5 Things I’ve Learned by Writing Every Day
Linda Caroll
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Linda,

As a professional writer, I’m frequently asked to speak or guest lecture at local universities. I ask the students a question, and I always get the same answer. My question: What does it take to become a “real” writer? Without fail, hands go up, and at least within the first three answers comes this one: “Write every day.”

There are no right or wrong answers. I want to hear what each student feels is the most important earmark to writing. However, not one — ever, has given the answer I give them. (I won’t give it here, either, because it’s a non sequitur to my point).

I like this article very much and it gives great insight into why you write every day, so I’m not critiquing your message at all. What it brought up for me is my encounter with writers who feel like, in order to be a “real” writer, they MUST write every day. My feeling/opinion (not like it matters, but, hey, you asked for feedback ;)? If there is a “should” or “must” attached to writing, then why write at all?

Here are some snippets from one of my favorite poems by Charles Bukowski, one of my favorite poets: so you want to be a writer:

“if it doesn’t come bursting out of you/in spite of everything,/don’t do it./unless it comes unasked out of your/heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,/don’t do it./if you have to sit for hours/staring at your computer screen/or hunched over your typewriter/searching for words,/don’t do it…

“unless it comes out of/your soul like a rocket,/unless being still would/drive you to madness or/suicide or murder,/don’t do it./unless the sun inside you is/burning your gut,/don’t do it.

“when it is truly time,/and if you have been chosen,/it will do it by/itself and it will keep on doing it/until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.”

Of course, everyone has their own process. But there is a difference between a person who writes and A Writer. If you are A Writer, it’s not what you do, it’s who you are. Why force yourself to do something that isn’t the very thing that causes you to leap from your bed each morning, unable to wait until your fingers strike the keys? Why do something you don’t burn to do?

Perhaps you only burn to write every so often, or only once in a while. Why isn’t that okay? I think it should be okay. Unless you’re a professional writer and you have deadlines — which I am, I have and I do, but it’s never a “have-to.” I am with Mr. Bukowski — it’s a calling, not a “have-to.” The world is filled with writings of those who “had to,” and we can read their obligation and perfunctories between the lines they penned. The writers I love? I read their hearts, blood, bones, in-between their lines and in them — and it’s food for my own blood and bones.

I found the quote by Papa Hemingway this morning and wrote a poem about it — and then I found your post and lo, you posted a part of the quote in your #1 point about writer’s block. Weird coincidence! “Write one true sentence.” Yes, I think scattered thoughts can contribute to “writer’s block.” However, I actually don’t believe in “writer’s block.” It’s a fallacy. I penned a poem a while back about “writer’s block”:

blocked

the definition of writer’s block

is not the inability to write;

it is, quite simply,

an absence

of

passion.

— jacw

Writing takes discipline and knowledge and craft, yes, but it also requires a tremendous amount of emotional, psychic, mental and soul-full energy. My daughter, already an accomplished poet in her own right, called me one day, woeful because she had “writer’s block.” I told her to rid herself of the paradigm of writer’s block. It is a fallacy at best, I said, and a self-fulfilling prophecy at worst. Instead, I told her to regard writing as a process of baking a loaf of bread. She has the recipe, the ingredients, she knows the end result she wants. As she follows each step, she knows, surely, that the time will come for her to allow the dough to rise. Just because she is off doing other things doesn’t mean the dough isn’t rising. She need not watch it. She need not coax it. It rises. Then it bakes. Rising, baking, take time, but little effort on the part of the bread maker.

And so it is with writing. When you are “blocked,” perhaps it isn’t because you can’t write. Perhaps it’s because you shouldn’t. Not yet. Your story, your character, your conflicts, they may very well need to rise and bake. The reason people become “unblocked” is never because they force themselves to write (at least write for the project in which they feel blocked). That only creates frustration. Usually, the “unblock-age” occurs quite organically. An “ah-hah!” moment in the middle of the grocery queue. A sudden jolt right before falling into sleep. I would humbly posit here this is because the place that had been a sticking point needed to rise, unravel in the subconscious, and then bake, browned to a golden hue.

Creativity ebbs and flows. Working with its cyclical nature, rather than forcing it into a rigid routine, will get you into a natural rhythm of writing that not only engenders a more soulful writing practice and experience, but takes the “shoulds” and negatives/guilt from the writer — who needs simply time to regenerate his flow and mind toward the ultimate goal of his finished loaf.

Thank you for sharing your words with us. I enjoyed them and look forward to reading more from you. Peace to you and many happy writings— JulieAnn