Lots of famous writers have uttered words of advice about the importance of writing every day. But I don’t really write every day. I might get close to that when I’m in the thick of a book draft or other large project. I do have “writing time” in my regular weekday schedule; sometimes, however, researching and pitching and interviewing take precedence during that time. And I try to keep my weekends free-ish when I can. At the moment, I guess I do write almost every week day, if only in this space. But my time has been far better used in service to gearing up for promoting my two forthcoming books. I’m obsessing into the night and weekends way more about scheduling events than I am about stringing sentences together.
Here’s what I like about not writing every day: I have attention-span issues, which is hilarious for a person who writes books, but true nonetheless. The best way for me to get excited about long-distance running again, which I ostensibly love, is to stop for a bit. My motivation to run for miles explodes in the spring when the weather thaws enough for me to get outside for long stretches regularly. The same is true of writing for me. Sometimes I need a break. That’s just the way I am.
I think rules, like “write every day,” are good when we’re worried we’ll fall off some sort of wagon we want to be on. I’m doing a post-holiday “cleanse” this month in which I’m paying particular attention to what I eat and how much, and not drinking. I’m doing this to reset my body a bit so that I can detox from the holidays and get back into good habits. I won’t monitor my every meal forever; just for a month or so. The same goes for writing — if you feel you’re in danger of not finishing a project, by all means, write every day, even on weekends. Keep the “momentum” going. But I don’t think you need to as long as you’re confident in your drive to get back to the wordsmithing as often as is necessary for your goals.
Writers Digest suggested a weekly word-count goal to supplant the daily goal. That’s one good alternative. Julia Cameron’s vaunted The Artist’s Way suggests daily “morning pages,” which are essentially journaling the minute you awake — this can be a great tool for finding material, solutions to problems, etc., and is more of a meditation or a mining of the subconscious, as far as I’m concerned than “writing” as we’re discussing it. (As in, writing for publication.) Author Jeff Goins suggests that just 30 minutes a day will do the trick, and will give those just starting out the confidence to call themselves “writers.” I agree with this, too. Practice also happens to make perfect. I feel far more strongly about practicing the guitar most days than I do about writing most days. This may be because I am (hopefully) much better at writing now than I am at guitar.
All of this might stem from my humble beginnings as a daily newspaper reporter. For the first five years of my career, I wrote three or four stories a day at publications such as the Daily Pilot and The Press-Enterprise. I think I hit my lifetime word quota in those few years, so perhaps I’m less inclined to grind it out for the sake of grinding now. Incidentally, I also don’t believe in writers’ block, likely for the same reason: When you sit down at a keyboard, calling yourself a writer, you write. End of story. If you have nothing to say, why do you want to be a writer?
There is only one thing that makes one a writer, and that is writing. Whether it’s every day or not doesn’t matter.