An Aspiring Writer's Blog Site

If I Don’t Write Everyday, How Serious Am I?

Beatbox and my friend Nate have recently posted about that old saying, “If you are serious about becoming a writer, you have to write everyday.”

I don’t write everyday. But you know what? I’m damn serious when it comes to writing.

I’ve never published a thing, so maybe it’s plain stupid of me to jump up on my e-soapbox and dare to contradict what is considered writer advice gold. After all, what do I know, really? But, I guess in the end, we have to all make our own path, for good or ill. Let me tell you a little about the one I’ve picked.

Like most of us out there, I write part time. I got work and I have family responsibilities. No, this isn’t going to be a sob story about how I don’t have time to write because of my obligations. In truth, I do have time. However, its little compared to the enormous amount of time it takes to be a good writer. We all know it takes a looooong time. We better use that time wisely.

I used to use that little precious time to write everyday. Too often I found myself writing just to hit my daily word quota. I’d keep clicking the word count: “How many more words do I got left? Gaawwd!”. I found the daily exercise wasn’t making me a better fiction writer. I was becoming a bean counter and though my writer’s journal was nice and full, I wasn’t producing works of fiction. Surely there’s a better way to focus the little time I got, I thought.

I think we are perhaps taking this often quoted advice too literally. I believe what we actually need to be doing is everything we can to become story-writing-machines. This does not necessarily equal writing everyday. It’s about planning and creating a strategy to create a finished product, it’s about proper time management, its about discipline, its about hitting our goals and objectives and—most of all—its about producing finished works of fiction. That’s really the bottom line isn’t it?

Let me give you a hypothetical. Let’s say I have an hour’s worth of time. I decide to sit down and write. Just like I’m supposed to. Yay me. I’ll be a writer in no-time. Ok, what should I write my story about?

Wait.

You mean you don’t have a plan? Maybe it would be better for you to sit down for that hour and make an outline so you don’t waste a full hour spinning your wheels.

Wait.

You don’t have an idea on what you want to write and can’t create an outline? Well, maybe it would better for you to spend time finding inspiration for what you are going to write about.

Wait.

You mean you finished a story a month ago and still haven’t gone back and finished the edits for it? Maybe it would be better for you to go spend that hour making those changes and get that story out the door and actually become what you want to be: published.

See what I mean? Writing every day just because you are supposed to can become counter productive. I think it is far better to stick to a disciplined process that makes you produce works of fiction.

You can’t put the cart in front of the horse. For everything there is a season. A place for everything and everything in its place, etc. etc.

All my opinion in the end, of course.  *Climbs off the soap box . . .*

WIP Update: I’m currently on my fourth short story since ceasing work on the Gideon Plan. I also resuscitated one I worked on about ten years ago. Three are in the queue to be critiqued by others. One is waiting one more pass before being critiqued. The fifth is, after today, in a rough draft stage. I’ve been crunching some numbers and according to my estimates I won’t have time to write any more new stories until the middle of December. I’ll soon be knee deep in corrections and second drafts for my first three stories. I wonder about that estimate (and hope its wrong, actually). We’ll see.

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21 responses

  1. FIRST! Okay. Now that that’s out of the way…

    September 26, 2012 at 5:36 pm

  2. I totally know where you’re coming from. While I don’t have children yet, I did work a full time job and wrote in my free time. And often enough, that free time was maybe an hour or two hours max. I can attest to the fact that it is very, very, difficult to produce finished works, especially novel length, on part time. I wrote my first manuscript, probably around the 60k range, over a year and a half, because that’s how long it took to actually get it written, including all the things I probably take for granted now, such as plot, characters, etc. I even spent tons of time at work (on the clock, I’m horrible I know) scribbling notes whenever I could. Little bits like dialogue, characters, plot points, whatever I could. When I wasn’t actually sitting in front of the keyboard writing, I was thinking about it. Which, according to Lawrence Block (wrote a book called Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, I highly recommend it) is part of the process. He calls it “creative procrastination”. Being a writer is not just pecking out the words, it’s also doing edits, research, and thinking, lots of thinking. In my opinion, you do what you can with the time you have. And when you don’t have time, procrastinate. Do what you need to do to keep things moving at your own pace. No one can tell you you’re not a writer just because you A: haven’t published or B: you aren’t currently able to write. Tell them to F off and keep going.

    September 26, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    • Well worded, Drew. Well worded. I’m going to have to write some about the ‘creative procrastination’ you mentioned. I’m ALWAYS thinking about my stories. Maybe to a fault. Heh. Thanks for swinging by, my friend!

      September 26, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    • I do lots of writing on the clock too. How do you deal with all those notes that you scribble at work? I;m trying to sort out a system but end up with half a dozen different things on the same piece of paper!

      September 27, 2012 at 2:29 am

      • I can’t speak for Drew, but when I write them down, I go home and put them where they belong. I have a story idea page, for instance. If its in the current WIP I put it where it belongs. If I’m not quite sure where it goes, I just do an approximation, write down my note and then bold it. As I work through the WIP, I’ll find it again and decide what to do with it.

        September 27, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      • Before I wound up writing full time, I would take them home and immediately write them on a note pad, or word document. Honestly though, I was never very organized at that point. Also, I would do a bit of what dan said: If I knew roughly where it would go in my WIP, I would just type it in there and deal with it when I arrived at that point.

        September 30, 2012 at 6:30 am

  3. Nobody else can decide whether you’re serious about something. Besides, I write every day – lesson plans, procedures, analyses – and I’m not a writer at all, so what does writing every day have to do with anything?

    September 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm

  4. beatbox32

    A well reasoned argument, Dan. Certainly made me think more about the ideas behind literally writing every day. You pinned it when you said it’s “about producing finished works of fiction.” One could spend years honing and developing the most beautiful writing in the world, but that matters little if it never makes its way to an audience that could appreciate it.

    Right now, writing every day seems to be of benefit to me. It’s energized my desire to write and has kept me focused on continuous improvement. I think its helped that I’ve tacked analysis onto actually producing text. I go over what I’ve written and see how I can improve it mechanically. I guess you could call it a mini-revision process.

    But every day, I feel the yearning to actually begin plotting, developing characters and researching short story and novel ideas. I’m now trying to make time to incorporate those aspects into the daily schedule. I imagine that on some days, I’ll be able to pull it off. Maybe even most days. But there will be times when I just need to pick my battles and think about what’s more important for me.

    September 26, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    • Thanks, Beatbox. Your post inspired me. I can appreciate the enjoying the writing part. I don’t want to suggest that little writing exercises like describing something, creating a character, and developing dialogue doesn’t help. It does, certainly, but eventually, you have to take that leap. All these things in themselves are fine, but just like creating that fantastic dinner dish, you eventually have to combine the different ingredients to create a meal. Write a story, my friend, try not to ignore that yearning you described. Write it, even if its crap. Then write another one, and another . . .

      September 26, 2012 at 7:47 pm

  5. I agree. I think writing every day doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down and physically writing. There’s so much else invloved like the planning, the editing, the research. Plus maintaing the social networks sites, which although they can take over are still an important part of interacting with others. I count my blog posts as writing time too.

    Plus, like Drew, I do sometimes drift off when I’m on the clock to work through a sticky plot issue.

    September 27, 2012 at 2:28 am

    • Looks like we can all agree, eh? Whew! I thought it was just me. Thanks for stopping by, Wicked!

      September 27, 2012 at 9:20 pm

  6. catherinelumb

    I know just what you mean: I thought I was failing at being a writer once upon a time, just because I didn’t write habitually every day.
    I’m fortunate that I work only part-time and spend the rest of my week resting and ‘creatively procrastinating’ and writing. However, I do have word goals to try and achieve – it hasn’t yet become bean counting for me though. Some days I do just sit down and punch out 500 words because it says I should on my schedule, but then I always feel much better for it afterwards because it feels productive…plus, I usually end up with more than my target because I get so into my writing. I’ve always found that first initial sentence the hardest: once I’m past it, I’m okay.
    But yes, in the end, producing a finished piece of fiction is my goal. Must write that in big letters and stick it on my notice board…so often I write, but then don’t finish…(so NOT a completer-finisher!)
    Great post Dan – keep going with the short stories: can’t wait to read them!
    Cat

    September 27, 2012 at 5:54 am

    • Yeah, everybody does it differently. The thing is to keep at it and produce finished products. That’s not easy, is it?

      September 27, 2012 at 9:25 pm

  7. This is very true. It’s about the quality, not quantity of writing. Besides, sometimes taking a step away for a day or two can do wonders for the creative process. You are more inspired once you sit down to write again.

    If you force it too much, sometimes even a passion can be become a chore.

    September 27, 2012 at 9:55 am

    • Exactly. And who wants to do more chores? ‘I spit on them.’ *Spits.* 🙂 I write because I love it, not because I have to.

      September 27, 2012 at 9:27 pm

  8. Great post, Dan! I agree that rigid “write every day” schemes can be counter-productive. I started my first fantasy novel with the ambitious goal of doing six pages every evening. I couldn’t keep it up, but did write over 200 pages in three months. So when it comes to just turning out the prose, the technique can work. Unfortunately, the hastily written book had a plot that was complete garbled nonsense. Without an outline and the time to consider where the story was going, I had lost control of what I was doing. Your suggestions about using writing time more wisely are right on the money.

    September 27, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    • Yeah, I did the same thing back in the day. I finished a whole novel, but it sucked. A lot of the difference between then and now is a smarter and more focused writing process. Thanks for swinging by, Thomas.

      September 27, 2012 at 9:29 pm

  9. I think there’s something to be said for bean counting. Well, maybe not bean counting, exactly. But goals are always a good thing, and I’ve never felt like I was struggling to get a certain amount. It’s better to set the goal low, and achieve it, than high and fail. Nothing breeds success like success, and the small successes build confidence. So, even setting a word count as low as 200, 500, or 1000, or whatever you can comfortably do with the twenty minutes or two hours you have to write, is another thing accomplished. I don’t count blogging towards my word count, only because my stories aren’t getting furthered by the padded amount of words I cram into a blog post. And also, I can’t sell a blog post 😛 Sometimes it does take a step away from the keyboard to clarify things. The subconscious needs time to iron out story ideas. I did that yesterday. I actually didn’t write at all, but instead talked about some plot points with my first editor (my wife, if you don’t have one of those, I highly recommend it :D) and it allowed me to solidify some details before I go into a second draft. Anyway, I’m done padding this reply. Back to work 😛

    September 30, 2012 at 6:39 am

    • Heh. Thanks, Drew. Yeah, reaching those little goals does help boost confidence, which is important. I agree with the whole success breeding success thing. Hitting your word count, if it is going towards your end goal of writing a piece of fiction, I would consider a good thing. I just think its important not to miss the forest for the trees. Thanks for swinging by! And now back to work for me too!

      September 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    • Oh. And the editor. Yeah, I need to get one of those. I really could use one. My wife, as much as I lover her, has little interest in my writing.

      September 30, 2012 at 1:07 pm

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