Breakable Rules: You Must Write Every Day!

Posts in the Writing Wisdom category are primarily for my creative writing students. Most consist of quotes from others that I want to pass along and sometimes I offer up the things I’ve learned as well.


Write Every Day is an oft-given and basic piece of writing advice. If you want to be a Real Writer™ you must write every day, no matter your circumstances, no matter your lack of inspiration. Put that butt in that chair and sit there and write. Every day.

Even Jerry Seinfeld agrees, and he’s a huge success. (He has a productivity trick that helped him accomplish this that I use myself because it is quite motivational.)

The problem with Write Every Day as a dictate from on high is that it creates a huge amount of pressure. And, as author Daniel José Older explains, that doesn’t work for everyone.

Here’s what stops more people from writing than anything else: shame. That creeping, nagging sense of ‘should be,’ ‘should have been,’ and ‘if only I had…’ Shame lives in the body, it clenches our muscles when we sit at the keyboard, takes up valuable mental space with useless, repetitive conversations. Shame, and the resulting paralysis, are what happen when the whole world drills into you that you should be writing every day and you’re not.

Yes to that. Not everyone is motivated by deadlines and hard goals. For some, writing on your current work/s in progress every day might not be feasible, might not even be what you need to do. Older again:

Every writer has their rhythm. It seems basic, but clearly it must be said: There is no one way. Finding our path through the complex landscape of craft, process, and different versions of success is a deeply personal, often painful journey. It is a very real example of making the road by walking. Mentors and fellow travelers can point you towards new possibilities, challenge you and expand your imagination, but no one can tell you how to manage your writing process. I’ve been writing steadily since 2009 and I’m still figuring mine out. I probably will be for the rest of my life. It’s a growing, organic, frustrating, inspiring, messy adventure, and it’s all mine.

For myself, I find that I can’t always move forward in my work progress every day. Sometimes I need to work out why a scene isn’t gelling or a character isn’t behaving in a way I want in my own head before trying to do so in words. Sometimes I find I really need to get a bit of research out of the way to make the next chapter or scene flow. And sometimes I’m really busy with work projects.

The problem that arises for me is that I can’t not write for too long otherwise I run into trouble. Author Justine Larbalestier is the same:

If I don’t write for a month then I find it very very very difficult to get back into it. And the longer I’m not writing the harder it becomes. My writing muscles atrophy. I need to write—not every day, but at least three times a week—to stay limber.

In his book About Writing, Samuel R. Delany compares writing to an addiction:

…your mind becomes… addicted to the pleasure of writing. …while the pleasure is there (it’s unique; very real; all writers experience it), the truth is, it isn’t that great. You need lots of it to effect the “addiction” that will keep you at it. Though the practice of writing has the structure of an addiction, it’s a mild one–one remarkably easy to wean yourself away from, even accidentally or through inattention.

The way I reconcile this with the idea that you don’t have to write on your work in progress every day is that I make it my goal to do one ten minute writing exercise a day. Ten minutes is not a large chunk of time, so even in a busy life I can find the moment to sit down and do it. Even a short exercise keeps my creative brain engaged enough to make it easier to get back to writing on my work in progress when I can. And on those days I do an exercise right before I get to the main writing in order to turn off my horrid little internal editor.

This is why I did the Writing Exercises class last year and why I started The Picture Game a few years back. That one is simple: find a picture, get out a notebook or open a blank word processing document, set a timer for 10 minutes, take no more than 30 seconds to take in the picture, then write until the timer dings. No stopping to correct spelling or to think, just keep your fingers moving.

There are plenty of places[1] to find different writing exercises that keep you limber but won’t make you feel pressured. Find your level and what works for you and do that!

Whatever you do, know that there’s no one right way to be a writer, no one thing you must to, no one path you must follow.


image credit: photosteve101 on Flickr

Footnotes

  1. Some of my favorites:

    All with great exercises to do alone or with other writers.[]

Broken antique stairs - by Simon Agozzino

Not Everyone Can Skip That Missing Stair

I posted a version of this a year ago on Facebook and, a few days ago, it came up in my On This Day. I decided to refresh it for the blog because this issue continues to be a problem.

Last year, author Jon Del Arroz was banned from the 2018 WorldCon for reasons. Previous to this, I’d been aware of him and that he was Sad/Rabid Puppy-adjacent, thus probably someone I should avoid and block where possible. As the news spread about this banning, I came to understand that he had, for several years previous, been severely harassing several people in the SFF community. I knew about one of them, I didn’t know about the many others.

The reason I didn’t know is in part because of my scattershot participation on social media and also because the events in this community over the past few years have made it so my anxiety is often triggered by reading about the actions of the folks Del Arroz admires and rolls with, so I tend to just not keep up.

Thing is, it’s really easy not to keep up.

Continue reading “Not Everyone Can Skip That Missing Stair”

Meet Alethea Kontis | #FriendlyFriday

It’s #FriendlyFriday, the day I tell you all about my fabulous friends and the brilliant things they’re up to. Have a fabulous friend of your own? Share a link to their awesomeness in the comments or on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag.

I’m moving Friendly Friday posts over from Patreon to my blog. This is where I’m posting all content going forward and the design over here is better, anyway!

I don’t plan to repost the old Friendly Fridays here, though I’m making an exception today. Why? Because today is the birthday of the illustrious Alethea Kontis, who is not only my dear friend but also the person who came up with this great concept. Wish her a happy birthday by dropping a buck or two into her birthday fundraiser :)

If you’ve been following me for a while, you may recognize Alethea’s name from my frequent visits to Florida. She and I have ranted about fairy tales together, challenged people together, and had magical times at the Space Center as well as the beach. Most of the time when I tell people I know her they ask: “So, the princess thing–is she like that ALL the time?” As with most beautifully complex people, the answer is a complicated mix of yes and no.

Continue reading “Meet Alethea Kontis | #FriendlyFriday”

I Heart This Thursday

The Monster Cafe | #IHeartThisThursday

On #IHeartThisThursday I share the art, writing, music, performance, or other creative endeavors I love and admire. Want in on the fun? Share something you heart in the comments or on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag.

Last year around this time I was hanging out in Florida with a bunch of romance writers having a fabulous time at the beach. The Coastal Magic convention was a good time for many reasons, and the thing I remember best about it was the awesomely adorable Monster Cafe booth.

Monster Cafe Booth

I’m a sucker for some cute fuzzyness and big eyes just like anyone with a soul. However, there’s something extra special about these ones. The creator, Justine Birmingham, has an artist’s eye for what colors will work well together and creating creatures that have a definite personality. She doesn’t only make glitter-eyed fuzzballs. Oh no. Check this out:

She made my friend Alethea Kontis a teddy bear using the Marriott carpet pattern! Those of you who go to DragonCon will get the significance of this. OMG I love that bear.

Justine is an all-around crafting goddess and if I wasn’t a nomad I would be surrounded by her creations all the time.

You can see her latest stuff on Instagram and, if you can’t get to a con where she sells stuff, she has some things up on Etsy. Go forth and follow!

Dragon Bound

January Microfiction: Dragon Bound

“You’re not supposed to carry me like this! Are you listening? Kid! Brruughfft – this is so undignified.”

Tamar let the Dragon complain until his complaints ran out. He’d pay for it later when the Dragon got bigger. Didn’t take too long for that to happen, but maybe by then he would be a Dragon himself and nothing could hurt him.

“You think you’ll get to be one of us? Not likely.”

Click here to read the rest of the story

December Short Story: The Vagabond Cafe [Sneak A Peek Patrons Only]

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The Vagabond Cafe

The space where the Vagabond Café exists right now used to be the basement apartment at 7 Cornelia Street. Anyone who walks into the café has a hard time figuring out how it could ever have been big enough for a person to live comfortably. Or, at least, confused as to why anyone would agree to pay $7,000 a month for the privilege.

“It’s the West Village,” Brooklynites explain as if they know (since there’s no other way for a Brooklynite to say anything). “What do you expect? Rents are ridiculous and everything is too small.”

It is true that in the West Village rents are ridiculous on tiny apartments, but even at that $7,000 is more than anyone would pay for a studio with half a kitchen and a dubiously safe “bathroom”. Anyone but a musician. And the landlord knew it.

Patrons on the Sneak A Peek level, click here to read the whole story (you’ll need the password). Not a patron yet? You can read the rest of this piece and all the ones that came before by becoming one of my supporters on Patreon. Just click the orange banner above.

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Section 3 | Chapter 1 (Part 1) – #PyramidsAndPunk [Supporters Only]

The copper scarab sailed over the Nile, flying so fast over the green waters of the delta that boats in its wake dipped and bowed as if pushed by an invisible hand or a strong wind. Atet hummed the machine higher in the air, and Ibi felt the reaction of the soldiers in the cabin. Before, they were awed but fearful, now they were terrified. None of them had ever been up this high, had to look so far to find the horizon–not that most of them were looking. Only Ziwat was enjoying herself, leaning as far out the back of the cabin as she could and still feel safe, calling out every feature on the ground she recognized from above. If Ibi had been in control of her body, she would have laughed.

They followed the path of the water until the delta waters coalesced into the river proper, then turned West toward the Library. As they drew closer there was a change in the vibrations resonating up from the ground to them. Atet opened herself up more so Ibi could begin to understand–the three pyramids of the Library were responding to the song, just as the scarab itself was.

:A taste of what you’re here to learn,: Atet pulsed.

To read the rest of this, become a supporter! If you already support me, click here, then enter the password. Not a supporter yet? You can get access to this and other content by becoming one. Just click on Support in the top menu or on the sidebar.

Hatshepsut temple

Monthly Microfiction – December 2018 [Patrons Only]

Standing Still

In the hour before dawn a chariot climbed through the desert hills toward the Western mountains, the full moon above illuminating the way. The sky was not yet even the barest pink and every star embedded in the body of Nut winked down at the driver and passenger as they broke the night’s silence. They drove past the sealed tombs in the rock, the monuments to past kings, until the beating of the horses’ hooves echoed off the stone of the new monument ahead. Hatshepsut tapped her driver’s shoulder to indicate where they should stop, then squeezed it to keep balance once they did.

“Here, my king?” the driver asked. They were still many feet from the front of the first ramp.

“Yes, I’ll walk the rest of the way,” Hatshepsut said as she climbed down and dusted herself off. “I won’t need to return to the High House until the sun peaks, so you may return to the river to take part in the festival there.”

Even though they’d discussed this before leaving, the driver still looked uncomfortable leaving her king there all alone.

“I’ll be safe. Go.” She said firmly but with a smile.

To read the rest of this, become a patron on Patreon! If you’re already a patron, click here, then enter the password. Not a patron yet? You can get access to this and other content by becoming one of my supporters on Patreon. Just click the banner on the sidebar.

My #GivingTuesday Recommendations

It’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the hashtag of the day is #GivingTuesday. This is the day to raise awareness for charitable causes that could use your dollars just as much (or more!) as retail stores. I am intimately involved with many charitable causes that I think deserve your donations. Some are 501(c)3 orgs, so you get a tax deduction, some are not. All of them come with my highest endorsement and recommendation. Click here to read the full list.

November Short Story Sacrifice

November Short Story: Sacrifice [Sneak A Peek Patrons Only]

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Sacrifice

The kitchen was George’s favorite room. It was here that he felt the difference between his old life and his new one the most. In essentials, the house in Illyria wasn’t that different from the one he and his wife had sold before moving here. Two bedrooms, two and a half baths, living room, dining room, rec room, basement. But the kitchen had the majority of the major appliances, all Illyrian-made, humming with puissance. The fridge that held food in suspended animation so it never went bad, no matter how long you left it in; the oven that brought food to the exact right temperature faster than a microwave; the dishwasher that used no water or soap yet produced clean dishes in under two minutes and made their pots and pans look like new again.

Despite this, George stood at the sink with a sponge soaked in soapy water, meticulously removing the detritus of his breakfast from his plate. Outside the window was his front yard, and just beyond that was a small gathering of reporters. When he first came into the kitchen he saw them and they saw him. They knew better than to try and approach the window — the guard grass was already agitated, having them so close. George tried not to show any of the anger and annoyance he felt. He wouldn’t back down or hide away, wouldn’t give them the satisfaction. So he washed the dishes by hand. And hated every second of it.

Patrons on the Sneak A Peek level, click here to read the whole story (you’ll need the password). Not a patron yet? You can read the rest of this piece and all the ones that came before by becoming one of my supporters on Patreon. Just click the orange banner above.