Every Creative Writer has heard the law that “Writers Write Everyday” maybe as much as we’ve heard “Show Me, Don’t Tell Me.” And at the beginning of the year I heard of authors tell me about their New Year’s Resolutions that always include one to write a certain number of words a day.
This leaves the impression that Creative Writers must come with fresh original first draft content every day. This is not true, and in fact it’s not even possible. We write every day in that we are in the business of writing constantly. A great deal of that involves writing, to be sure, but not always.
At The Keyboard
I’m working on the rough draft of my fifth novel, Bloodhound. I’ll certainly fill everyone in when it’s available. But I’m far from that now. If I’m a Creative Writer, then I need to put a lot time into completing this first draft. That means writing every day. But some days I don’t write.
Sometimes it’s the cares of life that take up time that day, but sometimes it’s because I need to let the next scene cook inside of me a bit longer before I put it down. Even thinking about what to write is writing.
Long before I begin page one I outline my chapters and fill in everything about the characters. For example, when I compete in NaNowriMo I usually begin outlining in June or July in order to be ready by November. This is writing as much as drafting.
And then there are the many edits our drafts go through after we’ve set down “The End.” Our manuscripts go through several revisions before we allow the story to see the light of day. Editing is writing, too.
Away From The Keyboard
As authors we know that our best ideas often come when we are away from our laptops. I used to travel with a small pad and write everything down that came into my brain. Now I use the notepad on my phone. This twig-gathering will one day find itself into a fine nest of a tale. This is writing, as well.
And there is something to be said for the work that goes into writing that comes from stillness. We don’t sit down and throw out a marvelous book without giving it a bit of thought. We meditate on our ideas before we even write anything down, even on a scrap paper.
Ernest Hemingway said that he never emptied the well. He left a little bit of what we was working on undone. That way he would always at least something to write the next day. But also, he let this little bit ferment sub-consciously. As he carried out the remainder of the day it would grow in the back on his head, and as he slept it would really develop, so the next day he had plenty to write about.
And I read that Salvador Dali would sit in a chair and relax as much as he could and think about a certain project. He would hold his keys in his hands over the arm rest. He would often grow drowsy and start to go to sleep. But when he did he would drop the keys and the sound would wake him up. That way he could remember as much as possible of what was in his mind as he entered the sleep/dream stage in his mind. I’ve tried that with some interesting results. All types of thinking about writing, even sub-consciously, is writing.
We as Creative Writers can feel derelict if we do not sit down and write new words every day. From this grows a sense of shame, and all negative feelings about ourselves as authors only damage our productivity. We do a lot of things every day that contribute to the writing process, and in this we write every day. Remember that and feel good about how much you actually get done.