I’m one of those writers who has been penning stories ever since they were old enough to do so. It’s who I am. It’s what I am. Asking me why I write is akin to asking me why I breathe. I honestly wouldn’t know what to do with my hands if I didn’t write.
Yet, some years ago, I almost gave it up completely. I was reading an interview with one of my favourite authors, and she said that, if you ever wanted to take writing seriously, you had to treat it as a day job. You had to get up early, and write for the whole day. Every day. Trouble was, I already had a day job.
The guilt, the self-doubt, and the feeling of unworthiness that that statement instilled into me almost stopped me writing. I couldn’t see what the point was, if I was unable to take it seriously. Unable to give my whole life to it. But, I still had bills to pay, and that required a day job.
It’s remarkable, the provisos, clauses, and conditions that get attached to who is a ‘writer’. A ‘proper’ writer, I mean. You hear it all the time; that you’re not a ‘real’ writer unless you write literary fiction. Unless you’re traditionally published. Unless you’ve written a best-seller. Unless your neighbour’s mate’s brother’s wife has heard of you. Unless you gouged the words of your book into your skin with the claw of an albino werewolf.
Let me tell you this: if you write, you’re a writer.
I realise, now, that suggesting you write from 9-5 five days a week is a suggestion that comes from a place of privilege. If you have a day job, and write on your lunchbreak, you’re a writer. If you write one evening a week in between working and raising a family, you’re still a writer. If you write fanfiction, poetry, flash fiction, stories intended just to make people laugh, or puke, you’re a writer. If you only ever write during NaNoWriMo each November, then guess what? Still a writer.
Even if you never intend to publish anything, and you simply write for your own peace of mind, or to pass the time, or to explore your feelings, that’s fine. You’re no less a writer than anyone else.
The internet is full of writing advice. Most of it is well-meaning advice. A lot of it is incredibly good advice. No matter, not all of it is for you. Not all of it will fit with your schedule, your life, your body clock, your brain. I’m a natural early bird, and I always have been. My most productive, most creative hour is 5am-6am. Should everyone write at that time? Absolutely not! I’m a little bit crazy, I accept that, but it’s what works for me.
You need to find what works for you. Test, experiment, reject, and test again. Try out other writers’ tips and schedules and formulas. Some might fit you, but most of them won’t. That’s fine. I don’t care if the only way you write is balanced on the tip of your nose on a rope bridge above a pool of hungry crocodiles. If that works for you, then do it. As long as you’re getting words down, and meeting your goals, whatever they may be, then carry on.
Never, ever let anyone tell you you’re doing it wrong. If words are coming out, and you’re happy with your progress, then smile sweetly, thank them for their feedback, and sashay away with a flick of the head.
Be open to try new things. I say that, because your life might be totally different next year, or in five years, or ten. You might be totally different. I don’t often get the chance to write at 5am, because I have two young boys who have inherited my early bird gene. But, in ten years’ time, I’ll have two teenage boys who may not emerge until lunchtime. Be flexible, but never try to shoehorn someone else’s schedule into yours.
One size never, ever fits all.