Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Consequences of the 'Write Everyday!' Mentality

We've all heard the advice: write everyday. It's a basic pointer even new writers have heard multiple times. For many people, it's an achievable goal. It doesn't tell you to write 1,000 words or 2,000 words, it just tells you to write something everyday. By itself, the advice of writing everyday isn't all that problematic, but overtime a certain mentality blooms, one seen in a majority of writers today: the mentality of self-failure.

A sense of failure is something that writers deal with constantly, some deal with fighting off that feeling daily. We have ways of getting through it (motivational posters, "YOU ONLY FAIL IF YOU QUIT!" kinda things) but no one really takes a look at the possible reasons that this mentality exists and why it's so widespread in modern writers. Maybe the fault lies in the social media-based society, where you can hop on the internet and see how successful all your other writer friends are as they post about their new USA Today bestseller, signing some cool contract, or writing x words day after day. Or maybe it can bud from a constant stream of rejection letters one might get in the pursuit of a traditional publishing contract. In truth, both of these seem like probable causes for this failure and shame-filled mentality (and I may blog about them later) but right now I'm focusing on something off from the usual suspects: the advice of writing everyday.

As of right now, I don't write everyday. I'm in college and I work, it just can't be done. Would I like to be able to do it? Of course! But, what happens when I go two or three days without writing anything? That's when the shame and failure mentality sets in, and this isn't something relegated to my mind. Every writer I've spoken to has these issues. Sometimes, they feel bad for not writing in a week, other people feel bad after a single day of not writing. And this isn't just feeling generally down for not achieving your daily goals, for many it is a sense of losing sight of writing and a greater life goal. How many other life goals require daily work and input rather than say, input monthly, weekly, or bi-weekly? Not many.

Even if a writer manages only a few hundred words a day, if they write everyday and miss a day for any reason, they'll feel bad about it. What does this mean for the creative process though? Working on something everyday is fine, but once you begin to write everyday simply because you know that you NEED to write otherwise you'll feel bad, then you're forcing out something that require finesse. In the end, that'll produce sub-par work that the writer knows is sub-par, which will lead right back to the failure and shame mentality.

Although the above scenario seems like some kind of worst case, I've heard writers talk about it before quite often. We live in a vicious cycle leading to the outcome of feeling bad about our writing and our work ethic for not following the write everyday advice perfectly. Writers are perfectionists, it's in our nature, it's why we can look at our 19th draft and still see a million things wrong with it. Why should we add yet another aspect of writing to do perfectly?

If you want to write everyday, that's awesome, do it. But, if you miss a day, should you feel bad or ashamed for it? No, this is a creative process, and you can't force yourself to do it. If you don't have time or the right mentality to do it one day, don't beat yourself down for that. That'll only lead to a worse, less motivated mentality in the end. If you want to write a few times a week (like me), do it, but don't beat yourself up because you haven't written in two days, find more constructive ways of dealing with it. 

The advice of writing everyday didn't create the writer's self-loathing mentality, but it certainly adds a lot to it. In the end, it should be about writing when it comes naturally to you or at least not feeling bad when motivation doesn't hit you one day or a few days in a row. Find a way to make yourself happy than focus on the missed writing time. Didn't write yesterday? Don't focus on that damn "Write Everyday!" idea, go fly a kite or drink tea or something. Writers are bombarded with self-doubt everyday, why contribute to that problem with all these rules about when we should write. Write when you're motivated, and if you're not motivated, find things that motivate you and make you happy. In the end, it's just that simple.

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