Write Every Day. Or not.
I've attended enough writing conferences, subscribed to enough writing blogs, and read enough writing books to gather the most common piece of advice given to writers is to write every day.
The logic is sound. It's right up there with practice makes perfect, try until you die, and fake it 'til you make it. All worthy platitudes—that is, if there are such things as worthy platitudes. But if you're an aspiring writer like me, NOT writing every day may make you feel like a failure—especially since the advice often comes with a smug inflection from someone who claims to pull it off.
I don't write every day. I simply don't prioritize it. A lot of other things come first—things like going to my day job, bathing regularly, spending time with my girlfriend, checking in with my close friends, feeding myself, feeding my cats, keeping my house clean, filling my gas tank, visiting my parents, exercising, running, reading, sleeping, dropping a log in the toilet... There are a lot of things, people!
Now you may look at that list and, for the sake of writing more, find a few sacrificial line items. I could give up running or exercise (and feel lethargic). I could read less (and be illiterate). I could quit my day job (and be homeless). I could stop cleaning my house and washing myself (and be a slob). I could visit my parents less frequently, neglect my friends, and sleep less than seven hours a night (and be a dick). But for some reason—for my own reasons—I choose to prioritize THOSE things. Those are my things. They are non-negotiable.
That isn't to say I don't occasionally take a step back to observe where my time may be squandered. There's the usual assortment of modern-day time-drains: binge-watching Netflix, obsessing over Facebook, devouring news-feeds, playing XBox, shopping for comic books, inventorying comic books, cataloging comic books (ahem)... Every so often, I make an effort to weed the nonessentials out of the mix. But the weeding, the assessing, the prioritizing... For me, it amounts to more of a seasonal arc than a daily list of expectations. And I think that's okay.
I don't run all year. Some runners do. But I simply pass on the winter season. There's not enough daylight for me to enjoy it. Again, the advice from other runners: run every day! If it's dark, use a treadmill! Attach a flashlight to your forehead! If you don't run, then cross-train! At least go for a brisk walk, you lazy bum!
Again, my guilt for not doing so. My lack of requisite obsession. My sense of failure.
Enough with this "every day" bullshit. Enough with the platitudes.
Let's be honest: There simply aren't enough hours in the day for all the things. Even the essentials. Some days I don't read. Some days (nights) I don't sleep. Hell, some days I don't shower! (Usually it's a Saturday, and I don't go out except perhaps to the Rite Aid on the corner, where apparently it's perfectly acceptable to go without showering.) Some days there's a fucking forest fire climbing over a nearby mountain towards my home. I'm just saying. Shit happens.
Besides, I've done the write every day thing. I've taken part in NaNoWriMo four times, the goal of which is to write an entire 50,000-word novel within the month of November. Of those four times, I've succeeded twice. And let me tell you, they came at a cost. Three hours a day of writing means three fewer hours a day for all the other things. Indeed, for those months, I become a lethargic, illiterate, sleep-deprived dick.
Always, the trade-off. Always.
So if you're an aspiring writer like me, and you don't write every day (because of all the things!), do yourself a favor: Give yourself a break. Give yourself an off-season. This is the long game, folks. How you write is up to you. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.