May 21, 2014

Another look at writing every day.

Some of you already know how I feel about writing every day. If not, here's a recap. (Apologies in advance to those who are unfamiliar with my faith---it wraps itself around everything I do, so you might see it now and then on this here writing blog.)

After my daughter was born, it was really hard for me to do anything at all because she only slept in 10-minute increments for the first 8 weeks or so and never napped until she was almost 2. I was thinking about giving writing up altogether because I didn't want to feel tension between the most important thing I was doing and something else I also wanted to be doing. Let's just say I don't feel convinced "leaning in" works for those of us with laser-beam, incredibly inefficient hyper-focus. Work-family balance is more like work-family chaos at our house.

Anyway, I was starting to resent that any time I took a writing class, the professors would say, "If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day." And I kept thinking, I should meditate every day; I should exercise every day; I should brush my teeth every day. Heck, I should try to eat something and drink more than a glass of water every day. Writing doesn't quite make the cut.

Feeling a little pushed around by the ideals of what a "real writer" should and should not make time for, I took a hiatus from all things literary and prayed and fasted to show God I'd give up this crazy writing dream if He wanted to make me a happier mother.

The day I fasted I had a little talk with my ecclesiastical leader that had nothing to do with writing. But when he asked what my background was, out of the blue he said, "You know, you really should be writing every day."

Aaack! Now my ecclesiastical leader was telling me to lean in!!

SO. I recognize writing is something God is happy to have me develop and use. I recognize it makes me at least as happy as it makes me crazy.

But I still find it hard to write regularly. I need lots of sleep. My daughter does not seem to need as much. I hired a baby-sitter the other day so I could get some writing done (something I can't do often on a grad student budget) and I ended up going to the grocery store instead because I didn't know what to write.

I dumped all this info to my friend Liz in an email, and here's what she had to say:
I learned something from attending the recent exhibit of Arnold Friberg. He was a phenomenal artist. They displayed a ton of his drawings and paintings, beginning when he was 11. It was obvious he was gifted. They had one he worked on for 50 years. It was amazing. He only finished it a few years before he died. What I learned from him is that he sketched or painted something every day. They had little black and white sketches that he did on paper that looked like scrap paper all the way to the finished product. I took note of all that and came away with the thought that  "writing every day" doesn't mean "producing everyday."
Good thing most books aren't written in a day, at least not the ones I'd want to read. Here's how they often are written, according to one of my favorite mentors, Martine Leavitt:
Don't give up trying to get time for your own writing, even if it's just ten minutes a day. You can write a book in a year or two on ten minutes a day.
Or you can spend a year writing 100 versions of a first chapter. I've already tried that.

Here's to my next book being finished soon, 10 minutes at a time.


Michelle D. Argyle said...

Great thoughts on this! I took a 5-year break from writing at one point, and was glad I did. Sometimes your brain just isn't in a place to produce certain creative work, and it's really bad to give yourself guilt over it. I consider myself a professional writer, but I do not write every single freaking day. I do not sit down and write out words on whatever project I'm working on. I take weekends off. I read books. I outline. I work on my publishing. I outline. I sit and think (A LOT) about the current book I'm writing. I don't actually produce words every single day. I think if you find a space in your schedule that you consider writing (even if it's not writing out words), that counts. Writing a book is much, much more than just typing words. :)

Liz said...

I find that I can write the best on Monday and Tuesdays. It sounds weird, but my life is very busy and that's when my brain allows me to focus best on writing. It works. I've written two books, most of which were written on Mondays and Tuesdays. Go figure. :)