Stop Dictating That I Write Every Day

If you follow this blog and/or my social media accounts you will know that the writing ‘rule’ that we must write every day really grinds my gears. Cue annoyance, probable rantiness, and hopefully some common sense in this post.

Who Made This a Rule?

I have no issues with rules and laws. So far I’ve avoided prison as I’m a good girl most of the time. I’ll follow rules if they work for the good of the whole and I respect the environment that I’m in.

I am no radical protestor, ready to burn my bra at a moment’s notice. No-one needs to see my humungous ‘girls’ swinging free in order for me to make a point. However, if a rule seems oppressive, stifling, or induces any kind of guilt or shame, I will question it.

I think this odd rule that only ‘real’ writers write every day is, frankly, a great big steaming pile of doo doo.

We could pin it on Ray Bradbury. He once advised writers to, ‘Just write every day’. Now I’m fairly certain that the man that wrote Fahrenheit 451, a novel about dictatorship and the enforcement of ridiculous statutes, never intended for his advice to becoming an all-encompassing rule.

He also advised to ‘read intensely’ but I don’t think he meant for us to glue books to our noses so we’re reading 24/7 either.

Let’s not blame Bradbury. He was just telling us what worked for him and some of his mates.

So who made this rule? The origins are unclear but I blame the internet, namely memes. Where there’s a meme there’s a person ready to live by the rule of the meme. We’ve all seen the ‘inspirational’ quotes and mantras.

Google ‘write every day’ and you will be bombarded with shouty memes dictating that you must get up off your arse and go do the writing. Then repeat. Daily. If a meme tells us we really must. No, no you don’t.

If You Want to Do It, Do It

Stop dictating that I write every day - signposts
If it’s good enough for Fleetwood Mac…

I’m not stating that writing every day is wrong. That would make me a rule maker and I’m not stepping into that territory. If writing daily works for you, do it.

I don’t care how other writers write. It’s none of my business. The only time I’m interested in your writing processes is when you share them and I could benefit from your approaches or I get to read the fabulous pieces you write as a result.

I am not anti-daily writing. I am anti anything or anyone who impresses upon writers, particularly newbies, rules that no one knows who created and don’t work for everyone.

If having a daily writing routine is your thing, more power to you my writing friend.

Life is No Respecter of Routine

Stop dictating that I write every day - detourWriting every day will not always be possible. Life has a bad habit of happening whilst we try to dictate how it should be. Life thinks we’re morons for trying to bend it to our will.

Crap stuff happens. Illnesses creep in. Loved ones die. Tragedies occur. Big life events can often blindside us and our writing routine.

When I started writing I felt so guilty every time I couldn’t write because something had happened. I thought I’d failed because some kind of life catastrophe had taken my focus away from my writing.

Since then I’ve had a word with myself and realised I’m only accountable to me when it comes to writing. If I can’t do it because a relative is in hospital, the car has broken down or because I’ve got to run an important errand, the world will not end. I should not punish myself with guilt for not getting any writing done.

The judge and jury aren’t those who dictate that I must write every day. They couldn’t care less what my writing output is. The one who judges me is me.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to dish out such harsh sentences upon myself for my writing ‘misdemeanours’. Life is tough enough as it is. If I can’t write today because I’m spending the day in a hospice with my mum, it doesn’t matter. Unlike our loved ones, writing will always be there.

When Writing is Placed on Hold

Stop dictating that I write every day - stop signI hate it when I can’t write. I was all ready to go with my second novel. I had researched to the hilt, outlined, world mapped and created character profiles. I was poised to start writing my first draft when I came back from holiday and life intervened again. My mum was told she had little time left due to having cancer. See The Cancer Waiting Game for more information.

I do not begrudge any of the time I am now spending living in my family home once more with its disruptions from my normal routine. I am not complaining about spending nearly every day with my mum in the hospice. I view each second I have with her, and when I am able to support my family, as precious.

I’d never write again if it meant I could spend many, many more days with my mum.

This time around I feel no guilt about my writing being placed on hold. I miss it intensely. It is a part of me but I know that it’s the right decision.

The hold is somewhat temporary. I am writing this after all but writing in a hospice, surrounded by family and medical staff isn’t going to happen. I now respect writers with many demands on their time even more.

I will take writing as and when it can happen. At the time of writing this I am alone, taking a day off, and using the time to rest and write. I need this but I also acknowledge that it’s not as often as it usually would be. There’s no way right now that I’m going to beat myself up about not writing every day.

Having depression also meant I didn’t write for months. I battled with that. There were times when the ennui meant I didn’t care whether I ever wrote again. Then as recovery began I realised how much I had missed being able to write.

I fought long and hard to even be able to write a few sentences. I thought I’d lost my writing mojo. I wanted it all to come back to me, rushing at me like a long-lost relative.

Writing was having none of it. It told me that it had always been there, would always be around, but it knew that I was battered and weary. Writing came back slowly.

Writing helped me to come back to life.

I learnt a lot of lessons from not being able to write. I do miss it when I can’t do it, either due to circumstances or just plain inability. It has shown me that it is true and steadfast though. It will always return when I call it.

Some Final Advice Not Rules

If you can’t write every day, don’t.

If you don’t want to write every day, don’t.

If you love writing every day, fill your writing boots.

Do it the way that it suits you.

When life takes you away from writing, don’t let the guilt monster tell you that it’s your failure.

Writing has been around for squillions of years. It will continue for a whole lot more. It will never desert you.

Make writing your friend, not an enemy chore. No one likes being told what to do as if they have a naggy parent on their shoulder. Now go tidy your room, you messy git.

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

10 comments on “Stop Dictating That I Write Every Day

  1. Great post Lisa – there’s so much pressure out there to yes, write every day, and if we don’t, well we’re not *real* writers then, are we?

    I do believe that sometimes we have to write when we’re not really feeling it (or I do), as sometimes it’s the only way to power through difficult patches, but the idea that we somehow fail if we don’t write every single day is an impossible standard to live up to. As you say, life gets in the way. And sometimes there are things that are more important, whether they’re necessity or just the fact that it’s a beautiful day, and there’s ice cream calling.

    I’m going to get struck down by the writing gods, aren’t I?

    1. I’m bracing myself for that double forked lightning that’s seeking us out Kim!

      I agree that sometimes we do need to force ourselves to write. If I didn’t I’d disappear into the sofa in a chocolate coma!

      Good luck dodging the writing gods!

  2. Thank you for this, Lisa. Really, so much. I’ve been broadcasting this message as well lately. (Though I haven’t written a blog post yet; perhaps I should in a few months.)

    It took me a while to come to peace with it, but I will never be a daily habit maker. (In fact, I’m working on a productivity app for people who are not daily habit makers and to-do listers, but that won’t be ready for another year, if I stay on track.) I’m even less of a daily habit maker when people convince me I *should* be. The nature of (my) depression and shame spirals make it so.

    A lot of people who spout this “rule” really do intend to be helpful. It works for them and they’ve heard that it’s worked for countless others, so why shouldn’t it work for everyone? Well, because few things do, and it’s harmful to make people feel like a failure when they happen to fall outside the norm.

    Thanks again Lisa. Let’s all broadcast this loud and clear so that maybe some newbie writers will hear it and know that it’s okay to just work how they work best.

    1. I’m so pleased to hear that you work the way that suits you Alex, particularly as depression brings so much guilt with it. All the best with the app and the blog post. Both sound great!

  3. Totally agree with you. I think the habit of writing regularly is good… but sometimes life gets in the way and we shouldn’t feel bad about that. If you miss writing when you can’t do it, then you’ll come back to it when circumstances allow.

    I’m slowly learning when I can push myself and when I have to give myself space with writing… and that’s a personal thing, different for everyone.

  4. Never have truer words been spoken! What a great post, Lisa. Indeed, you have nothing to prove to anyone. This is especially true when you have already proved time and time again what a wonderful writer you are. The book will come in its own time, and your mum will be proud no matter what xxxx

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