My writing day and why I don’t care if it doesn’t look like yours
If there is one thing I know about being a writer, it is that there is a plethora of advice concerning how to do it properly. Over the long years I have sat at my desk, I have no doubt tried much of the advice hoping I will improve my productivity and creativity.
Here is a list of common nuggets of guidance that fly around.
Write every day.
Write a certain amount each day – and this varies from 500 words to 10,000 – even if you take all day to reach your target.
Write at a particular time of day – early in the morning, last thing at night.
Give yourself a deadline and stick to it.
Write more than you did yesterday.
There are loads more concerning craft and planning or writing by the seat of your pants. Editing as you go, and/or free-writing first drafts without stopping.
Any of this advice is great if you try it, and it works for you.
Let me tell you a little story.
Now and again, I share a bit of writing time with a good friend of mine. Viv comes and stays at my place if my husband is away, and we write. Okay, we also chat, walk my dog, drink a lot of coffee and sit about reading. But we do write. Yet our days are quite different.
Let’s begin in the morning. I stagger downstairs with my whippet, who sleeps with me. I grunt. Sort the dog out, morning garden piddle, food, and fresh water, tuck her into her kitchen bed. (it’s a whippet thing – they like to nap) Make myself tea and get my bowl of overnight oats out of the fridge and slink off.
Viv, however, is already up. Dressed, coffee in hand and writing her morning thoughts onto clean paper. Her laptop is open. She may even write a bloody chapter before she eats anything. She’s certainly done just that by the time I re-emerge dressed. I make coffee to the sound of Viv’s typing and potter about with chores. By mid-morning, I’m ready for a walk. We all go to the beach, and at this point, I can make conversation. Back from the walk, more coffee. Tuck the dog into her bed again, and I check my email. Poke social media and probably make lunch. If I actually manage to write a few sentences of my work-in-progress, I feel really chuffed.
After lunch, Viv is back on it, tippy-tap at the kitchen table, and I go into my office. Stare at the screen. Probably delete the sentence I wrote this morning and get on the sofa in my office and have forty winks (with the whippet).
When I wake up. More coffee and then – yes! My brain has finally got the message about the writing. It’s ready, and off I go. I usually write mid-afternoon and through the early evening.
Viv seems to carry on, and I’m not sure how she manages. I could never write all day. And as for morning pages. I did try this with all its promises of clearing the mind for advanced creativity, and it certainly works for my productive writing mate. I was keen on this idea and bought a fresh notebook and duly labelled it ‘morning pages’. It’s still empty. I even tried not to worry about writing and draw instead.
Viv will have written twice as much as me, and that’s fine. It’s fine because we are different writers. My slow start may look like a lack of discipline, yet I can assure you this is not the case. I can make myself sit in front of the screen. I can even make myself ‘write’. But I know from experience that unless I feel engaged, nothing of any worth is going to emerge.
So here’s my advice for what it’s worth. Don’t panic. Be yourself and let your words flow when they are ready and when it suits you. Just be yourself and don’t worry. If you want to write, you probably will, and if you really don’t – well, you know the answer.