Regular Writing Windows May Not be Right for Everyone
Maybe I’m Not So Right
After writing on and on about setting aside a regular time to write, I spoke to a writer who, unknowingly, has forced me to rethink my advice. This writer told me that after trying and trying to set aside a writing time each day, she was forced to give that approach up. Instead of improving her relationship with writing, attempting daily writing forced her to go about feeling guilty and defeated most of the time. She meant to write each morning, but somehow it wasn’t happening, and the longer she tried, the worse she felt.
“In the end, I had to set aside a writing day,” she told me. “And that seemed to work. I’ve almost finished my first draft.”
Admittedly, this writer isn’t the first who has found daily writing impossible. I’m working with another writer, who is very serious about writing, and although she tries to stop at a café on her way to work so she can write for a half an hour, most days she ends up heading straight to work. No matter how hard she tries, all that lies ahead of her once she reaches her office pulls her right past her writing café.
What this client has done is to set aside several hours to write each weekend day. Doing this, she accomplishes a lot. But the downside is that the first time she sits down to write on the weekend is often filled with anxiety, along with a pull to do anything but write. However, once she manages to get through this first session, she finds the writing flowing and the negative voices in her head silent.
The Down and Upsides of Not Writing Every Day
What happens if most of us don’t write for three, or four or five days in a row, is that our internal critics have plenty of time to regroup and strengthen. They have, in fact, five entire days, to work their muscles, so that once we sit down to write on the weekend, they are more than ready to pounce. That’s why I keep working with this writer to help her write at least twice during the week. It doesn’t have to be for long. Just long enough to engage with the work and fill with words the space the internal critics take up.
This other writer I just spoke to has a very different experience. Because she has freed herself not to feel guilty by not writing during the off days, she finds it easier to sit down on her writing day and put words to the page. And that is truly exciting. By experimenting, she has found a writing rhythm that works for her.
Finding Your Personal Writing Rhythm
Each of us needs to find our own writing rhythm. Our personal process. If I suggest writing on a regular basis as the best way to create an intimate relationship with your writing and to keep those critics at bay, it’s because I’ve found this to be true for most of my clients. But it doesn’t work for everybody. For some writers, attempting a daily writing practice can even create obstacles.
Which means that I need to modify my advice slightly. Think about trying to create a regular and predictable writing time at least five days a week. But if that doesn’t work, you should know that your relationship with writing is an intimate relationship, and the writing process very personal. It involves a certain amount of trial and error. You might work to create a writing window initially, but if that doesn’t work, get creative. Experiment with other schedules, until you find one that allows you to sit down to write when you want to, and to feel good about having accomplished the writing you have set out to do.