“When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “One word at a time,” and the answer is invariably dismissed. But that is all it is. It sounds too simple to be true, but consider the Great Wall of China, if you will: one stone at a time, man. That’s all. One stone at a time. But I’ve read you can see that motherfucker from space without a telescope.”Stephen King
Lately, I’ve been somewhat burned out – or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself. In truth, I’ve been having a hard time juggling my day job, my author career, my self-care, and my pondering the path of destruction that humanity is currently barreling towards. Put simply, life has been getting in the way of my creativity a lot these days, and I’m sure many creatives, including non-writers, can relate.
I’m also certain that many of those creatives have been unreasonably hard on themselves for being unable to, well, create, as much as they would like to or are used to.
But one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve heard in my life so far, apart from the above by Stephen King, is this: living is also part of the creative process.
When we’re not writing – not creating – we’re living the experiences that will eventually go on to influence and inpsire our work. And that is only one of the many reasons it’s okay to not be able to write, or create, sometimes.
It’s Okay to Not Write
There’s a lot of bad writing advice out there, but I believe the one that takes the cake is this: “Write every day.”
It’s advice that’s often attributed to Stephen King (the author is known to write at least 10 pages a day and can finish a first draft in three months), and it’s often erroneously dished out to budding writers and aspiring authors. But it’s also advice that fails to acknowledge one, very important fact: Not everyone has the same twenty-four hours in their day.
We all have different things going on in our lives. We all enter different phases of our lives at some point or the other, and sometimes those phases don’t allow much space, time, or energy for writing. And that’s completely okay.
It’s also completely okay to take a break from writing, from creating. It’s okay to not write.
And this is why I favor King’s advice about writing one word at a time more than the one about writing without stopping. Because, as he stated, the Great Wall of China was built one stone at a time. And while it’s not really visible from space, it is still a magnificent wonder – one that, most certainly, wasn’t built in a day.
With the increased connectivity that comes with the evolution of social media, it’s really easy to get swept up in comparison when it comes to other creatives that we see online. We look at other, more prolific writers and other more productive creatives, and then, we berate ourselves for being unable to do or be the same.
But the one thing we tend to forget when we do that is this: we’re only human. And as humans, we often have to contend with the things that life throws at us, even if it means putting our passions aside for a little while.
It’s 2022, and life certainly has been throwing a lot at all of us lately. So, for those of us struggling to put pen to paper right now, here’s some small, albeit hopefully helpful writing advice:
Be gentle with yourself.
4 thoughts on “When Life Gets in the Way of Writing”
I often say this about programs as well. I write programs one line at a time.
I do like to write every day though. Because even if I write just 100 or 200 words, that is some progress. I’ve gotten fast enough that writing 100 or 200 words don’t take as much as they used to.
And this applies to every kind of writing, fiction or otherwise.
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I actually like that Stephen King quote, because I myself take things one sentence at a time. And I’ve written enough on the bad days to know that if I just keep going, sentence by sentence, I’ll eventually have a page, then a chapter, then an entire novel manuscript. Just narrowing down my focus seems to do the trick. Anyway, thanks for this post!
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and thank you for reading!