There are many writer “truisms” in the world, and one particularly bothersome one relates to writing schedules. I’ve often heard others writers suggest that to be a truly successful author, one must write everyday. Of course, I’ve heard stories of dedicated writers getting up at 6:00 every morning and writing without a break until noon. Others suggest that they become physically ill if they do not get in their daily dose of writing.
While it is great when more experienced writers offer up free advice to their budding artist friends, I believe trying to create an overarching practice for all writers is a mistake. I’ve heard this topic come up at multiple writing conferences. The young or new writer raises his hand and says, “Do I really have to write everyday?” In some cases the writer, teacher, or editor answers the question in a vague sort of way, but sometimes the presenter begins discussing her own schedule in great detail, urging the conscientious writer to follow along and take notes.
Of course, one’s writing schedule is not always a matter of choice. I am not a morning writer and work best in the evening, although my job and other factors dictate this schedule. If I didn’t have the time to write in the evening, I might switch to an early afternoon practice. Or, perhaps I would try doing all my writing over the weekend. There is no perfect schedule, no right or wrong; there is only what works best for that individual.
While it is usually a good idea to create some sort of schedule or regular practice, it important to really trust oneself in this matter. Some writers might truly need to write every morning to feel at ease. Others might not need a schedule at all and might pace themselves according to a general page count or goal for that week. In my own practice, I try to allow for flexibility. For example, I sometimes incorporate alternate writing days into my schedule. If I end up not being able to write on Tuesday, for example, I might write on Wednesday instead.
I am also the sort of writer who is always plotting story ideas in my head. I often think it would be senseless for me to write everyday, as I need breaks to process and let my writing breathe. I have found this to be an effective practice for myself, although I would never force this same practice on another writer.
Like most, I do feel a pang in my stomach when I miss a writing day, and for this reason I try to be consistent, and, yes, I do write very often. But, I believe if one truly wants to write, one will make time for it. I certainly do. My schedule changes frequently and unexpected glitches come up. In these cases, I adjust my writing schedule accordingly. When it comes down to it, I always find time for my work. Even if I do so a little begrudgingly, I end up at the computer somehow, and I expect that most writers will do the same.