truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
[personal profile] truepenny
So, over the weekend, some guy posted an article with the title: "If You Want to Write a Book, Write Every Day or Quit Now." (I'm not going to link to it because dude either (a) genuinely believes this, in which case he's already brought enough misery down on his head or (b) is trolling.) And this makes me mad for several reasons.

1. Anyone who's done even the tiniest bit of thinking about writing, or any other form of creativity, knows that it's subjective. What works for me won't work for you and vice versa. So anyone spouting absolutes is not giving good advice.

2. It's cruelly elitist to say you can't be a writer if you don't write every day. Some people can't write every day, whether because that's not how their process works, because they have other demands on their time that can't be tidily "scheduled" out of the way, or because they have health problems, mental or physical--reasons that mean that some days, with all the will power and desire in the world, they can't write.

3. It annoys me because, actually, I do try to write every day, because I believe it works best to think about writing, not as some kind of mystical, external thing that is out of your control, but like music, where you need to practice regularly in order to perform. But I have fibromyalgia, which is a chronic pain/chronic fatigue condition; I have chronic migraines; I have a sort of Neapolitan ice-cream of chronic dyssomnias. I have major depressive disorder, which is what the cool kids are calling clinical depression these days. Some days I can't write. And I've had to learn to relax my "rules" about what constitutes "writing." This post counts as "writing." Letters to Senator Johnson count as "writing." 50 words of fiction, any fiction, counts as "writing." I'm trying to learn to stop shooting myself down for not achieving some mythical goal of "real writing," and instead to celebrate even the tiny accomplishments.

4. It reminds me of the old story about the aspiring violinist who got a chance to play for a great violinist. The great violinist said, "You don't have enough fire. You'll never be a true musician." Twenty years later, the no-longer-aspiring violinist, now a successful business man, happens to run into the great violinist again. He says, "You know, you were right. I would never have made it. I see that now. Thank you for keeping me from wasting my time." The great violinist looks at him blankly, then says, "Oh. I say that to all the young violinists. The true musicians are the one that prove me wrong."

I hate this story. I hate it because, honest to god, isn't it ALREADY HARD ENOUGH to pursue a creative dream? I also hate it because it isn't actually a story about creativity or musicianship; it's a story about how you respond to a devastating critique from a person you admire. The great violinist may, in fact, discourage a bunch of wannabes, but he's also going to discourage, perhaps fatally (remember the girl from Fame?), a bunch of true musicians. And why does this guy get to decide what's a waste of somebody else's time and what isn't? It's a story about arbitrary gatekeeping and thoughtless cruelty, and it is the worst pedagogical model in the world. DON'T DO THIS.

5. It also reminds me of Yoda's, "Do or do not. There is no try." And, pardon me, Mr. Yoda, but that's bullshit, too, and I want to think that a real Jedi master would know that. With anything that's a life-long endeavor, be it writing or dressage or music or rock-climbing or or chess or fencing, or, hell, using the Force, it's exactly the other way around. There is no do. There is only try. You will never "do" the thing that is your passion; you will only try, and try again, and try better. You will never come to the end of the possibilities, to the end of your ability to grow. You will never be done unless you choose to quit. And that's what makes the thing that is your passion also the greatest blessing you can have.

So if you want to write a novel, write a novel. Write it when and how you can. Be honest with yourself: you know what your best is. And whatever your best is, do that.

Date: 2017-05-30 01:50 pm (UTC)
spikewriter: (written out by spikewriter)
From: [personal profile] spikewriter
I think one of the hardest things for me to learn was that writing was my own process, not someone else's, and anyone who insisted on trying to force me (or anyone else) into their version of the process wasn't doing me any favors.

I try to write every day, too, because there's so much crap going on in my life that it's really, really easy for that to slip as a priority and me to say, "I'll do it tomorrow." Too many "tomorrows" and I realize one day I haven't written for a week, two weeks, a month, several months. That realization helps trigger my own depression bouts, which leads to more not writing. Writing is something I do for myself, above publication, above submission, above anything else. Some days, it feels like it's the only thing I do for myself, with everything else. And I think you're right that it's better to relax the "rules" about what "counts" as writing and what doesn't. It really is all about the little victories, isn't it?

Date: 2017-05-30 02:33 pm (UTC)
aerinha: (selfie)
From: [personal profile] aerinha
Thank you for this. Thank you so, so, so very much. For this and for all the words you find the energy to share with us.

And #4 - my goodness, if I had a time machine to go back and stop the words of all the people who talked me out of things.

Date: 2017-05-30 03:14 pm (UTC)
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)
From: [personal profile] larryhammer
I finally shook off the idea of "write every day" being essential when I realized that a professional writer I knew and somewhat admired binge-wrote on weekends because dayjob, and got out a novel or two a year that way. There are different ways of slicing that time pie.
Edited Date: 2017-05-30 03:15 pm (UTC)

Date: 2017-05-30 05:12 pm (UTC)
pameladean: (Default)
From: [personal profile] pameladean
Yes, all this. It's like that equally pernicious assertion that you are only a writer if you can't refrain from writing, if you cannot NOT write. This is just as much nonsense as the other assertions and shares the cruel and to me quite strange desire to somehow weed out people who aren't true writers. The entire endeavor is not only cruel, it's essentially useless. The only point is, I don't even know what the point is without indulging in baseless psychoanalysis of people I also don't know.

Now I want to claim that I, and all of us who don't fit whatever category is being outlined, am a TRUE WEED and cannot be weeded out by any vile criterion.

P.

Date: 2017-05-31 01:24 am (UTC)
corylea: A woman gazing at the sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] corylea
Theodore Sturgeon wrote every once in awhile, when he got an idea that wouldn't leave him alone. Given that he wrote some of the most perfectly crafted gems of SF short stories I've ever seen, he's a real writer if anybody is, but he had long stretches of time when he was perfectly capable of doing something other than writing.

Date: 2017-05-30 05:32 pm (UTC)
marianainthemoatedgrange: (Default)
From: [personal profile] marianainthemoatedgrange
I really needed to hear this today. Thank you.

Date: 2017-05-31 01:25 am (UTC)
corylea: A woman gazing at the sky (Default)
From: [personal profile] corylea
Thanks for a great essay!

I'm sorry to hear about all your health challenges. I have a lot of them, myself, and I constantly feel as if I have to apologize to people for not being able to do more.

Date: 2017-05-31 04:03 am (UTC)
archangelbeth: An anthropomorphic feline face, with feathered wing ears, and glasses, in shades of gray. (Default)
From: [personal profile] archangelbeth
*fistbumps of solidarity*

I have the entertaining version of: my kid is the one who needs the emotional support. And I'm the one who does like 90% of it. And some of that involves hearing about her gaming, her fanfic, her originalfic efforts (and good lords, she's got some wonderful worldbuilding!). So much to keep track of that... my stuff hasn't really got a chance anymore.

Best I did was whip out, in an amazing white heat, over 70K of... AU fanfic that's based on (and therefore has spoilers for) some of her AU fanfic, that she hasn't even finished enough to show other people yet, so, despite that it's actually got some bits that I am genuinely proud of... I can't even show that to more than three other people. *headdesk*

Which is to say: thank you. Thank you for knowing that, dear stars, there are so many reasons why we may not get to write every day, and some of them are physical and some are mental and some are Process and some are because the world has eaten our words.

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truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
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