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Apr 04

D is for Do I have to?

Do I have to write today? Do I have to write every day? Do I have to write on weekends? Do I have to work on more than one project at a time? Do I have to write a thousand words during a writing session? Do I really, really have to?

Simple answer to all of these (and many more) writing questions:

NO.

No you don’t have to write every day, you don’t have to write at the weekend, or on your birthday, or during summer holidays, or in fact at all! You don’t have to write another word if you don’t want to. Imagine it…never having to sit down in frustration and tear the words from your mind. No more downing coffee, after coffee, after coffee just so you feel buzzed enough to finish a tough typing session. No more tearing your hair out when you realise you renamed a character, or forgot about the protagonist’s dog, or changed the antagonist’s sex, halfway through a novel.

No more stress…

Ahhh, isn’t that a relief?

It might be for you, but to me it sounds like Hell.

Give up writing? Or only write when you feel like it? *shudder* But that’s completely up to you.

A few people have asked me about writing daily, or sticking to certain word counts, and all I can say is find what works for you. Personally I feel that imposing word counts and deadlines can in fact have the opposite effect from what you intended.

Imagine you go on a diet. No more cake or chocolate during the week (I know, it’s unthinkable!), but then some GIT brings a chocolate cake into work to celebrate their birthday…the selfish bastards! So you look at the cake, then you look at your stomach, cake, stomach, cake, stomach, cake IN stomach…bugger.

But since you’ve now eaten cake during the week, you’ve already failed. So what harm will it do if you have another slice tomorrow? Whether you do or don’t you’ve already broken your no choc/cake during the week rule, so technically you’re not really cheating.

Same with writing.

I will write every day during the week, 1,000 words, gives me a total of 7,000 by the end of Sunday. Uh oh, I missed Tuesday because (insert terrible excuse here), now I’ll never reach 7,000 by Sunday…in that case it doesn’t really matter if I don’t write during the other days this week…woo hoo! Week off!

Well done, you’ve won…an argument with yourself. You cheated in order to win something and who has to pay up? You? So who the Hell won…nobody, that’s who!

By conning yourself into thinking you have no choice but not to write you’ve not only lost out on valuable writing time you’ve also lost a bit of dignity. If you don’t want to write every day – then don’t. If you don’t want to have to write a thousand words a day – then don’t. But don’t impose deadlines to make yourself feel better and then conjure excuses from thin air to alleviate guilt for not following your own goals. It’s embarrassing.

Ask yourself some more ‘Do I’ questions:

Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to have a book published? Do I want to be able to say to my friends “Sorry, I can’t make it to the cinema this week, I have a book signing tour”? Do you want to be able to walk into a bookstore and point out your book, sitting on the same shelves as your favourite author?

If the answer is yes, then get writing.

Take a few minutes to imagine finding your book in that bookshop, a few minutes visualising people queuing up to get a copy of your book signed. Now wipe the stupid grin from your face and make it happen!

21 comments

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  1. Clare Dugmore Writes

    I clicked on your blog from the A-Z list because my maiden name was Chapman. I’m glad I did, because I think you’ve got some excellent insights into writing. I think what is important is setting yourself goals and targets and sticking to them. As cliche as this sounds, if you don’t the person you’re letting down is yourself. If writing is something you want to do professionally you have to be a little strict with yourself. It’s normal to turn down going out with friends because you’ve got to work overtime at your job, so in my eyes it’s normal to have to turn down doing something because you need to write. You reap what you sow.

    Looking forwards to seeing what you come up with for the rest of the challenge.

    ~Clare
    http://claredugmorewrites.blogspot.co.uk/

    1. Steven Chapman

      Woo, I love random hits like that 🙂 Thanks for the compliments (are boys allowed to blush?). I’ve just been checking out your blog, what a great theme!

  2. Vero

    Fuck yeah! *standing ovations in the back rows*

    There are no such fantasmagorical animals as “valid excuses” for not doing what you love to do. What the hell is that, anyway? If you love to write and love to call yourself a writer, then get the hell writing, dammit!

    Great post, Steven. I abso-freakin-lutely agree with every word of it. Especially the cake IN stomach bit. 😉

    1. Steven Chapman

      Cheers, V! You can always tell when I’m hungry – I incorporate food into my posts. Which is quite worrying when you think about the poo flinging post for C :S

      1. Vero

        Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that. Bear Grylls has shown me far worse eating habits. *shudders*

        1. Steven Chapman

          It’s his drinking habits that make me shudder…

  3. Pamela Skjolsvik

    I wish I was more disciplined about sitting down at my computer and a.) not going to facebook or b.) checking email c.) or web surfing in general. I do however, write when I’m doing the dishes or driving my kids to school. You may laugh, but I get my stuff done at these times and then when I do sit down at the computer and leave the internet alone, I get a ton done.

    Pamela

    1. Steven Chapman

      FB and the internet are a huge problem for me but I like to dip into research so much I’m not sure if I could work with the internet switched off. Even when I’m sat on the bus scribbling away longhand I can’t help but check the internet on my phone!

  4. jesstopper

    Inspiring post! It took me 5 years to finish my first novel because I felt “guilty”…I should be using that time for something else (cleaning house, going to the gym, working, spending time with the kid, etc). Then I realized writing is what relaxes me, it’s how I like to unwind. So dammit, doing it!
    Happy A – Z ing.

    1. Steven Chapman

      Thanks, Jess. I found myself thinking the same way for a while but then I realised I literally have no other ‘hobbies’ and the feeling soon lifted 🙂 If it makes you happy then don’t stop!

  5. Tracy Brown

    Spot on. The distractions always come, but it’s up to me to decide on whether I’m going to write or not.

    Sometimes deadlines work for me (usually if applied by other people, so I use that when I can). It depends on what’s at stake, or what it’s going to cost me at the end of the day.

    But it comes down to this: On the last day of my life I don’t want to look back and see nothing but excuses and laziness. I want to know that I followed through and did what I said I would do.

    1. Steven Chapman

      Deadlines imposed by other people are a whole different ball game, I don’t think I’ve had any to compare to self imposed goals, but I imagine I’d be a hell of a lot less likely to make my usual crappy excuses. In fact I should go out and seek some opportunities with deadlines – maybe that would give me the kick up the arse I need!

  6. Fiona Maddock

    Hey! Found you. I’ve read all your atoz posts. Time I said hello. Nice one!

    1. Steven Chapman

      Thanks for the support, Fiona 🙂

  7. artanddesignofpaul

    Yes feel free to write today.
    do check out my E at GAC a-z
    http://pa-ul.blogspot.com

    1. Steven Chapman

      Cheers, Paul. Will check out your blog.

  8. Shirley Elmokadem

    When it comes to poems I sometimes have no choice but to write them as the words scream at me.
    With stories it takes me a while to get back into them and then I may write for a few hours.

    1. Steven Chapman

      I really need to get back into poetry, I could incorporate those screams into a damn good horror poem 🙂

  9. carol

    It works with so many things in addition to writing, too. Do I have to run today? No, but I’ll feel better if I do.

    1. Steven Chapman

      I don’t have to run today do I? I have Writer’s Belly and it gets in the way 🙁

  10. subhmohanty

    I would like to take a print of this and pin it on the wall.

    “Sorry, I can’t make it to the cinema this week, I have a book signing tour”

    I so want to say these words , some day !

    “Do you want to be able to walk into a bookstore and point out your book, sitting on the same shelves as your favourite author?”

    Yes! Who wouldn’t !

    Such a simple answer to such profound questions.

    Just write. Thanks for all the inspiration. I will write 2000 words tonight ..err no, I will just write tonight.

    Thanks Steven.

    @Subhmohanty from
    And Life Unfolds…

    A * Alone B * Butterfly C * Curry D * Dance E * Edge F * Forest G * Grin

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