Sunday, August 20, 2006

Writers' Peer Pressure

Over the years, I've noticed an attitude among writers that bothers me.
And that's the notion that a writer must write every single day. Rain or shine. Hell or high water. Feast, famine or pestilence. Family crisis, death, broken limbs, sibling spats. Get those pages done! 'Cause if you don't?

Well, obviously, you are less worthy, less talented and less dedicated to your craft than those who write no matter what else is going on in their lives.

Maybe -- but maybe not. Maybe some people are just able to compartmentalize their thoughts and emotions in a way I can't and keep them more separate. Maybe they get really, really stressed if they don't write, or it's a way to ignore what else is going on. I don't know because I don't know them and -- newsflash! --they don't know me. They don't know what I've got going on, or what my values are. What makes me feel happy and productive. What made me start writing in the first place, and what keeps me coming back to it.

I can hear the Daily Writing Proponents saying, "But surgeons can't say, 'I don't feel like operating today.'"

True enough, but I'm not a surgeon. Could be one of the reasons I came to writing in the first place was so that I could set my own hours, work at my own pace and not be tied to anybody else's schedule.

As long as I get my book done on time, and well written, what's it matter if I take some time off? I feel better for it, and I think my writing's better
for it. Burn-out's a bitch. I know 'cause I've been there. Some writers can keep up a brisk pace for years, but I am not one of them. I've tried, and it was not good. Not for me, not for my family, not for my writing.

That said, I've met plenty of people who don't want to write; they want to have written. Very frustrating to deal with, because they just don't get it. The writing, that is. They want the glory without the work. Sorry, honey, doesn't work that way. At some point, if you want to be a published author, you have to write. If you want to be successful, you have to produce consistently, both in quality and quantity. If you want to be a published writer, you have to write at least one whole book. No way around it.

I've written through tough times because of a deadline, and I take my deadlines very seriously. I do think if you can write every day, it's a good idea. Keeps up the momentum. But I also think you shouldn't feel guilty if you want or need to take some time off. It doesn't mean you aren't a dedicated, self-disciplined writer. It means you had something else to do, or your imagination needed a little R&R, and that's all. A lot of times, writing reluctance tells me there's a problem with my story I need to discover and correct. Then, procrastination is my friend.

The important thing is, are you able to get back to the work? Do you get your work done by the deadline? Are you happy with it when you're finished? Is your editor happy with it? Your readers?

If so, stop and smell the roses! Color! Gab on the phone with your friends. Give your kid a hug! Play Monopoly (hotels on the light blues are key!) Watch that rerun of Law and Order for tenth time! Yes, writing may be your job, but even so, it's just a job. It's not your life.

Next up: what to do when you want to write, have time to write, but it just ain't happening.


Delle Jacobs said...

News flash for your WEPs (Write Everyday Proponents: Surgeons don't operate every day. But they don't forget how to do it between Friday and Monday.

I suspect the WEPs may be fearful they will lose their touch or find it too easy to lose their routine if they don't write every day. It's probably true that it's harder to get back into the story if too many days pass. But it's not THAT hard.

Tell them to go get a life-- don't just observe one.

Sandy Blair said...

I totally agree, Margaret. I write for one house, because I need that all important breather between books. I want to say "yes" when my dh decides he wants to get away for awhile and watch a little TV or read, make a dent in my TBR pile. I couldn't do that with multiple deadlines. There is a life beyond writing.

And I'd lay even money that many a WED proponent has drawn a job-fixated, work-a-holic hero, who eventually learns that work isn't all there is to life.

Margaret Moore said...

As I said, I do see that it's easier to keep your momentum going if you can write every day. I just get a little upset at the (unspoken) implication that if you don't, you're a worthless slacker. If people can write everyday, great! But that doesn't work for everybody, and doesn't take into account the reality of many peoples' lives.

Michelle Styles said...

Brilliant as ever, Margaret.

And count me on the silent majority of people who love your books.

Anna Lucia said...

You're absolutely right.

Especially about the hotels. Although Husband swears that owning the browns and getting hotels on them early is the key to world domination.

Tess said...

Margaret - great post. It's nice to know there are writers out there who don't push the Write Every Day as a command. I try to do it, but sometimes life gets in the way.

Gabrielle said...

Excellent post, Margaret! You have to do what works for you and toss the rest aside.