There’s so much talk in the literary world about how we must write daily to be ‘real’ authors – indeed, I saw a poll in a Facebook group about this issue and it seems to be such a cause of anxiety and shame for many writers in terms of worrying they’re fakes if they don’t write every single day or that they’re even lazy or won’t ever finish a book.
However, I feel this myth of writing everyday is a pernicious patriarchal, capitalist and ableist one which we need to ditch as it doesn’t honour the creative process or even our humanity.
In a world where most of us need to work full-time, the demand from on high to write daily weighs heavily on our shoulders, but especially upon women who studies have shown do jobs and then come home and do more domestic chores and child and elder care, plus emotional labour to hold together relationships and families and the ‘third shift’ of maintaining our looks, as discussed by Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth.
Part of the reason I became a specifically feminist writing coach was because I was so frequently seeing my female author clients exhausting themselves by burning the midnight oil or getting up at 5, just to have some time to create and I wanted to do something to support them as the male authors I worked with, whilst having careers, also could write their masterpieces, knowing their wives or partners would pick up the slack around the kids and house whilst they took time to write.
Hence I came to see that time is very much a feminist issue and how it impacts women’s creative careers profoundly.
However, as much as it would be fab to write daily as it’s a source of joy and I want as many women’s books to be written, published and out there changing the world and I do help women to increase their writing time in a way which respects their personal energies and lifestyles, I do think the ‘rule’ about having to write daily to be a ‘proper’ writer is a destructive one.
HOW THE DEMAND TO WRITE DAILY ARGUABLY ONLY WORKS IF YOU’RE AN AFFLUENT WHITE GUY
Mainly, this is because it reeks of economic privilege which is usually held in society by white males as women and marginalised members of our cultures earn a lot less, even when working the same jobs, this gender and race pay gap meaning that going part-time to support one’s writing life is often less feasible.
This demand to write daily also smacks of gender privilege as it tacitly assumes you’re a guy who can rely, as in classical Greece and Rome, on women and slaves (aka marginalised peoples) to do your dirty work whilst you lie on a chaise longue composing your novel with a quill.
HOW THE ‘WRITE DAILY’ MYTH REEKS OF ABLEISM
Indeed, this ‘write daily’ myth also is horribly ableist – something which I am acutely aware of due to having chronic illness and pain myself, something which has lessened my ability to create over the past decade or more.
Hence the order from so many writing teachers and authors to write daily or be damned speaks of elitism and health privilege and isn’t a realistic demand on we mere mortals who need to work and don’t write full-time – which is most of us, as even my bestselling friends have side hustles – and especially for women, minorities and those of us with disabilities who have challenges ranging from being in too much pain to type to having zero energy at times.
HOW THE DEMAND TO WRITE DAILY MISREPRESENTS THE CREATIVE PROCESS
However, there’s something else which the proponents of the ‘write daily’ myth are missing – that this is not necessarily how the creative process works, or at least not for everybody.
I myself am a binge writer – life, work and my health often gets in the way of me writing daily, but I can then bang out up to 10k in a day. This is due not to my circumstances, but in my very creative bones as I’ve always preferred to finish an entire story or chapter at one sitting.
Therefore, for many of us, who like to and can only maybe write in long sustained bursts and don’t often get the time to do this, the ‘write daily’ mantra goes against one’s personal creative approach and thus can make a writer goes against their inherent habits and even distrust and shame themselves even more, making writing at all even more difficult – and I know full well how women writers doubt themselves more than men anyway, so we don’t need more ‘rules’ making us feel bad about ourselves as patriarchy has already done a number on us.
THE NECESSITY OF DAYDREAMING AND DOWN TIME
Indeed, the notion that we must write daily to be real writers is also a capitalist myth, imbued with the idea that we must be productive at all times.
In a culture which puts an accent on constant doing, the being which is an inherent part of creativity is shunned.
The former US poet laureate, Billy Collins, wrote in one poem how windows were invented for poets to stare out of and I love the way that captures the importance of daydreaming, thinking, planning, feeling and resting, goddammit, for our writing.
Indeed, I’ve often realised that my best work can be done only after I’ve given it time to brew in my consciousness and I’ve previsualised characters, scenes and settings in great detail.
Then, when I get to my desk, the words flow through me like ink inhabits my veins.
And the ‘write daily’ mandate pushes aside this need to pause, ponder and plan, even though it’s my experience that it’s inherent to a sound writing process for many.
STOP IF YOU WANT TO GO
Indeed, although it seems counterintuitive, I’ve found that if I take time out to take care of myself by doing yoga, meditating and having a hot bath and doing other self-loving things, I can work more.
Rest actually works to revive us when we’re feeling uninspired, much better than pushing on, even to the extent that I now wonder if the ‘write daily’ mandate is causing many writers to feel blocked, when they’re simply just not honouring their own process due to imbibing this capitalist myth of constant daily progress.
Indeed, taking time between drafts is key to making our projects better as if we rush back into them, we often don’t grow enough and then the next version isn’t that much better than the previous one and I see many writers fall prey to this.
I also think the need to always be moving forward – and at a fast clip – often means we send out our work too soon and get painful rejections which might easily have bee avoided had we simply waited ’til the MS was ready.
Patience really is thus a key virtue writers need and the willingness to embrace slow periods in a project or its submission and marketing.
DO IT YOUR WAY
I would say then that your pen doesn’t have to be moving across paper or your keys typing every single day for you to be a writer or to finish projects and get published.
I can attest to this from my own experience.
Have compassion for your circumstances, your financial position, your health, your marginalised status, the gender inequalities which impose on your time and energy and figure out what works for you.
Maybe you can find a way to create more writing time each day – I get people using timers to do short amounts – or to even change your overall life so creativity can play a bigger role in your days, but, until then, consider how you prefer to work, not what the writing community preaches, and don’t beat yourself up if you can’t or don’t want to write daily.
Don’t absorb the myths which suits primarily white, male privileged writers and put yourself down for not meeting standards which are unattainable for most of us.
You’re a writer if you write – fuck doing it daily if that’s not your jam or not something you can do without going crazy and exhausting yourself.
I promise you can still finish your books somehow and create a literary career, if that’s what you want.
If you want to talk to me about creating a writing practice that suits you, you can take an hour with me to find a way forward.