Recently writer-director Spike Lee met with a group of students and professors involved in launching a new Cinema and Television program at Morehouse College. I didn’t attend, but my inside man sent text updates throughout the event. By his account, Mr. Lee was a gracious and direct instructor, taking the time to give each student specific advice on how to pursue his writing goals.
At one point, I received a text that read: Spike said “Write every day.”
My response, was something along the lines of: Duh! (Okay. I actually typed the even less elegant response, No sh*t. I was having a margarita with friends at the time. Don’t judge me.)
In every writing class and workshop, at conferences and readings–I’ve heard the advice “write every day” more times than I care to count. Perhaps there’s a reason almost every writer who’s achieved any amount of success in the field repeats the same old line. Perhaps that reason is that most of us don’t heed the advice the first thousand times we hear it.
When I started toying with the idea of making writing my profession, I’d write every day for a while and then miss a few days or weeks. I had small children I was homeschooling, a husband who expected to be taken care of, books I wanted to read, tv shows to watch, and a phone that rang all evening. I was too busy to write every day, except in short spurts.
Once I joined a serious writing workshop, I found I could happily edit and rewrite each day. I lost myself in every sensory detail, every interesting word choice, every comma and em dash. Writing new material happened a couple of days a week. I produced strong work, but I had trouble finishing anything longer than a short story.
It took me years to wake up and accept that consistency was the only way I’d truly master the craft and write all the stories I wanted to read. Daily writing as a practice not only builds skill, but also develops the habit of creating the new work necessary to get to THE END.
If you don’t want to write every day, maybe writing is just a hobby for you. Maybe you’d rather be a reader. Those things are okay. But if you choose to become a writer, then I fear you must join the rest of us typing or scribbling away each day. Use prompts, join a writing challenge, do exercises, team up with a friend for a writing session, start a blog, take a class. Whatever you need to do to make it happen, follow Mr. Lee’s advice, and write every day. It certainly worked for him.
Go write something!