One of the most consistent pieces of advice I see getting dished out to writers is to write every day.
It’s a load of nonsense.
I don’t do it, and neither should you.
Or at least, I don’t type every day. The typing of actual words into a draft is a relatively small part of what writing is. Stories need to percolate and brew, rattle around your head and figure out what they are before you do anything cruel like exposing them to a blank page.
I suppose it would be a bit like planting a tiny seedling in a huge garden and wondering why it ups and dies at the first strong wind. It needs to be in one of those wee nursery trays, safe and cosy on the windowsill of a central heated kitchen until it grows big and strong enough for the wilds of your garden. That’s true at the early stages of figuring out a story, but, it’s also an ongoing process. You could be halfway through or nearly at the end and find it needs a bit of windowsill time to niggle through that last wee twist or character development.
In fact, I’d say that the quickest way to writers’ block is to force yourself to type when the story isn’t in a typing place. That doesn’t necessarily mean just sitting around daydreaming. Sometimes it’s scribbling up notes or refreshing the outline or beatsheet, sometimes it’s researching, but yeah, sometimes it is walking up a hill and letting your brain do its thing while you’re admiring the view.
But even that said, I still don’t write every day.
There is so much pressure on creative people to be achieving every single waking minute or else you DON’T REALLY WANT IT and YOU’LL NEVER GET ANYWHERE.
Bollocks, I say.
I went to a workshop in London years ago with this Hollywood story editor lady, who was quite nice, and quite mad in an intense American sort of way. “You don’t want to write today?” she’d roar at us in the poky room above a pub in Soho, ” you want to watch TV, hang with your friends, go to the beach? Sure! But know that someone else is writing today, and they’re coming up behind you.”
Except, no. It doesn’t work like that. Maybe someone else is writing today, but what they do has nothing to do with me. Maybe they write in a totally different genre. Maybe they’re rubbish.
Maybe they’re rubbish because they never give themselves a break so their brain is fried.
You know when your laptop asks to update something that will take forever and requires restarting? And you don’t have time for that so you click the notification away. And you keep doing that for weeks or months, all the while your laptop starts getting sludgy and crashy and spending forever on that panicky whirry circle? Then finally you admit defeat, do the update and your laptop starts working better?
Your brain is a bit like that. It needs to rest and renew and update. An afternoon in a pub with friends (not now, obviously, but you know what I mean!), a yoga class, a sneaky daytime movie will have your brain all sparkly new and ready to create. Even in lockdown, a lazy weekend reading or binging a series or going a local walk will do the trick in a pinch.
More importantly, if you just stay at home glued to your laptop, what are you going to write about? You need to live — or at the very least, observe other people living! — in order to write. I was once doing my nut on a bit of a story that I just couldn’t get to work, then I went for a wander in my local park and happened upon a young couple breaking up on the bench next to me. Hope they’re okay and all, but they saved my story. It wasn’t even a break up scene I was stuck on, but the way that they went in circles, talking at cross purposes and not listening to each other, made me realise what was going on with my characters.
(Can I just mention that they were talking really loudly and I genuinely couldn’t help but hear?!)
So rest, relax, smell the flowers. Then write.