An oft-repeated creed in writing is that you have to do it every day. And this sentiment has endorsements from literary luminaries too numerous to name.
It’s an article of faith, and there isn’t much pushback against it to speak of. It does, however, raise a serious question:
“What about those times when you can’t do it every day?”
There will be Gaps
Writing every day, without exceptions, is the result of living in a perfect world, where nothing unexpected comes up, and where you have no obligations outside of writing.
If you don’t live in such a world, then you ought to be prepared for those inevitable events that take you away from your writing, or leave you too drained to attempt it. These interruptions are natural, and, while the writer has an obligation to minimize their frequency, that is not entirely within anyone’s control.
In other words: so you missed a day—what are you going to do about it?
The Most Important Thing: Don’t Widen the Gap
Missing one writing day is understandable. Missing several (due to an actual vacation) is natural.
But when you stay away from the page longer than is necessary—avoiding it even after your bad day or holiday is over—is a sign that you are giving up. And giving up is what keeps most people from ever getting published.
If you have one important reason to miss a day, then don’t beat yourself up about it. If, however, you have more than one reason for skipping, then you are just making excuses.
The Next Most Important Thing: Take a Stab
Coming back to the project with fresh eyes may sound like a good idea, but in practice it’s more like coming back to the project with no memory of what you intended to do next.
But, much like with any writing where you feel completely in the dark, the best thing you can do is just take a stab at it. To try, even though you have no idea what you were thinking when you first wrote this scene. Just return to where you left off and go. Make a calculated risk.
If it turns out to be the wrong choice, then your natural tendency to correct your own work will kick in, and your disgruntled subconscious will change the words in your next revision. And because there is no downside to making a mistake, you don’t have to feel guilty about taking a shot in the dark.
There’s nothing evil about losing your rhythm. It happens to the best of us. It is, of course, bad policy to take too many days off, but if you need them, take them. Writing is not, and should never be, a kind of indentured servitude. The page doesn’t own you.
But remember, you will want to get back into the swing of things. In the hour that you need strict writing discipline and habits, you’ll wish you’d spent more time cultivating these skills.
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