The Writing Drum

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by Mike

Shatterred windows and the sound of drums. People couldn't believe what I'd become.
Coldplay Viva La Vida

You often hear the advice to write every day. Keep your hand in; exercise those writing mind muscles to keep them fit, trim, healthy. If you're really a writer, the advice goes, you will find the time to write.

It may be 3AM in the morning, it might be late at night, whenever just write


That's far too simplistic a view. And in many cases just down right unhelpful.

If you have the lifestyle where you can write every day, then great. It you are awake at 3Am anyway, then great (and so on.) However if you are setting your alarm clock, then maybe just check yourself. If you have no social life and are shut away every night, then alarm bells should be ringing in your head instead of by your bed.

Write when you can of course. But it doesn't have to be every day - or even every week, month or year - not at the expensive of your friends, family and well being. It may be great that you've written every night for 2 years - you must be a writer right? Well if you are divorced because you're partner got fed up with it, or your kids hardly see you then you're either not going to make it in the long run or you're going to end up lonely.

"The Paris slums are a gathering-place for eccentric people - people who have fallen into solitary, half-mad grooves of life." George Orwell

The idea of a writer being some recluse is a stereotype. You need experiences, you need to live and spend time with people to bring depth and resonance into your writing that reflects the world around you; the anger and evil, the hope and compassion. Do you want it just to reflect the same 4 walls and your 9 to 5? George Orwell spent time in slums so he could experience poverty which he used in his book Down and Out in Paris and London. You may not want to go to the same extremes but you get the idea.

Take the long term view; if it's in you you'll find a time when you can write without it being a drum pounding in your ears and becoming your master. And if you really haven't the time, but you have that burning desire, then work towards carving out that time in the future. Part of maturity is learning delayed satisfaction - you can't have everything now - you're not 3-years-old anymore. Just because the desire is there, doesn't mean the time for that to come out is now. Don't worry about labels and if you're a writer or not - you're you: live life.

Photo credit: Garrette


Anonymous said...

Yeah, great advice. Same applies if you want to be a top athlete - just train when you feel like it and/or you've got the time.

Mike French said...

Let's take a look ...

An athlete's career lifespan is very short compared to an authors. So everything is condensed down. But the same applies: if you a runner you don't need to run every day - you need a balanced approach - weight training one day - swimming - mental attitude etc - it's a whole package - that's the point of this article.

Anonymous said...

Hmm . . . I could argue with your career lifespan assertion but I won't. I'll simply point out that a PROFESSIONAL athlete will have at most one rest day in seven (or ten, sometimes). A PROFESSIONAL musician will practice every day. IF you aspire to become either then you emulate them. If you aspire to be a professional writer then you write every day.

I agree a writer cannot lock him or herself away from the real world, and you're right about the need for balance, but to label good advice as, quote, 'wrong' is unhelpful imho.