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

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