There’s a trend I’ve seen on many blogs stating that writing is a job and whether or not you feel up to it is irrelevant: “Suck it up, buttercup–do or die–it is time to write!” I can kind of get behind this battle cry most days and I usually enjoy a routine of daily word-crafting.
But not lately. Lately, I question the validity of this “rule.”
OK, Let’s, for example, equate writing not to a job but to SEX. While I certainly can do it when I’m not in the mood, I’m not convinced I should. Certainly my lack of passion would show through. What I do, I do primarily because I think it’s fun. I would never call it “a job.” I love it too much! And yes, I am aware some people do have sex as an occupation just as I am aware that writing is, indeed, a job. I’m not saying journalists or other professional writers are a bunch of prostitutes–and even if I WERE, let me say that I wouldn’t mean it in any derogatory sense. After all, when people seek quality work, one typically seeks the services of a professional. I would never fancy that I would be better than a professional in either–ahem–activity. So yes, they may be prostitutes but I’m pretty sure they know what the hell they’re doing. They have the luxury of experience on their side. As the old adage goes, “practice makes perfect,” and they certainly practice, practice, practice.
But on a personal level, that is to say, speaking for me and my skill alone, quantity does not necessarily mean quality. In fact, I find that the mass production of goods tends to make the product…well, not so good. Ever got caught in repetitious action? Say, you’re going through your email’s inbox on a deleting spree. Ever delete an email you didn’t intend to? Yeah…that’s your brain going numb. Don’t like that example? OK, how about this one? Another “rule” (and I swear by this and so should you) is when you’re done writing a short story or novel, let it sit before you edit it. If it’s a short story, I’ll ignore it for a month. If it’s a novel, maybe I’ll look at it again in six months before I start rewrites or editing. Why? Because it helps you focus. You NEED time away in order to gain perspective of whatever it is you’re writing. In the same way, I can’t just keep writing with no end in sight. Can’t. Do. It. Won’t.
For you procrastinators out there, stop cheering. No, this is NOT permission to “wait until inspiration strikes,” or to validate your inaction as right all along. This is a call to reevaluate what you’ve been told and to strike a balance between being a machine and being a human being. Pushing yourself forward to write as much as you can results in your brain burning out until you come up empty. You might have all the words right but something is missing, and that something is passion. Looking over the scenes I forced myself to write, I sound like a movie director: “OK, let’s try this again and this time with feeling.” But what if the feeling isn’t there? Do you fake it? Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when it doesn’t, what do you do? Keep trying? I’ve heard the definition of insanity described as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.” Maybe it’s time to step away from the work to gain perspective.
So no, I don’t believe in writing every day, trudging through it. Sometimes you need to live life in order to remember what it looks like outside of your novel, maybe give it a layer of depth it didn’t have before. I don’t know about you, but what works best for me, is just a little break. That way, when I come back to writing, it feels like slipping back into the arms of a lover that I’ve truly missed…instead of groaning, “Oh. It’s you again.”