Some advice I hear repeated often is to write every single day. Like all advice, it’s a bit more complicated than it sounds. I think it is generally a good thing to get into a creative practice and is certainly something I have advocated for in previous posts. But every single day can be difficult.
Before lockdown, I would write most week days on my lunch break. During lockdown, it shifted to before work, as I didn’t have a commute and lunch was reserved for eating and getting my daily half an hour of prescribed vitamin D. Every day I would try and freewrite or write something new. It has helped over the past year to provide a sense of forward momentum when circumstances have taken it away.
In terms of the writing, it helped me dig more into the subconscious as I quickly ran out of surface level thoughts and experiences. I would also be able to write a couple of poems, look back on them and see a common thread running through them. By sitting down regularly, I came to see my writing as work instead of only writing when I had inspiration. Actually, it created more inspiration by training my mind to capture and develop ideas regularly.
These are all good things and have been a positive change to my writing practice. However…
I think the main problem with ‘write every day’ is the pressure it puts on people. I used to interpret the advice as needing to produce something of worth every day, which obviously never happened. Some days you just feel like this David Shrigley piece and nothing will change that:
It’s also close to productivity advice and turning art into a commodity. The constant pressure to produce more that has infected all of our leisure time. Got to grind. Got to run that side hustle. Set yourself metrics and work towards them. It might be that this isn’t sustainable for you for whatever reason. Then it becomes another stick to beat yourself with, another target that you missed.
Or it might just not work for you. As with all creative advice, it’s based on what people have found works for them. It has been useful for me, sure, but it doesn’t mean it’s right for you. The practise of writing, especially writing poetry, should not be a prescriptive set route.
You might need to look after yourself in other ways, physically or mentally. It might not be the right time in your life to write every day, or to develop these creative habits. It might be a fallow time creatively, where you can observe the world instead. There’s so many reasons why it might not be right for you. As a blanket statement it feels too constrictive, not allowing for the face that you are human and are more than just constant production. Even having the time and space to write is a privilege.
So in short, it’s complicated. As with all advice, it shouldn’t be a prescription. If you do want to write more regularly, try lowering your expectations. Some days I just manage a sentence and that’s alright. But also, try not to beat yourself up about it. Writing at its best can be a fun place to explore and play, but if you don’t do it every day that’s not a bad thing. Find what works for you.
If you want some motivation, go follow Josie Alford who is doing daily write with me sessions and was the reason I started thinking about this.