Finding Writing Time: Must We Write Every Day?

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True or false? If you’re not writing every day, you’re not a writer.

I grapple with this question. I’m nearly at an artificial milestone in my life (turning 40) and yet I still haven’t published my novel and I’m struggling big time with finding writing time.

Was I wrong all these years? I’ve identified myself as a writer, a storyteller, since I was five years old and stitched together my first book with a string of yarn. (It was about a giant with ears the size of pancakes—that’s all I remember.) It always gave me such joy. What happened?

Doing Life.

So yeah. I struggle. I admit it. Fiction writing has always been my passion, my dream, my affliction, my curse. If people ask me where I’d like to see myself in 10 or 20 years, I still tell them that my goal is to live the life of a published author, someone who can afford to sit down at his desk every day and focus solely on writing stories.

finding writing time

Alas, life gets in the way. My wife and I just had a baby girl. At almost three months old, she’s the perfect baby…full of smiles and happy to sleep for hours on end. We also have a terrific four-year-old boy who demands his share of attention but is a sweet, perfectly behaved young man. As much as I love writing, they are and always will be my first priority.

For the Love of Money or Writing?

Which leads me to my biggest roadblock. I’m trying to get two businesses off the ground. I need to do my share to support our family and hopefully put the kids through college. That means bringing in a steady income, which ain’t easy these days. I stay pretty busy, thank goodness, but when do I find writing time for my novel?

It’s also not easy to justify my fiction writing. I’m pragmatic. I know the deal. Especially since I’ve also been the acquisitions editor who’s rejected my fair share of manuscripts. I know that writing a novel won’t keep the lights on or pay the tuition even for community college.

Still, it haunts me. I’ve always believed in the mantra that a true writer should “write every day.” Writing is a skill that needs to be honed. If I drop off for a while, it is exceedingly difficult to get back up to top form. But like exercise, if I set the every day goal for myself, things quickly deteriorate. I miss a day, and then a couple, and then suddenly weeks have passed since I last went out for a run or opened up my novel on my computer.

Drive

I would love to have the drive of Stephen King. If you’ve read On Writing, you’ll know that he details how he worked two jobs and then wrote feverishly in…what was it? a laundry room?…for hours into the night when he was penning Carrie. (Of course, he was also fueled by a bit of coke and who knows what else, but the man managed to sustain his writing well after he kicked the habit.)

So here’s my excuse. I set my evenings aside for my family and after staring at the computer for hours on end during the day, I don’t have the energy to write stories after the kids are in bed. Yes, I’ve set the alarm clock for 4 am. And no, that doesn’t work for me.

Write Every Day?

So it goes without saying that I’ve read many a blog post that claims to have the solution for writers who struggle to incorporate authorship into their lives. Many of them spur feelings of guilt rather inspiration. “Get off your butt and do it!” “If you’re not writing every day, you’re not a writer!” They rarely get me back on track.

However, I just came across a post on a new blog called The Savvy Authorpreneur that offers some truly practical advice for “the uninspired authorpreneur.” It left me feeling inspired rather than pathetic. Let me share a few of her tips:

  1. Don’t worry about making word counts each day.” You don’t hear this one very often, but I think it’s valuable advice. Even modest word counts can seem insurmountable on some days, and unless you’re trying to crank out two books a year, I think it makes more sense to set time rather than mileage goals.
  2. Try writing in a notebook instead of a word processor.” If only I could. I’m revising/rewriting my novel, and I’m susceptible not only to the urge of re-editing edited material, but also to the pull of email and “oh, I’ll just check the score of the Orioles game real quick.” I have written in a notebook successfully for stretches on end, and though it may not have resulted in my best writing, at least I was writing. Maybe I’ll start printing out chapters of my book and start working on it out on the back deck away from the wi-fi.
  3. Have a weekly writing day/coffee with a friend.” This is another interesting idea, although…
    1. The urge to chat with said friend would be pretty overwhelming and…
    2. I can’t write if I sense eyes peering on me.
  4. “Treat yourself to a writer retreat 4 times a year (or more).” We’ll see if my wife goes for this. Would love it, though. A secluded cabin out in the woods. Morning coffee on the front porch. Ahhhhh…
  5. “Commit to write 3 – 4 times a week . . . not every day.” Okay, so this is my favorite one. It seems manageable and less likely to result in my previous grapplings with guilt. Still, if I don’t set aside a time to do my writing, I likely won’t get to it…because there’s always the next deadline, the next bill to pay.

So there you have it. Check out the full post on The Savvy Authorpreneur and share it with your writing buddies. Then, please share with me what keeps you motivated.

Better yet, answer for me the question I posed above:

True or false? If you’re not writing every day, you’re not a writer.

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One Comment

eliseamiller

I’m a fellow grappler, not only with the “rule” you mention but with all sorts of mythologies regarding what makes someone a bona fide writer or a piece of shit fraud. So many rules we stick ourselves with, all in the name of self-torture. The good news is that there are so many artists and writers who operate this way that it must mean some authenticity. I don’t trust writers who have all the confidence in the world. Thanks for sharing this validating and honest view. 

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