Sunday, October 28, 2012

Learning to Appreciate Your Style of Working

“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” ~Eckhart Tolle

I have been thinking a lot about this lately, and I've come to monumental conclusion: I don't need to fit into anyone's mold.

Pretty much every writing manual, guide, and otherwise helpful book has encouraged writers to be disciplined about writing in a journal every single day. Here is a great example of what I'm talking about and I have heard this type of advice about a thousand times:

"Are you an aspiring blogger, author, poet, journalist or writer of any description? If you’re making serious attempts at writing, you need to be disciplined about it – no professional writer works just when they’re “in the mood” or when “the muse descends.” Developing the habit of writing regularly (ideally every day) will be a bigger factor in your success than your raw level of writing skill. You will get better if you practice, and your journal is an ideal place to do so – no-one will laugh at clumsy phrases or failed experimental pieces, and you can write about whatever topics inspire you the most."

On the one hand I do agree that it's a great place to experiment in a journal or on a blog. As I have grown up I have taken many an English class, and every teacher or professor I can remember had a similar approach. I remember so many an hour sitting in class writing, or writing at home knowing we had 15 journals due for midterms and I had exactly two. So you spend half the night catching up on entries because every other night you were just too exhausted from your other homework to even think about writing a journal entry. So now you do this hand-cramp-inducing blitz, expecting to churn out gold page after page. It was incredibly forced, horribly depressing, and frankly about as creative as plain yogurt.

As a creative person and a writer, I would like to take this opportunity to call BS.

I would like to call BS on all attempts to browbeat and guilt into trying to be creative. It ends up being your mother standing over you, telling you that you cannot leave the kitchen table until you gulp down your last brussel sprout. It just furthers your frustration, your anger, and your annoyance. How are we ever going to really enjoy writing with a rigid taskmaster at the helm of our psyches?

I am using this opportunity to say, forgive yourself for not having written a blog entry every day of October. Forgive yourself for not writing in your journal once a day, a week, a month or even a year.

Why do I say this?

Because quantity doesn't mean quality.

Because creativity can't be legislated or regulated entirely.

And because lording rules over people never spurred creative juices.

I used to, as a writer, feel utter shame, because my bookshelves weren't graced with years of "Dear Diary" entries taking up shelf space. 'What will anyone read of me?' I thought. In fact, because I wasn't writing every single day, I obviously wasn't improving the way I was supposed to be.

Then the other day I came across it; it was my journal.

I had one journal that I kept from the time I was about eight years old until I was late into my teens. I'm telling you, those few entries were as delightful and perhaps more delightful for the short glimpses into my daily life. It was my hopes and my dreams captured in spurts like a stunning time-lapse photo. Watching my handwriting evolve along with my thoughts and emotions. And it was all in one place. It wasn't over multiple volumes in multiple places. It was all laid out before me: my early life as I knew it.

You can't tell me that I have not improved simply because I don't adhere to a regimented schedule. I still write when I need to write.

So if someone has been feeding your insecurities by telling you that you can't or won't become a better writer unless you write in a journal or on a blog every single day, tell them to go fly a kite!

Be your own writer. As long as you are working on yourself, writing when you can, reading a lot, and striving to improve you will. Following a schedule can't make you better, but learning, absorbing, and engaging with life can.

Work with your own ebbs and flows not against them.


  1. Great post, Sara. You're absolutely right. You have to go with your own flow. Some writers will love the flow of words on paper (or letters on a screen) and will be enthused by the act of daily writing. But, for many more of us, that sort of slavish discipline will not only be cumbersome to carry around, but also detrimental to our own creative inspirings. As one who hasn't posted every day this month, I needed to read your words today.

    1. So glad I could be of some encouragement to you today.