creative writing

Writing Tip: Write When You Can

Mountain scenery

“You must write every single day of your life…” – Ray Bradbury

“Write every day.” – bloggers all over the Internet

This statement drives me crazy. It makes the Top 5 on almost every list of advice for writers, and it’s unrealistic. It’s generally delivered with no context, and I think it can actually become discouraging to new authors if it isn’t qualified a bit.

Given that, I want to dole out some slightly different advice.

“Write whenever you can.”

Writing every day is an admirable goal, and it’s a wonderful brass ring to reach for. It ensures you stay focused and make time in your schedule to chip away at that essay or novel. However, I think some who might take it as a mandate could get down on themselves if they miss a day or two. If you’re anything like me, your daily life does everything it can to PREVENT you from having free time to sit and write.

That’s why I write whenever I can. Lunch breaks, commutes, rare quiet moments in the early morning and late evening. Little 15-30 minute chunks that add up over time. Career and family always trump “being an author” at this stage in my life, so I need to catch those elusive moments of downtime while they flow like sand through the proverbial hourglass.

If you miss a few days (or even weeks) in your routine, don’t be hard on yourself. It happens to everyone. The important part is that the desire to write exists. If that spark is there, it can always be rekindled. There are days when I have no time, or even when I am just feeling creatively bankrupt. However, I always know I’ll return to writing.

Speaking of, I think the expanded statement “Write even when you don’t want to. Every day.” is even more contentious. I make it a point to step away when I don’t feel good about writing, because I’ve tried “forcing it” enough times to know my output will be subpar and end up just being scrapped or revised anyway. That’s a personal style, but I’ve had other writers tell me they feel the same way. I’d rather take that time to read or do something else to become creatively re-charged.

Burnout is another potential issue, and coming off the heels of NanoWriMo I’m sure there’s plenty of new authors who never want to touch a keyboard again after the intense marathon through November. Again, writing every day is an admirable goal, but it shouldn’t be considered gospel. Your work will always be there when you get back to it.

Besides, Asimov was a better writer anyway…

Do you try to write every single day? If so, do you feel like it helps you as an author? Or do you work more like me and enjoy taking a break now-and-then?

2 thoughts on “Writing Tip: Write When You Can”

  1. Thank you! This was exactly what I needed. I agree with you, forcing yourself to write every day might not always be good. I’ve tried that, with very little success. I just can’t write when I don’t feel like writing. And there’s no need to make myself feel bad about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I tried it more than a few times, including using apps like “Write or Die” and other timers to hit word count. I ultimately found that while it’s beneficial to write consistently for practice and inertia, forcing myself into a daily word count really brought out my inner critic with the added pressure.

      Liked by 1 person

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