ultimately do still help you as a writer.
I don’t deny that finding time to write is important. If you love writing, if it’s truly a passion for you, make time as much as you can, but please don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day or two…or even a few years or a decade. Life is complicated, and inspiration can be fleeting sometimes. We all need to approach our creative endeavors in a way that works best for us, whether that’s being highly disciplined, or working on a whim, do what feels right and what works best for you.