There is an article on How to Write Every Day by Leo Babauta in the February issue of The Florida Writer. I found it interesting to compare my experiences with his. Leo Babauta is a ‘simplicity blogger’ and author. He created zenhabits.net, a Top 25 blog with a million readers. ‘Zen Habits is about finding simplicity and mindfulness in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness’. He is a best-selling author, husband and father of six children. In 2010 he moved from Guam to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Mr Babauta says “I write (a) journal, blog posts, courses for my Sea Change program, books and e-books. For fun, I’ve written 50,000 words of a novel NaNoWriMo, and another year I wrote 110,000. For years, I wrote newspaper articles and opinion columns.”
For me, writing consists of writing about 125,000 word novels and 50 blog posts per year. The motivation for me to write is the joy of creation, and not – as a retiree – my means of making a living.
Mr Babauta lists the following benefits of writing every day:
- My writing skills have improved with the years
- I’m able to write faster, type faster, with so much more practice
- I can clarify my thinking better because of writing regularly
- I able to think from the reader’s perspective, which helps me in a lot of life situations
- I am forced to reflect on my life, which deepens my learning
- I am forced to figure out how to motivate myself to write regularly
- I learn to create a regular practice, as I do with meditation, exercise and eating healthily
- I learn to overcome perfection and put things out there to be judged, which helps me to embrace failure and messiness
- I learn to overcome distraction and procrastination.
I agree with most of his benefits, but since I do not write for a living, I am not forced to write regularly. Typically, I write for about three hours, four days a week; this leaves time for my pro bono charity consulting, exercise, household chores, etc. With respect to number 8, I think that most novelists strive for perfection. We get one chance to impress our readers: when the novel is published; it is not a give and take business in the way that blog creation is.
Mr Babauta lists these actions writers can take to write daily:
- Most important: Have a good reason. . . . “If it’s because is sounds fun, sounds cool, sounds nice, you’ll abandon it when you face discomfort. If you want to do it to help someone else, to make the world a better place, to lift someone’s spirits, to reduce your pain, to find a way to express your deeper self, then you can call on this deeper reason when things get difficult.” (I agree completely)
- Block off undistracted time. “All you need is ten minutes a day. But you have to block off those ten minutes.” (I agree about undistracted time, but for me, anything less than an hour is insufficient. I find that I need to get in touch with the feel of the novel, and ten minutes certainly isn’t enough.)
- Don’t let yourself forget (the time you’ve set aside). (This isn’t a problem for a seasoned novelist: there is a passion to keep going!)
- Do it in a sprint. “Some people think they need to write for an hour or two to make it count. But a task that big will seem daunting.” (Two hours isn’t daunting at all, if you’re committed to writing several hundred pages.)
- Practice mindfulness. “You can treat writing as meditation. It’s a way to put everything aside but you and the writing, to let your thoughts become words on the page. ” (I agree completely!)
- Practice gratitude. “As you practice mindfulness, notice the awesomeness of this moment of self-expression.” (Right on!)
- Embrace imperfection. “Writing is about letting go of our ideals, and just doing anyway, even if we can’t have perfection.” (This is a difficult one for a writer of literary fiction. One concedes that achieving perfection is impossible, and one knows that it’s counter productive to fuss too long over a phrase or passage, but ultimately, that phrase of passage has to feel ‘right’. Edit, edit, edit.)
- Don’t let your mind run away (for a little while). “Your mind will want to run away from writing. This is normal. The mind doesn’t like uncertainty and discomfort. . . . Don’t run.” (This is what’s known as ‘writer’s block’. The more one writes, the less of a problem it becomes.)