A new client of mine recently asked me a great (and seemingly simple) question, “When is the best time to write?”
I immediately replied with the statement, “Whenever you feel like it,” and thought we’d move on to another topic, for he was writing his first novel and I knew he had a lot of questions about that endeavor to cover in our coaching session.
But he was perplexed. “No, I mean, when do you or most writers write… in the morning, at night, every day, or only on weekends?” he continued earnestly.
Then it hit me that he, like a lot of people starting their first script or manuscript, wanted to know how writers specifically fit writing into their daily or weekly routines, like a job or an automatic chore that needs to be done no matter what.
“Well,” I started, “I can only speak for myself, but I only write when I want to, for that’s when I know I’ll get the most worthwhile material done. If I don’t feel like writing I know nothing good will come out of the time spent doing it.”
“So you don’t pick a time every day and just sit down and write?”
“No, but if I’m in the actual flow of a project that project will make me want to sit down at some point every day and have me work on it until it’s done—or at least a draft of it is.”
“But I’ve heard it’s best for writers to write every day, at least a paragraph or two, to force them to work on their craft.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that too. But I’ve tried that and ended up revising almost everything I wrote on the days I really didn’t feel like writing. So now I’ve learned to go with my own, creative flow and just write when I really want to. Luckily, that’s a lot because I love to write, but there are times when I just need a break from doing it. And I honor that and do something else.”
He seemed very happy to hear this, yet also troubled by it. “But what if I don’t ever really feel like writing yet I’m able to make myself sit down and do it?”
I paused, for I didn’t want to deter his ambitions of ever finishing the first draft of his story which I know he had been working on for the better part of the past year; yet I also didn’t want him to continue on with trying to finish it if it really wasn’t something he was meant to do. Writing is a lot of work, and why do it if it’s not at least partially enjoyable? “Then maybe you’re not really supposed to be a writer and it’s time to explore other fields where you’ll find that passion that makes you want to do it, whether anyone is paying you or even paying attention to what you’re doing. Writer’s write because that’s what makes them happy, doing the actual writing part of the craft. I know some who had that and then lost it because they became burnt out from years of doing it—and others like myself who have never felt that feeling after decades of doing it. So I guess it can change, but for the most part every writer I know who writes does so for the same reasons I do, because they want to and feel like they have a story to tell.”
He thanked me and said that cleared a lot of things up, for he was wondering if he was indeed a true writer, or just someone wanting to write. He knew there was a difference and I agreed with him that there was. He was also a professional, disciplined person, and I knew if he had set a goal of finishing something he was going to succeed at it just to say it was checked off his list. So, I decided to give him some advice to allow himself some breathing room as he figured all this ‘being a writer’ stuff out.
“Why don’t you take the time limit of a year to finish your book out of your plan and just continue to work on the story whenever you feel like it from now on. Who cares if that’s only once a week or once every other month? There’s no time limit to get it done. Just enjoy the writing of it, even if it takes years to complete.”
He paused, then optimistically said that that could work.
“Then you’re still a writer,” I assured him, “and most likely a much happier one too.”
And I could tell from his tone when he agreed that he surely now was!