I’ve been in a creative slump for about a month now. I haven’t really written anything, or even done things that I normally enjoy. I thought I might try to get back in the writing groove by reading a couple writing ebooks, but what I found in those books was more discouraging than encouraging.
Both the ebooks predicated all their advice on one maxim: Write Every Day. If you don’t write every day, these books said, you’re not taking your craft seriously. Writing must not be the most important thing in your life. And so on, and so forth. For someone who hadn’t been writing for well over a month, and who had been anguishing over it thanks to depression, this only made me feel worse. Was I not a real writer because I couldn’t write every day?
Eventually I talked to some of my writer friends about this, and we all came to the same conclusion: “Write every day” is bad advice.
“Write every day” assumes too much. It assumes all writers work the same way, and that all writers have the ability to work every day. Worse, it creates gatekeeping in a community that should in theory be open to anyone and everyone.
People do not have cookie-cutter work habits. “Write every day” assumes that all writers work the same way. It refuses to see the myriad ways that people approach problems and solve them. It’s the kind of advice that tries to fit square pegs (and triangle pegs, and rhombus pegs, and so on) into a single round hole.
Furthermore, it assumes, in a lot of ways, that writers don’t have lives or families or other obligations. I see a lot about stealing time to write throughout one’s day, but there are times when that’s just not possible. Maybe you’ve caught the flu and are knocked out in bed; maybe you’ve been up all night with a clingy, sick kid. Maybe you’re on vacation or on a road trip or something similar. (Have you ever tried working on a laptop–or even a notebook–in a moving car? I have, and it’s difficult.) “Write every day” assumes these things don’t happen, or if they do, they can be put on hold for ten minutes so you can scribble something in a notebook.
Worse than that, “write every day” seems to assume that all writers are capable of writing every day. That isn’t true; that can’t be true. Some people have physical ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Some people have disabilities that make it hard to get out of bed every day, much less get to a desk and write. Some people, like me, have mental ailments like depression that can get in the way of even basic tasks.
I know from experience how hard depression makes it to write one day, much less every day. Depression loves to tell me that I can’t. It tells me there’s no point; it tells me I’m not any good, so why bother trying. It goes on and on and on, and there are many days when I can’t make it shut up. The days when it tag teams with anxiety are even worse.
I’m lucky that I have access to a therapist and medication to help me manage my mental maladies, but I know that many people aren’t as fortunate. Not everyone has the resources to work with or around their disabilities. A writer with bad carpal tunnel might not have the money to purchase transcription software like Dragon. Which brings me to my final point.
“Write every day” is a gatekeeper. It tells the world that Real Writers™ write every day, and if you don’t, you must not be a Real Writer™. It shuts out people who can’t write every day, whether it’s because they have a life, or because they have a disability that prevents it. In both the ebooks I read recently, people who didn’t write every day were accused of not taking their craft seriously enough. If you were serious about your writing, they posited, you would do it every day, no matter what. One book even concluded that if you couldn’t write every day, well, maybe you were just a hobbyist.
What a load of bull.
I can almost guarantee that there are professional, published authors out there who do not write every day. I can guarantee that there are first-time authors out there who did not work on their manuscript every day leading up to its acceptance. Not everyone can be an automaton, and no one should have to be to “prove” they’re a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. That’s all there is to it.
“Write every day” is not one-size-fits-all advice. What works for one writer doesn’t necessarily work for the next. The hard part is realizing that that’s Okay. I give you permission not to write every day if you can’t or you don’t want to. You’re still a writer.