As a writer, I used to get annoyed when other writers would insist that you absolutely MUST write every single day. Some would even specify an amount of time (one hour) or an amount of writing (1 page) that one MUST do every single day.
I did not get that. If I was not in the mood to write, I knew that what I wrote was not going to be good. I felt like I was wasting my time.
Recently I have been working on what I assume will one day be a novel, and though I have not put any expectations on the amount of time spent each day or the amount of content I write each day, I have been going out of my way to add something too it every day. I always pick a time when my wife is busy doing something else anyway so I am not tempted to join her in front of the TV or to go out anywhere. That usually allows me enough time to get something of substance written. It’s just me and my keyboard.
And no, what I write may not be great.
It may not end up fitting with the rest of the story.
Truth be told, while I am doing it, I am editing it, so that gives me the best chance of ending the night with something I plan to use. But even if it doesn’t, I have used that time to develop the story , to brainstorm, to eliminate story lines that will not work.
Some of it is just memorable enough that even if I deleted it at the time, months later I may recall it and give it another try. An old Hindu proverb says that no sincere effort is ever wasted. It is just as true in the metaphysical sense as it is in front of your keyboard, as a novelist, a short story writer, a songwriter, or a blogger.
The word “sincere” is key. But it is also a bit sticky.
What “sincere” means is up to you. Only you know if you are at your keyboard honoring your story or if you are just putting in the time. My feeling is that even “just putting in the time” can yield some great results in the long run. Because the fact that you are there doing it means you are sincerely working to draw the bits and pieces of it out, and mold them into something.
So, to review:
- The time put in doesn’t matter. If it’s good you will not be able to pull yourself away until you’ve exhausted whatever the muse has for you tonight.
- The word count doesn’t matter, for the same reason.
- The attitude you bring to the task doesn’t matter too much, because the fact that you are doing it is enough.
The most important thing is to continue on day after day, coming back to that story, coaxing it out from oblivion, molding it into whatever it is going to be. Feeding it and nurturing it. Seasoning it. Whatever metaphor you prefer.
I am continuously amazed at how exciting it is night after night how I see the story “writing itself” how the further I go the more I feel the momentum of the story building. How, in doing so, I am encouraging that story to show itself. You are just the catalyst. The story is there. You are just transcribing for the muse.