Writing is an everyday activity. Actually, that’s wrong. Writing is an Every. Day. Necessity. Like drinking tea or getting dressed. In fact, sometimes writing is more important than getting dressed. With that in mind, I thought I’d follow up Lindsay’s blog about her new work ‘area’ with one about the need to hit that work area everyday.
Above my desk I have a quote that says, “It’s the steps everyday that count.” I have a lot of motivational quotes above my desk, but this one means the most to me because it applies to all aspects of writing – even though it’s really about mountains:
“Failure and rejection are the essence of success. You can’t conquer a mountain. Your job is to tap into the rhythm of it. It is so tough that you begin to doubt the power of a single step. But, remember that one effort unto itself is useless. It’s the steps everyday that count. The summit simply awaits those who are willing to climb it, and that is where your destiny lies. Go there now.”
Jamie Clarke – Ninth Canadian to summit Mount Everest.
Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been fascinated by mountains. They’re beautiful, immovable and overwhelming. They have a majestic presence impossible to ignore. They’re really HERE. And this is the rhythm a writer needs. An immovable, overwhelming, impossible to ignore, need to make those steps. Every. Day. 100, 200, 300 words – or 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 words. It doesn’t matter. As long as you take the steps everyday, you’re bound to reach the summit.
Sometimes it feels impossible. Even futile. To combat this, I collect stories about writers and how they write, and I pin them to the board above my desk. I go to book festivals, especially the Edinburgh Book Festival, and listen to writers speak about their process. Hearing how other writers write, definitely makes the word count less overwhelming.
I’ve read that Anne Tyler has to force herself to go into her writing room. She knows that if she doesn’t go in before breakfast she’ll make excuses all day. That’s how tough it is, even for a writer as accomplished as Anne Tyler. Alexander McCall Smith writes 3,000 words a day. He describes his process as a trance-like state, and he never breaks the rhythm during the entire first draft. Sarah Waters writes 1,000 words a day, and sticks to that target whether it comes easily or painfully. She edits as she writes. Stephen King advocates starting by writing 1,000 words a day and building up to 2,000 words a day until the novel is finished.
I’ve only ever experienced the trance-like state once or twice, and I’m ridiculously jealous of writers who can just drop in and out of this state whenever they feel like it. Mostly, I bribe myself with tea to write 1,000 words a day, and it’s a painful process. But the pain of not writing is worse, and it builds until it’s overwhelming. Even though it hurts to write 1,000 words a day, it hurts far less than not writing. Because the pain of not writing is the pain of knowing I’ll never get to the summit.
That’s why it’s the words that count. Every. Day.
That’s why I’m always writing. Every. Day.
Writing. Always writing.
Sometimes wearing pyjamas, always drinking tea.