It’s Okay Not to Write Every Day
So often, I see other writers criticising those who do not write regularly. There tends to be a certain attitude of superiority in those who write every day, and I’ve found a lot of those people look down on others who can’t write every day.
They assume that writing every day is easy – and those of us who aren’t doing just that are somehow weak.
Apparently, we’re just not motivated enough, or we don’t want to be a writer enough. After all, we’re “choosing” not to write regularly.
And thus, in their eyes, we’re just not trying hard enough to be writers. They think we’re not that bothered — that it’s just a nice little thing that we like to do, and that it’s not at all as good or as ‘serious’ as their own writings.
I’ve been thinking about this harmful viewpoint a lot recently. And I know a lot of other writers have to.
Writing Twitter exploded last month due to a Twitter thread in which a writer set about to insult those who do not write every day, stating that those of us who do not write every day are letting ‘small’ things – such as mental health – control us. Apparently many of us use these as excuses for why we can’t write, when instead we could — if we just sacrificed our sleep and quit our day-job to give us more time to write. They seemed to be saying if you don’t quit your day-job you obviously don’t want to be a write enough.
This boiled my blood. It really did.
The thread has since been removed, but it was ableist, harmful, and a tonne of other things, as this person wrote about how even the busiest of us can always get up an extra couple of hours earlier – and that those who don’t do this because of X, Y, and Z, are simply making excuses.
The examples of X, Y, and Z he gave included mental health, work, and family, and this (rightly) prompted a great deal of backlash in the writing community.
Riley Kane wrote: ““Sacrifice sleep for writing” is some of the absolute worst advice I’ve ever heard. My brain does BETTER when restored, Privileged Person. I write more efficiently and therefore need to write less. Writer [sic] smarter, harder.”
And Ann Elise Monte said: “This is utter nonsense. Having a safety net doesn’t make someone “less” of a writer. PS: I don’t sacrifice sleep for writing. I prefer to function as a person. I’d prefer to be a so-called inferior writer than ruin my health for an unattainable ideal.”
And that is exactly it: the person who wrote that thread is speaking from a place of privilege. They are privileged to not need to work a day job, to have good health, to have a life that allows them to write and never take a day off.
And okay, they may have mental health problems or health problems and have found that writing is beneficial to get them through it, but they didn’t need to frame their argument in the way they did, by suggesting that those of us who can’t write every day are not writers or that we are weak and just not trying hard enough. They didn’t need to say that if we need to have another job then we’re not motivated enough to be a good writer.
Because we are writers – but we need to put ourselves and our families first.
Most of us need safety nets. We need to make sure we are financially secure and safe and (reasonably) healthy.
I have to take days off from writing because I have several chronic illnesses and brain inflammation.
Taking days off completely does not make me weak.
Taking days off to look after children does not make you any less of a writer.
Taking days off because you have to earn a living at your day-job doesn’t mean you’re not serious about being a writer.
It’s all about looking after yourself and knowing what you need to do. How can you expect to write your best work if you’re sleep-deprived, suffering from poor mental health and physical health, overworked, and missing out on seeing family and friends?
It’s about balance. It’s about knowing your limits. And it’s about accepting what you need to do for yourself.
And it’s okay not to write every day, I promise you that.
Madeline Dyer is a young adult novelist. She also writes personal essays on topics such as mental health, disability, and neuropsychiatry. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @MadelineDyerUK and visit her website www.MadelineDyer.co.uk. If you’d like to keep up to date with her writing, you can follow her on Facebook for both her novels and her personal essays, and subscribe to the Mad On Writing publication for her articles on improving writing craft/the business of being a writer.