“What has shifted over the years is that I take a lot more time off from writing. As a younger writer, I was really adhering to the mythology that, in order to be a writer, you have to write every day. As I’ve continued to age and trust that the writing will be there, I’ve moved into a space where I feel like if I don’t write for a couple of months, that’s fine. It doesn’t scare me at all.” – Ada Limón in The Atlantic
If you’re a newspaper reporter, documentation writer, a freelancer on a deadline, or in any other situation where you are working for somebody else, then you might need to write every day. Otherwise, you probably don’t.
Writing professors and other gurus have for years sounded like a broken record on the “write daily” mandate because (supposedly) if you don’t, you’ll lose your talent and skills, be treating writing as an occasional hobby rather than a job or avocation, heading for the gutter, turning to drink, and other horrid outcomes. I think that’s nonsense.
But, if you don’t think it’s nonsense and want to write every day, that’s wonderful as long as it’s working for you. I tend to rebel against absolutes and other “necessary” writing habits. For me, such absolutes are harmful because they clash with the way I view my avocation. If such rules clash with your personality and your art and craft, ignore them.
We are unique individuals, those of us who write, and in many cases, we don’t quite know how we do it. But if “how we do it” seems to work, then why corrupt the process by twisting it to fit with how somebody else does it?
I think we do our best writing when we maintain our independence from those who keep handing out “writing rules” and dusty myths as though they’re gospel. We’re not working on an assembly line. It goes without saying (almost) that the work you are doing is your story.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the four novels in the Florida Folk Magic Series, beginning with “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”