I can’t prove this, but it’s my strong suspicion that even writers who say they write every day don’t. I don’t mean they lie, I mean life happens. People get sick, relatives drop in unannounced, children get born, the power goes out. The list of possible legitimate interruptions is literally endless. All the things that interrupt or disrupt your life are likely to interrupt or disrupt your writing.
But writing pros also don’t look for any and every possible excuse not to write. That’s the role of the new writer, the one who isn’t sure of their ground or their writing. They are much more apt to make excuses for not writing than the true professional.
We want to write, need to write and find away to get it done. Maybe it’s only 5 or 10 minutes a day. And yes, usually you can get that much done, but not “always.”
Writing is a practice
One way ‘practice’ is defined is: carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly. Examples include learning to play an instrument, learning to type, meditating — another endless list.
In the most general sense the way you learn to write and become a professional writer is by writing. Over and over again. If you do this and you work even a little bit to improve each time, you’ll soon be a writer.
Remember. It’s hard to get worse at something you practice, including writing.
And there will be days, hopefully few, when you can’t write or choose not to for one reason or another. Which with some dedication, and discipline, some real writing practice, turns out not to be the end of the world.
It starts with self-honesty
On those days when you think you can’t write, you need to be truly honest with yourself. You want to be sure you really can’t write and you’re not just fooling yourself.
Yesterday I had a migraine headache (carbs). As the pain wore off I did sit in front of my desktop. I think I even put my fingers on the keyboard — several times in fact. But I didn’t write. I was close to able, but not quite there. I’ve also been writing for a long time and trust myself to get back to it as quickly as reasonable. My definition of reasonable.
If you’re new to writing or don’t yet quite trust yourself to get it done, then skipping a day may throw you way off. Just keep writing regularly as best you can and you’ll be fine. On the other hand, if you’re really sick or there’s some real reason you can’t write, you’re okay.
When you can’t write
Keep writing long enough and there will be day, probably several over time, when you literally can’t write as you usually do.
Don’t panic. Spend a few moments in honest self-reflection. Check with yourself if it’s really a day of no writing or if you’re fudging. Don’t panic and don’t lie to yourself either.
When you can’t write guess what, you don’t write. And you accept that without blame or celebration. You’re not getting away with something and you’re not trying to do the impossible. You’re just not writing. Maybe you can make a few notes about something you plan to write, or maybe not. It’s not going to be the last day of your writing or not writing unless you decide it will be. And there’s no need for that.
One of the things I love about cats is their two qualities of persistence and pragmatism. If they want something they will bug you until they get it or until the sense that for some strange human reason you’re not going to give in. As soon as they recognize that, they move on. Sometimes a swish of their tale will communicate that they’re slightly annoyed, but that doesn’t last long. They are easy with their lives.
That’s how I want to be with my writing and I’ve had enough practice to be there most of the time. You can too. It’s another of life’s choices.
Write well and often,
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