Writers – Do you believe you need to write every day to be a good writer?

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Paula’s Post # 105 –

Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ’em in your pockets,
Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ’em in your pockets,
Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ’em in your pockets,
Way down yonder in the paw-patch.

So, this weekend, after a crazy week in which everything got juggled (including me, but more on that later) I decided to be ever so diligent and prepare my usual Tuesday blog post well in advance.

What does that mean, ‘in advance’?

Well, I’m glad you asked. Because this past weekend, when I might have been out in the California sunshine whacking tennis balls or cosseted on my shady terrace blissfully enjoying a chilled glass of my favourite New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and brainstorming my new novel with joyous abandon, I instead slogged my way through about 1600 words on the subject of “tech tips” for writers.

If, in addition to reading blog posts, you also write one regularly, you know that the writing part is just the start. You also need to format you post, try to proofread and tidy up your prose (I have homonyminitus, which makes this difficult. In other words, I am forever using the wrong ‘their’, ‘there’ or ‘they’re’ or ‘here’ for ‘hear’.  Don’t get me wrong, – I know the proper usage of each. But it’s more like an A.D.H.D. thing. I’m a really fast thinker and a really fast typist, a combination that leads to ‘haste makes waist – oops, I mean waste. See?

Anyway, I tidied the whole thing up, found some suitable copyright free images to go with the post and smugly filed the damn thing away in ‘drafts’ (something WP lets you do, but in reality is a privilege I rarely exercise).

With the draft post behind me I could report in to my 5writer colleagues with a clear conscience during our habitual Monday morning check in email.

‘Yep, I’m ready to go’, I told them.

Until Silk showed up.

On Monday, Silk diligently published her confessional ‘This Day We Write‘ post, wherein she castigated herself for missing her blog post last week. But she didn’t stop there, pointing out she was in good company, since 4/5th of the 5writers proved similarly delinquent.

Then, upon exiting the confessional booth, stout hearted Silk vowed that she would write, even if it was crap, as she somewhat less than elegantly put it. Only she used the ‘S’ word.

Gee, thanks Silk, for in retrospect, that’s exactly how I’d characterize my mostly well written but largely boring draft blog post on Tech Tips for Writers.

Thanks to you,  I’ve scrapped it for now.

At the 11th hour. 8:30 pm on a Tuesday evening with nothing left in the tank.

I’ve had a tough day and little energy left, but Silk’s words have spurred me on and I just can’t post what I’d originally planned because if nothing else, it is, in retrospect, highly unoriginal and just plain crap.

Oh sure, it’s well enough written. And some beginning writers and social media neophytes might find it marginally useful. Even some Luddites, if push comes to shove.

I suppose if you really want to learn more about #Twitter and #Facebook and #HashtagsForWriters and #Linkedin, you can leave a comment for me here. Maybe if you all clamour loudly enough, I’ll post the crap ‘Tech Tips’ post next week.

But my heart isn’t in it.

For me, it was just words filling pages. Words so that I could get a blog post drafted and up and  in the queue, ready to go.  Words done up in advance so I wouldn’t end up stressed out.

Late in the evening.

Scrambling on the day I’m supposed to publish my weekly post.

Like I’m doing now.

Is there a moral to all this?

A lesson to be learned?

I think there is.

And watch out Silk, because I’m going to throw it all out there for debate. You see, I think there is a lot more to being a ‘creative writer’ than ‘writing every day’. A helluva lot more than just putting words on a page.

Believe me, for I know of what I speak.

You see for me, writing every day is just ‘not enough’. Yet paradoxically also ‘too much’.

What?

Okay, let’s back up a bit.

Maybe you also believe that writing every day is the only thing that is necessary. I think there is more. A lot more. In fact, I’m going to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and argue that if all you do is ‘write every day’ all you’re going to get is a laptop with the letters worn clean off the keys.

Surely something more is required than daily obedience?

Somewhere, somehow, heart, soul, passion, craft, emotion and energy must come into play too.

Ever so ironically, this is the perfect week for me to expound on this theme. You see, I have actual empirical evidence that ‘writing every day’ is just not enough. I have, in fact, worn the letters clean off the keyboard of my laptop.

Yup, that’s right. Obliterated them. I wish I’d taken a picture of my Apple Macbook Air before my attendance at the ‘Genius Bar’ at the Apple store on El Paseo, but you’ll just have to believe me. Not two years old and already the ‘E’, ‘S’, and ‘C’ of my MacBook Air so obliterated, the genius techie’s had to pop them off and swap them out for wonderful new fresh letters for me to abuse.

For you see, I have no problem ‘writing every day’. I write ‘everyday’ for both social pleasure and business.

But it is not enough.

Sure, I’ll admit if you’re not writing at all, writing every day may hold some marginal importance. Without some rudimentary relationship with your laptop keyboard you really do run the risk of growing rusty. Of your skills withering and dying on the vine.

But not ‘writing every day’ is decidedly not my problem.

No, my problem is that I am not doing enough of the ‘write kind’ of writing. And yes, I deliberately chose that particular homonym .

Silk talks about the confessional, but I’m seeking  more of a ‘sanctuary’. A return to those simpler times in my past when I could luxuriate in the very essence of writing. A time when I could engage in the simple joy of creating characters, plotting and writing and re-writing snappy dialogue.

Fiction.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to enjoy that experience of writing fiction, despite the fact that my keyboard-in-the-casualty-ward experience proves I’ve done my share of ‘writing every day’.

So Silk, I beg to differ, (or at least add the Paula corollary). Writing crap, alone, will not make you a better writer. Writing every day will not make you a better writer if you are still writing crap. Finding the time, the place the space the motivation to craft better fiction will make you a better writer, – even if you don’t do that everyday. I’d rather spend five hours a week, all at one sitting, working on my novel rather than the artificial ‘write every day’.

But I don’t disagree that ultimately, you need to start somewhere, and ultimately I get your point: somehow, you have to drag yourself back into the writing world and into the world of story, whether it is an ‘every day’ or every week commitment.

Okay – 9:26. I’m done. Except not quite. There’s still the matter of the paw-paws.

What about the ‘paw-paws’ you ask?

Well, I write everyday. But for me, it’s the wrong kind of writing.

Yet as I’ve said, I believe a writer’s world is comprised of more than just ‘writing’.

So for me, that’s where the paw-paws come in, borrowing from the old children’s song, the chorus of which I have set out above. Because while I may not be writing every day, churning out pages and pages of my novel, I am, like a squirrel gathering acorns, amassing a treasure box of memories, anecdotes, characters and ideas.

Enough to fill a dozen novels.

Two dozen.

This week, I’m only going to share one example, but it’s a good one.

Last Thursday, I flew down from Canada to California. Mostly business, but also some personal chores to attend to, so I thought the timing worked out well.

Until I ended up on UA 6238 from San Francisco to Palm Springs.

I’d booked the flight on points. Happy to save money. When they handed me my boarding pass during my layover at SFO, I was pretty chill – I had a window seat in row 11. Maybe you’re like me and don’t like riding in the back of the bus, but Row 11 sounded just fine to me.

Except, in United’s dinky toy of a plane, row 11 turned out to be the second to last row.

Still, all was well at the outset. My seat companion proved a gracious and charming gentleman of the south who spoke with the kind of warm, slow accented speech that conjures up the smell of magnolias, porch swings on a summer day and a tray of iced tea.

We chatted amiably throughout the flight, the both of us looking up with some surprise as we started our descent into Palm Springs. Good company shortens any flight, and this one, pardon the pun, flew by.

Our voices caught as we hit the first big bump. The conversational hum in the small cabin diminishing measurably as we hit the second, third and fourth. Soon, it was as if meteors were raining against the fuselage.

We kept waiting for an announcement from our captain, but none came.

I reflected on all the times I’d travelled with my husband. How every time we hit major scary turbulence he’d double check to make sure my seat belt was securely fashioned and we’d hold hands. A couple of times we’d speak out loud, but most of the time, we didn’t need to. We’d just look at each other and I always knew he was thinking what I was thinking:  we’re all going to go sometime, at least were together.

Weird, huh? Or not weird? Maybe you and your spouse or partner do the same thing?

But this time, my husband wasn’t with me. Work and counting ‘snowbird days’ kept him in Canada while I’d returned to the desert alone.

In a frickin wind storm with ‘the silent one’ in the Captain’s seat.

The wheels  of our tiny plane descended with a crash so loud, I thought for sure something had exploded. My seat mate and new best friend and I exchanged raised eyebrow glances. As luck would have it, our seats were directly above the wheel well. I tried to remember airline crashes and whether that was a good think or a bad thing, then chastised myself for thinking of crashes.

Another two minutes of teeth jarring turbulence and I was actually flirting with the thought of reaching over and taking my seat mates hand. I was pretty sure he’d be cool with that. Both of us tried to continue our conversation, playing it cool, hiding our growing alarm, but our voices had become strained… our minds distracted…  speech forced.

At 500 feet, we grew silent.

At 200 feet, the plane accelerated with a lurch.

Instead of down, we were headed up.  Climbing. Hard. So hard, the forces – G forces? Whatever forces pushed me against my seat.

Still, no word form the cockpit.

We continued to climb. Minutes passed. Were we turning around? Making another approach after the aborted landing attempt? Because that’s what had happened. The airport now behind us.

 Why didn’t the pilot say something?

Why didn’t the flight attendant say something?

After at least five minutes. Our suspicions were confirmed. We were, alas, climbing, not banking around for another try. The Captain broke his silence: not enough fuel, he finally informed us. And even if we had enough fuel. Wind shear warnings made another attempt impossible.

So were heading for Ontario Airport. Heading back over the mountains to the west. And It was then I learned my seat mate was actually a retired air traffic controller.

Now, I could continue with my story, but I think you get my point. This experience… the fear, the conflicting emotions, the reactions of the passengers, the visceral, physical feelings in the pit of my stomach, the outward mask of calm – the surprise ‘twist’ of discovering my seat mate’s former career –  these are all ‘paw paws’.

Nuggets to be mined. Acorns to be stored away.

Time: 9:55pm.

Blog posts written this week: 2

Blog posts published this week: 1

Letter keys replaced on laptop: 4

Question for debate: whether writing every day is necessary to call yourself a writer?

Oh, and like my colleagues, I’m looking forward to our upcoming writing retreat in early June where we will write, laugh, share, research, scribble, dip into our “paw paws” and set them to page.

Then tear the pages up again.

Hope you found some “paw paws” today, too.

8 thoughts on “Writers – Do you believe you need to write every day to be a good writer?

  1. Wow, what a flight. Scary. And you know how much time I spend in the air! Every flight is the same – the thought that this might be the time, even though the odds are waaaaaaaaay smaller than a traffic accident. Don and I do the same thing. At least we’re together.
    I think I agree with you that in most cases quality writing is more productive than quantity writing, but sometimes writing everyday can be just the right thing to jump start you.
    Alison

  2. Thanks Alison, I appreciate your weighing in on this one – I’m interested to hear the feedback. Oh, – and I noticed you didn’t clamour to read ‘Tech Tips for Writers’.
    🙂

    • Actually I’d really like to see it. I have no doubt I’d learn some things. Twitter is beyond me, I think I’m finally getting the hang of how to effectively use FB, but hashtags! I could learn a thing or two about hashtags. And I bet there’s some other stuff in there that I’d find useful.

  3. Loved your post, Paula, and agree – but with lots of qualifiers. If you should manage to write every day (and I doubt there are very many devout practitioners including such famous authors as Stephen King who try to bamboozle us into believing they really do), then you will simply get better at it. If you truly write regularly – and I think this is key rather than slavishly following the every single day cult – you won’t be able to write crap even if you tried. Why? Because you get better at it every time your brain commands your fingers on your keyboard. So where does that put me: in the Paula camp or the Silk camp? You’ll have to wait for my next post to find out when I’ll add my own two paw-paws🙈

  4. Now that was one scary paw-paw, I think I’d rather mine were a little more sedate! I don’t write every day and don’t think you need to in order to be a good writer. But I am with Silk in that you do have to write. When I began blogging I found I was spending lots of time writing my blog posts and neglecting my fiction, so I moved from weekly to fortnightly posts to give time for both.

  5. Hi Andrea, really appreciate you sounding in, and frankly I think that is one of the things that we are all struggling with. When we are busy, we find the blog comes first; fiction second. Sometimes I think we’re never going to get back with writing with the kind of intensity we had when we started this blog and were literally writing full out to try to complete a novel in 5 months. But I like your idea of blogging fortnightly. If we were organized, we could even do two blogs at that time, – one to post and one to squirrel away, – like paw paws!

  6. Paula Paula Paula! Loved the post, but I’d like a chance to argue for the defence here. You dived into debate mode based on a slight misreading of my premise. Show me where I suggested that one must write everyday, please, counsellor. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Doobeedoobeedoo … okay, find it yet? No? Aha! That’s because I never said that. Much more discussion to come, can’t wait to debate this in person! Love you!

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