Writing Every Day, Pleasures and Perils
I don’t think of myself as an obsessive compulsive but I may be. I write every day—well, almost everyday. And I set a word goal for every week, which allows me to fudge occasionally on the daily stuff. I’ve been doing this for ten years, so I’ll let you decide if I’m crazy or simply dedicated to my work. BTW, my aim is six to seven thousand words a week. Oops, I’ve slipped into texting language, which I normally eschew.
Why you may well ask do I have this obsession? I could say I like the discipline but secretly I have to admit it’s the escapism. I find writing, like any other creative endeavour, takes me into a world all of its own. I forget the bills, the grocery list, an occasional appointment, and the dog’s walk. He complains. I let the characters in my stories face their own predicaments, and feel relieved that theirs are much worse than my own.
One peril I always face, however, is letting the dastardly word count get the better of my writing style. What difficulty is my character getting into today? But in writing it down, do I forget to show and just start telling? More frequently than I wish. Then it’s back to rewriting. Admittedly I count the rewritten words in my daily tabulations.
A serious writer has to write not dither about writing. One famous writer, I forget who, said that it doesn’t matter what you write as long as you put something down. If you don’t, your thoughts will have vanished. Bad writing can be edited; a blank page can’t.
Some days the words flow freely as if given to me from some creative god. Other days I plod along, wondering when I will reach word one thousand. But later when I go back to what I have written, I can’t tell which of the day’s work were heaven-sent and which were pulled out of the depths. When I am at a total impasse and feel that my readers will be getting as bored as I am, I murder someone [I’m a mystery writer] and the plot flows on. Didn’t Agatha Christie say you had to have at least three murders in a book? Murdering someone in print is very convenient when you can’t think of anything else to write and it definitely thickens the plot. I don’t recommend murdering someone in person, even if you want to, unless they you want to face years in prison in Britain or the death penalty in America, which is very bad for keeping up one’s writing schedule.
I choose a set time every day to write. In the winter I find the dark hours of the late afternoon and early evening perfect for forgetting the dwindling or absent light. In the summer months I like to get up early and get at my computer so that I can be out and about afterwards in my garden, on a sketching trip, or having a picnic with family or friends.
When not writing, I spend much of the rest of my day thinking about what I am going to write. Long walks or the commute to work, if traffic allows, are excellent for doing this. ‘I’m sorry, constable, I was trying to figure out how to murder the husband and forgot to check the speed limit. I have this literary proclivity, you know, although it’s not noted on my driving licence; please forgive me.’ I haven’t tried that defence, but it might work with the right policeman, particularly one who likes crime fiction.
Most of all I love the writing process. To find the perfect word is exhilarating; to create a beautiful sentence is ultimately satisfying. Yes, I say to myself, and then I laugh. And to devise the perfect murder sets me positively sniggering [or snickering if you are an American].
So my advice to would-be writers is to write—every day. It’s truly habit forming and perhaps a little addictive. Soon you will need to do it all the time.