Hypergraffiti

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Fallow

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fallowThis is a post for writers, or people who care about writing.

I’m going to tell you something about my own writing habits that flies in the face of everything people will tell you about being a writer (which may just mean I’m not a very good one). But first, a little assignment:

Google the phrase “write every day.” In quotes, like that. It’s OK, I’ll wait for you to get back.

Notice how, if there’s one piece of advice most commonly given to aspiring writers, it is “write every day.” And here’s my dirty little secret: I don’t.

Here’s my other secret: I don’t feel bad about it.

I think there have been times in the past when I did feel guilty about not writing every day.  When I do write, I write a lot.  I write in bursts of energy, like producing 50,000 words in November during NaNoWriMo, or ploughing through a freelance writing assignment by writing one sermon script every day for a month, or drafting a novel during a two-week vacation to Australia.  That’s just the way my mind works and the way my self-discipline works: when I’m inspired, either by an exciting idea or a deadline with a paycheque at the end of it, I keep my eyes on the prize and keep churning out the words till I get there.

But then, when I’m done, I don’t write anything for awhile.

I’ve finished several months of productivity: I worked on freelance assignments from late December to the end of March, and then spent most of April and May rewriting What You Want. Finishing a freelance job leaves me feeling nothing but exhilarated, but finishing any draft of a novel is always a bittersweet feeling — a bit celebratory, but also a bit wistful because I enjoy the time I spend with my characters so much, and now it’s like they’ve all gone off to do something else and left me behind.

It’s been suggested to me that the best way to cure these blues is to plunge immediately into another writing project. I do have another project — two, actually — that I know I’ll have to be working on later this year. One is last year’s NaNovel about a time-travelling monk and the other is the next in a series of Christmas novellas for Review and Herald — I think this one is going to be about the Magi.  Both are going to require lots of historical research, which I could get started on at almost any point.

But I’m not.

I’m not doing any writing at all, except for the occasional blog post here and on Compulsive Overreader. And I’m OK with that. I’ve decided that, at least for me personal, it’s OK to let the brain-field lie fallow for awhile before jumping from one project to the next. Maybe I even need that.

I suppose it would be possible to let that laziness slide and slide until I never wrote another thing again as long as I live, but honestly, I don’t think that’s going to happen. the urge to write will come back and I will, as usual, be unable to resist.

Right now, it’s not there. And I’m not beating myself up over it.

I’m not saying that “write every day” is bad advice. Maybe for some people it’s perfect advice. Particularly if you’re starting out as a writer and you’re more in love with the idea of yourself as a writer, than you are with actually sitting in front of the computer or a notebook and putting down the words, then yes,  you probably need to develop the practice of writing every day.

But I also think that writers who try to make others feel bad for not writing every day (and yes, they are out there; I’ve read their blogs and comments on others’ blogs) should appreciate the fact that as you mature as a writer, you develop your own ways of doing things. Rhythms and patterns and seasons. And if that includes a time of lying fallow while you wait for the next season of writing to start, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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4 thoughts on “Fallow

  1. I think this is a sign that writing is your calling…or one of your callings at any rate. That inspiration can hit and you can lose yourself in the writing to me is a beautiful thing. I hope I too can find something that I can lose myself in on a regular basis!

  2. I coudln’t agree more, Trudy. Although I am a relative newcomer to the writing game, I have learned to trust that I will write again after a few days or weeks of not writing. It doesn’t scare me that I’ve ‘lost’ anything, because being a writer is not something I do but who I am. But amidst the chaos that is my life, sometimes I just physically don’t get the chance in a day to write. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about writing, however. And early on in my journey to embracing my writer self, writing every day was a good stepping stone. Enjoy your restful time. I’m about to rev it up a notch or two as the publisher wants to know when they might lay eyes on my junior novel. Eeeek!

  3. that’s funny that people would guilt each other about how often they write. i don’t think you have anything they can sneeze at considering how much you publish!

  4. I don’t either, Trudy. I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner. I write drafts in fierce bursts (which is why Nano works so well for me), but it’s not a pace I can maintain. No one can.

    I think the reason people give that advice is because if you work a little on a current WIP every day, it’s clear and fresh in your mind, and your subconscious plays with it 24-7. You drop it for a week, and you lose that rich subconscious work.

    But I find if I read a chapter or two, WHAM! I’m right back in. My subconscious picks it up pretty eagerly.

    So I try to write every day, just to get it completed. But I don’t stress or guilt over it if I don’t.

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