You Don’t Have to Write Every Day to Be a Real Writer

9257327086_9a1279d73cIt’s been a few months since my last post. To be completely honest, I’ve been taking a break. Not just from blogging, but from writing too. From early October until the end of November, all of my time and focus went into rewriting my YA novel. Once I finished the book, I shut down. Aside from a short essay here and there, I haven’t done any significant work since.

This is pretty typical for me. My words and inspirations tend to come in big, dramatic bursts. I’ll write every day for a few months, sometimes completing an entire novel or a series of essays, then there will be nothing at all for a month or two.

Every time I find myself on one of these breaks, I don’t wonder if I’ll ever write again. I know that I still want to write. I know that I still have the motivation. I know that I’m simply burnt out at the moment, and when I reach inside to create something new, I come out empty handed.

There is a common philosophy about writing perpetuated by craft books and famous authors on the importance of strict routines and writing every day. I used to hold myself to those standards, chiding myself whenever I fell short, beating myself up and questioning my commitment as a writer. It took me a few years to realize that I was producing about as much or more as any of these every day writers because when I do write, it comes in floods and intense, unrelenting focus.

It’s just the way I am. It’s the way my creative mind functions.

Forcing myself to write something each day never felt natural. If anything, it only made me feel stifled. Allowing the flood gates to open when they will and occasionally nudging myself back in when the break is dragging on too long seems to work for me.

Just like every human being is unique, so is every writer. Our work thrives in different ways. I do best when I completely immerse myself in a project for a couple of months and then allow my brain to rest and restart for a while. Maybe some people would never go back to writing if they allowed themselves to stop for as long as I do. But I have the comfort and confidence of knowing that writing has always been a part of me. No matter what happens, I know I’ll come back to it when I’m ready.

Pushing myself has only hurt my work in the past. Giving myself the time and space to focus on other aspects of my life is what I need right now. I truly believe that the only writing philosophy you need when it comes to producing work is to do what feels right and natural for you. Don’t get hung up on rules or expectations. Don’t beat yourself up for not following someone else’s schedule and routine. Create your own and feel free to deviate.

There’s no such thing as a “real writer” anyway. We’re all just creative people trying to create when, where, and however we can.

 

photo credit: [Void Of Time] via photopin (license)

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Surviving The Waiting Game

These days, so much of my life revolves around waiting. I spend hours, sometimes days, working on an essay, query, or cover letter before I send it out, excited and hopeful and scared all at the same time.

medium_6236143793I watch my inbox, eagerly awaiting some kind of response. Days go by, sometimes weeks, sometimes months. I want to hear something, some kind of news about whether my essay will be published, an agent wants to see my manuscript, a job wants to schedule an interview. I start to worry more about what the silence means. I’m scared it means rejection. I soon convince myself that no one likes me and I’ll never hear from anyone about anything again. I’m a failure and a loser and I’ll never get anywhere in life. I’ll never be successful.

Then, an email comes in. Some kind of response. A blog wants my essay, an agent requests the manuscript, a job would like to schedule a phone interview. I’m happy and relieved…for a few minutes. Then I’m back to worrying about all the other things I haven’t heard back about yet. Sometimes, I get the response that I dread: I’ve been rejected. In that case, I indulge myself in some self-pity before eventually getting back to work.

This is the plight of creative people, of course. I’m lucky to live in a time where I can just email stuff out instead of printing and mailing and waiting even longer for a response. But email has a downside – it gives the illusion of efficiency, the misconception that a fast response should be expected. My essays, queries, cover letters are only one in so many. I have to wait my turn.

The only way I get through it is to keep busy. I write new essays, research agents, look for more jobs. The more I send out, the more likely it is I’ll hear something from someone. The nervous energy drives me. The desire for reassurance, for accomplishment, for validation is underneath everything I do. I try to take breaks, stay calm. I go for walks, spend time with people I care about, watch something on Netflix. But I can’t help worrying about the uncertainty.

I know this is what a creative life looks like. I can’t let any one thing get me down or derail me, and I can’t live my life around responses from others. But in many ways, I don’t have a choice. I need those responses to be a successful writer. That’s why waiting for them is so hard. That’s why rejection hurts so much.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. As an anxious person, that’s what tears me apart. I have to learn to live with my uncertainty better. I have to keep things in perspective, acknowledge the accomplishments, and let go of the rejections. That’s the only way to survive the waiting game. I just wish those things were easier to do.

 

(photo credit: Jukie Bot via photopin cc)

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