Hey all! I wanted to address something I’ve noticed lately, but unfortunately takes much more than a 140 character tweet to discuss. Grab a drink and let’s dig into it!
With social media, it’s a little too easy to fall into the trap of assuming that louder voices, or more-retweeted voices are right. I do my best to respond to malarkey in real time if it warrants it (usually, it doesn’t), but sometimes, you gotta go to the mattresses and write a whole post.
Every few months, there’s a new tweet or post about how “REAL WRITERS WRITE EVERYDAY”. To me, it’s laughably silly. It’s like saying real doctors treat patients every day. Or real dogs eat their own poop everyday. I don’t write everyday, but I publish all types of books. It’s fun! Matter of fact, I don’t think I know a single author who does write every day, without fail. You know why? Because life happens. And every single one of us has a different life, with different priorities, goals, obstacles, and routines. Not complicated, right? We are all unique little rutabagas with our own stuff going on.
So why does this statement come up so often? I can only assume it’s based on the desire to sell books of one’s own, or maybe to boost the ol’ social media follower count. Provocative stuff sells, right? Even (and sometimes, especially, if it’s brilliantly wrong.) I’ve also noticed that it’s typically extremely privileged individuals that seem to spread these types of ideas. Strange, that!
I’m not bothered in the slightest by silly notions like this one, but one thing I’ve always noticed when tweets or posts like this come around is the number of people responding to it – saying how flawed the thinking is – and then I notice how many people respond to those tweets, expressing gratitude because the original thought made them feel less than. We shouldn’t need to address these silly statements disguised as facts, but we do, which tells me that there is an underlying sense of uncertainty in many writers. Especially those who are maybe just starting out, or still trying to find their footing on their creative path. I know this, because I’ve been there. (I’m still there. I think doubt can just be a part of being a creative person!)
“Am I not a real writer because I don’t write every day?”
This is really just a specific way of asking a much broader question: “Am I not a real writer/creative because my journey doesn’t look like someone else’s?”
When you’re not sure of your path, it’s very easy to be thrown off of it. I hate the thought of anyone working hard to write more, or publish a book, but getting derailed by internet tomfoolery. Hence this post!
Let the record show – if you write, you are a writer. I don’t say a lot of things with absolute certainty, because there are shades of gray everywhere, but that’s one I’m confident in.
The frequency at which you write doesn’t matter. Your goals may shift (of course) based on how much you’re able to write. Your landmarks of success or striving might change. That’s totally understandable and fine! That’s just life, because life is created in part by finite resources like time. We’re all working hard with the same hours, but we all have different things that fill those hours. It’s only natural our paths differ.
The writer who chips away at a project in five minute increments on the train is just as valid as the one who plunks down at 5am and hammers away on the keyboard for seven hours. We do not derive our “realness” from some arbitrary metric or measurement to give us a sense of authenticity. Stephen King isn’t more of a writer than you are (or anyone else). He just happens to spend enough time writing to get improve his craft and get X number of books published. (I chose King randomly, but feel free to sub in any of your favorite, frequently published authors.)
And guess what? I actually believe that you don’t even need to be writing things down physically to be a writer. I have many days where I’m not writing physically (on a computer, or in a notebook), but you know what? I’m working really hard teasing apart a plot point, or character motivation, or building a particular spread in my mind. And sometimes, I’m straight up just staring out the window not thinking about writing or books, because I know by now that not-writing-time is incredibly important for my writing time. You’re totally allowed to live spherically, with not-just-writing activities in your life as a writer!
I think it’s important to constantly reiterate this, because creative paths are already full of obstacles – many of which are in our own heads. The more I publish, the more I realize how much of a mind game it truly is. That’s not to say there aren’t incredibly powerful and very real barriers and obstacles to publishing in real life (it is an incredibly privileged person who doesn’t need to consider these). But one thing seems to remain true no matter who you are, or where you come from: you will, at many points on your journey, be faced with the obstacles of your own thoughts. Your negative patterning, your beliefs about yourself, and your beliefs about what creativity should look like will face you head on.
It makes sense, then, no matter who you are, to devote time to checking in with yourself. Do you set up impossible metrics of success? Do you compare yourself to others whose lives are entirely different than yours? Do you subconsciously believe that creatives look, act, or present themselves a certain way? These questions are important to ask, because the answers can inform how you judge yourself, your progress, and your own habits.
It’s so easy to fall victim to counterproductive thinking in these areas, the last thing you need to be doing is doubting your validity – your realness as a writer, because of something someone else threw out onto the internet for social media points. The world of creativity contains multitudes, just like you do – and it makes perfect sense for everyone to have their own path and their own work flow that suits them.
If you’re on a creative journey and ever find you’re questioning yourself: take heart. You are completely valid as a writer (and as a person!), no matter how that life looks to you. Whatever you’re doing – what fits into your life, what makes you happy, what slowly chips away at your goals – it works if it works for you.
I repeat: what you’re doing works, if it works for you!
Do we need to alter our habits to accomplish certain goals? Absolutely. Do we need to structure and fine tune and try and fail repeatedly to progress on a creative path? You betcha. Those are all pretty usual things for all writers and creative sorts.
But are we any less valid or real because we don’t fit into some prescribed notion of what a writer or creative looks like?
Creating things – writing, books, art, anything – is a deeply personal experience and that means that you get to create your own parameters from the ground up. Embrace it! And the minute you find yourself feeling less than because of someone else’s path, or view of progress, check yourself. You’ve got this.
You do you.
And as always, I’ve got your back.
PS If you’re looking for more info on creative habits in general, you might enjoy this post , where I chat a bit about my usual routines and how I tackle projects. But as always, with advice of any kind, take it all with a grain of salt! Whatever works for you works!