Posted by: Katie B | January 5, 2010

How to Write a Book: Item #2: You Must Write Everyday (the myth)

The Morning Tide

The mantra you hear repeated most often when asking for advice on writing from agents, editors, publishers, and the like is “you must read and write every day”.  If not, you are told, you will fail.  Ouch.  I’ll touch the “read every day” part on another post.  But the “write every day”, that’s a tall order.  And it is definitely a myth.  My advice to you, do not let your inability to write every day ruin your desire to write at all.  Honestly, who has the time or the lifestyle to allow for writing everyday?  I tried to write yesterday but ended up spending two hours on the phone with Verizon trying (and failing) to clear up a billing error.  When I was done, my mood was not conducive to flawless writing.  (And if you are a Verizon executive reading this, please contact me.  One of your agents was so belligerent, you do not want him representing your company.)

But I understand what they are getting at.  Writing is a craft.  You must practice your craft, like any other artisan, if you want to improve.  Not to mention, if you want to finish a novel, you have to make the time to write it.  But do you have to write every single day?  Will you honestly never “make it” as a writer if you don’t?  Is your dedication to the craft any less if you can’t?  I suggest not.

My dedication is strong.  And on the days life refuses to let me carve out a moment in time for my craft, I get cranky. Really cranky.  But that doesn’t mean I stop or that I get kicked out of the game.  It means I have to work harder at finding the time on another day.  Or another week.  Or another month, depending on how long it takes me to worm my way back into the writing routine.  It also means it will take longer for me to finish my work.  Sometimes, a lot longer.

I love the book How to Write & Sell Your First Novel (on my blog list), but I laugh at one premise.  It proclaims that in order to write a book, you must write three pages every day for ninety days.  In the end, you will have a perfect 300 page draft of your novel.  It is an honorable goal.  And it is true; you would have a novel in only 90 days.  When I first read that section, I thought, “90 days, that’s a long time.  I’ll never need that much time!”  Two years later, I am finally finishing my conclusion.  Wow.  90 days.  I wish.

Can you image what would have happened if I had stopped when I failed to accomplish the premise of the book or the advice of every professional I have spoken with?  Granted, I did not complete the book swiftly.  But after two years, I do have a book.  If I had stopped after the 90 days, or on whichever day I first failed to write, I would have nothing.  I’d rather have a book that took forever to write than nothing.

If you can’t write every day, it’s fine.  It only means your project will take you longer.  You might need to backtrack, you might forget where you were going, you might change a section completely.  As long as you keep thinking about your project and don’t give up, you will get there.  I promise.  And the longer it takes, quite frankly, sometimes you need a break.  When you return to the project, your ideas are fresher and you are more determined.

So, please, keep writing whenever you can.  And don’t stop forever if you can’t.  Just imagine if Margaret Mitchell had quit.  The world would be a little duller without her magnificent ten year project, Gone With the Wind, wouldn’t it?

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