“Write every day.” I hear this writing advice bandied about over and over as if it were the one golden truth. In some ways it is. In a literal sense, it’s pure poppycock. There is a lot more to writing than stringing words together in some semblance of a sentence and putting it down on paper. For me, “writing” involves everything from daydreaming, brainstorming, outlining, plotting, character creation, world building, putting words to paper, re-outlining, sounding boards, and staring into space while the voices in my head argue without me interfering.
“Live your art every day.” ~John P. Murphy
Yes, putting words on a page in a consistent fashion is important. It is one of the most important things you do as a writer. Write one word at a time until you are finished. However, unless you have a good foundation, your house of words is going to come crumbling down the first time someone (your inner critic?) asks, “Why would that happen?” A good foundation comes from careful thought, long experience, or both.
“Live your art even if you can’t practice it daily.” ~Jason Sanford
Just as important—and largely ignored—is the author’s need to think, to consider, to ponder the work they are creating. You may see me playing a puzzle game on the outside, but on the inside, I’m working out what went wrong in the previous scene. You may see me doing the dishes or pacing around the dining room table and all the while I’m mentally writing the pivotal scene that’s coming up next—trying out different tacks, different reactions, different tones. You may see me sitting somewhere drinking a cup of tea. On the inside I’m watching a furious discussion going on between two characters. I may not use what I dream up in a specific sense, but it will inform my writing on the world and how the characters act.
What I’m getting at is that thinking, fantasizing, and daydreaming is just as important as putting words to the page. “Write every day” doesn’t cover this. At least, not in a literal sense. This is super important for authors to know. There is value in doing “nothing” on the outside. Even for people who don’t like to outline. It may be more important for those who don’t outline because the more they think about what they’re going to write, the better their foundation will be.
“Do what you have to do in order to ensure that today is not the last day you write.” ~Matthew Bennardo
Also, there is the practical aspect of writing every day. Authors have jobs, families, health issues, and general responsibilities. Sometimes, they can’t physically put words on the page on a daily basis—for whatever reason. A good example of this for me is when my editing schedule goes pear-shaped and I literally only have 15 minutes that day to “write.” Sometimes I write. My log shows “Wrote 12 words on WIP.” Those one or two transitional sentences could’ve taken me three hours to figure out (while I was cleaning, eating, driving, showering) and cleared the way for tomorrow’s 2000 words. Sometimes, my log shows “Re-outlined WIP.” I tend to re-outline my novels 1-2 times during the first draft phase. I often add to the outline when I’m doing my first read-through so I know I need to add in more details, foreshadowing, or an explanation for something that wasn’t as obvious as it should have been.
“Do something writing related daily and no, promotion doesn’t count.” ~Raven Oaks
I know it is important to work on your current WIP as consistently as possible. Sometimes, a direct command to “write every day” is what we need to get things moving forward in the beginning. I want to point out that that doesn’t always mean something as tangible as a word count. Everything else is as important. Maybe this is something you learn as you level up in your craft, but I wish I’d learned it a little bit earlier in my writing career. Then I wouldn’t have beaten myself up as much for not getting my “2000 words a day” in.
I’m just glad, ten years in, I’ve finally figured out a workable meaning for “write every day.” For me, it means “Live my art daily.” When this advice is proclaimed at a convention, event, or online, I add my two cents to the conversation. Thinking is as important as writing.
This blog post is brought you by the letter W, the number 3, and a twitter conversation I had.