It’s okay to NOT



Seriously. It really is perfectly okay if you don’t write every day of the year. It’s also perfectly okay if you do.

Stephen King writes 2000 words daily and I think that is an admirable goal, especially if it keeps you in the habit of writing. But the idea that you’re not a real writer (is this like a fake geek girl thing? I dunno…) unless you sit in a chair every day and hammer out 500 – 1000 words is a very limited way of looking at creativity.

And not everyone can manage it. It’s very easy to say, “oh if you really want to write, you’ll find time,” but I challenge you to be a parent (specifically the full time care-giver, as many relationships are not equal in the amount of child-care each parent provides) and have a job, and have a house to maintain, and a life to live, perhaps elderly parents to look after, and then still have the energy to sit down and carve out an hour of writing time every single day. It’s simply not always feasible for everyone.

And so you feel guilty, and you hate yourself, and you’re not a real writer because the internet told you so.

Fuck the internet. Fuck writers on the internet. Fuck well-meaning people on the internet who tell you how you personally should manage your creativity and time when they know nothing about your life.

What you need to do is find a writing routine that works for you, and for the book/project you are working on right now (each project can call for a different approach, don’t feel if one doesn’t work, you’re useless – pick another.) And not-writing is part of writing. It is idea-composting, it is real-life research, it is filling up your life with the fun stuff that make writing flow better because it’s informed and your brain is in a good place. Never feel guilty for recharging.

If you do feel you need daily writing to keep you on track, then my suggestion is to carve out your time in 15 minutes, rather than trying to find a whole hour to work in. (Unless of course you can, in which case enjoy that hour, :D)

One thing I’ve found that works for me is to set myself 15 minute word sprints. I set a timer, I open my Square Brackets of Absolution, and I write until the buzzer goes off. Sometimes I have a fairly good idea of what I need, and then it’s easy to get into it. Sometimes I need to write crap because that’s all I have. It’s okay to write crap. You gotta edit something, and it’s easier to fix crap than fix nothing.

Bam. 15 minutes = words. If you can squeeze in a few more sessions, that’s golden, but if you can’t, you can’t. It’s okay. You’re still a writer.

If you’re still telling yourself you need to be Stephen King, bear this in mind: I remember many years back watching a program about various Scottish people, in which Iain M. Banks made an appearance. Now I may be misremembering, but when they asked about his writing habits, he said he only wrote for six months*, and used the other half of the year to recharge/plan out works. Considering Excession is still one of my favourites, I’m happy to be a Banks rather than a King.

Find the place and pace and time that makes writing happen for you, and forget about what other people say is the right way to go about writing.




*eta: it’s been pointed out to me that Banks might have written for only 3-4 months out of the year, so there you go. If anyone knows what doccie I saw and remembers correctly, please let me know.

eta2: Thank you DJ Cockburn for providing me with some Iain M. Banks linkage. This is great.

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2 Replies to “It’s okay to NOT”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with this. It’s all very well talking about making writing the number one priority when it pays enough to be a full time job, but it’s just not practical for the rest of us.

    I’m deeply suspicious of writers who say they do so many words every day because it begs the question of when they edit. I spend much longer editing a piece than I do writing the first draft, but I couldn’t put a word count on that because it’s not how editing works. If ‘2000 words per day’ really means ‘2000 words per day while writing the first draft’, it’s not quite the same as writing every day. If anyone can explain what it really means, I’d be grateful.

    I’ve heard Iain Banks discuss the annual routine you described in a few interviews. This article covers it as well as any I’ve seen:

    1. Yep, writing and revising are two different beasties, with rewriting and editing hard to quantify simply with wordcounts. Thanks for the link, I’ll add it in 😀

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