Tuesday, September 10, 2013

How often should a writer write?

You've got an idea for the next big thing. It's revolutionary, gripping, and beautifully written... at least in your head! You play it out in your mind over and over again until you could almost recite it in your sleep. It's an amazing book! Everyone will want to read it. So, you log onto your computer, open a blank doc, and stare at the little black cursor. If you're lucky, you got down a paragraph or two before the mind fairy swept everything away. If you're even luckier, you got down a whole chapter or even an outline. What do you do? What happened to your muse?

It happens to the best of us. At some juncture during our writing journey we all loose our muse. For some its a quick turnaround, for others, it may be a struggle to get back in the game.
I can't tell you how many times I've heard it said that a writer should WRITE EVERY DAY. Treat it like a job that must be done. My type-A, task mastering self loves this idea. Set aside a specific time EVERYDAY! Assign a place, a time, and a word count goal to each and every day! Yes, genius counsel. Brilliant. Productive.

... And soooo NOT realistic for many of us. If you're like me, you love to write and enjoy doing it as often as you can, but the reality is that writing is something you do for you when you're not busy doing things for other people. Sometimes you get so caught up in the business of being a parent, a spouse, an employee, a volunteer, and a plethora of other things that can actually push your muse to the side.  - Poor, sad, rejected muse! - And, it's okay.

Now, I'm not saying that I have a magic template that should work for all writers. In fact, my point is that there is no magic formula for how, when, where, or how much a writer should write.

I write as a release, therefore, when I feel pressured into doing it, my work isn't just unsatisfying, it often is without feeling and depth. Because of this, I did something almost unheard of to an aspiring author: I turned down a book a year contract with a reputable publishing house. Why? Because I know I can't pump out a good quality book, that I'm pleased with, in a years time. I am, after all, an OCD editor of my own work! However, I have some fantastic author friends who pump out genius works like water from a tap. We're talking five to ten books a year! And, yes, sometimes I compare myself to them and feel like a literary weenie!

 - Shake it off. Get a grip! Writing isn't a speed competition. At the end of the day, the end of the chapter, and ultimately, the end of a WIP (work in progress), writing is a very personal thing. Figure out what works for you. Being pressured by a deadline is a good way to a quick burn-out (unless you have a contract, then by all means, hit that deadline!) Shooting for a daily word count may have you padding your work with unnecessary words just to fulfill your self-instilled quota.

Writing a novel doesn't have to be, nor should it be, a torturous expedition. It should fulfill you. So, put the clock away, forget the word count, and let your muse speak when it wants to speak.

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