It’s my response to almost every complaint, almost every common roadblock active and aspiring writers bring to the comments of my tweets and blog posts.
“Just write anyway.”
Too tired? Just write anyway. Too stressed? Just write anyway. All your fingers are broken? Just write anyway.
And it’s not bad advice. Especially for new and/or struggling writers who have yet to master the art of “writing even though you’d rather be doing literally anything else.”
But it’s not the best advice for every single person trying to Make Writing Happen.
Because let’s be honest: Sometimes life gets in the way. You start the day with every intention of meeting a small writing goal — you’re even looking forward to it — and it just doesn’t happen.
Can you suck it up and get the work done regardless of the obstacles? Of course. But you don’t always reach the goal. And it’s not always your fault.
I’ve come across a lot of aspiring writers who feel guilty for not writing. And that guilt ends up stopping them from trying again. I never want to guilt anyone into walking away from their dream. But you do have to find that balance between “don’t want to but will anyway” and “can’t but will make the best possible effort tomorrow.”
The trick is to figure out how to continue writing consistently — meaning you create a schedule and stick with it as best you can manage — even when there are periods of time it’s going to be more challenging to do so. November and December are typically my busiest months at work, for example, but also happen to be the months I’m motivated to do the most writing. There will be days I want to skip extra writing. I can’t really afford to do that.
Maybe you can. Or maybe you just can’t balance everything and have to let writing go because it’s all too much. That’s your choice, and you have to do what you have to do to survive.
But if you feel guilty about not writing, that’s one subtle way it calls out to you, begs you to listen and act on the impulse to write even when you don’t think you can do it.
I always give myself one “Nope Day” during the week (Monday through Thursday). Or I try to limit it to one, anyway. On these days, I can clock out of my full-time job, log out of everything, play with my puppy, and put off all writing — even fun writing — until tomorrow.
But I do this knowing I have to return to it tomorrow. This is a break. Breaks end.
This is the strategy that allows me the freedom to say “I can’t just write anyway today” without completely abandoning my craft for days, even weeks on end.
There will be days you can’t. But you have to pick yourself back up and do it tomorrow, because no one else can do the work for you. Only you can.
I know that’s not always possible. Everyone has their reasons (not always excuses) for setting writing aside. But if it’s truly important to you, you will find a way to return to it. I suppose when you make that triumphant return — how long you break away from the thing you love — is up to you and your individual circumstances.
But I hope you will come back. Tomorrow, next week, in a few months. Because people who are born to write can’t thrive when they don’t create. It might make you feel better even when it doesn’t seem like it will. Because at least you can remind yourself, as you write, that a part of you is still alive and determined and working toward a goal — even if you can’t see the finish line.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.