I don't know about you, but I have been guilty of beating myself up if I go one day without writing. Then, when I do write, I'll beat myself up if I don't write ALL DAY. And true, there are some people out there who can write all day, every day. That's wonderful for you. Really. But there are others of us who simply can't.
I'm not talking about jobs or families or outside obligations. I'm stating a fact that I have learned and have recently accepted about myself. I cannot write all day, every day. What I can do is short spurts of several hours where the words flow or the editing is spot on. Suddenly, without warning, usually at a very good stopping point, the flow ends and I simply stop.
The End for the day.
I'll confess that used to bother me. Aren't we supposed to be Writers with a capital "W"? Aren't we supposed to sacrifice all for the art? No. No we're not.
I just finished this wonderful book called Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. The book is a collection of the daily creative rituals of a whole slew of writers, artists, composers, scientists, philosophers, etc. It's a massive selection of the creative practices of some of the most brilliant minds in the creative fields. I checked it out from the library thinking, "Hey, maybe I can pick up a few tips from the masters and figure out how I can force myself to work harder and longer at my craft." Surprise, surprise. That's NOT what I learned!
What I took away from this book is something very quietly profound. Almost all of the writers highlighted in this book only wrote for a few hours a day. Most averaged about 3-4 hours in the morning (some in the evening) and then they went on about their lives. The majority of the daily goings on recorded in this book talk about daily walks, dinner with family and friends, the smoking of a favorite pipe, the visiting a favorite museum or symphony. Swimming, playing with children, reading in bed: all of these simple things were the brunt of these geniuses' days.
I was dumbstruck. Really? You mean George Sands didn't shut herself up for 12 hours a day to work? Flaubert wasn't chained to his desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday? No. A big fat no to both and to all.
And yes, there were those writers and artists who DID work a full 8 hours a day and longer. But most of them didn't. Some of them even had outside jobs that they kept long after their classic works were published.
Here's the Thing: YOU have to find out what works for YOU. If you can manage a full 8 hours (and there are days we all get those bursts of the Muse) then by all means GO FOR IT! If, however, you're like me (and 97% of the rest of the writers highlighted in this book), and all you can manage are 3-4 hours of labored writing/typing where half the time you're getting up and wandering around the house, puttering in the garden, and washing 3 dishes, then so be it. Do what works for YOU. One writer said (and I'll have to reread the book to get specific quotes and references): even if I write one page a day, that's 365 pages a year and that's a good bulk of work.
Tell me: Have YOU found a ritual that works for you? Do you write every day or are you a writer who works in spurts, who has to walk away from the keyboard or notebook and do something else? What keeps you grounded in your work and your life?
Speaking of rituals, I start a new job today, kids! I bid a sad farewell to the Kitchen Boutique Monday to go back into the Herbal and Natural Health industry. My schedule will allow me mornings and weekends and I'll be rediscovering what works best for my creative endeavors. Here's to the rest of the week, for finding our footing, and for adding as many words as we can to our WIPs!
As for WIPs: my current project is rambling on. I discovered I need ANOTHER draft in order to reacquaint myself with my main character's true self. There was an element to the story I took out in the second draft but realize now that it needs to be there. No worries! Looks like I'll be clacking away on Draft #3 starting tomorrow!
I JUST finished the second draft of a horror story!!! Gonna let that one simmer for a bit and then I'm going to take up the keyboard for one more round of drafting. It's a doozy and it takes a lot out of me BUT I really, really LOVE this story. Scares the mess out of me every time I work on it! And my cat always chooses THIS story to creep around the house uncharacteristically...evil minion..