Kill the myth that you must write every day

“A fountain pen on an open journal” by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Writing every day is a good habit

We need to do away with the myth that in order to be a writer you must write every day.

Writing every day is a good habit, one that’s worth trying to get into, especially if you want to write professionally, but it’s not the be all and end all of being a writer. And honestly, the idea that you must be writing all the time or you’re not a real writer does more harm than good.

Because if you’re anything like me, having the notion in your head that writing must occur every single day is more a stick to beat yourself up with rather than a force for encouragement.

And that’s not what it’s meant to be.

It’s meant to be a goal, something t shoot for, a good habit. But asking writers to write every single day is just setting them up for failure more often than not because spoilers: life just doesn’t work that way.

Life happens to everyone

Life has a habit of getting in the way of all our best intentions, and that happens to every one. Even the best of us

There are day jobs to go to, there’s food to be cooked, chores to be done, relatives to visit. Cars break down and pipes burst and power cuts happened and sometimes you’re just too goddamn tired of it all to get any writing done.

There’s a saying in RPG circles that no plan survives contact with players, and the same is true here; no plan survives contact with real life.

And yet if you try to be kind yourself and say “it’s okay, I can do it tomorrow” there’s a good chance that little voice will pop up in your head to sneer you’re not a real writer, at you. Real writers write every day, says the voice in your head.

And by the voice in your head, I mean the voice in mine.

Even more so if you’re mentally ill or disabled

The thing is, it’s true that life gets in the way for everyone.

But it’s even more true if you happen to be disabled and/or dealing with mental health issues. Because you have to deal with your disability and/or mental health on top of all that other shit.

And by you, I mean me.

I find that dealing with anxiety and depression makes being a writer very hard. There are so many days where I barely have the energy to sit on the sofa staring at something, let alone make food or wash pots.

Having the energy to write, to make thoughts happen in a vaguely coherent manner, is basically impossible on days like this.

I’ve been having a run of low energy days lately, and it’s been getting to me.

Because not doing writing is another thing my depression can use to be an asshole about. Which makes it even harder to find the energy to write, which makes my brain even more of an asshole etc.

It’s a vicious cycle that fucking sucks to be in the middle of.

There’s this push to meet all your goals now now now

I feel like there’s this cultural idea that we always have to be working on our goals, that we need to achieve them as soon as possible which means now now now.

It’s the same mind set that encourages people to always be hustling and to create schedules that fill every single moment of their day without any thought for breaks.

It’s the same mindset that makes us feel like a failure if we’re not doing these things all the time.

And in the case of writing it manifests as having do write every day. In every spare minute if you have a day job, or for eight hours straight if writing is your job.

And it’s all so fucking unhealthy.

I know that, and I massively struggle with it.

This mindset is how you end up crashing head first into a wicked case of burnout.

I burnt out after my PhD, and it almost killed me.

But that’s not feasible for everyone–need to save your energy

Instead of hustling to meet all your goals right now, take a step back. Give yourself room to breathe, and save your energy.

After all, there is absolutely no point in working yourself to the bone to meet all your goals if you’re too exhausted to enjoy it.

The same goes for writing.

There is absolutely no point in pushing yourself to write every day if it means you’re not going to enjoy the process.

I’m bolding that to try to get it into my own head.

It doesn’t matter if someone once told you you should write every day, if you’re not enjoying the process. And if you’re actively doing yourself harm by pushing yourself to write that often, you really need to stop.

Whether you’re able-bodied and mental illness free or disabled and dealing with mental health issues, it’s worth taking a step back and cutting yourself some slack. You don’t have to write every day to be a writer; you already are a writer.

And you don’t have hustle every second you’re alive in order to meet your goals. Slow and steady wins the race, remember? Be the tortoise, not the hare.

Writing everyday is a good aim, but be aware that won’t necessarily be the reality

At the end of the day, writing every day is a good thing to aim for. It’s a great habit, something you can certainly try, but it’s not worth beating yourself up over if you don’t manage it.

Sometimes life just gets in the way.

Maybe you’re not wired for daily writing.

Perhaps you have disabilities or mental health issues that make it basically impossible.

No matter what the reason you’re not writing every day, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay.

We have a habit of revering people who work extremely long hours, like Tim Cook or Elon Musk, but that’s not for everyone. Trying to emulate people like that if it doesn’t suit you isn’t gonna make you as rich and successful as they are, it’s just gonna make you sick.

One line of advice I keep seeing on Medium is work smarter, not harder.

Work out your optimum writing schedule, and work on sticking to that instead of some arbitrary rules about how often you should write. You’re going to see way more success if you play to your strengths than if you try to force yourself into a shape that doesn’t suit you.

So, by all means, experiment with a daily writing habit. If it works, that’s great. If it doesn’t, that’s fine. Work on finding out what does work for you.

Writing every other day doesn’t make you any less of a writer.

Writing only at weekends doesn’t make you any less of a writer.

Writing for six hours solid once a month doesn’t make you any less of a writer.

Being driven to write is what makes you a writer; anything else on top of that is just bullshit.

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