Writers Write (Forever and Ever and Ever)

to-do-2607082_1920Writers need to be nicer to themselves. Maybe it’s pressure from the industry. Maybe it’s the idea that artists should build their careers on sweat and exhaustion and sleepless nights. Maybe you are so lucky as to have too many stories building up inside you that you want to stay up slaving at your computer, but the truth of the matter is that writing has become – or perhaps always been – an industry where working too hard, too much and too often is only the first step to success.

This might be an American think. After all, I have friends in all industries that work too hard. And don’t take this to mean that I think writers deserve praise and love for work they’re not doing. For those of us lucky enough to call writing a job, writing is a job and we have to work hard to succeed at it. I don’t shirk hard work and none of the writers I know do either. 

But somewhere along the way, we romanticized the workaholic tendencies. Somewhere further along the line, we started expecting them. Yes, in order to be a writer you must write – obviously. But the idea that an author must put pen to paper every single day, must pump out a new chapter before breakfast every morning, it is no longer about a dedication to your art and craft and passion and now another excuse to make artists work far too hard for not nearly enough. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little raw on this topic. Tomorrow marks the third week of National Novel Writing Month and I am beginning to burn out. After many family obligations that required days off (a wedding, nothing bad!) I found that I had lost my significant lead over the story and was now writing nearly 2,000 words day-to-day.

I like this new book. A lot, actually. The characters are unique and I’m enjoying writing a third book in a series, familiar as I am with pre-existing characters and setting. The book isn’t the problem.

But the pace of writing 2,000 words a day (it’s actually 1,667, but the point remains,) that’s grueling. Even for me. I’ve accomplished National Novel Writing Month seven times. I’ve written manuscripts in two weeks. Writing quickly and a lot is not an issue.

It’s also not sustainable.

Writing isn’t a physical job. Unless you’ve taken it upon yourself to learn martial arts as a research project or you’ve gone ahead and gotten a standing desk, most of this job requires sitting. A lot of sitting. And staring at a computer. If you’ve never written a book before, it might look like we spend all our time not working. I get that. Storytelling is challenging to quantify.

food-2203732_1920But while writing isn’t physically demanding, it is emotionally demanding. Telling the story of how a young woman watched a serial killer take out her neighbor’s entire family, that brings you to a place you don’t want to spend your days. Even a love story, with its ups and downs, guilt, love, affection, sacrifice, every single time you put your pen to the paper or fingers to the keyboard you are entering a world of emotion, good, bad and the gamut between.

National Novel Writing Month is one thing. It’s a challenge that pushes us harder, higher, further than we believe we’re capable of. But it’s also short term. Think about the idea of writing 2,000 words every single day. Sure, you’d finish a remarkable number of projects, but you’d be wiped. Eventually, it would catch up with you.

Which is why it’s important to sometimes take a step back and wonder if you’re putting pressure on yourself to finish a book because 1) You want to, 2) It’s on deadline or 3) Because you feel that you should always be working, striving, pushing, jumping higher and higher. Yes, I understand that sometimes we do need to reach our deadlines – that’s a great problem to have. But it’s also okay to take a breather, to remind yourself that other jobs don’t exist in the 24-hour cycle, that in order to be the best writer you can be, you must step away from the desk every once in awhile.

We must still work hard. In fact, we’ll probably still work all the time. But while we’re doing it, it’s important to be nice to ourselves too. Writing is already a challenging career and a challenging passion, even more so when you combine the two. It’s not just okay to step back, it’s necessary to survival. At the end of the day, the world isn’t going to explode just because you missed a word count or two. Do your best not to explode either. ♦

 

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7 thoughts on “Writers Write (Forever and Ever and Ever)

  1. Interesting entry. I won NANOWRIMO on my third try (the first two I wrote myself into plot corners) and haven’t done it since. I am addicted to writing, so I find myself working on quality over quantity.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Bill,

      Thanks for reading! NaNo can certainly be an interesting challenge – congrats on winning when you did! I do agree that the trick is to write better than more. And, of course, when writing is a business there is always something else to do to take a break. Still, we all have to find our rhythm! I hope you have a good writing process that works for you!

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  2. I’m having a hard go at it, first 2 weeks were great I’ve reached 20K but that’s about it… life got in the way and novel is currently taking a back seat but we’ll see what happens… either way the point is to write something, I’m not going to complete 50K on time but #amwriting 😉 and that’s the point right 🙂

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    1. Congrats on reaching 20k! That’s still more than most people write in a lifetime, and you did it in two weeks! One of the things I often discuss in my NaNo posts is that NaNo is a great way to challenge us, but we shouldn’t feel (too) guilty when real life prevents us from moving forward. And besides, you sound like you’re off to a great start, so when things quiet down you can always go back to it! Wishing you much luck – thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Agreed! I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for the work we do – it’s hard, and it can be grueling, so we need to make sure we allow ourselves to feel the emotional rewards of making progress, and know that it’s okay to pause now and again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t agree more! It’s important to treat writing like a business, but also to remember that it’s a creative art, and that we need to take time to refill in order to produce our best work. Also, it’s no fun to be a workaholic!

      Liked by 1 person

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