‘Write every day, or else’

Gurus tell us to write every day because that’s what professionals do. They point out that newspaper reporters and magazine feature writers have to write every day because that’s their job. The same is true if you write news releases, computer documentation, or advertising copy.

Since people working for hire have to write 9-5, those of us who are not working for hire are told we should also write every day, or else. That’s not a bad idea if you’re on deadline. But if you’re not, you have a choice.

I no longer feel guilty when I don’t write every day. At some point, I rebelled against the idea because I have a history of rebelling against almost everything. So, I write when I feel like it.

When I was in high school I read a lot of psychic how-to books. Some of these discussed automatic writing, wherein you go into a trance while holding a pen in your hand (or sitting at your keyboard) and when you wake up there’s an entire page of quality stuff. Jane Roberts (The Seth Material) did well at this.

I tried automatic writing. Didn’t work. First, I asked for news about the universe. Then I gave the spirits an idea for a novel and hoped they’d write it for me–moving my fingers on the keyboard at 120 words per minute. I never got that to work either.

The main reason I don’t write every day is because I don’t have anything to say. I’d rather read somebody else’s book than sit and stare at a blank screen all day hoping the next scene in my novel will mysteriously come to mind.

I have better luck writing when I feel like it. There’s no pressure then, no guru saying, “Malcolm, you need to turn out 500 fresh words per day (or else).” I’m sure my approach is wrong. If it is, you already know I don’t care.

Why can’t writers be left alone to do their own thing? Even if it isn’t efficient? Even if it looks unprofessional? That seems better to me than feeling guilty about not writing every day, or else.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”

Too much logic might kill your best work

“The intellect is a great danger to creativity . . . because you begin to rationalize and make up reasons for things, instead of staying with your own basic truth—who you are, what you are, what you want to be. I’ve had a sign over my typewriter for over 25 years now, which reads “Don’t think!” You must never think at the typewriter—you must feel. Your intellect is always buried in that feeling anyway.” – Ray Bradbury

If there’s a place for logic, perhaps it’s in your research. Facts matter, even in fiction, so it’s a bad sign getting those wrong, worse yet finding out from other people that you got them wrong. A long-time journalism professor and author of textbooks, my father often said that one of the worst things a journalist could do was misspell a person’s name. For one thing, it made him or her look sloppy. For another, it called into question everything else in the new story. If your research is flawed, small inaccuracies may kill your best work.

Otherwise–logic, as Bradbury suggests–gets in the way of our stories and even ourselves. Logic often leads to doubt, even self-doubt, and the frame of mind that arises out of that can easily become a barrier to the story you wish to tell. If you don’t think you can write it, you won’t. If you think you’re not the person to tell the story, you won’t be able to tell it. Our stories lead us down strange roads where it’s best to just keep going rather than thinking, “Holy crap, I’m lost.”

In some cases, being lost is a good thing because how you find your way out makes a good story, or at least provides the confidence you need to continue. Goodness knows, there’s not a lot of validation for aspiring writings and emerging authors, so allowing yourself the time and excitement of being lost from time to time is much better than fighting being lost. And besides, it’s easy to become prey for the doubters in your life who think you’ll never write anything, much less anything that gets published and sells a few copies, maybe a lot of copies.

Plus, it seems that when we use logic to try and puzzle our stories out of one misstep or another or one troublesome scene or another, we’re not likely to tell a story that’s true within itself and resonates with readers. I know one writing expert who says the stories we write are already “out there” in some kind of limbo area waiting for us to find them and tell them. I’m not sure I want to go that far. I do see, though, that stories appear to have an innate intelligence that wants to go in a particular direction for one reason or another. So, as we said years ago, the author has to go with the flow rather than thinking up logical rationale for swimming against the story’s current. If you’re swimming against the story’s current, you’re thinking. Stop it!

Down the road, you can do your thinking during the editing process. Then you’ll find inconsistencies, holes in the plot, and possibly other things that don’t add up. Or, maybe you won’t.

This is going to sound strange, but when I find a bunch of prospective characters who are doing one thing or another, I find it best not to judge them or find some logical yardstick that proves they’re messed up. Better to write down what they’re doing and discover the story in it. Just don’t think too much about what you’re doing.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the three novels in the Florida Folk Magic series, “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena.”




Writing Advice from Isabel Allende

“So how do writers make sense of it all? Observe. Take notes. Question your own assumptions. Recognize the struggles of people around you, acknowledge your struggles, and be generous to both. In Allende’s words, “If we listen to another person’s story, if we tell our own story … we realize that the similarities that bring us together are many more than the differences that separate us.”

Source: Isabel Allende’s National Book Awards Speech: Writing Advice – The Atlantic

Isabel Allende has become the first Spanish-language writer to receive an honorary National Book Award medal. In her acceptance speech, which you’ll find covered in “The Atlantic” at the link above, she talks about how being constantly uprooted has not only impacted the themes in much of her fiction but her approach to writing itself.

“As a stranger … I observe and listen carefully. I ask questions, and I question everything. For my writing, I don’t need to invent much; I look around and take notes. I’m a collector of experiences,” she said.

That’s how writers–and perhaps almost everyone–make sense of moving to new towns, travel experiences, and the political and cultural upheavals of the times in which they live.  As the author of “The Atlantic” article, Rosa Inocencio Smith puts it, Allende’s speech “functions almost as a step-by-step guide for responding to such existential uncertainties. Surrounded by people with infinitely varied lives, writers, she advised, need not feel the pressure of making up stories from scratch. Confronted with problems in their plots or psyches, they can use their skills of observation to gain understanding.”

I like the advice, the article, and the speech itself (which you’ll find linked to the article).


I Talked to 150 Writers and Here’s the Best Advice They Had 

  1. Neglect everything else.

“It starts with a simple fact: If you’re not making the time to write, no other advice can help you. Which is probably why so many of the writers I talk to seem preoccupied with time-management. “You probably have time to be a halfway decent parent and one other thing,” David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, told me. That can mean mustering the grit to let other responsibilities languish. As he put it in short: ‘Neglect everything else’.”

Source: I Talked to 150 Writers and Here’s the Best Advice They Had | Literary Hub

After getting past a really strange writing process John Irving advocated, this feature story has a lot of food. I quoted the first item on the list because I think we find it hard to neglect everything else. For one thing, everything else is easier than writing. Plus, the other stuff usually has deadlines and measurable results like, say, getting the yard mowed and not missing your doctor’s appointment.

Unless you’re a professional writer, freelance or novelist, you probably don’t have firm writing deadlines. Novels often take forever to write. So it’s easy to put off writing that novel while doing other stuff that can actually be crossed off a TO DO list.

We say our writing matters. If so, it’s got to be near the top of the list of things we actually spend time doing.


Free listing for your book at Indies Unlimited

There are a lot of sites “out there” that are worth a look if you’re a writer needing advice or looking for a free listing for your book. My indiesfriend good friend, author and publisher Melinda Clayton, writes articles for Indies Unlimited, so I’ve been tuning in on that site a lot lately.

There’s good stuff there such as Melinda’s overview of AuthorsDen. Among other things, check out the blog and knowledgeBase. You can also list your books on the site on Thrifty Thursday and Print Book Paradise. These listings work well when you want to publicize reduced prices.

Here’s there’s blurb about the service

On every Thursday at 5 a.m. Pacific time, Indies Unlimited presents a feature called “Thrifty Thursday.” It’s simple: authors can list their free or 99¢ e-books and readers can find a large selection of free and cheap reads in one convenient place. For those of you looking for Freebie Friday, it has now been incorporated into Thrifty Thursday. Click here for the most recent Thrifty Thursday. If you have a print book priced under $15, you can participate in Print Book Paradise (also known as Mr. Pish’s Print Book Party) each Sunday at 9 a.m. Pacific time.

To learn more, click here.

I’ve used the Indies Unlimited listings several times and have been pleased with the results.


JockWho Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels, paranormal short stories and satire. “Jock Who” is free if you have Kindle Unlimited. That’s how I would read it!