If you read enough blogs or attend enough writing conferences or generally spend enough time around writers at some point you’ll hear that a writer should write every day. Get your butt in that chair. That’s the only way to produce. The only way to write.
Rain or shine, you have to write.
Write, write, write.
But I don’t think that’s true. Sometimes you have to step away from the writing and deal with life. Go to your kid’s sporting game, have dinner with your best friend you haven’t seen in a few months, speak to your spouse, watch crap TV for a few hours, read a book for fun.
Today was one of those days for me. My mom had two teeth pulled as part of a bone infection she developed a couple weeks ago and I was assigned dog sitting duties while she was in surgery. I could’ve written. (Actually I did jot down 400 words that may never appear in a story because if I didn’t they were going to disappear one me.)
But I didn’t write anything I’m supposed to be writing this week.
My mind was elsewhere, wondering if she’d gotten her INR levels down enough for them to perform the surgery without her bleeding out. Wondering how she was going to handle it without taking all her meds for the day. (She’s one of those people who HAS to take certain medications or very bad things may happen like heart attacks and strokes.)
I didn’t beat myself up for not writing. Far from it.
Because if growing up with a terminally ill father taught me anything it’s that a lot of the “musts” in life are complete and total bullshit. Do you think when I was seventeen and my dad was in ICU for the week that I cared one bit whether I got an A on my Spanish vocabulary quiz? Nope. Not at all.
I knew what really mattered and it wasn’t whether I could tell my teacher the Spanish word for donkey.
But I know some people do internalize those voices. To their detriment at times.
My father was one. He did it with religion. There were some Sundays when he was in no shape to drag himself to church. Three dialysis treatments a week, running a small company, being a father and husband. Those things take their toll. And when your body is fighting you at every step, they really take a toll.
Yet when it was too much and he couldn’t bring himself to get up and go to church, he’d beat himself up over it. Forget the fact that he could pray at home, that god, if he was there, would hear my dad just fine wherever he was or whoever he was with.
My dad would feel horrible about it when what he needed was to rest and recover so he could make it the next week. And the one after that.
He needed to learn that it’s okay sometimes to not be able to do something. (Not to be confused with laziness, by the way…)
So if there is anyone out there that’s beating themselves up for not writing every day or for not writing enough every day or for not writing for the last six weeks, I say let it go. There’s a reason you’re not writing.
Sure, it’s possible you can push yourself to do better. We all need a good kick in the pants at times. But if it isn’t laziness, if it’s life begging for your attention, listen to it.
Step away and be fully in the moment.
It’ll improve your life (and your writing) in the long run.