Here’s a little ray of writing sunshine: It’s easy to assume absolutely, finitely, without question that writing everyday leads to a productive writing career.
To be clear, for some people it does.
But contrary to the common advice that writing every day is essential to being a writer, “no particular work schedule is associated with high productivity. Even working on a regular basis yields a mixed pattern of results” (as cited in Kellogg, 1994, p. 194).
Further research is needed to investigate the question of whether the advice to write every day is sound advice or if it is just a fallacious argument that we think is true because so many say it is.
The creative life has to be kept in order on a regular basis. It’s not good enough to go to it for one day, or a few, a couple times a year. Creativity requires the luxury of time, which we must carve out for ourselves—even if it’s only fifteen minutes. Creative people need that luxury of time: time with friends, time with family, time to themselves with no agenda, even time to do their creative work.
We know in our bones what is right and what to do about it. Even if we say this is not so. Even if we will not admit it out loud. Even if the rigors of life distance us from our deeply intuitive lives. Even if, for reasons that seemed like good ones at the time, we have accepted permanent exile from our creativity impulses.
The truth is that creative people who don’t take time to take care of their creative life become very, very cranky. I have heard all the excuses that any creative person might knit up: I can’t right now. I’m not talented. I’m bored. I’m not important. I’m not educated enough. I have no ideas. I don’t know how. I don’t know what. I don’t know when. I don’t know why. I’m too busy. I don’t have time. I don’t have money. I don’t…I don’t…I don’t…
The promise of a creative life is very scary.
But, perhaps you didn’t know that being scared is most often very, very good for a creative person: it shows us what will happen if we allow ourselves to become talented derelicts. And often that’s scary enough to scare us back into creating again.
Don’t spend time wondering how you lost your way. It can be difficult to know exactly where we lost our way, for it is an insidious process, one that doesn’t occur in one day, but rather over a long period of time. We learn early to act on what others say, value and expect. Thus, we walk a long way down the wrong path before realize we did not actually choose this road.
Turn around, find your path. Walk your path.
Take your eyes off the price and put them on the prize. It’s important to write about things that matter to you. Moral intelligence creates authenticity in a writer. Set yourself something in writing that you are willing to reach for and, therefore, take risks for.
Margaret Atwood, despite her enormous output, does not write every day.
She said: “You always think, ‘Oh, if only I had a little chalet in the mountains! How great that would be and I’d do all this writing…’ Except, no, I wouldn’t. I’d do the same amount of writing I do now and the rest of the time I’d go stir crazy. If you’re waiting for the perfect moment you’ll never write a thing because it will never arrive. I have no routine. I have no foolproof anything. There’s nothing foolproof.”
This woman gives me hope!
“Writing, the creative effort, the use of the imagination, should come first,–at least for some part of every day of your life. It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will become happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, lighthearted and generous to everyone else.”
— Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
Some days I write and the words flow easily. Then, all of a sudden, I’ll hit a bump and run out of words.
No writer should be without a supply of Very Good Words.
So, I’ve started a lexicon practice. A Lexicon Practice is where you put actual time – regular time – into collecting words and phrases.
Leonardo da Vinci did it. James Joyce did it. Mary Oliver does it. Priscilla Long does it. She says, “The writers of deep and beautiful works spend real time gathering words”.
I have a small bound and sewn blank book that I put words in. I haven’t gotten far with it, but this small book is where I record words that strike my fancy. Words I want to savor. Words I want to own.
Dorothea Brande said, “Be on the alert to find appropriate words wherever you read.”
My Lexicon holds new words and old words that please me. It is part of my resource base as a writer.
If you don’t have a Lexicon, consider starting one today. Get a small notebook and start gathering words. Don’t ignore or diminish the power words have to make your writing work.
When Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, meets a client who is discouraged and can’t get motivated, she says, “While I might be tempted to say, ‘Quit complaining and get to work,’ I know complaining is actually proof that a person still has the energy to carry on”.
The word “energy,” according to the Oxford dictionary, is defined as “the strength and vitality required for sustained . . . mental activity”.
For the woman writer, the one who yearns to find a time and space to write, or more time and space, this is good news. You still have energy.