Pace Yourself As A Writer
Is it ok to not write everyday? Saturday I had family over (situation isn’t critical here), Sunday I was feeling sick and with a lot of headaches, Monday I had too much work and when I got home I just didn’t feel like writing. Yesterday I actually wrote, more than 3000 words. But today I left work later and went shopping. Had dinner while watching a tv show, took a shower. 10pm, didn’t feel like writing as my back really hurt & I was tired. I felt guilty for not writing as I had time. Is it ok?
PS. I’m really enjoying writing this story and I haven’t felt like it was this easy to write for a long time. I’ve been struggling to write, so now that I’m doing it and having fun and doing it daily, most of the time, I don’t want to burnout nor force myself to write when I don’t feel like it. I think that if I don’t particularly want to and force myself, I’ll stop enjoying writing it eventually
Yes it’s okay not to write everyday-- or not write as much everyday.
As a writer, if you don’t have a deadline or assignment, whether for school or work or publication, then writing is 100% voluntary. You might feel a compulsion to write, but it’s still a choice.
And I believe that if people are looking to have a writing career, then they should actively CHOOSE to write. And to be aware how hard it is, how tricky, how little the rewards often are, and decide for themselves whether or not they are willing to sacrifice what they must in order to write. Because make no doubt about it, writing is something you have to sacrifice for. Even if it’s just your time and energy, that’s a sacrifice. And if you feel that you don’t want to sacrifice your time and energy to write, then maybe writing is not what you want to do as more than a fun pastime whenever the mood hits you.
You can write without having a career in it, you know? You can enjoy it privately, or in fan fiction, or just for fun, with no grander goals than this one story, or whatever story you’re in the mood for. I mean I’ve been writing poetry for decades, and it never stopped me that I didn’t write regularly or publish much beyond that one year when I did a chapbook. I still find value in writing poetry, no matter what comes of it.
AND if you DO choose writing as a career or calling (because sometimes it’s more a calling than a career-- it’s hard to make a living, even when you succeed,) then you have to be aware that you’re in it for the long run. That means that you do not want to binge write every day, forever for the rest of your life. It is not sustainable.
Please remember that you are not only a writer, but also a person. You’re going to need time to be a person. To be with family. To work. To enjoy yourself. To be social. To get exercise. To be sick sometimes, or maybe all of the time if, like me, you have a chronic illness.
As a writer, you need to take your life into consideration when you plan to write. Build writing into your life, don’t make it your life. Because in order to write well you do actually need to live. Whatever that means to you.
Every writer has different needs. Some writers MUST write every day, to one degree or another. I think I might be one of them. But that doesn’t mean I write in my novel every day. There’s novelling, there’s journal writing, there’s poetry, there’s blog writing, there’s letter writing, there’s fanfic writing, there’s essay writing, there’s also social media writing. I’ve seen some instagram posts get very elaborate and be more like journals or essays. Do beware of twitter writing though. While it feeds the writing jones, it doesn’t seem to be very focused. Although, idk. Maybe it works for you to keep the fires burning.
But even when someone does prefer to write every day, sometimes there are going to be times when that’s not feasible, due to outside constraints or health or maybe a loss of inspiration or desire to write, even. It happens.
I have a theory that writing is not JUST putting words on the page. A lot of the time, as writers, we really need a fallow period, where we DON’T put words on the page. Where we accept that there’s a silence in the words, a kind of wintering over, where we have to retreat from productive writing and instead focus inward on ideas, on feelings, on HOLDING onto those ideas and letting them grow underground, to bring them to bloom later, when it’s time to write.
Sometimes that “writers block” isn’t a writer’s block, but just a signal from our subconscious that we need to take a break and maybe slow down the relentless progress of words so that the ideas can grow and deepen into something more substantial.
As I’m ghostwriting now, at a VERY fast pace, I do believe that writingwritingwriting without stopping to think leads to a shallower story. They can be FUN stories, but if you don’t stop to think about how it all fits together and maybe what it all means, then how can it really go deep? Sure you can push through to get that bingewriting wordcount... but does that mean you’re doing good writing?
So basically I’m saying not only is it OKAY to take a writing break, I’m saying that in some ways it may be NECESSARY. Even when I do bingewrite, I find I need to take a break after it... so like for nanowrimo or ghostwriting, I need downtime to rest and recuperate. If I’m not writing slowly (for me 1k a day) where I’m building rest time INTO my writing day, I need to take a break, sometimes days, sometimes weeks, sometimes MONTHS.
One caveat is that if you do take a long break from writing, it can often be very difficult to get back into writing again. You lose your writing muscles.
You might want to build some steps into your work habit that aren’t writing but share creative impulses, in order to either not lose your writing muscles or to work them up again after a break. Some of the non-novelling habits I mentioned before might help. Journal writing, poetry writing, writing about writing. But also note taking and research. Read books on writing or genre or storytelling. Watch shows that inspire your story. Read books to think about how other writers do it. Make maps and family trees and sketches of your characters or settings. Put your brain back in the story, even if you’re not writing. I like to start pinterest boards for all my novels/novellas. Sure it can feel like procrastination, but sometimes when I’m uninspired and not IN my story, I can go to the board and look at it and remember. Also it’s a good place to save research on, say, solo sailing, or how long it takes to get from the earth to mars at light speed or what the pacific north west coast looks like.
tl:dr yes it’s okay to take a break. you need to find a work habit and a writing schedule that is workable for YOU and you should build breaks into that, but don’t let it get away from you so that you stop writing all together.
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Wonderer, wanderer, warrior. Been around for a while. Got some stuff going on. Should probably get back to blogging. I mean....I didn't go away, I was just talking about science fiction for a while.