Recently, a friend admitted to me that she has a writer hidden inside her. “Oh, I’ll bet it isn’t hidden that far,” I told her. The next time I saw her, we chatted a bit about writing, and my new friend admitted feeling discouraged because “all of the books say that you should write every day.” This woman has a full-time job, a marriage, a house, two small children, and a puppy, and she was feeling guilty because she didn’t write every day. When my daughter was younger, I couldn’t even manage to brush my teeth every day!
Friends, readers, and fellow writers, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: You do not have to write every day. I don’t. And I’m one of the most prolific writers I know.
Look, I see why this advice is useful. Many writers do write every day. But most of those writers do not have both full-time jobs and small children. If they do, their full-time job is writing, and that’s how they get the work done. My full-time job is writing, and I still don’t write every day. Why is that? Two reasons: 1. Much of writing does not involve actual writing. It involves thinking or researching. and 2. I sometimes get sick or have other stuff to do. Sometimes there is a snow day. Life happens.
Writers who never feel as if they are doing enough often do not bother getting started in the first place.
Writing is difficult, and it will be much worse for you if you are constantly plagued by guilt about writing. Writers who never feel as if they are doing enough often do not bother getting started in the first place. Instead, I encourage you to do your best to find time to write and to make your expectations realistic. If you can only manage to write one morning each weekend, then try to write once a week. And don’t feel guilty about the other six days! If you have time off during summers and can devote two solid months to writing, then do it. And don’t feel guilty about the other ten months! No matter what schedule is realistic for you, if you keep feeling positive about the process, the pages will start to pile up.
There will be moments in your life when you have more time/ inclination/ability to write, and there will be moments when you have less. This is simply the way the rhythms of life and artwork. Do not let any craft book dictate what you need to do for your art. That book doesn’t know you.