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Write every day? I wish

Why the advice to write every day comes from a position of privilege. (And why some writer’s “don’t read”)
July 15th, 2016

If you can, I agree, write every single day. It’s better for your mental health, and you need to invest thousands of hours of writing time to get the skills to produce something average, let alone great. But some of us aren’t that lucky.

Look on a “good” day, I could literally spend all day writing from wake to sleep. I don’t because food, relationships, mental health, and such are all affected badly by constant long hours. So I write when I can, for as long as I can. Sometimes that’s eight hours, and sometimes that’s none.

I have Bipolar I, dyslexia, ADHD, and a few other disabilities including some weird creative tide thing I inherited from my mother. We can’t help it. We don’t understand it. And telling us to work through it is bullshit.

And you can’t tell me that after writing draft after draft, and thousands of pages, that if I take a year or two off from my book because my brain won’t let me do more, I’m not still a writer. There are plenty of people who are writers but don’t do it every day. Indeed isn’t there a legend about Mark Twain having to have a deadline, some drinks, and a locked door before he would produce? There are writers, successful writers, who do not fucking write every day. Because they can’t. You just don’t hear about it. Why advertise what you can’t do?

Unless you are me, and want to make a point.

Look there are times we TRY every fucking day and nothing will come out. And after doing that long enough we learn to recognize the buzz in our heads. We learn how our brain feels when it’s going to deliver. And we learn when the well is dry, and we need to let groundwater swell back in.

Some of us simply do not have the luxury of writing every day, because it simply will not come. But when we do write, it can go from a trickle to a tidal wave that overcomes everything else. And yes the skill gets rusty and the first few pages you write are drivel, but your voice comes back very quickly. Faster than it took to learn it. You just do a full read through and go, and keep going, and come back and fix the settling in work when you are on top again.

As a kid I always knew when my mother’s novel was underway. Dinner would be burnt and late. And I didn’t mind. But then as a kid, there was little that bothered me until middle school. Now? I forget the laundry, and almost walk into the pool with nothing obscuring my vision but what I see in my head. It does come. It does flow, and people like me can physically feel it.

We are a different breed of writer. Slow, methodical, perfectionists who really would love to work at it every day, but find our wiring prevents it.

Now there are things we can do to improve our odds. Like reduce stress. But when you are your own source of stress, that gets a little difficult.

Days like Wednesday? The plan was to pick up meds, come home, and work. But my boss made me cry when she got grumpy with me. It wasn’t really her fault that I was crying. I felt despair because I struggle so much just to hold down a menial part time job. And sometimes it’s even hard to file because brain weasels are assholes. It threw me into depression and my whole day was taken up by suffering. Work was not accomplished. I had set the time, but my mood disorder made me fail.

For my mother she has a bipolar family and she is the glue keeping this family together. There have been entire years she has put her life’s work on hold because she was nursing one of us back together. Her fierce love and devotion helped recreate me after my former life was obliterated. Things are easing now that I am getting more independent. And she’s back to editing her book. Not a coincidence. But nothing either of us had control over until I finally met the psychiatrist who could help me.

Some people don’t have the option of forming a less stressful life, because that’s not the hand fate dealt to them.

My mum loves us all, and she saved all of us from death. But it took its toll. So she’s in her seventies trying to fix a novel she finished, went back to read, and went, “oh hell”. And because it’s historical fiction, she has to be very careful to remember what had been invented yet, and what had or had not happened by a certain point.

She’s been working on that novel since before I was born. On and off. You can’t fault her dedication to come back to it again and again after having to put it down because moves and family illness put the kibosh on it. It doesn’t matter how long she went in-between. She was always a writer. Because she kept coming back.

Now as an interesting correlation with this is the complaint of writers who don’t read, or don’t read enough. Clearly confusing a writer who doesn’t read much because they are busy, and someone who has never read a book in their lives. It’s usually used as a disparaging attachment to writers who are stuck, not writing but really fucking wish they were. We’re not real writers because we can’t write every day and, we can’t get into fiction frequently either.

Bugger off.

We’re not reading as much for the same fucking reasons we don’t write every day. We still come back though, and that’s what makes us writers.

Look all decent writers have read a lot. And they all went through a phase when they devoured everything in print. But some of us have to share our literary* input brain with our writing brain. The inner visual arena will only let us work with one at a time.

We can watch shows, read the news, read non-fiction, textbooks, research material. Oh we read. We must absorb more information. We are hungry for it. But fiction has to be very good, because when we read, it’s taking up space that could be occupied by writing. It shares the same place in our head, and some of us would rather output than input.

If I were a full time writer, I’m sure I would read more fiction. But I’m not, and I don’t have the patience for someone else’s work right now. Because every moment spent in the creative space it would take to read, is spent trying to produce work. Indeed rarely can I read fiction and work concurrently. I have to alternate. And I do.

God I love books. I can’t stop buying them. I want to read them so badly. Tad Williams has written three series in the time it took me to finish one novel. (In my defense I was learning) And entire two of those I have yet to read. I started, reached page 50, got an idea for my book, and then bam, lost my place need to start over.

This happens to me over and over again. Now I read so many damn books when I was young I still have a good foundation. And I am still inputting fiction from other sources. But I get most of my ideas from the news and the world around me. I do not get it from other authors. Not because they are not good, but because I just fucking don’t have the time or ability to do both at once. And frankly non-fiction has plenty to offer for inspiration.

After a long break it’s intimidating to come back to either reading or writing. We were usually forced into the hiatus. Stressors hit, we had to learn how to live a different kind of life - again. We’ve been through so much change we no longer think of anything as constant. So why should our own inner worlds be expected to be any more consistent than Devlin luck provides?

You know what my name means? Unfortunate or unlucky. It really should just mean weird luck. Sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it’s terrible.

I dream of a life that doesn’t constantly shift under me, but I think I would be better served by praying to be better at dancing over it. indeed when I visualize stability I imagine a sphere, because it stays whole and one while rolling over and around obstacles. My life changes underfoot that frequently.

So sometimes I don’t read and I don’t write, but I still buy books, and I come back and try again, I fall off that fucking horse over and over again. And I will always get back up on it. I do read, just not as much as I would like, or am interested in. And I do write - when I can. But I can do neither with any kind of regularity. Not with my brain.

If you can do it every day. And if you can split your creative attention between other people’s fiction and your own, that is awesome. But you have the privilege of having a brain that makes it possible. You may have worked very hard to arrange your life to make that possible. But you are still privileged.

I know someone who has struggled and climbed and built a following through constant output, and it has been very difficult for him to do it. He made it a priority and he altered his life to give him time. But at the very base of it, is still the capability. Once that’s been arranged, he could just go and keep going.

I don’t have that. I’ve arranged my life around my writing and my partner. But some days it’s all I can do to survive till the next day. So my progress will be slow and stilted. But do not doubt I make progress.

So if you are afflicted by tides, if you struggle to balance your desire to read with your desire to write, take heart. You can get there and you do finish. (And then you spend some time in editing hell) Just. Keep. Coming. Back. You’ll get there I promise. And don’t let anyone tell you you’re not a real writer because right now you are in over your head. All it takes to be a writer is the obsession with words that drives us. And yes we go crazy when we are not writing (and seem crazy when we are) But being a writer is about the burn to write, not how frequently you can actually light a fire with it.


*Note for this case literary simply refers to written fiction because I don’t play that literature vs. genre bullshit game.

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